Ethiopian Lentil Stew (Mesir Wat)

20150409 Ethiopian 046-Edit
Ethiopian food is my favorite cuisine, and mesir wat with injera bread is my favorite Ethiopian dish.  I’ve tried multiple mesir wat recipes through the years, and finally found this recipe on Saveur that matches the delicious taste of my favorite Ethiopian dish.  I modified it slightly, including a bullion cube for additional depth of flavor.  I also reduced the cooking time and added water so the final product has that moistness I love so much.  The dish relies on berbere for its unique flavor.  It’s worth noting that there are many different blends of berbere on the market with a wide diversity of spices and spice proportions.  We purchased a few different brands before we found one that the ones from local Ethiopian groceries are the best, and we recommend them if you have access to them. We have also added Instant Pot instructions below regular instructions.


  • 2 c red lentils, rinsed
  • 6 T butter (or clarified butter if you have it)
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 T garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 T berbere (ethiopian spice mix)
  • 4 Knorr vegetarian bullion cubes
  • 2 tomato, chopped
  • 4 c water
  • 1/4 t salt or to taste


Prepare the ingredients as described above.

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the lentils, the berbere, tomato, bullion cubes, and water to the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered, and stirring occasionally to keep the lentils from burning on the bottom, until thick and the lentils are tender, approximately 40 minutes.

Add additional water as needed to keep the lentils moist.

Stir in the remaining 1/4 t salt.

Serve with injera.

Note:  If cooking in an instant pot, cook as described above, in the instant pot, except when cooking the lentils, cook on high pressure for 13 minutes instead of cooking 40 minutes on the stove.


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