Tantalize your taste buds with the amazing flavor of fragrant and spicy Misir Wot, Ethiopian red lentil stew with Berbere spice blend and wholesome vegan ingredients.
⭐ Why you’ll love this recipe
Ethiopian lentils or Misir wot, also known as Mesir Wot, Mesir Wat, Misr Wat, or Yemisir Wat, is a classic of Ethiopian cuisine with a few wholesome vegan ingredients are transformed by warm spices to create complex flavors that are unique and seriously, unlike anything you’ve ever eaten.
Berbere, a distinctive spice mix often used in Ethiopian recipes, along with a few extras like turmeric, transforms red lentils using the magic of warming berbere spice mix. Not familiar with berbere? Read on and make our homemade berbere blend so you can keep this recipe on repeat.
📋 Key ingredients, notes, and substitutions
Lentils – For the creamiest texture, use split red lentils. The best alternative is yellow lentils (moong dal)If you substitute with whole red lentils, green lentils, or even black lentils, allow 10-15 minutes of additional cooking time. One of the best options is yellow lentils (moong dal)
Onions – Stick to yellow onions with red as a second choice.
Garlic – Grab your garlic press. Peel and press (or mince) 6 cloves. If you want a quick remedy, use 2 tablespoons of the jarred kind.
Ginger – You’ll get the best flavor from fresh minced ginger, with the jarred kind being the best substitute. If you only have ground ginger, use 1 teaspoon.
Tomatoes – Use 2 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes (2 large tomatoes) or 1 can of chopped tomatoes. 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and a cup of water can be used in a pinch.
Berbere spice mix - What garam masala is to Indian cooking or chili powder is to Americans (like me), berbere is to Ethiopian food. It’s a unique spice blend spicy, sweet, and complex without being overly complicated. Berbere is a feature of many Ethiopian recipes. No worries if you can’t find Berbere, we’ve got the recipe.
Additional spices – Turmeric, cardamon, cinnamon, and nutmeg- add another flavor for a truly amazing Ethiopian lentil stew experience.
🥘 Pro Tips
Prep the ingredients and sort the spices before you begin cooking. This recipe only has a few steps, and once you start sautéing the onions, you don’t want to linger while digging for spices.
Because we don’t use olive oil for cooking the onions, it’s essential that you first heat a large pot or Dutch oven to medium heat. If you add onions to a heated pot, it will reduce sticking.
Cook the onions, stirring them frequently, until they soften (about 5 minutes), then add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir the spices covering the ingredients, and then deglaze the bottom of the pot by adding ½ a cup of water.
Stir in the tomatoes and simmer them for 10 minutes to reduce them and concentrate their flavor. Once the tomatoes reduce and the aroma starts to emerge, add the rinsed red lentils, water, and Berbere spice.
Note on Berbere spice blend: Start with 1-2 tablespoons and as the lentils cook, add more if needed. Depending on the specific mix you use, it can be strong. If you are using Berbere for the first time, start with a little and adjust as the dish cooks and the flavors combine.
Split red lentils take about 15-20 minutes to soften. The longer you cook them, the more they will fall apart, creating a creamy texture. Start them off at medium-high heat, and once they start to boil, reduce the heat so they are cooking at a gentle simmer.
You can cook the lentils covered or uncovered. Stir them a few times, adding more water if needed. Whole red or black lentils will need longer to cook and likely more water.
Instant Pot instructions
You won’t save much time making this in the Instant Pot because it needs to heat before the cooking cycle and red lentils cook quickly. To make this in the Instant Pot, use the Sauté function to simmer the tomatoes. Turn the Instant Pot off and stir the ingredients, so the bottom of the pot is clear. Then add the lentils, 4 cups of water, and Berbere. Cook on High Pressure for 5 minutes with 15 minutes of natural pressure release (NPR).
💬 Frequently Asked Questions
Lentils don’t need to be soaked. You might save a few minutes of cooking time but lose precious nutrients by soaking them.
You might find Berbere in large grocery stores that cater to world cuisines. The ingredients to make your own Berbere spice mix are probably available, but your best bet to find a pre-made mix is at a specialty store that caters to North African cuisines.
Red lentils can be purchased whole or split. Generally, they have the skins removed, making them orangish in appearance. Split red lentils take less cooking time, resulting in a creamier texture; however, split and whole can be used interchangeably.
🍴 Serving Suggestions
Ethiopian red lentil stew is best served hot with maybe a few slices of lemon as a garnish. If you like garnishes, chopped cilantro or a few diced red onion or scallions are also nice. Like it spicy? Scatter a few crushed red chili flakes over the top.
Our favorite way to eat Misir Wot is in big bowls where we can enjoy the warming flavors without interruption. You can also serve it curry style over rice.
🌡️ Storage, freezing, and reheating
Store leftover Misir Wot in an airtight container for 5 days or freeze it for 3 months. When you reheat it, add a little water, so the lentils don’t scorch. You can also use a microwave to reheat individual portions.
🍛 Inspired Spicy Recipes
Spicy Misir Wot (Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew)
Tantalize your taste buds with the amazing flavor of fragrant and spicy Misir Wot, Ethiopian red lentil stew with Berbere spice blend.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Stew
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Ethiopian
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 large or 2 medium onions diced (about 2 cups)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ⅓ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup water
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
- 2 -3 tablespoons Berbere spice blend
- 2 cups red lentils, rinsed and sorted (I prefer split lentils, but you can use whole)
- 4 cups water
- Preheat a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions. Cook the onions until they start to become translucent and brown. If the onions begin to stick, add water a tablespoon at a time.
- Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to coat everything in the spices for about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Immediately, add ½ cup of water to deglaze the pan.
- Add the tomatoes and allow them to cook and break down for another 10 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of lentils, 4 cups of water, and 2-3 tablespoons of the Berbere spice blend. Mix everything, cover the pot, and allow the lentils to simmer until they are tender (15-20 minutes). Add more water, ½ cup at-a-time if the lentils are not tender after the liquid is absorbed.
- Season with salt and pepper if desired.
- This recipe calls for split red lentils. They cook faster and have a creamier texture than whole red lentils. If you use whole lentils, allow an additional 10-15 minutes (or more) of cooking time. Monitor the water and add more if needed. Cook until the lentils are tender.
- We highly recommend a homemade Berbere spice blend. You’ll need a spice grinder and a skillet for the whole spices. It makes enough for this recipe, several Ethiopian dishes, or another Ethiopian red lentil stew.
- To make this in the Instant Pot, cook the lentils on High Pressure for 5 minutes with 15 minutes of natural pressure release (NPR).
Keywords: misir wot, misir wat, Ethiopian lentils,