Mesir wat (Ethiopian lentil dish)

The first time I ever ate Ethiopian food I flipped out over how delicious it was – and how vegan it was! Vegetable and lentil dishes are the mainstays of Ethiopian cuisine, so there are lots of options for a cruelty-free foodie like me, and they’re not at all hard to recreate in the comfort of your own home 😀

“Wat” is a stew-like dish in Ethiopia, and there are as many kinds as there are ingredients to cook with. Mesir wat is a deliciously spicy red lentil stew that’s simple to cook, and seriously comfort-foody to eat. My version, inauthentic though I must confess, includes tomatoes in the base, as I’m a big tomato fan, and I think a stew like this is best made as juicy as it is fragrant and spicy.

Give this one a whirl, and you can be the judge of my adaptive stray from Abysinnian authenticity… 😉

Flavour: Spicy!

Serves: 4 as the centrepiece of a hearty meal, or 8 as a side dish


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, finely minced
  • half teaspoon ground cardamom
  • half teaspoon turmeric
  • half teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • half teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 medium tomatoes – peeled and chopped (see here for my tomato-peeling tip)
  • 5 cups water (or you could use vegetable stock for added depth of flavour)
  • 2 cups red lentils


  1. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat
  2. Add onion, and cook until it turns translucent and starts to colour up
  3. Add garlic and ginger, stir, and cook for one more minute
  4. Toss in the cardamom, turmeric, cayenne pepper and paprika, stir, and cook for one more minute
  5. Add the tomatoes and salt, turn up the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes
  6. Chuck in your lentils with 2 cups of water (or stock) and bring to the boil
  7. Once your lentils are boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook the lentils until they are pretty much pureed, adding the water one cup at a time
  8. After about 25 minutes the liquid will be substantially reduced, and you should have a thick puree (the kind of consistency you could pick up with a chunk of flatbread and eat with your hands) – add the black pepper and take off the heat

Serve your mesir wat with either injera (Ethiopian flatbread) or rice, and preferably as part of an array of yummy Ethiopian vegetable dishes – enjoy!

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