Ethiopian lentils with Berbere spice blend in white bowl garnished with lemon wedges and red chili flakes.

Ethiopian lentils with homemade Berbere spice blend

  • Author: Denise
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Ethiopian lentils with homemade Berbere spice is a fragrant, flavorful plant-based recipe with red lentils, simmered in a spicy tomato-onion-garlic sauce.



Berbere spice blend (makes ¾ cup or 12 Tablespoons)

  • 1 Tbsp each:
    • Cardamom
    • Coriander
    • Fenugreek (2 Tbsp. seeds)
    • Nutmeg
    • ground cloves (1 1/3 Tbsp. whole cloves)
    • Allspice
    • Cinnamon
    • Paprika (smoked or sweet)
    • Turmeric
    • White pepper (3/4 Tbsp. whole peppercorns ground)
    • Cumin (3/4 Tbsp. cumin seeds)
    • Crushed red chili flakes (optional)
    • Salt (optional)

 Ethiopian lentils

  • 2 medium onions diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 23 Tbsp. Berbere spice blend
  • 2 cups red lentils, rinsed and sorted (I prefer split lentils, but you can use whole)
  • 4 cups water


  1. Start by making the Berbere spice blend. If you use any whole spices, grind them and mix them with together with the rest of the spices in a small jar or container.
  2. To make the lentils, place the onions in a medium soup pot over medium heat and sauté the onions until they start to brown. This should take about 8-10 minutes depending on your pan and the heat. If the onions start to stick too much, add water a tablespoon at a time.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, 1 tsp. turmeric, ¼ tsp. ground cardamom, 1/3 tsp. cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg. Stir to coat everything in the spices for 1 minute.
  4. Add ½ cup of water and stir to deglaze the pan.
  5. Add the tomatoes and allow them to cook and break down for another 10 minutes.
  6. Add 2 cups of lentils, 4 cups of water and 2-3 Tbsp. Berbere spice blend. Mix everything, cover and allow the lentils to simmer until they are tender (15-20 minutes). Add more water ½ cup at-a-time if the lentils are not tender after the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
  8. Once the lentils are tender, remove from the heat and serve in bowls. You can also serve this over rice if you prefer.
  9. Garnish with lemon slices.


  • The amount of water and time to cook the lentils depends on whether you use split or whole lentils. Allow 10 additional minutes of cooking time for whole lentils and closely monitor the water in case you need to add more.
  • You will have leftover Berbere spice blend. Store this in a labeled, sealed container. Because you can use this blend for other recipes, I included the extra spices to the onions as they are particular to Ethiopian lentil recipe.
  • Category: Main Courses
  • Cuisine: Ethiopian

Keywords: Ethiopian lentils with Berbere spice blend