Ethiopian lentils are possible at home with the right spices


Spiced red lentils with Ethiopian spiced collard greens and injera bread, pictured in June 2018. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

By JESS FLEMING | | Pioneer PressJuly 11, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Ethiopian cuisine is up there on my list of favorites, but it’s not exactly something I cook for myself.

Recently, though, our weekly neighbors potluck took on an African theme, and I saw it as an opportunity. I made these spiced lentils and some collard greens braised in Ethiopian spices and bought some spongy injera bread at an African grocery store. It wasn’t exactly my favorite vegetarian platter (because that has about six other dishes) but it definitely tasted great and even converted some lentil haters into lentil lovers.

Berbere is a traditional Ethiopian spice mixture, and like curry, there are as many variations as there are residents in the country. You can get really fancy and grind your own spices from whole seeds, but I went with a version that used all ground spices and it worked great. You can also buy it at some African grocery stores. That’s where I found Nigella seeds.

You can eat these without the injera (traditionally used to scoop up the food), as a side dish with grilled meat or whatever you’re serving.


Adapted from Makes 8 servings. 

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 medium red onions, finely chopped (2 cups)

10 garlic cloves, minced

One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

3 tablespoons berbere, plus more for sprinkling

2 teaspoons nigella seeds, finely ground

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

3 cups red lentils (1 1/4 pounds)


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