Ethiopian Lentil (Berberé) Stew

Ethiopian Lentil Stew

Way tastier than baby food

Hokay. Evil research grant application of DOOOOM is all submitted, and I am back to cookin’ up cheap stuff and blogging about it. Yay!

Right, so, Ethiopian lentil stew. Please ignore the fact that this stuff kind of looks like baby food, because it is SUPER tasty, and insanely cheap. It’s also really easy and straightforward, which makes it great for hectic evenings. Like harira (Moroccan vegetable soup), the many spices in this recipe are what really make it sing. Most of these spices are common and widely available, though you might have trouble getting your hands on ground fennugreek seed and ground cardamom – these are both available at Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African markets, but the stew is fine without them too. You can also buy a premade berberé spice mixture, if you’re so inclined, from Northeast African markets and the like.

This recipe is adapted from the Berberé Stew recipe over at I’ve changed it to not be fat free, because I don’t believe anything should be fat free (low-fat, fine, but research shows that your body needs some fat to properly absorb the nutrients in your food, plus a little bit of fat goes a long way in making you feel full and satisfied).

Serve this stew over rice or with flatbread (for an authentic-ish Ethiopian meal, pick up some injera if you live near a market that sells it).


Ethiopian Lentil (Berberé) Stew (adapted from

1 lb. red lentils (about 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
A few cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek seed
1/2 tsp.  ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp.  ground cloves
1/2 tsp.  ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp.  turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne (or more if you like heat)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp.  ground black pepper
1 28 0z. can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. salt, or to taste

Get the lentils cooking: Wash well (to reduce the amount of foaming when they start boiling, which is harmless but annoying), and cover with 6 cups of water in a large-ish pot. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam on the top, and then add all spices except salt. Let the lentils simmer, partially covered. Add more water if they become too dry.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a separate pan. Sauté the onion and garlic until the garlic begins to brown. Add this to the simmering lentils. Add the diced or crushed tomatoes, return to a simmer, and continue to cook partially covered.

Once the lentils have been simmering for 20-25 minutes, this dish is ready to eat, though you can keep simmering for longer if you want the lentils to break down completely and become creamy, like in an Indian dhal (you’ll probably need to add more water if you do this). Add salt to taste at the end, and serve over rice or with a flatbread.


Cost of core ingredients: Primarily organic and purchased at my food co-op.

1 lb. lentils @ $2.29/lb = $2.29
1 large onion = ~$1.20
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes = $2.49
1 lb.  brown rice for serving @ $2.29/lb. = $2.29

Total for at least 6 servings: $8.27 + the cost of small amounts of olive oil, garlic, and all spices.

Bon Appétit!



Filed under Gluten-free, Lentils, Northeast African, Recipes, Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian

3 responses to “Ethiopian Lentil (Berberé) Stew

  1. Katie S

    So, if I have my own Berbere from our Ethiopian market… what all do I leave out, and how much berbere do I use instead?

  2. Katie S

    Then it’s super super easy! I’ll give it a try sometime. I have a recipe for Ethiopian beef stew that we like to eat with injera, but was wishing for something non-meat to go with it. Or instead of it. Because when they sell you injera, it’s not, like, 3 pieces. It’s enough for all of Ethiopia.

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