Vegan Ethiopian Recipe: Misir Wot (Spicy Red Lentil Stew)

vegan ethiopian food misir wot

Spicy, but not too hot, vegan Ethiopian Misir Wot

I was treated to lunch this afternoon as a belated birthday present. We tried Ethiopian food at Ethiopian Love restaurant in Chinatown.

Based on reviews, we tried the vegetarian sampler, sambussas, and my carnivore friends had a lamb dish. The sampler plate came with Misir Wot, a spicy red lentil stew, Kik, a yellow split pea stew, and potatoes.

The sambussas were similar to samosas, with a filling of cooked lentils. It was served with a mildly spicy sauce made with red wine, spices, and chilies.

All of that was served with injera, a flatbread made of fermented teff traditionally, which is a grass-like grain. Their version was made of a mixture of teff and wheat.

Injera is sour and spongy, like a flat pancake. The tanginess goes well with the other food.

When I got home, I was so inspired, and I had all the ingredients I would need, that I attempted a copycat recipe of the Misir Wot. Mine is definitely not as dark or as richly spiced as the one we ate, but taste-wise, it comes pretty close. I’ll play with the recipe for now, but until then, this one is still a tasty dish.

Red lentils are tiny and cook up in a flash. Most Ethiopian recipes call for Berbere spice, which is usually pretty hot, but I used the spices you’d find and added them separately, so I could control the heat. This is a mild version. Adjust the cayenne to your taste.

The list of ingredients is long, but this is just a little more than a dump-and-boil dish. You can serve it with my fake injera, which isn’t fermented. It cheats, using lemon juice to give it tang. Here’s a link to my fake injera recipe (which is also on this site.)

Vegan Recipe: Misir Wot

Spice Paste: (all spices are ground, dried)

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 TABLESPOON minced fresh ginger
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek (you can use whole or ground)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup water


  • 1 pound red lentils (2-1/2 cups)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces, 411 grams) diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 TABLESPOONS red wine vinegar

Place all the spice paste ingredients in a blender to make the spice paste. Stop the blender often and scrape down the sides. Blend until you have a relatively smooth paste.

In a large pot on medium-high heat, cook spice paste in oil 5 minutes, stirring often so you don’t burn it.

Add lentils, water, tomatoes, salt.

Cover, bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until lentils are done and you get a thick stew, about 20-30 minutes. Stir more often near the end of the cooking period, scraping the bottom of the pot, so the stew does not scorch.

Stir in vinegar.

Be careful at the end, because the stew will spit hot gobs of burning stew at you. Once it’s done, pull it from the heat and keep it covered until it stops spitting.

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