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Ethiopian Lentils with Berbere Spice Mix

Traditional Ethiopian cuisine is famous for hot spicy food served on top of a soft pancake-like bread called injera. Berbere is a blend of spices used in Ethiopian cooking. If you don’t have whole spices, you can use ground ones. And even without these unique flavors, the lentils are simply delicious with these cool, creamy cucumbers.

Serves 4 to 6


  • 1 cup dried lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground mild red chile
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Berbere spice mix, optional (see “Berbere Spice Mix”)
  • 2 collard leaves, chopped


  1. Cook the dried lentils: Bring the water and lentils to a boil over high heat. Skim off the foam that appears. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add water as needed to keep the lentils covered as they cook.
  2. Make the Ethiopian lentils: In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the red chile and cumin and cook, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds more.
  3. Stir in the lentils, along with the juice, then add the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stir in the Berbere spice mix, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the collard greens and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes until the collards are tender.

Berbere Spice Mix

  • whole cardamom pod
  • whole clove
  • whole allspice
  • ⅛ tsp whole fenugreek seeds
  • ⅛ tsp ground ginger
  • ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp ground turmeric


  1. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pod. Toast the cardamom, clove, allspice and fenugreek seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until the spices become fragrant.
  2. Remove from the heat, let cool and grind in a mortar and pestle until fine. Stir in the ginger, nutmeg, and turmeric.

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