Misir Wot Recipe (Ethiopian Lentils) with Ayib
Classic Ethiopian Recipes are a celebration of exotic spices and slow-cooked flavor. Misir Wot (or Mesir Wat), a traditional Red Lentil Stew, is both bold and comforting with a generous dollop of creamy Ayib cheese on top.
Misir Wot (Mesir Wat) Red Lentil Curry
Ethiopian cuisine relies heavily on sophisticated melodies of spice. It elevates simple staple foods, like chicken, lentils, and common veggies, to new heights with the proper use of ground spices, chiles, seeds, and herbs.
My older brother introduced me to Ethiopian food about 20 years ago. He described it as, “Like Indian food, but better.” Having spent a considerable amount of time in India, this was taken as a slanderous challenge.
Yet after sampling various Ethiopian recipes, I must correct his evaluation. There is no “better” in comparing the two. Ethiopian recipes are just as tasty as my favorite Indian dishes, yet very different in subtle ways.
Traditional Ethiopian Lentils
Both Indian and Ethiopian recipes use similar spices and ingredients. They both offer numerous slow-cooked curries/stews. It’s the technique, elaborate flavor combinations, and presentation that stand apart, making them both unique in their own right.
This common red lentil curry or stew, is a staple in Ethiopian cuisine. Misir Wot (pronounced me-sir wot) is loaded with onions, ginger, garlic and, of course, spices galore.
Authentic Ethiopian recipes generally call for berbere paste or dry seasoning, a hot spice blend made of chiles, paprika and too many spices to count. As berbere is not commonly found in most grocery stores, I used a combination of Garam Masala (an Indian spice blend), Hot Smoked Paprika, Turmeric, and tomato paste to replicate its flavor. Although loaded with spice, Mesir Wat is not overly spicy-hot. The rich blend of flavors is a real treat of the senses.
Berbere Paste or Spice Blend: If you happen to have Berbere paste on hand, you can use 3 1/2 tablespoons in place of the paprika, turmeric, garam masala, and tomato paste. If you have Berbere Spice Blend, do not omit the tomato paste, but swap 5 teaspoons for the paprika, turmeric, garam masala.
Easy Ayib Recipe on Top!
To top this wonderful stew, I’ve made Ethiopian Cheese called Ayib (sometimes Iab.) This soft crumbly cheese is slightly tart and just moist enough to hold together. It is the perfect calming note to cut through the spice.
Bonus: Misir Wot is both Gluten-Free and Vegetarian.
How To Make Misir Wot
Ethiopian Lentils Ingredients
- Dry Red Lentils
- Large Onion
- Fresh Grated Ginger
- Minced Garlic Cloves
- Hot Smoked Paprika
- Garam Masala
- Tomato Paste
- Salt and Pepper
- Small Curd Cottage Cheese
- Lemon Zest
- Plain Greek Yogurt
Step by Step
- Saute the chopped onions with butter, in a large saucepot, over medium heat, for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until they become soft. Then add in the garlic and ginger and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Next, add in the spices along with the tomato paste and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix all the ingredients together, then add the lentils and 6 cups of water.
- Cover the saucepot and bring it all to a boil. Then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Uncover the lentils and stir, then proceed to cook the Misir uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes until it becomes thick in texture.
- Remove from the heat and let it sit covered until you’re ready to serve it. Then make the ayib.
Get The Complete (Printable) Misir Wot Recipe (Ethiopian Lentils) with Ayib Below. Enjoy!
What To Serve with Misir Wot
You can enjoy rich zesty Misir Wot with Ayib on top, all by itself. Yet if you want to experience a full Ethiopian family dinner, serve it with:
- Injera Bread
- Chicken Doro Wat
- Kitfo Beef Tartare
- Collard Green
- Yellow Lentils
- and a chunky Tomato and olive salad!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you using dried lentils or should they be soaked first?
I used dried lentils in this recipe. They do not need to be soaked before adding them into this recipe.
Can I use brown lentils rather than red?
Brown/Green Lentils would be fine. Although red lentils may be easier to find than you think. (I found them in the bulk-bins at my small town grocery store.) Just note, various types of lentil require different cooking times. Check the package cooking instructions and adjust the recipe as needed.
How long will this recipe last?
You can keep them stored in an airtight container for 5-6 days in the fridge.
Can I freeze this recipe?
Yes this recipe can stay in the freezer for 4 to 6 months if stored properly in an airtight container. Once you reheat the lentils for the first time, they will not be good to store again. If you end up having leftovers after rewarming them, then the safe thing would be to discard them.
More Recipes for Spice-oholics:
- Authentic Indian Chai
- Roasted Fish with Creamy Curried Cauliflower
- Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwiches
- Ethiopian Mushroom Saute ~ Veggie Belly
- Spicy Vietnamese Lemongrass Tofu ~ Kohler Created
- Spicy Lamb and Lentil Stew ~ Simply Delicious
Misir Wot Recipe (Ethiopian Lentils) with Ayib
For the Misir Wot Red Lentil Stew:
For the Ayib (Iab):
- 3 cups small curd cottage cheese
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Misir Wot:
- Place a large sauce pot over medium heat. Add the butter and chopped onions and saute for 3-5 minutes, until soft. Add the ginger and garlic and saute another 2 minutes.
- Next add the spices and tomato paste along with 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well, then add the lentils and 6 cups of water.
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Uncover and stir the lentils, then continue to cook uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until a thick porridge-like consistency is reached. Remove from heat and cover until ready to serve.
For the Ayib:
- Rinse and drain the cottage cheese in cold water until only clean curds are left. Place the curds in a bowl and press them dry with paper towels until most of the moisture in removed and the curds have broken up.
- Mix in the yogurt, lemon zest and salt. Refrigerated until ready to serve. To serve: Scoop the Mesir Wat into bowl and place a generous dollop of Ayib on top.
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