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Mesir W'et - Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew

What you need: 

1 cup dried red lentils
1 onion, chopped
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
oil, for frying
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 tablespoon berbere or an additional 1 tablespoon paprika or 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
sea salt and pepper, to taste

What you do: 

1. Soak lentils for at least an hour in water. Drain and rinse and set aside. Saute onions and garlic in oil until golden.
2. Add broth or water. Add spices and tomato paste. When gently boiling, add lentils.
3. Turn down heat and simmer until lentils are tender and it's a thick stew, adding more liquid if needed. Serve with rice, Injera bread or pita bread.
This is a recipe that I've tweaked to perfection and everyone asks me to bring to any potluck or party. If you can find a market that sells berere (a spice blend) it will taste more authentic. You can find recipes for the spice blend online or see the recipe for substitutes if you are in a hurry. This is usually served with injera, a flat pancake like bread. If you can't find that you could serve this with rice or pita bread.

Preparation Time: 
Cooking Time: 
Recipe Category: 


It was too strong. The tomato paste flavor was too strong, and the spices were too strong. I used exectly what was listed. I'm going to check it againt other recipes for the same dish and see what they have to offer. I'm used to spicy Indian food, but this  was too intense even compared to those. 




Made as per the recipe, as I had just purchased berbere. This is gonna be my go-to red lentil recipe for a while :) It really isn't that spicy, just very well-spiced and flavorful. I'll have to investigate more Ethiopian recipes now... ;)

Also, I didn't soak the lentils, just added more liquid and cooked longer. Turned out juuuuust fine.


very very good.  ;)b
I did peprika instead of berber.


I was in the middle of making this when I discovered I had a problem, I was out of tomato paste. I improvised and used chopped sun dried tomatoes. While I'm sure it isn't anywhere as authentic, it tasted very good. I chopped the tomatoes quite fine so most of them blended in completely. I will try making my own berere spices next time.

    2 teaspoons cumin seed, or powder
    1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (shell off husks), or powder
    1/2 teaspoon whole allspice (or ground)
    1 teaspoon fenugreek seed (or powder)
    1 teaspoon coriander seed (or powder)
    8 whole cloves, or ground
    1 teaspoon black peppercorns, or freshly ground
    5 teaspoons red pepper flakes or crumbled dried red peppers
    1 tablespoon grated fresh gingeroot (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
    1 teaspoon turmeric
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons sweet paprika (can use hot)
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

      1. Toast all the seeds and whole cloves in a small frying pan for 2 minutes, stirring constantly (open window or turn on the stove vent--it can smoke). Grind the spices in a spice grinder.  If you are using pre-ground spices, ignore and go on to the next step.

      2. Mix all remaining ingredients. Place in a tightly covered container and refrigerate. This mixture can used with many combinations of legumes, rice or vegetables.

Thanks to Lita Lotzkar for sharing this recipe. 


I made this today using Spanish Pardina lentils and a recipe for berebe that I found online. It works very well, and the combination of berebe and garam masala is rich and savoury. I cut the amount of hot pepper right back to suit the taste of those eating with me with no ill effects. Served it over rice for a rich, satisfying dish. A definite keeper.


This was absolutely amazing! I will be making it regularly from now on. I made my own berbere right beforehand, so I think that really helped intensify the flavors. I did have to make some substitutions; I didn't have red lentils, so I used green. I didn't have tomato paste, so I just used a whole fresh tomato and added it after the onion and garlic but before the broth. So delicious!


    I had the same thought, so I tried making it without soaking the lentils.  It was still okay, but the lentils did NOT cook to disintegration; in fact, I had to simmer the dish twice as long just to make them tender enough to eat.  I think it has to do with the tomato paste making the dish too thick for heat to circulate around the lentils. 

    I haven't tried it without garam masala, but I can't see that it would make a huge difference.  Garam masalas vary so much from region to region that the precise ratio  of spices in this dish isn't significant.  In fact  garam masala sometimes has a few ingredients in common with berbere.  My guess is that you would have to replace the garam masala with something-- either more berbere, or more paprika, at any rate something with a lot of flavor.


:blankstare: Just wondering why one would soak red lentils beforehand? Anytime I've used red lentils they disintegrate almost completely just through the cooking process. I use red lentils for a dish like this for that very reason, so I'm not complaining. I just don't see the need for the extra step.

On other note, has anyone made this without the garam masala? My berbere was prepared by a friend's family member back home (Ethiopia), so I'm loathe to possibly diminish the impact of the blend by adding another spice blend, when I have only so much to tide me over until her next visit home.


So yummy! Beware of the cayenne; I added 1/2 T and it was perfect, and I'm someone who usually thinks nothing is spicy enough.


I made this for dinner the other night with a few changes....Less spices cause I cut down the qyt of lentils...I also added currents and pistachios, a quarter cup each...Super tasty!



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