Ethiopian Lentil Stew (Mesir Wat)

There is a quick and a longer version of this recipe – it’s really worth making the spiced butter and berbere spice blend if you’ve got the time. If not, then enjoy the easier version of this delicious, warming and traditional Ethiopian dish.

Easy recipeEasy Gluten free Wheat freeFreezable recipe Cheap as chickpeas
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Preparation time

15 min

Cook time

45 min

Total time





  • mains




Spiced/infused butter (niter kibbeh)

Leave this stage out for a quicker version of the recipe but if you have the time it’s really worth it!

  • 200g/7 oz vegan butter or 200ml rapeseed oil (we used Naturli Vegan Block)
  • 1 shallot or ¼ onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2cm knob ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cardamom pods


  • 4 tbsp of the infused butter (niter kibbeh) or just use 1 tbsp of rapeseed oil if leaving out this stage
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp berbere spice blend (for a quick version buy it ready-made or make your own for better results. If you can’t find berbere then you can also use baharat or garam masala)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (optional – if you’d like extra heat)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 5 tomatoes, cut into quarters or 1 x 400g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes
  • 250g/1¼ cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 750ml/3 cups vegan stock
  • Juice of half a lemon

Serving options: brown rice, warm chapati, fresh coriander or parsley, green salad, vegan yoghurt, lemon wedges


Spiced/infused butter (niter kibbeh)

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a large saucepan and simmer on a very low heat for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s important not to overcook this as the butter can start to burn.
  2. Place a muslin, nut milk bag, cheesecloth or (clean) pair of tights over a large jug and strain the butter (or oil) into the jug. Set aside.


  1. Add 4 tablespoons of the strained spiced butter (or 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil if doing the quick version) to a large pan and add the onions. Cook until soft and lightly browned.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  3. Stir through the berbere spice blend and cook for another minute.
  4. Add the tomato puree and tomatoes and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the lentils and stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the stew as you might need to add a little more stock if it starts to dry out.
  6. At the end of cooking, stir through the lemon juice.
  7. Enjoy with the the optional serving suggestions and drizzle the remaining infused butter/oil over the stew.

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