Ethiopian Red Lentil Chili

Who doesn’t like a good meal that fuses two cuisines together into a fantastic and unique marriage? (If you’re raising your hand now, this post isn’t for you). Tonight’s meal is a vegetarian entree that brings together the concept of American chili with an Ethiopian spice profile of berbere along with a few fun and highly aromatic cooking techniques. Let’s start with gberbere, since it’s something I’d not known existed until after college. It is a traditional Ethiopian spice combination…if you haven’t had it, think garam masala but enhanced with a little more spice and a little more sweetness. It’s such a complex flavour that you will pick up different notes on every bite (all are enjoyable). The only drawback is that if you don’t have a premade spice blend, it does take a lot of different spices to make…but none are uncommon or expensive, and with a few exceptions (paprika and cayenne), any one or two can be omitted without major problems. Add in that berbere can be used as a dry rub or for sauteeing meat or mushrooms, and you’ll definitely keep finding new ways to use your berbere. That aside, let’s turn our attention to this chili.

Time: 35 Minutes

Ingredients (for two servings)

  • 1/2 cup of dry red lentils
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh Garlic (I used two cloves)
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Berbere Spice Blend I used (in order of relative amounts):
    • Paprika
    • Cayenne (lower on the list if you don’t want it to be too hot)
    • Garlic Powder
    • Cumin
    • Cinnamon
    • Ground Ginger
    • Ground Cloves
    • Dried Basil


  • Mix together all your spices, and set aside
  • In a blender/food processor/Ninja, puree your onion, and put it into a large pan (straight sided and nonstick is best). Then, using a microplane grater or other similar device, grate in your garlic and fresh ginger.
  • Turn the heat on, and let the aromatics (and they will be deliciously aromatic) heat and start to caramelize a bit.
  • While the onion/ginger/garlic begins to cook, cut up your green pepper, and start making your lentils in a separate pot (1.5 cups of lentils and 3 cups of water [plus a little salt and turmeric] or veggie stock, and then bring it to a boil, and let it simmer until the water is mostly absorbed).
  • When the onion water has evaporated, add your green peppers and your seasonings. Add a little oil too, and sautee.
  • After maybe 5 minutes, add your mushrooms, and stir them in. You may need to add a little water to the pan here too to keep the mixture moist and saucy.
  • When your lentils are ready, stir them into the spiced veggie pan.
  • Take a little taste, and add any other seasonings you feel it needs more of to finish it off.
  • Plate, devour, and enjoy!

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