If there is one thing that my wife and I love more than eating food, it’s eating ethnic food — and Ethiopian food is one of our absolute favorites. I knew I was falling in love with her when I took her out for Ethiopian food when we were first dating. There are few women who would enjoy eating curry with their fingers on a first date, and she was a pro. So understandably, I made it a goal of mine to create an Ethiopian-inspired dish that we could enjoy at home. And since Ethiopian food is predominantly finger food, I’m hoping to introduce it to my daughter soon as well.

Berbere, a blend of paprika, coriander, fenugreek, allspice, cayenne, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cardamom, is a spice used in many Ethiopian dishes.

This Ethiopian-inspired lentil dish is by no means authentic, but I do apply techniques and flavors I have learned over the years. I approach this dish as I do with most curry-type recipes: with caramelized onions, ginger-garlic paste, and fried spices… And then I add my own twist. If you like warm spices, finger foods, and a full winter-belly feeling, give this recipe a try!

The shaved salad component was an addition I came up with to contrast the textures of the lentils and injera. While it may not be traditional, I feel it adds brightness and crunch to a soft, full-flavored stew.

Pumpkin and Berbere-Spiced Lentils with Shaved Apple-Brussels Sprouts Salad

Yields 8 portions


  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 1 red onion, julienned
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 7 oz pumpkin puree (half a can)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes in juice (preferably low or no sodium added)
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp coconut, vegetable, or avocado oil
  • 2 tbsp. berbere spices (can be found at your local grocery store! Look for Ethiopian Berbere Spices)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 3 granny smith apples
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or juice from 1 lemon)

Peel the ginger and place in a food processor, small blender, or finely mince by hand with the garlic to create a “paste”. In a large stock pot over medium heat, add oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and stir occasionally until caramelized (about 20 minutes).

Tip for caramelizing onions: splash the bottom of the pot with water if the onions are browning too quickly without being fully caramelized. This will lengthen the cook time without the risk of burning the onions.

Once onions are caramelized, add in the ginger-garlic paste and cook for 30 seconds. Add in the berbere spice and “bloom” with the onion-ginger-garlic blend. (This technique will release the oils within the spices, opening up the dish to a level unattainable without this step.) Stir the mixture constantly as to not burn the spices (using the water technique mentioned above if needed). After 1-2 minutes of blooming, add in the canned tomatoes, pumpkin puree, water, and lentils. Cover the pot and turn heat to low. Stir occasionally because as the lentils absorb liquid, they may stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. If you’re finding that the lentils are sticking frequently, turn the heat off for a minute or two, stir the lentils off the bottom of the pot, then turn the heat back to low. Over a low boil, cook the lentils for about 1 hour, or until soft. Add additional water if the lentil are undercooked. When the lentils are cooked, stir in the salt and lemon juice. Continue to cook the lentils for another 10-15 minutes on low heat.

For the shaved apple and Brussels sprouts salad, grate the apples and Brussels sprouts with a cheese grater. Toss the shaved apples and sprouts with apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp oil, and a pinch of salt.

Serve the lentils over flat bread, rice, or Ethiopian bread called injera. Top the lentils with the shaved salad and enjoy!

Try your lentil dish with Ethiopian injera – either store bought or, better yet, homemade like we did!

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