These Ethiopian lentils are teeming with sultry spices.


Oil-Free Vegan Ethiopian Spiced Red Lentils (Misir Wot)

Ethiopian food may be one of my all-time favorite cuisines. Growing up, my family would often celebrate birthdays at a local Ethiopian restaurant housed inside a quaint Victorian cottage. We would order large family-sized platters dotted with a variety of spiced stews and vegetables, and then scoop it all up with the free-flowing injera bread. I loved the flavors, the colors, the injera, and the African music playing in the background. It was always an adventure, and while other kids celebrated special occasions at McDonald’s and Chuck E. Cheese, my parents wanted us to experience something different. For that, I am forever grateful.

These spiced red lentils (misir wot) are naturally vegan, but I took it a step further and made them oil-free. The key ingredient is berbere—an Ethiopian spice blend of chiles, garlic, fenugreek, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. The traditional dish is very spicy, so I toned it down just so I can really enjoy the fragrant spices. This delicious stew would make the perfect meal with salad and injera (which is fermented teff flatbread), and I suggest simply buying readymade injera from an Ethiopian restaurant to serve with your homemade meal. Just don’t forget the Ethiopian wine!

Serves 2

What you need:

  • 3 cups water, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon berbere
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups spinach 
  • Cilantro for garnish

  • What you do:

  1. Into a large pot over medium heat, heat 1/2 cup water. Add garlic and onion, and cook for 5 minutes until onions are translucent and fragrant.
  2. Add in the berbere, turmeric, cumin, and tomato paste. Cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining 2-1/2 cups water, lentils, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes, until lentils are soft.
  3. Turn off heat and stir in spinach. Garnish with cilantro and serve. 

Healthy hints:

  • >> If you’re sensitive to spice, reduce the amount of bebere to your liking. 

>> Serve with warm quinoa for an instant meal!

>> Ethiopian restaurants are havens for great vegan food. I can’t get enough!