Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ethiopian-Inspired Lentils

G was in the military for seven years, and part of that time he spent in Eritrea and fell in love with the cuisine.  When I was pregnant with SR, he first introduced me to it at a downtown restaurant in our area.  That's when I also learned the proper way to Ethiopian food was by having it served on injera bread and using more injera as the utensil, scooping up the food by hand and putting it in your mouth.  How fun!  I love learning new cultures and experimenting with all kinds of new and interesting things.  We went to that restaurant at least monthly, and by the time SR was born, she already had a high tolerance for spice!  As a toddler she was chowing down on salsa and other spicy things.  Anyhow, that restaurant closed, but two more opened up.  At one of those, berbere, a strong Ethiopian spice was sold by the bag.  I bought a bag, froze it, and have been making lentils at home with it ever since.  That restaurant has since closed, but we still have Queen Sheba, which always seems to show up in G's or my birthday pics.  I'm almost out of my berbere now, so I'm hoping to find another local source.  You can make yours from scratch: it has over a dozen spices in it, and I've seen recipes for it online, and I may do that, or a version of a few recipes, if I can't find a restaurant that will just sell it to me.  :-)  We eat this dish about once a month, but I still haven't made injera, tsk tsk.  I usually make a simple lentil dish for the Blessings when I make this one, but now the girls are starting to try it.  So, soon I may have a couple more berbere eaters on my hands.  I use quite a bit of berbere, so if you are sensitive to heat, you might halve it at first.  By the way, this does take a bit of oil, but the end result does not taste oily at all.

Ethiopian-Inspired Lentils

Ethiopian-Inspired Lentils with roasted cauliflower, baby bok choy and mushrooms (the color is somewhere in between the top and bottom pictures.)

Ethiopian-Inspired Lentils


1 lb. lentils
1 32oz. box of vegetable broth
Water to cover by a couple of inches
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 head garlic, sliced
4 Tbs. berbere
1 tsp. salt


Put lentils in a large pot with the broth and water.  Cook over medium heat 45 minutes, or until tender.  You can let the water cook down to where the lentils are loose but not soupy.  Meanwhile, prepare the onions and garlic.  Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the seasonings, stir well, and cook for two or three more minutes.  The spices will soak up practically all the moisture in the pan.  Stir frequently.  When the lentils are done, add the spice and onion mix to them.  Turn the heat down to medium low, and cook for at least ten more minutes, letting the flavors blend well.  Served with roasted veggies, this makes a complete meal.  So good.  Feeds five hungry vegans (soon).


  1. Thanks for sharing such a yummy recipe. It looks fantastic!

  2. I love Ethiopian food. In fact, we ate at an Ethiopian restaurant last night. You should get a copy of Kittee Berns' Papa Tofu Cooks Ethiopian Food. It has directions for making all the spice mixes and loads of dishes — all vegan, of course.

  3. Oh this sounds so great. I'd love to try my hand at this...and finding some berbere. I love spicy foods. I've also seen a couple simple recipes for injera; maybe I'll try that this weekend!

  4. Molly, thank you...and you're welcome! :-)

    Andrea, thanks for the cookbook tip. I have an old issue of Vegetarian Journal that also has some Ethiopian recipes. I've been meaning to look at those for years.

    FF, oh, I hope you have luck with the injera. Let me know if it truly is easy to make.

  5. Ethiopian food is so tasty. I've never made it at home, though I've been meaning to for a long time now. Your lentils look gorgeous! I just cooked a huge pot of lentils the other day; thanks for the inspiration, maybe I'll get off my duff and try some Ethiopian style.

  6. Mixing Baby Bok Choy with Ethiopian -- that's some fusion cuisine.

    The spicy Lentils are my favorite. Nice job getting ahold of some Berbere.

  7. Millie, I agree.

    Rose, we love these lentils, and I make them frequently. I hope you like yours, too.

    S.V., I guess so. I always put on my plate what I'm interested in eating and don't give much thought to cross-culturalism. The spicy lentils are my favorite, too. Should I have capitalized the spice?

  8. Don't remind me....LOL! I served 8 years in the Army and could tell you hilarious stories about this dish. One that I didn't too much care for, initially, but then grew to love.


  9. Whoa, Mama! This dish looks and sounds delicious. Not to mention, such a short recipe list and easy to prepare? Cannot wait to try your Ethiopian lentils.

  10. Don, my husband has plenty of crazy stories to share as well. I didn't get into why you only eat with your right hand...ahem. I would love to hear some stories from you!

    Ashlae, it is so easy to prepare! I hope you love them as much as we do.