Misir Wot, an Ethiopian-style stew, in which red lentils are cooked in clarified butter, aromatics, and seasoned with an earthy and floral spice blend, Berbere. Here’s an easy Instant Pot and stove recipe for one of the signature vegetarian dishes in Ethiopian cuisine.
‘Wat’ or ‘Wot‘ is an Ethiopian style stew or curry that you can prepare with chicken, beef, lamb, lentils and a variety of vegetables. I cook this stew using Red lentils, in Ghee or clarified butter, and season it with the ‘Berbere‘ Ethiopian spice blend.
Ethiopian Spice Blend: Berbere
Most Ethiopian recipes are traditionally made with a spice blend called Berbere Seasoning. It is a combination of warm whole spices like cumin, cardamom, coriander, and fenugreek, garlic, cloves, turmeric, grated ginger root, black pepper, salt, paprika, cinnamon, and dried red chiles.
These spices are toasted, cooled then ground together. This spice blend provides a distinctive earthy, tangy and slightly spicy flavor to the lentils, stews and curries.
Making Berbere From Garam Masala
When I first started cooking Ethiopian food at home, I wasn’t too keen on buying a speciality spice blend (Berbere) that I wouldn’t use “that” often.
So, I looked up the composition of the Berbere and realized that this spice combination is very similar to the Garam Masala blend.
I used garam masala and added a few additional spices to replicate the flavor of a berbere blend. The result was super successful.
If you have the berbere spice blend, substitute my spice list with 1.5-2 tablespoons Berbere spice mix (depending on how warm you like it).
Misir Wot Stove Top Recipe
In the video, I made this red lentil recipe in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot DUO. Misir Wot can also be made in a traditional stove-top pressure cooker.
Simply follow your cooker’s lentil cooking times and procedures and follow this recipe. You can also make this dish on the stove-top, using a sauce pot or dutch oven.
I would advise using a heavy bottom pan, since that can evenly distribute the heat. Simply follow all the instructions and simmer the lentils on medium heat for 10-12 minutes.
Stir every few minutes or so, till you reach a desired consistency.
Serving Suggestion for Misir Wot
Misir Wot is traditionally served family style over a spongy flatbread called Injera. I pair it with couscous and a garden salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette.
I used red lentils in this recipe, but you can also make Misir Wot with yellow split lentils, green lentils or any quick cooking lentils as well.
More Ethiopian Recipes from my Kitchen
Here are a few more recipes for dishes made with Ethiopian flavors:
Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew | Misir Wot in Instant Pot
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee (see notes)
- 1 cup onion chopped fine (1 medium)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger (1-inch ginger grated or minced)
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste (or 1 roma tomato pureed)
- 1 cup Red Lentils rinsed 2-3 times
- 2½ cups water Adjust consistency after cooking (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon salt ; if using Berbere, adjust salt based on spice blend contents
- 1½-2 tablespoons Berbere Seasoning (reduce to 1 tbsp for mild)
- Few drops of lime juice garnish before serving
Instant Pot Method
- Turn on Sauté mode. Wait 30-40 seconds for the inner pot to get hot and add butter or ghee. Add chopped onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until onions soften.
- Add minced ginger and garlic and sauté another minute.
- Add tomato paste, salt and Berbere seasoning / spice mix. Stir well. Add rinsed and drained lentils, water and stir. Press 'Cancel' and close the lid. Select Manual or Pressure cook and cook for 4 minutes at high pressure on sealing mode.
- After the cooking is complete, wait 5 minutes for natural pressure release, then follow the quick release instructions. Open the lid after the pin drops.
- Stir and check for consistency. If the stew seems too thick, add ½-1 cup of water (or as needed) and stir well till the water gets absorbed and lentils reach a creamy consistency. Check for seasoning.
- Finish the dish with a light squeeze of lime juice. Serve with couscous with a garden salad dressed with fresh lemon vinaigrette, or, the traditional sourdough flatbread, Injera.
Stove top recipe
- You can also make this dish on the stove-top, using a heavy bottom sauce pot or dutch oven. Simply follow all the instructions for sautéing, add lentils, spices and 3 cups of water.
- Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and cook for 12-15 minutes until the lentils cook through and reach a creamy consistency. Be sure to stir every few minutes or so.
Notes & Recipe Tips
- Cooking Fat: If using the Ethiopian clarified butter called ‘Niter Kibeh’ instead of ghee or butter, use an equal quantity as ghee.
- Rinse lentils: Rinse red lentils 2-3 times until water runs clear. This gets rid of any excess starch which can otherwise cause your stew to be thicker than you like.
- Water quantity: The consistency of this stew is mushy and creamy. After pressure cooking if your stew look very thick, add 1/2-1 cup water (or more) to loosen them. Adjust the quantity of water to reach your desired consistency.
- Berbere: Some store-bought brands tend to be on the spicier side. If unsure about spice level, start by adding 1 tablespoon. After pressure cooking, add more after tasting and simmer for 1-2 minutes. To make it mild, you can follow the recipe and skip the cayenne.