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Ethiopian Misir Wot – Spicy Red Lentils Prepared 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.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Quick & Easy, Side Dish
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Keyword: Ethiopian, lentils, vegan
Servings: 10 1/2 cup servings
Calories: 126kcal


  • 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!


You can order Ethiopian spices online at Ethiopian Spices. My favorite place to shop for Ethiopian spices is at Kare Baltena Ethiopian Market at 503 S. Pickett Street,
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!


Calories: 126kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 7g | Sodium: 518mg | Potassium: 355mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1280IU | Vitamin C: 4.9mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 3.8mg