Spicy Vegan Ethiopian Lentil Stew

Delicious and flavorful lentil stew with roasted asparagus.

My first time trying Ethiopian, spicy lentils was at a vendor stand at our local farmer’s market in St. Petersburg, FL. I was on a break from my Saturday job at an organic veggie stand located at the market and I was looking for something healthy and different. Judging from the long line at the Ethiopian stand, I figured it must be pretty good and I gave it a try.

Enter…life changing moment! It was SO GOOD!

I went back the next Saturday on my break needing those delicious lentils and nearly every Saturday after that. And then, I started ordering full Ethiopian meals from this same vendor, right before I left for the day, and took the food home for dinner to share with my hubby and family…it was THAT good.

And then it hit me, one of those lightbulb moments. Why not just ask the vendor how she makes these lentils so insanely tasty? Well, of course, she would not give me the actual recipe (she said she didn’t want to lose her best customer), but she did let me in on the secret…BERBERE!

Have you heard of it?

I had not, so, immediately, like any ambitious chef on a mission, I came home and Googled it. Berbere is a spice blend that is made from upwards of 12 different spices! From coriander and cinnamon to fenugreek and allspice…my head was spinning with all that flavor potential. Knowing I did not have all these spices on hand, I stayed online and ordered me up some berbere spice, thanks to Amazon and Frontier Co-op, a spice company I absolutely love.

Despite the fact that I did not have the actual recipe I tried to recreate the dish, solely on what I thought my tastebuds encountered with each bite. And, humbly, I gotta say, what I created is pretty doggone good too!

If you haven’t tried Ethiopian food before, then I hope this enticing dish inspires you to take a step outside your tastebud comfort zone. Super simple to pull together and it offers a distinctive bite that you won’t soon forget. Ethiopian-style lentils have certainly become a favorite in my house, especially with my non-vegans.

I hope you like this recipe, packed with protein, fiber, calcium, and potassium, and I encourage you to come back and leave a comment about your foray into the Ethiopian lentil experience.


Spicy Vegan Ethiopian Lentil Stew

Jennifer Markell
This one-pot, flavor-packed, spicy Ethiopian recipe may seriously change your life. With the secret weapon being berbere spice, each bite is a sizzling sensation that your taste buds won't soon forget. Easy to pull together and even easier to devour, it's a perfect dish to serve at dinner parties or to share at a potluck. I served this stew over a bed of organic, brown basmati rice and with roasted asparagus, but, you could choose almost any other whole grain and any veggie side and it would just as amazing!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Ethiopian
Servings 8


  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil omit the oil and dry saute or use broth if NOSS
  • 1 medium onion - large dice yellow, sweet, white...it doesn't matter
  • 5 cloves garlic - finely diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger - finely diced
  • 3-4 medium organic Yukon gold potatoes - cubed red potatoes work great too
  • 3 organic carrots - large dice
  • 1 1/2 cup lentils -uncooked use green or red
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes - low sodium
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) unsweetened organic coconut milk used as a balance to the spice so use less if you don't want as much fat content
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Berbere spice
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • cilantro for garnish


  • Gather and prepare all your ingredients (mise en place)* and heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Add the grapeseed oil and onions to the pot, along with a pinch of salt and saute for about 8 minutes to develop flavor. Add the ginger and garlic; stir and let saute for another few minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the carrots and a little veggie broth and let saute for about 5 - 8 more minutes. Add the potatoes, berbere, and bay leaf, along with a little more veggie broth so it can simmer in the juice. You should only have a little liquid at the bottom of your pan. (Hey, Rockstar...you are developing flavor!)
  • Add the berbere, tomatoes, and lentils. Stir everything together so all ingredients are well coated and playing nicely with each other. Add about 2 cups of veg broth to simmer. Reduce heat to low-medium and cover. Let them do their thing.
  • Stir occasionally and add more broth as needed. You want to make sure there is enough broth so the lentils, carrots, and potatoes can simmer and soften. Simmer for about 20 minutes, covered loosely (meaning, don't cover it tightly!). Stir occasionally. Once the veg and lentils soften, add the coconut milk. Continue to simmer on low heat, cover off, for about 10 - 15 minutes. The stew should be fairly thick and not runny.
  • Serve over your favorite organic whole grain such as farro or basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro. Great sides include roasted broccoli, asparagus or sautéed spinach.


* Not pictured: vegetable broth.

Note: Nutrition Facts on all recipes are an approximation only, using the Very Well Fit recipe nutrition calculator.


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I'm Chef Jennifer! A trained and certified personal vegan chef, offering delicious and nutritious animal-free food through personalized, weekly meal-prep services. I also love advocating for the plant-based lifestyle. Changing lives, saving animals and veganizing the planet with REAL food, one plate at a time.🍎🥦🥕

Learn about me, why I started VIR and why I believe food is medicine...for real!


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