This Ethiopian Lentils recipe, also known as Misir Wot, makes for an irresistible vegetarian meal. Made with red lentils cooked to creamy perfection and seasoned with the bright, warming flavors of Berbere spice mix, this is a simple and delicious recipe that can be part of a healthy weeknight meal. Instant Pot and stovetop instructions included.
Table of Contents
Misir wot (misr wat or misir wat) is a mainstay on menus at Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants, particularly as part of the veggie combo. I love it because it’s similar to Indian dal recipes.
A spicy Ethiopian lentil stew made with onions, lentils, berbere spice, and spiced clarified butter, misir wot is traditionally served over injera, a large sourdough crepe made out of a fermented millet-like grain known as teff flour.
Injera has the flavor of sourdough bread but is much sourer. Traditionally, a variety of entrées and side dishes are heaped on the injera in tidy piles, and the injera is torn off in pieces and used to pick up bites of the various stews.
This misr wat recipe is a streamlined and quick version that can be made in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop. It’s simple enough that you can make it on a weeknight and because there’s no meat in the recipe you can also make it ahead of time and leave it on Keep Warm mode.
Here are some Instant Pot vegetarian recipes you might like to try out!
– Instant Pot Curried Risotto
– Instant Pot Middle Eastern Green Beans
– Instant Pot Aloo Gobi (Cauliflower and Potatoes)
– Instant Pot Brown Rice with Vegetables
– Instant Pot Vegetarian Moroccan Stew
– Instant Pot Parboiled Rice
Tips and Substitutions
Berbere (pronounced bare-bare-eh) is a fiery chili pepper blend that’s essential to Ethiopian cooking and it gives this misir wat recipe intense flavor and spice. Berbere has many of the ingredients in the Indian spice blend garam masala, but unlike garam masala, it is spicy!
The spiciness of berbere can vary depending on the brand you purchase or the recipe you use. Use as much or as little as your tastes dictate. Penzey’s berbere spice is quite spicy and a little goes a long way. Silk Road berbere is milder.
If you want to make berbere spice at home here’s my recipe that’s pretty easy to make. For convenience I’ve listed spice powders but you can use whole spices and grind them in a spice grinder. The recipe makes about 1/3 cup of berbere. If you want it spicier, use 2 tablespoons of paprika and 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper:
- 3 Tbsp paprika
- 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp fenugreek powder
- 1/4 tsp allspice powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
Misir wat is typically is made with shallots, but I use red or yellow onions. An unusual technique used in the traditional preparation of misir wat is that the onions are sautéed without any fat or oil until all the liquid has come out, and the onions are cooked to a paste-like consistency.
I don’t use this traditional technique. Instead, I saute the onions in the niter kibbeh (see below) or ghee. On the stovetop, I saute the onions till they turn a deep golden brown, which can take some time. In the Instant Pot, I saute the onions for less time because pressure cooking breaks the onions down further.
The lentils used in misir wot are referred to as red lentils, pink lentils, Egyptian lentils, and masoor dal. In this recipe I make misir wot with split red lentils but you can also use whole red lentils (whole masoor dal). When I use whole masoor dal, I pressure cook the misir wot for 15 to 20 minutes.
If you have trouble getting the lentils to cook properly, it could be because the lentils have sat on a shelf for too long. Try getting a new bag.
There is no need to soak the lentils because they are fast-cooking, but you do need to rinse them well.
Niter kibbeh is a clarified butter similar to ghee except it’s simmered with spices, which makes it super flavorful. For simplicity, you can use ghee, but niter kibbeh does add that extra dimension of flavor.
You can buy niter kibbeh or make your own by following a ghee recipe except you’ll add a few extra ingredients to the butter and strain them out with the milk solids. The leftover niter kibbeh can be use instead of ghee or oil when you’re cooking other recipes! Here’s what I add to my ghee recipe to make niter kibbeh:
- 1 small onion (quartered)
- 2 garlic cloves (whole)
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick (2-inch piece)
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
[Find out how to make homemade ghee in your Instant Pot]
If you’re new to the Instant Pot and aren’t familiar with how to use it, you might find it helpful to first read one of the following guides and then come back here to learn how to make this recipe.
- Instant Pot DUO Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot ULTRA Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO EVO PLUS Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO NOVA Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO GOURMET Beginner’s Manual
Instant Pot Misir Wot – Ingredients
- Red lentils
- Niter Kibbeh
- Tomato paste
- Salt (not pictured)
More details in the recipe card at the bottom of this post
How to Make Ethiopian Lentils in the Instant Pot (Step by Step Instructions)
- Turn on Saute Mode
- Saute onion, garlic, ginger and add spices
- Saute spices and add liquids
- Add water and lentils
- Pressure cook
- Natural release
- Stir lentils and garnish with cilantro
Turn on Saute Mode
- Instant Pot DUO: Select the Saute function.
- Instant Pot ULTRA: Select the Saute function and press Start.
Saute onion, garlic, ginger and add spices
- Once the inner pot has preheated, add niter kibbeh or ghee to the inner pot and let it melt.
- Add onions, garlic, and ginger.
- Saute onion mixture until the onions are golden. Add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze the inner pot if needed.
- Press Cancel. The spices added in the next step will cook in the residual heat.
- Add berbere and salt.
Saute spices and add liquids
- Stir the spices.
- Saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Don’t let the spices burn!
- Deglaze with a tablespoon or two of water if necessary.
- Stir in the tomato paste.
Add water and lentils
- Stir in water and lentils.
Instant Pot Duo Pressure Cook 6 minutes
- Close the lid and make sure steam release handle is in ‘Sealing’ position
- Press Manual (or Pressure Cook) and ‘+’ or ‘-‘ until the display reads ‘6‘ (6 minutes).
Instant Pot Ultra Pressure Cook 6 minutes
- Close the lid.
- Select Pressure Cook mode and adjust the time to 6 minutes (00:06).
- Press Start.
Pressure Cooking Process (Duo and Ultra)
- Instant Pot display will change to On.
- Once the Instant Pot is pressurized, the float valve will go up.
- The display will count down to 0; it will then switch to Keep Warm mode and display L0:00 or 00 00 and begin to count up the number of minutes since pressure cooking completed.
How to Naturally Release Pressure (NPR) on the DUO and ULTRA
- Allow the pressure to release naturally (NPR). The float valve will be in the down position. This may take 15 to 30 minutes. [Find out more about the pressure release methods and how and when to use them. ]
- Press Cancel and open the Instant Pot.
Stir lentils and garnish
- Stir the Ethiopian lentil stew.
- Garnish with cilantro if desired.
- Transfer to a serving bowl.
Stovetop Directions for Misir Wot
To make Ethiopian lentils on the stovetop, cook onion mixture till deep golden brown in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat and then lower to medium-low. Add spices, lentils, and tomato paste. Simmer the lentils in 3 cups of water, stirring often and adding water as needed, until lentils are cooked through to your liking and mixture is a thick stew, about 30 minutes.
See the recipe card below for detailed instructions.
Ethiopian Lentils | Misir Wot (Instant Pot and Stovetop)
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
- Press Saute and add niter kibbeh to the inner pot of the Instant Pot.
- Once the niter kibbeh has heated up, add onions, garlic and ginger. Stir until onion mixture is golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Press Cancel. The spices in the next step will cook in the residual heat.
- Add berbere and salt and stir to coat, about 30 seconds. Make sure there's nothing stuck to the bottom of the inner pot – deglaze as needed.
- Add tomato paste and stir for 30 seconds. If anything gets stuck to the inner pot, deglaze with a tablespoon or two of water.
- Stir in the water and lentils.
- Close the lid and pressure cook on High Pressure for 6 minutes.
- Do a natural pressure release. [Read More: The Different Pressure Release Methods]
- Open the Instant Pot and stir the Ethiopian lentils. Garnish with cilantro, if using.
- In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat niter kibbeh over medium heat.
- Add onions, garlic and ginger. Stir for a few minutes till onions begin to turn golden. Lower the temperature to medium-low and saute till onion mixture is a deep golden brown, stirring frequently. It may take 15 to 20 minutes or longer for the onions to become nicely browned. Make sure they don't burn, and deglaze as needed.
- Stir in berbere and salt, and saute for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Stir in tomato paste and lentils. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes, deglazing with water if needed.
- Add 3 cups of water and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked to your liking and the stew has thickened, about 30 minutes. Add more water, if needed, in tablespoon increments.
- Adjust with more berbere and salt, according to your tastes.
- Garnish with cilantro, if desired.
- Prep time does not include steps that are already accounted for in the ingredient list, e.g. minced garlic, chopped onion, etc.
- See the blog post for more detailed recipe tips. You don’t want to miss any!
I am not a certified nutritionist. I provide my best estimate of nutritional information merely as a courtesy to my readers. If you depend on nutritional information for dietary or health reasons, I suggest using your favorite online nutrition calculator to confirm the nutritional value of this recipe based on the actual ingredients that you use.
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