Yemesser Watt (Spicy Lentils)

Recipe from Mulu Tewelde who teaches our Taste of Eritrea cooking series.

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

Yemesser Watt

Prep Time

0 minutes

Cook Time

25 minutes


8 Servings


1 pound lentils, split (red)
3 onion (peeled and minced)
5 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
15 ounces tomato, crushed (can, crushed (or 3-4 fresh tomatoes, minced or put through food processor))
2 tablespoons berbere (Ethiopian/Eritrean spice blend)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon ginger, fresh (peeled and grated)
  salt (to taste)
  black pepper (to taste)


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 red to yellow. Take off the heat. Don’t drain; the water should be absorbed by the lentils.

In a medium sauté pan, add vegetable oil and onion and fry in 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 for 10 more minutes. Turn off the heat and combine mixture 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.