Ethiopian Lentil Dahl Recipe


Ethiopian cuisine is probably most notable for its flavoursome vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes. These generally take the form of wat, a type of thick stew or dahl.

The main spice blend in Ethiopian cooking is berbere with elements varying a little depending on personal preference. That said the mixture usually contains some or all of commonly found ingredients such chilli, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cumin, and coriander. It also contains elements that are less readily available in many countries. These include korarima (a type of cardamom or ‘false cardamom’), rue (a bitter herb), ajwain (strong thyme-like flavour) and nigella (nutty flavour).


Lentils are a staple of the Ethiopian diet and this particular recipe is easy to prepare. It calls for spices commonly found in most supermarkets throughout the world.

Recipe by: GOLD Restaurant
Serves: 8 (starter or side dish)
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes


t = teaspoon
T = tablespoon

  • 250g brown lentils
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 1 T butter (optional)
  • 1 T oil ½ t ground cumin
  • 2 t garlic, crushed
  • 2t fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ t ground turmeric
  • ½ t ground paprika (or sundried chilli chopped finely)
  • ½ ground coriander (cooking)
  • Handful fresh coriander, chopped (garnishing)
  • 1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
  • Salt to taste


  1. Place lentils in a saucepan on a high heat and cover with cold water approximately 2 inches (5 centimetres) above their surface.
  2. Using a ladle skim off any scum that rises to the top.
  3. Once boiling stir in a tablespoon of butter (optional), cover, reduce to a low heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally.
  4. Note that the lentils should be cooked through but not mushy.
  5. Set saucepan aside.
  6. In a separate saucepan on a medium heat add a tablespoon of oil.
  7. Fry garlic, onions and ginger gently for a minute or two.
  8. Stir in all other ingredients except for the fresh coriander and lentils.
  9. Cover, reduce to a low heat and allow to cook for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally until all the ingredients have blended and cooked through to form a rich and aromatic gravy.
  10. Add the lentils, cover and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes or so until your wat / dahl forms a porridge-like consistency.
  11. Garnish with fresh coriander.
  12. Serve hot.


  1. If your wat / dahl becomes too thick when cooking add a little boiling water until it reaches the consistency you desire.
  2. To enrich the flavour add ¼ to ½ a cup of double-thick plain yoghurt.
  3. You can also turn your starter or side dish into a filling vegetarian main by adding cubes of roasted butternut, sweet potato and carrots.

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