This vegan Ethiopian lentil soup is very complex and aromatic and gets its distinctive flavor from an equal amount of 11 different spices.
I’ve been busy lately, working on several projects at once and preparing for the holidays, and I haven’t had much time to develop new recipes. So this weekend I decided to adapt an old favorite, Berberé Stew, and turn it into a lentil and vegetable soup.
I’m a big fan of “meal in a bowl” type dishes that cover all the bases—vegetable, starch, and protein all-in-one—and this one fits the bill. It’s also quick, another plus in these hurried times.
This Ethiopian lentil soup is very complex and aromatic. It gets its distinctive flavor from an equal amount of 11 different spices so that no one flavor predominates. I keep a jar full of the spice mixture, but if you don’t want to mix up a big batch, just start with 1/8 teaspoon of whichever of the spices you have and add more to taste. Try to keep the measurements equal (except perhaps for the cayenne), so that the flavors balance out.
More Vegan Ethiopian Recipes
If you love the flavor of Ethiopian spices, check out these recipes:
- Ethiopian-Spiced Pumpkin Bisque
- Berbere-Spiced Red Lentil Hummus
- Chickpea and Turnip Stew with Ethiopian Spices
The excellent book Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking by Kittee Berns has so much more.
Ethiopian-Inspired Red Lentil Soup
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 pound potatoes cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 1/4 cup red lentils picked over and rinsed
- 3 cups water
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons berberé spice mixture below
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 pound green beans fresh or frozen, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1-2 cups water
- salt to taste
- 3-4 cups fresh spinach
Berberé Spice Mixture (mix all together and store in jar):
- 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek
- 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon ground cloves reduce to 1 tsp. for less “clovey” taste
- 1 tablespoon ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cayenne use more to taste
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground sea salt optional
- Mix the ingredients for the Berbere Spice Mixture. This recipe makes enough for several batches of soup. Do not add it all to the soup!
- Sauté the onion in a non-stick pan until it starts to brown. Add the potatoes, lentils, 3 cups water, garlic, and spice mixture. Simmer, covered, over low heat until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, green beans, and enough additional water to create a thick soup. Check the seasoning, adding salt and more of the spice mixture if needed, and cook for about 15 more minutes.
- Just before serving, stir in the spinach. Serve immediately. Makes 6-8 servings.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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KellySeptember 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm
Does using frozen greens beans cut down the cooking time? I’ve had it on the stove for about 45 minutes and my fresh green beans are not cooking quickly..still very crunchy. Thank you!
Susan VoisinSeptember 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm
I’ll bet that frozen beans do cook more quickly, but that seems like a long time!
DianeNovember 22, 2013 at 7:38 am
Did you bring your soup back to the boil after adding the frozen beans, Kelly? Before reducing head again? Otherwise they’ll only ‘thaw’ in the simmering mix… a mistake I learned from … made this yesterday with frozen beans and it was perfect at 45min, might have stopped sooner, took it off the heat when the beans were rignt.
I also had to add extra water, added 2C while lentils were cooking and then again with the tomatoes (per recipe). I did have whole red lentils though, not split, maybe a difference?
Delicious recipe though, Thanks Susan!
VidhyaNovember 12, 2013 at 4:37 am
Thanks for the delicious recipe. Lentils turn out fantastic in clay pots… have you tried it? In fact i found out that most Ethiopian and Indian cuisine were always made in clay pots , up until recently when we started turning to metals, but there seems to be a big comeback now, because it taste so much better. I’ve always cooked mine in them. I use Miriams Earthen Cookware, earthenware for the stove top and they’re made right here. For those of us who miss the flavor of meat (recent converts), you can experience far superior taste in your vegetables, lentils and beans in clay. I had recently made chickpeas, chole (the Indian version and the flavor of the peas was so deep…
Love your blog, keep inspiring…
SandraNovember 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm
Thank you for this recipe! Will make it for my vegetarian friends next saturday. They’ll love it. I’m guessing I could use ras el hanout for the Berberé spice mixture? I think it’s about the same…
ShellieNovember 17, 2013 at 6:40 pm
I have an already prepared Berbere’ that I got at Whole Foods. That would be okay to use in place, wouldn’t it? I haven’t compared the ingredients.
Susan VoisinNovember 22, 2013 at 7:42 am
Yes, that would be fine. Just add it to taste because its flavor may be weaker or stronger.
LynneNovember 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm
This recipe is at the top of my favorites list. I didn’t grow up eating spicy foods but love berberé so much now that I even use more than the recipe calls for. I sit down with my bowl filled with Ethiopian-Inspired Red Lentil Soup, a spoon, and a box of tissues. Sheer heaven…..
CheryFebruary 15, 2015 at 1:50 pm
Do u think this can be made in a crockpot or will the lentil cook too fast?
BethMarch 29, 2015 at 10:45 am
I recently made this for the five billionth time and instead of pre-making the spice blend (or using some from last time), I just dumped a teaspoon of each into the pot. Problem is, I left out the cayenne. Who would have thought that a third of a teaspoon of cayenne was what made this dish amazing?!! It was still good and I still ate it, but was surprised at how much less I enjoyed this without the cayenne. Just wanted to share my experience in case anyone considered leaving it out. I will never forget again! 🙂
WernerOctober 12, 2015 at 12:24 pm
This was a complex taste explosion, so delicious. I used 1 TBS of Berbere and also added 1 tsp minced fresh ginger. Cannot believe how rich and aromatic it turned out. I’ve been a bit of a spice weenie, but getting more adventurous is paying off. No more basic, bland red lentil soup for us!
cleaNovember 22, 2015 at 5:43 pm
This looks amazing! Have you tried this in a pressure cooker? Wonder about time.
KristaDecember 5, 2015 at 3:41 pm
Wow, this soup is fantastic–so hearty and spicy!
ClausNovember 30, 2016 at 2:25 pm
About the new format. I use the Android app My Recipes this format doesn’t import well. I have had various success with your other web postings.
Other websites follow a format that My Recipes can import completely, some not.
Diane YoungNovember 30, 2016 at 2:33 pm
Kathy JNovember 30, 2016 at 5:24 pm
Recipe looks great! And I love that you have the nutritional info. I can’t wait to make this. By the way, Pensey’s Spices has a great Berbere! http://www.penseys.com
KristaDecember 1, 2016 at 2:08 pm
I love this soup! I have made it many times. It is just what I want when warm, comforting food is in order. I keep this spice mix on hand and ready to go because I love it so much. Thanks so much for the recipe!
Jessica HuffDecember 1, 2016 at 3:39 pm
Can’t wait to try this!
Judy SangilloDecember 2, 2016 at 10:44 am
The Ethiopian-inspired red lentil soup looks awesome! I intend to make it soon. Just one thing: I think at least one part of the Nutrition Facts is incorrect. The protein content of 16 grams is listed as only 6% DV. I’m not sure what the currect DV would be, but I’m certain it’s much higher than that.
Is it possible to make that correction? Thank you!
Susan VoisinDecember 2, 2016 at 10:53 am
I wish I could remove the DV info completely because I don’t think it’s useful even when it’s supposedly accurate. Unfortunately, it’s part of the software that can’t be adjusted. I will point it out to the developers, though, to see if there’s something they can do. Thanks for letting me know!
Gloria @ Homemade & YummyDecember 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm
I am trying to leave a comment to see if Cookbook is working properly.
pegelegDecember 30, 2016 at 6:32 pm
Love the recipe, thanks for all the ingredients. I changed to sweet potato and did not have fenugeek, but I am pretty sure I am not missing a whole lot, cause it is wonderful!
Dorothy BevillApril 13, 2017 at 9:11 am
Leftovers freeze and reheat well! Yummy! Have yet to find two of the spices at a price that I was willing to pay but was just fine without them.
JuneJanuary 2, 2019 at 4:44 pm
5 stars!!! I have made this recipe so many times. It is our favorite soup! Thank you so much for this recipe. (We love them all, but especially this one.
Pamela McIvorDecember 4, 2019 at 12:52 am
Absolutely amazing, So delicious that I couldn’t stop taste testing. Gave the dish to my Mediterranean diet group to look at. Have saved it in your inbox for future making. My hubby loved it too and he’s not really a spicy loving bloke. I thank you immensely for giving me the recipe.
LisaApril 20, 2022 at 11:37 am
Well, this was just a delightful soup! So easy to prepare and flavorful. I had used a new cayenne pepper from my cabinet, so I didn’t realize the spice level was pretty high. It was perfect for my husband, but a bit too much for me, so I cooked up some extra lentils in separate pot and added the soup until it was the correct spice level for me. Easy solution!