Ethiopian Red Lentil and Vegetable Stew

4.73 from 11 votes
1 hour 15 minutes
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One spoonful of this flavor-packed berbere-spiced stew will have you hooked! Vegan Ethiopian Red Lentil and Vegetable Stew is hearty yet loaded with healthful goodness and comes together in a little over an hour!

Three bowls of Ethiopian Red Lentil Vegetable Soup.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

Several months ago we had the opportunity to enjoy an Ethiopian meal prepared by a family who emigrated from there. It was amazing and we instantly fell in love with the enticing flavors of that country!

Ethiopian food characteristically consists of very spicy meat and vegetable dishes. Because of orthodox church religious practices in Ethiopia, there are a number of fasting periods during the year where no animal products are consumed so there are numerous vegan dishes in Ethiopian cuisine.

This Ethiopian Red Lentil and Vegetable Stew is inspired by that savory, spicy cuisine! It has a complex flavor but comes together quickly with red lentils that cook faster than brown or green lentils and with purchased berbere spice.

It’s:

  • Spicy!
  • Vegan and gluten-free
  • Easy to prepare
  • Comes together in just over an hour
  • Can be made ahead
  • Freezer-friendly!

Let’s make it!

Photo of half bowl of Ethiopian Red Lentil Vegetable Soup in gray speckled bowl with spoon garnished with yogurt and cilantro.

How to Make Ethiopian Red Lentil and Vegetable Stew:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this recipe along with how to prep. See the lentil and vegetable stew recipe card below for the exact quantities.

Ingredients for Ethiopian Red Lentil Vegetable Soup in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Berbere Spice: While you can certainly make your own berbere spice blend, you’ll need a fairly large variety of spices. Chef Marcus Samuelsson (who is Ethiopian) has this berbere spice blend recipe on his website. I used an imported Ethiopian berbere blend from the Brundo Spice Company which is owned by women. You can also find berbere spice at Whole Foods.
  • Turnips: I used turnips to add more texture to the stew. I used them because that’s what I had on hand, however, you can use potatoes, sweet potatoes or rutabaga.
  • Red Lentils: Red lentils cook faster than brown or green lentils because they’re smaller. Their texture after being cooked won’t be the same as brown or green lentils because they somewhat “melt” into the dish they’re in. Lentils can contain tiny stones or other debris so it’s always a good idea to look them over. Red lentils are used in the classic Ethiopian dish Misir Wat or Misir Wot.
  • Vegetable Broth: If you’re not concerned about keeping the soup vegan, you can also use chicken broth. For vegetable broth, I like to use Kitchen Accomplice Reduced Sodium Vegetable Broth Concentrate.
  • Yogurt: Optional but adds a cooling touch. To keep the soup vegan, use a plant-based Greek-style yogurt.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients.
  • Heat the canola oil (can also use olive oil) in a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until it begins to soften.
Cooked onions in white Dutch oven.
  • Add the carrots, celery and red bell pepper and cook until those vegetables have softened up.
Cooked onions, carrots and celery in white Dutch oven.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and berbere spice blend and stir until fragrant.
  • Add the turnips and vegetable broth. Bring that up to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes so the turnips get a head start on the lentils.
  • Add the red lentils and tomatoes then cover with the lid slightly ajar. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until the lentils and turnips are tender.
Soup in white Dutch oven with turnips just added.
  • Add the cilantro and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste….
Ethiopian Red Lentil Vegetable Soup in white Dutch oven with cilantro sprinkled over the top.
  • And it’s done! Ethiopian-Inspired Red Lentil and Vegetable Stew!
  • MAKE AHEAD: Can be made one to two days ahead of time up to this point. Cool completely and refrigerate. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Ethiopian Red Lentil Vegetable Soup in white Dutch oven with bowl of cilantro and berbere spice.
  • Dish it up, friends!
  • Add a dollop of either plant-based or regular yogurt for a tangy, cooling touch.
Three bowls of Ethiopian Red Lentil Vegetable Soup on blue distressed background.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • To inspect lentils for debris, I pour a small amount onto a white paper plate then spread them out. I use a white paper plate because anything foreign is easily seen and when I’m finished inspecting, I can bend the plate and easily pour them into whatever I’m making.
  • As shown above, I like to add dried spices directly to the fat early in the cooking process so they have an opportunity to “bloom.”
Bowl of Ethiopian Red Lentil Vegetable Soup on blue distressed background.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is berbere spice?

Berbere is a spice blend common in Ethiopian cuisine. It’s composed of chiles, garlic, fenugreek and a handful of other warm spices, such as allspice and cinnamon. The flavor is hot and peppery with a touch of tanginess. Traditional berbere is made from whole spices that are toasted for maximum flavor and then ground.

How do you make berbere spice less hot?

The best way to make berbere less hot is to make it yourself and use fewer dried chiles. If you purchased berbere spice, that’s difficult to change. You can always use less berbere, but you won’t have the flavor the other spices provide.

Do you need to rinse lentils before cooking?

It’s always a good idea to rinse things like lentils and rice before cooking. After inspecting the lentils for debris, place them in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cool running tap water.

Serve with:

More lovely lentil soups and stews!

Check out all my soup and stew recipes here! Soups and Stews – From A Chef’s Kitchen

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Three bowls of Ethiopian Red Lentil Vegetable Soup.

Ethiopian Red Lentil and Vegetable Stew

4.73 from 11 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
One spoonful of this flavor-packed berbere-spiced stew will have you hooked! Vegan Ethiopian Red Lentil and Vegetable Stew is hearty yet loaded with healthful goodness and comes together in a little over an hour!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Soups and Stews
Cuisine African
Servings 8
Calories 212 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion - chopped
  • 2 medium carrots - chopped
  • 2 stalks celery - chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper - seeds and membranes removed, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Berbere spice
  • 2 medium turnips - peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils - inspected for debris and rinsed
  • 1 can (15-ounce) petite diced tomatoes - undrained
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro - plus more for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
  • Yogurt - plant-based or regular

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or other heavy soup pot.
  • Add the onion, reduce heat to medium and cook 5-6 minutes or until beginning to soften.
  • Add the carrots, celery and red bell pepper. Continue cooking another 5-6 minutes or until softened.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and Berbere spice. Give it a stir and cook briefly or until the garlic and ginger are fragrant.
  • Add the turnips and the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the lentils and petite diced tomatoes.
  • Cover with the lid slightly ajar. Simmer over medium-low for 25-30 minutes or until the turnips and lentils are tender.
  • Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  • Add the cilantro.
  • Serve in bowls garnished with cilantro and a dollop of yogurt if desired.

Notes

MAKE AHEAD:  Can be made 1-2 days ahead of time.  Cool completely then refrigerate.  Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  Freeze in small, airtight containers for 2-3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave.  Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 212kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1098mg | Potassium: 517mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 3474IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 4mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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4.73 from 11 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was amazing! Much tastier than I’d hoped. My only caveat is that I didn’t need the turnips. I wonder how hard it’d be to add something else–like okra–instead of a starch like turnips or potatoes?

    1. Hi, Dare, Thanks so much and so happy you love this recipe! I think okra would be a great addition as would something like green beans. Thanks again!

  2. 5 stars
    Wow, yummy! I found the Berbere spice at Whole Foods as you mentioned. The second ingredient is cayenne pepper so I knew the spice mixture would be too hot. Instead of two tablespoons of Berbere, I used two teaspoons. Then I added two teaspoons of smoked paprika and 1/8 -1/4 teaspoons of cloves, cumin, turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon. The stew had a little kick of heat and the delicious complexity of the spice blend. Served it over brown Basmati rice.

    1. Hi, Laura, Thanks so much and glad you enjoyed! Loved that you adapted the spice level to your tolerance and the adjustments you made. Sounds perfect! Thanks again!