Misir Wat: Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

Some of the best and most historic vegan dishes in the world come from Ethiopian cuisine. Misir wat is a tale as old as time, and it’s one of my all-time favorite classics. It’s simple and inexpensive to make, yet so hearty and healthy and flavorful.

As you can see, the flatbread shown in the photo above is not the traditional injera that should be served with misir wat. Believe me, my stomach and I wish it were, but I would be lying to you if I said that I’ve ever made a good batch of injera in my life. Making decent injera in your standard American kitchen is extremely tricky business, so if you can’t get or make good injera yourself, I recommend that you substitute it with a flatbread of your choice. (For gluten-free folks looking to make some at home, this recipe is wonderful.) You could theoretically serve it over rice as well, but it really makes a big difference to have a good flatbread that you can use to both serve the stew on top of and scoop up bites with. If you want to be that guy trying to eat Ethiopian food with a fork or spoon, that’s on you. We all make our own life choices.

Yield: 8 Cups

  • 2.5 Cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 large yellow onions or roughly 2 cups of shallots, diced
  • 2.5 Tbsp Berbere spice (you can buy it online, at many Afro-centric international markets, at many Whole Foods stores for a trillion dollars, or you can make it yourself)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced- not trash garlic
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Heat a large pot on medium heat, adding no oil
  2. Add your onions and salt to the pan and saute them like so to get them golden-brown and caramelized. (Your olive oil gets added in once the excess water has been sweated out of the onions)
  3. Add your garlic and saute it until it’s also beginning to turn golden-brown
  4. Add your berbere spice and stir it in for about 15 seconds, allowing it to become fragrant
  5. Add your tomatoes, cover your pot and stir occasionally, allowing those tomatoes to really cook down and get saucy
  6. Add your lentils and water and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft throughout. Add more water if needed. If you want to really be a pro, carefully allow the bottom layer of your lentils to start sticking to the pan and scalding, scraping them up and stirring just before they burn. Do this a few times- it will give the lentils a smooth texture and a rich, nutty flavor. Don’t worry about this if it sounds like too much.
  7. Taste and add more salt if desired. If would like to play around with adding more flavors at this point, you can squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos and/or worcestershire sauce, throw in a tablespoon of agave or other sweetener, and/or add in some bouillon. None of these additions are traditional or authentic at all, but they can give your stew a nice boost if you want.
  8. Serve with flatbread (ideally injera.) PSA: This dish keeps well and is great leftover.


2 thoughts on “Misir Wat: Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

    1. Awesome, I’m so glad you were able to reintroduce such a nutritious and versatile ingredient! If you ever do have trouble with them, soaking them for a couple hours and then rinsing them both cuts down the cooking time and makes them easier to digest


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