Ethiopian Lentil Stew (Misir Wat)

At this time last year, I announced an entire month dedicated to Ethiopian cooking in celebration of Ethiopian New Year. We made homemade berbere spice (a blend essential to Ethiopian cooking), niter kibbeh (Ethiopian-style clarified butter), shiro wat (chickpea stew), and attempted injera, a fermented flatbread (maybe someday I’ll get it right…) And in an unexpected turn of events, I ended up returning to Ethiopia for a few days last November and you can see more about that trip on my Instagram highlights.

Ethiopian New Year is coming up this Friday so I’m back with a new dish – misir wat, or literally lentil stew. Ethiopian cuisine is really big on “wats”, which is best translated as stew or curry. Most wats contain onions, clarified butter, and vegetables or meat. Misir wat focuses on lentils. I like this recipe because it needs only 10 ingredients, 1 pot, and a few quick steps before you have a dish bursting with nutrients, protein, and most importantly flavor!

A vegetarian platter that I had in Ethiopia, with a portion of misir wat in the middle.

This recipe comes from The Daring Gourmet, also referenced the HabeshChef.


A word about ingredients. The most essential blocks of misir wat are onions, fat (preferably niter kibbeh but ghee or vegetable oil will work), berbere, garlic, red lentils, and liquid (either water or vegetable broth). Many people, myself included, do include tomato, but it isn’t absolutely required. Don’t stress about having the exact right type of onions or lentils, just use what you have!

Don’t let the berbere or niter kibbeh deter you if you want to make this dish. Many grocery stores carry berbere now or you can order it online (or make your own, if you’re feeling extra-ambitious). The niter kibbeh can be substituted with ghee or vegetable oil, a vegan option.

Start by heating your clarified butter/niter kibbeh and sautéing the onions for 10 minutes or until browned. Then add the garlic, tomato paste, tomatoes, and some berbere spice.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Then add your red lentils, reduce heat to low, and simmer until lentils are cooked. If the stew starts to thicken too much, add more broth. Stir in some more clarified butter and berbere, and you’re done. Serve preferably with injera.

Don’t have injera? I didn’t. Restaurants here won’t give you a side of injera without a main dish, and my attempts to make it have been less than successful. It’s fine over rice (pictured here) or on pita, although a less authentically Ethiopian experience.

Ethiopian Lentil Stew (Misir Wat)

1 hour, 4 cups of stew

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons niter kibbeh, divided (substitute ghee)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons berere
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed

Tools

  • Large frying pan

Directions

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of niter kibbeh on medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook for 10 minutes until slightly browned.
  2. Add the tomato, tomato paste, garlic, and berbere spice. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable broth and salt and bring to a boil. Add rinsed lentils and stir.
  4. Simmer until lentils are cooked, approximately 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more broth if it starts to get dry.

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