Lentils in Berbere Sauce (Yemiser W’et)

Serves 4 to 6 with injera and other stews


That thick, spicy-sweet brick red lentil stew that’s ubiquious to any big Ethiopian mesob (family-style spread). Lentils are easy enough to cook from scratch, but if you’re preparing a bunch of w’et stews why not cut yourself some slack and seek out a can of pre-cooked organic black lentils (something I’m seeing more and more of on natural food store shelves). For best results use firm cooking lentils such as brown or black, or use red lentils and puree for another classic variation on this w’et.

  • Lentils
  • 1 cup dry brown or black lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

OR use 2 cups cooked lentils with about 1/4 cup of reserved cooking liquid (about one 14 ounce can)


Berbere sauce

  • 1 large red onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons Spiced Buttery Oil
  • 5 teaspoons Berbere Spice Blend
  • 2 teaspoons sweet ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup lentil cooking liquid or vegetable broth
  • 3 plum tomatoes, core removed and finely diced or 1 cup diced canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

1. In a 2 quart sauce pan bring lentils, water and salt to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until lentils are tender but not overly mushy. Turn off heat and set aside about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the lentils and transfer to a bowl.


2. Clean the sauce pan, dry and over medium heat fry the onion, garlic and Spiced Buttery Oil together until the onion is softened and translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the Berbere Spice Blend, paprika, cumin and tomato paste and fry, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Stir in the lentil cooking liquid or vegetable broth and simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the lentils and tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If a thicker stew is desired simmer uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt, then turn off heat and cover. Let stew stand for 20 minutes before serving warm with injera bread.



Variation, Red Lentil W’et


Substitute 1 cup of dried red lentils for the brown lentils, but don’t precook the lentils. After the tomato paste and spices have been fried, pour in 2 1/4 cups of water, 1 cup of red lentils and the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, stir and reduce heat. Cover and cook for 30 to 35 minutes or longer until the lentils have broken down and become mushy. If necessary add a little extra water during the cooking; don’t add enough to make a soup, instead the lentils should resemble a thick mash. If desired puree the mixture with an immersion blender for a creamier w’et, or leave as is for a textured stew.