Messer Wot (Red Lentil Stew)

by Beejhy Barhany
A dark blue dutch oven filled with a deep red lentil stew and a large metal serving spoon. The mustard yellow clothed table also features two bowls of the stew, a large round loaf of bread with several slices cut, a fruit bowl, and a little leaf-shaped plate of berbere spice mixture.

A quick, easy, and filling stew with a delicious spice mix. Comfort food at its finest (and healthiest)!


For the berbere spice mix

1 cup chili powder or hot paprika
½ tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon granulate onion
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ tablespoon ground nutmeg
½ tablespoon ground fenugreek seed
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt

For the stew

2 cups red lentils, sorted
2 red onions, peeled
2 white onions, peeled and chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup oil
2 tablespoons berbere spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 – 6-ounce can tomato paste
4 cups water

  1. To make the berbere spice, sift and mix together all ingredients.
  2. Puree onions, garlic, and ginger in food processor.
  3. In a large pan sauté your onion, garlic, and ginger in oil. Cook until softened, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add tomato paste, ½ cup water, berbere spice, and salt. Cook for 15 minutes while stirring; reduce heat.
  5. Rinse lentils and add to pan; stir and bring to a boil; cover and simmer the lentils, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Add water as needed.
  6. Add salt to taste.
  7. Serve with injera (Ethiopian flatbread) or rice.

  1. Beejhy is the owner and chef of Tsion Cafe, an Ethiopian cafe in Harlem, New York City.
  2. She is also the founder of The Beta Israel of North America (BINA) Cultural Foundation.