How To Make Ethiopian Knife Wot

An Ethiopian red lentil stew may not be the first thing that comes to mind when celebrating Passover. But for the Ethiopian-Jewish chef Beejhy Barhany from the Tsion Cafe, it is a must on the seder table alongside lamb, chicken and at least 20 types of vegetables and salads. If you’re looking to celebrate the diversity of the Jewish diaspora this year, this simple, nutritious, vegan dish is a great way to do it. And if lentils aren’t part of your Passover diet or you’re not celebrating Passover, that’s fine too – you should still bookmark it and do it anytime.

Lentils, an ancient legume and staple of the Ethiopian diet, are an underrated nutritional superfood. A serving of lentils is high in vitamins and minerals such as fiber, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium, and contains about the same amount of protein as a steak. Seriously. If you have a meat eater in your life who believes that plant-based meals won’t fill them up or provide them with enough protein, lentils are a great way to show them something else. Barhany says her red lentil stew, also known as Messer Wot, is so hearty that “you will almost feel like you are eating beef”.

This traditional Ethiopian dish has many layers of flavors but is easy to make at home. The very first layer of flavor consists of mashed onions, garlic, and ginger cooked in onions until lightly brown. Tomato paste, salt, and berbere are what really get this dish going. Berbere is an Ethiopian spice blend made up of around 17 spices, including paprika, chili powder, cinnamon, and cardamom. If you can’t find berbere in your local market, buying berbere online is easy.

After you’ve lowered your base, it’s time to add the red lentils and let them simmer and soak up all of that incredible flavor. At this point, the aroma coming out of your kitchen is just going to be intoxicating.

The traditional accompaniment for Messer Wot is injera, the spicy Ethiopian flatbread, but Barhany says you can serve it with rice or anything else you like.

No help getting started? Check out the video below (via The Daily Meal’s YouTube channel). And if you’re feeling inspired, try Barhany’s vegan Collard Greens recipe next.

Recipe courtesy of Beejhy Barhany, Tsion Cafe


  • 2 red onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 white onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 button of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced ​​(approx. 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • 1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of water and more as needed
  • 1/4 cup berbere
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups of red lentils, rinsed


Step 1: In a food processor, puree the 4 onions, 6 cloves of garlic and 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger until smooth.

Step 2: Heat 1/2 cup of oil in a large pan and fry the onion-garlic-ginger in oil. cook until tender, stirring occasionally; about 10-15 minutes.

Step 3: Add 6 ounces of tomato paste, ½ cup of water, 1/4 cup of berbere, and 1 teaspoon of salt; Cook for 15 minutes while stirring; Reduce heat.

Step 4: Put 2 cups of red lentils in the pan; stir and bring to a boil. Cover the lentils and let them simmer. Occasionally stir them for 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Add water as needed to prevent the lentils from drying out and burning the pan (up to 4 cups of water in total).

Step 5: Add additional salt if desired. Serve with injera or rice.

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