When it’s cold outside and all you want is a comforting bowl of food to warm your heart and soul, you know it’s time to make Berbere Lentils. Bringing some African heat and plentiful flavour bursts, this simple one-pot lentil dish is just what you need for a quick and inexpensive meat-free dinner! Vegan and full of flavour, Berbere Lentils is one of the staples in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines!
When we started cooking various African dishes over the last couple of months, we were amazed at the copious amounts of exciting flavours that we found across the African continent. Today, we are sharing one of the easiest, but extremely flavoursome Berbere Lentil recipe. Similar to Indian Dahl, it is spiced with Berbere, which brings new and exhilarating flavour to the lentils. We served it Somalian Canjeera (Lahoh) flatbreads for an ultimate East African feast!
Our recipe is heavy on cardamom (we love cardamom here at Somebody Feed Seb), so if you don’t like the taste of it, go easy on it.
What is Berbere?
You can use a shop-bought berbere spice mix (the one we like is here), but if you have your spice cupboard stocked, you will likely be able to make your own. You can find our Berbere Spice Mix recipe here.
A versatile ingredient, berbere is a spicy mix with a complex flavour profile. With sweet, citrusy and aniseedy notes, the spice can be used in various vegetarian and meat dishes, including stews, dahls and as a dry rub for meat. In Amharic, ‘barbare’ means ‘hot’, but there’s much more to this spice mix that chilli. Made with cumin, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon and allspice, berbere has a unique combination of warmth, spiciness, earthiness, and sweetness.
How Do We Make Ethiopian Berbere Lentils?
Prepare your ingredients. Rinse your lentils in cold water and leave in a sieve/ colander to drain. Peel and finely chop the onion. Chop ripe tomatoes. Then crush, mince, grate or finely chop garlic cloves and ginger. We use a brilliant grater plate – link here. Roughly chop fresh coriander (including the stalks).
Open the cardamom pods with a very sharp knife and scrape the seeds out. Place them in a pestle and mortar and crush them to a powder.
Heat 2 tbsp of odourless oil (we use vegetable or sunflower) in a large pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook for 5 minutes until starting to soften, stirring frequently.
Add the berbere, turmeric, cumin, ground cardamom seeds, garlic and ginger. Carry on cooking and stirring for another minute.
Add tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and season with salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low.
Add red lentils, pour in 400ml of boiling water. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 4-5 minutes to soften the tomatoes slightly.
When you are ready to serve, stir in the coriander. Divide the Berbere Lentils between two bowls and serve with flatbreads of your choice! We served ours with Somalian Canjeera (Lahoh) Flatbreads for an ultimate East African feast!
If you enjoy lentil recipes, have a look at our other recipes that have them as a star of the dish:
- Easy Lentil ‘Meatballs’ and Spaghetti
- Autumnal Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Dahl
- Mushroom Dahl with Coriander Relish
- Curried Carrot and Lentil Soup
Berbere Lentils | Ethiopian Staple
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 8 cardamom pods seeds only, ground in a pestle and mortar
- 1½ tsp berbere spice mix
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped or grated
- 15 g fresh ginger finely chopped or grated
- 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 200 g red lentils rinsed
- 400 ml boiling water
- 2 tomatoes finely chopped
- 10 g fresh coriander roughly chopped
- Heat 2 tbsp of odourless oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes until starting to soften, stirring frequently.
- Add the berbere, turmeric, cumin, ground cardamom seeds, garlic and ginger. Carry on cooking and stirring for another minute.
- Add tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and season with salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low.
- Add red lentils, pour in 400ml of boiling water. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 4-5 minutes to soften the tomatoes slightly.
- When you are ready to serve, stir in the coriander. Divide the Berbere Lentils between two bowls and serve with flatbreads of your choice!