Ethiopian-style brown lentils: Recipe using berbere seasoning

Did you know Zero Green stocks 72 different herbs and spices? Refilling your existing containers is often very economical compared to buying new jars at the supermarket.

We’ve recently spent a lot of time researching new blends for our shelves, and one of the new additions we’re most excited about is Ethiopian berbere. Exact ingredients vary, but the version that we stock contains twelve different spices, including chilli, black pepper, cumin, coriander and cloves. The mix is warm rather than spicy, and is an easy way to add balanced flavour to loads of ingredients, but particularly pulses.

If you research recipes for Ethiopian ‘misir wat’ (lentil stew) you will find many that use red lentils, but we like the firmer texture from brown or beluga lentils. Lentils cooked this way in Ethiopia are often served with injera, a fermented flat bread made from the grain teff. Injera can be difficult to find, but you can get a reminiscent taste and texture from sourdough. This stew works really well served on sourdough toast, like a gourmet version of the classic beans on toast.


1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 medium brown onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato puree

2 tbsp berbere

200g brown lentils

800ml water

1 tbsp bouillon powder


Rinse your lentils thoroughly, then set to one side to drain.

Add the oil and onion to a pan on medium heat. Soften the onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t take on too much colour.

Add the garlic and tomato puree. Stir until the onions are coated in the puree and cook for a further 30 seconds.

Add the berbere seasoning. Warm through for just a few seconds until the spices become fragrant. Be careful not to leave too long, or the spices will burn.

Finally add all the remaining ingredients – lentils, water, and bouillon powder. Increase the heat until everything comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30-40 minutes. You are looking for lentils that are soft but still have a bit of bite.  Stir every 5-10 minutes or so, and add a splash more water if needed towards the end.

Serving suggestion: Add your carb of choice (potatoes, sourdough, pitta bread, cous cous) and some steamed or sauteed greens (such as broccoli, kale, or chard). These lentils are delicious topped with am optional spoonful of plain yoghurt.

Ethiopoian-style lentils with cous cous and chard
Ethiopoian-style lentils with cous cous and chard

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