Ethiopian Misir Wot – Spicy Red Lentils Without Oil
Misir Wot is one of the spiciest of all the vegan Ethiopian dishes. It is served with injera, a sour flat-bread native to Ethiopia. The spiciness of Misir Wot is tempered by the injera, so it doesn’t seem quite so hot when you eat it. I am often disappointed when I go to Ethiopian restaurants to find they’ve reduced the heat level in Misir Wot to cater to milder American palates. I so enjoy the range of flavors and piquancy found in authentic family-style Ethiopian dinners, where a number of stews are served on the same plate. Whatever your level of comfort, you can adjust the beberé in this recipe to suit your tastes.
Ethiopian Misir Wot – Spicy Red Lentils Prepared Without Oil
- 1 1/2 cups organic dried red lentils
- 1 3/4 cups chopped red onion (about 1 medium onion. May use yellow or white.)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 3 tablespoons berbere spice blend (my use 1-3 tablespoons)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (or water)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground korerima (black cardamom)
- Examine lentils carefully and remove any stones or debris. Wash thoroughly until the water is no longer milky and is relatively clear. This may take three washings.
- Peel and mince garlic and ginger. Chop onion.
- In a medium sauté pan on medium heat, sauté onions until brown. Move them from one side of the pan to the other, using a little water to loosen the caramelization that has formed on the pan. Allow most of the water to evaporate, then pull the onions back onto the spot you've just cleaned. This will pull the caramelization from the pan onto the onions. Repeat on the other side of the pan. Continue this process until the onions are golden brown. (You may cover the onions for thirty seconds between scrubbing up the caramelization to speed up the cooking process a little.)
- While the onions are caramelizing, transfer the lentils to a medium saucepan on medium heat. Use two cups of the broth to rinse the remaining lentils from the pan in which you washed them. They like to cling to the sides and this is a simple way to transfer them to the saucepan. Add another cup of broth to the lentils, totaling three cups. We will keep a cup of broth in reserve in case we need it, but we don't want to add it all at once. This will risk making the misir wot soupy.
- Turn the lentils up to high and cover. Check them often to make sure they don't boil over. Lentils produce a lot of foam and will boil over easily, making a mess of your stovetop. When the lentils have begun to simmer, remove the lid and stir. Set your timer for eight minutes, and reduce the heat to low. Replace the lid, and stir frequently.
- When the onions are soft and nearly done, stir in ginger and garlic. Continue to sauté as before until ginger and garlic are soft and fully incorporated into the onion mixture.
- Stir in the paprika and the bebere spice blend, adding a little broth to make a creamy paste. Stir for a couple of minutes to cook off the raw flavor of the spices. Turn off heat and allow to rest until the lentils are done. Stir occassionally to prevent scorching as the pan cools.
- When the timer has gone off, remove lid from lentils. Stir and taste for doneness. Transfer spice past to lentils. Using a little broth, release the remnants of the spice paste from the sauté pan and add this to the lentils as well. Stir and taste for balance. If you'd like to add cayenne pepper and salt, do so at this time. (Berbere spice blend already contains salt, so I never feel the need to add more.)
- Finally, stir in the ground Korerima. (It is best if you grind these seeds (which are found inside a large black cardamom pod) in a mortar and pestal to assure freshness. I never buy ground Korerima. Don't overdo this spice! A little goes a long way!!
- Cook another two minutes and serve hot over freshly baked Ethiopian flat bread (injera) or as a side dish. Enjoy!
Alexandria VA 22304. I've included an acceptable Berbere blend from Frontier in my on-line store. It isn't the most authentic, but it has a very good flavor and is organic, a big plus in my book!
Below are the equipment and products I used in this recipe. Click on the photo to order yours through my affiliate link with Amazon.com, for which I receive a small advertising fee. Please visit my Store for more information.
All-Clad 5-Ply Stainless Cookware
This is a good basic set that will serve most of your needs.
So so good! A little spicy for my husband so I lowered the spices and he loves it too.
Thank you, Jill!
I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. Yes, it is a little spicy. One of the things I love about Ethiopian food is that there are spicy dishes juxtaposed with mild dishes. Eating the food with injera helps to mitigate some of the heat of the spicier foods, and of course, cutting down the amount of heat for your husband is also a winning strategy.
Hi Danielle, thank you so much for your recipes and videos. I have tried to make misir wot in the instant pot, and am still experimenting with that cooking method. I used yellow onions, garlic and ginger with 1.5 tablespoons berbere spice per cup of red lentils, cooking for 10 minutes on high pressure, using natural release. It is delicious, but have come out very mushy, and not quite what you would find in an Ethiopian restaurant.
Thank you for your kind comments. I make misir wot in the Instant Pot regularly. I’ve meant to post a video on it, but it seems I’m always busy with new recipes. Your problem with mushy lentils is that you are cooking them too long. Red lentils cook very quickly. I use a little more berbere in mine, two tablespoons per cup of lentils, but that is strictly a personal preference. Yellow onions are fine. I use red only because they are higher in phytonutrients. I usually make a batch of 1 1/2 cups lentils, which is enough for several meals. It freezes very well, so I put extras in one-cup glass Pyrex containers with a lid and freeze for the next time I am craving Ethiopian food. FYI, Kuk Alicha freezes well too.
Here is my Instant Pot recipe:
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, picked through and thoroughly washed
1½ tablespoons minced ginger
1½ tablespoons minced garlic
1½ cups diced red onion, small dice
3 cups vegetable stock, or filtered water
3 tablespoons Berbere spice blend (If you don’t care for spicy food, use 1-2 tablespoons, though this will dilute the flavor of the dish.)
3 tablespoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground Korarima (black cardamom)
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
This dish is traditionally cooked down almost to a paste. Ethiopian cooks are leaning these days to the whole foods approach. This region’s cuisine also typically uses copious amounts of oil, which I have eliminated to keep it a healthy option. I’ve never had anyone notice the difference, except to say that my Ethiopian food doesn’t taste greasy. Add minimal salt only at the end of the cooking process.
Place Instant Pot on Sauté mode and allow the inner pot to heat up to the point that a drop of water sizzles when dropped into the pan. Add onions and sauce for about ten minutes or until soft and beginning to turn golden brown. Add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, as needed to prevent scorching. Add garlic and ginger and sauté another two to three minutes.
Stir in paprika and berbere spice blend. Add a little more water to create a paste.
Stir in washed lentils and remaining water. Switch IP mode to Manuel (or Pressure, depending on the model of IP you have), at high pressure for two minutes. Set the pressure valve to sealing. It will take several minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and for the timer to begin counting down from two minutes.
When the two minutes have counted down, and the alarm goes off, release the pressure valve, taking care to keep your hands and face away from the valve. (A shot of hot steam can cause severe burns!!)
Once the pressure has released, the valve has dropped down, and it is safe to remove the lid, do so. Stir the Misir Wot and taste for flavor balance. If you are adding salt, do so at this time. Stir in the korerima finishing spice.
Serve hot as a side dish or as part of a combination platter on the Ethiopian flatbread, injera.
Give this a try, Colette, and see how it works for you. Happy cooking! Danielle