This 30-minute vegan Mediterranean rice and lentils recipe is made with cooked rice, canned lentils and za’atar seasoning for a quick, easy and flavourful dish.

Bowl of rice and lentils with spinach and olives.

I made this for dinner tonight. Surprised how easy and quick this but also how delicious and simple this dish is.



Love Mediterranean flavours? Then you’ll love this 30-minute flavour-packed rice and lentil recipe!

This tasty but simple dish is a great way to use up leftover rice, is super easy to make and delicious on its own for a quick and healthy meal, or paired with a main dish or other side.

This recipe can be enjoyed hot but it’s also delicious served as a cold lentil salad and it tastes even better the next day.

It works well for BBQ’s and summer get-togethers, especially since you can make it advance so you’re all ready to go.

Not only is it delicious, but with ingredients like lentils, spinach and bell pepper, it’s very nutritious too! Enjoy these Mediterranean-inspired rice and lentils for easy meal or side dish any night of the week.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Visual ingredient list for rice and lentils with olives.

This list is not complete. Please see the recipe card at the end of the post for the complete ingredient list with measurements and detailed instructions.

  • Olive Oil: Can be substituted with avocado oil, or for an oil-free recipe, you can use water or broth.
  • Bell Pepper: Any colour of bell pepper is suitable (red, green, orange, etc.).
  • Onion: White or yellow onion works.
  • Spinach: Use fresh spinach, baby spinach or substitute it with kale.
  • Cooked Rice: Any cooked white or brown rice works. I like to use rice that’s been stored in the fridge overnight for the best “fried” rice texture. You could also use another grain like quinoa or farro.
  • Lentils: You can use 1 15 oz can of lentils or about 1.5 cups of cooked green or brown lentils. You can swap the lentils for chickpeas or white beans.
  • Za’atar Seasoning: Za’atar is a Middle Easter spice mix that includes thyme, oregano, sesame, marjoram, cumin and coriander. It’s readily available online or in well-stoked grocery stores.
  • Sumac: Optional additional seasoning (za’atar already contains sumac so feel free to skip the additional flavouring).
  • Olives: I love kalamata olives here but sliced black olives would also work. If you don’t like olives, you can leave them out.

Variations & Additions

  1. Roasted Vegetables: Add roasted bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes for extra Mediterranean flavors and a burst of color.
  2. Artichoke Hearts: Incorporate marinated or grilled artichoke hearts for a tangy and briny element.
  3. Toasted Pine Nuts: Sprinkle toasted pine nuts, pistachios or walnuts over the dish to provide crunch and nutty flavor.
  4. Fresh Herbs: Add a generous amount of fresh chopped herbs like parsley, basil, and oregano for an aromatic touch.
  5. Capers: These add a unique briny and tangy flavor that complements Mediterranean dishes well.
  6. Cucumber: Dice cucumber and mix it in for a refreshing crunch and coolness.
  7. Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Use chopped sun-dried tomatoes to intensify the tomato flavor and add a chewy texture.
  8. Vegan Feta Cheese: Crumble some vegan feta cheese on top when serving.
  9. Lemon Zest: Grate some lemon zest over the dish to add a bright and citrusy aroma.
  10. Roasted Garlic: Mix in some roasted garlic cloves for a mellow and slightly sweet flavor.
  11. Spices and Seasonings: Experiment with spices like cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, or sumac to enhance the Mediterranean profile.
  12. Quinoa or Bulgur: Instead of rice, use quinoa or bulgur for a different texture and added protein.
  13. Grilled Tofu or Tempeh: Serve with baked tofu or tempeh for extra protein.
  14. Pomegranate Seeds: Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the dish for a sweet, tangy crunch.
  15. Tahini or Hummus: Serve with a drizzle of tahini, tahini sauce, and/or dollop of your favourite hummus or tzatziki.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion and bell peppers, season with salt and pepper, and cook until fragrant and softened, about 2-3 minutes.

Quick Note: If you prefer to cook your own lentils rather than use canned, cook them before you start the recipe.

You’ll need 15-20 minutes to cook brown or green lentils and you want about 1.5-2 cups cooked.

Onions and bell peppers cooking in a large skillet.

Step 2: Add the chopped spinach, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

Spinach, bell peppers and onions cooking in a skillet.

Step 3: Add the cooked rice, lentils and spices, stir well and cook for a few minutes until the rice is heated through.

After stirring in the rice, spread the mixture evenly in the pan and let it sit for a few minutes without stirring to allow to brown slightly on the bottom.

Rice, lentils, spinach and bell peppers cooking in a skillet.

Step 4: Stir in the kalamata olives. If you don’t like olives, go ahead and skip this step! I like kalamata here but you can also use black olives.

Other tangy ingredients that would work here are capers, marinated artichoke hearts or sun-dried tomatoes.

Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and enjoy!

Olives added to a skillet of rice, lentils and vegetables.

Serving Tips

  • This dish can work as a standalone main dish or a side dish.
  • Serve on its own or with fresh pita or naan and hummus.
  • Try it added to a wrap with hummus, tomato and fresh spinach.
  • The mixture can be added to salads and bowls with other veggies & a protein.
  • Serve with this lemon roasted cauliflower.
  • Serve hot straight from the pan or chill in the fridge to serve as a cold lentil salad.
  • Pairs well with a light green salad or soup like this lemon lentil soup or Greek lemon soup.
Large spoonful of fried rice with lentils and spinach.


Can I use red lentils?

You can but I green or brown lentils work a lot better here. Red lentils are mushier when cooked so the final dish with have a different texture. Green and brown lentils hold their shape better so are better suited to a recipe like this.

You could also use French (puy) lentils or black lentils.

If you’re looking for red lentil recipes, try my Red Lentil Pasta Sauce, Coconut Red Lentil Dahl or Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry.

What kind of rice should I use?

Any cooked brown rice or white long-grain rice works. For best results, use cooked rice that’s been stored in the fridge overnight. You can also substitute something like quinoa, farro or bulgur.

What if i can’t find za’atar seasoning?

Za’atar is a super yummy, versatile seasoning you can use so many ways, so definitely take a look for it if you can!

If you can’t find any or don’t have any on hand, you can replace the 2 tsp of za’atar with 1 tsp each dried oregano, thyme, sesame seeds and salt.

You could also use 2 tsp of dried mixed herbs and a pinch of salt and lemon.

Note that za’atar does already contain sumac so you don’t necessarily have to add that in addition to the za’atar.

Bowl of rice and lentils with spinach and olives.

Storing Instructions

  • Can be made up to 5 days in advance so works well for meal prep.
  • Can be enjoyed cold or reheated in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop.
  • Let cool completely before storing
  • Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Not suitable for freezing.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Scroll down to the comment section to leave a star rating and review.

Bowl of rice and lentils with spinach and olives.
Print Recipe
5 from 7 votes

Rice and Lentils

This Mediterranean-inspired fried rice and lentil dish is packed with nutrition and makes the perfect meal prep dish. It’s also full of flavour and easy to make with just a few ingredients!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Diet: Vegan
Servings: 4 -6
Calories: 286kcal
Author: Deryn Macey


  • 1 tbsp olive oil 15 ml
  • 1 white onion finely chopped (approx. 1 cup, 150 g)
  • 1 red bell pepper finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach finely chopped (60 g)
  • 2 ½ cups of cooked long-grain white or brown rice 575 g
  • 1 15 oz can lentils rinsed and drained (or 1.5 cups cooked green or brown lentils)
  • 2 tsp za’atar seasoning
  • 1 tsp sumac optional
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives pitted and sliced (45 g)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice optional


  • Heat Oil: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Cook Onion & Pepper: Add the onion and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper, cook until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add Spinach: Stir in the chopped spinach and cook for another 2 minutes, 
  • Add Rice, Lentil & Seasoning: Add the cooked rice, lentils and za’atar, stir to combine and cook until rice is hot, allowing to sit for 2-3 minutes at a time to allow it to brown and crisp.
  • Add Olives: Stir in the kalamata olives and remove from heat.
  • Season and Serve: Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.


The fried rice can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days. Not suitable for freezing.


Serving: 1/4 of recipe | Calories: 286kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 5g | Sodium: 273mg | Fiber: 9g

Originally published August 4, 2021.