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Red lentils get plenty of heat from berbere spice in this Ethiopian recipe. You can balance the heat by stirring in some chopped tomato before serving. Serve as a satisfying vegan side dish along with other traditional recipes, such as kinche (cracked wheat) and fossolia (Ethiopian-style green beans). And don't forget injera, a traditional crêpe-like bread common in Ethiopia. Look for berbere in specialty grocery stores or online.

Source: EatingWell Magazine, January/February 2018


Recipe Summary

1 hr
1 hr


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Rinse lentils in hot water until the water is clear. Transfer to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 20 minutes. Drain well.

  • Meanwhile, cook shallots (or onion) in a large pot, covered, until starting to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup water, cover and cook until the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add another 1/3 cup water and cook, uncovered and stirring often, until the shallots are soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes more.

  • Stir in berbere (or chili powder) and cook, stirring, until it looks like a thick paste, about 1 minute. Stir in makulaya wot (or cardamom and fenugreek) and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. If the sauce is too dry, add additional warm water by the 1/4 cup.

  • Stir in the lentils. Thoroughly stir in oil and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the remaining 2 1/3 cups warm water and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in mekelesha (or pepper and cinnamon) and salt.


To make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Tips: Berbere, the main spice blend used in Ethiopian cooking, gets its fiery color and flavor from chile peppers.

Rich, smoky makulaya wot spice blend is made with toasted fenugreek and roasted shallots.

Cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper and long pepper make up mekelesha finishing spice mix.

Nutrition Facts

1/2 cup
239 calories; protein 9.4g; carbohydrates 28.6g; dietary fiber 5.3g; sugars 2.7g; fat 10.1g; saturated fat 1.4g; vitamin a iu 21.3IU; vitamin c 4.7mg; folate 76.8mcg; calcium 41.9mg; iron 2.9mg; magnesium 28.7mg; potassium 347.9mg; sodium 309mg.