Yemesser Watt (Spicy Lentils)

Banner Image: 
Yemesser Watt


SourceThis recipe was featured in our A Mosaic of Flavors cooking series with Mulu Tewelde.
Prep time
Cooking time25 minutes
Total time25 minutes


This is an Eritrean dish that uses a special spice blend called berbere. It’s meant to be eaten scooped up in a fermented flatbread called injera


1 pound
lentils, split orange
onion (minced)
5 cloves
garlic (minced)
4 tablespoons
vegetable oil
1 can
tomato, crushed (or 3-4 fresh tomatoes, minced or put through food processor)
2 tablespoons
berbere (Ethiopian/Eritrean spice blend)
1 tablespoon
ginger, fresh (grated)
black pepper


Boil lentils in a pot of water (the water should cover the lentils by about an inch) for 10-15 minutes, until the lentils change from orange to yellow. Don’t drain; the water should be absorbed by the lentils.

Mince the onions and fry in vegetable oil until light brown. Add the crushed tomatoes and berbere and 1 cup of water. Cover and cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 20 minutes, add garlic and ginger and cook 10 more minutes. Mix the sauce into the pot of lentils and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Add more water if necessary to achieve a sauce consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


You can find berbere in specialty ethnic markets around Burlington, or you can make your own berbere spice mix.