Misser Wot (Spicy Lentils) from Sheba’s Ethiopian Restaurant

by Danielle Bussone


Misser Wot is an Ethiopian spicy red lentil dish. Sheba’s owner (Azeb Gide) and her chef (Adanech Hussen) shared their recipe for this wonderfully spicy and healthy dish. Unfortunately, Sheba’s is no longer in business. It’s a real shame for this was one of our all-time favorite restaurants.


1 large chopped onion

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 to 1/2 cup berbere

split red lentils

2 -3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic

cinnamon to taste


boiling water

ground black cardamom seeds


Before you begin cooking, be sure you have a kettle of boiling water on the side to add when you need it. Wash the lentils, rubbing them together in your hands, until the water is completely clear, no longer cloudy or foamy.

Cook  onion on medium-high heat, stirring constantly until translucent or slightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil. The secret to the amount of oil is, you don’t want the oil to float but you want the onion to be shiny and change color but not stick. Add a small amount of cinnamon (optional).

Add water in small increments.  Add berbere and stir into onion mixture.  Add more water if needed.

Stir in garlic.

When the oil is separating from the onions it is time to add the lentils. Lentils tend to absorb water so add more of the boiling water when needed. The beans should have about 1/8 inch of water floating on top of the beans.  Salt to taste.

Lower heat and cook lentils, stirring every five minutes, until the lentils are done.  (About 15 minutes) Add a sprinkle of black cardamon seeds before serving.

Serve with Injera, Ethiopian flat bread.

Note from Danielle:  I have found numerous brands of bebere spice for sale on the internet. Amazon carries several. I make my own and have never tried any of these commercial brands.  The proportions of the ingredients of berbere vary but, essentially, it includes cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, cloves, black pepper, allspice, dried hot red chili powder (cayenne is fine), fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, turmeric, paprika and salt.




  1. The Misr Wat that I eat in restaurants is a deep red, when I cook the are more brown and not as flavorful. What am I doing wrong. Should I add more spice? Thank u

    • Thank you for your question, Cecelia. If it isn’t flavorful, by all means, add more spice. You can get the redder color by adding paprika. Some recipes call for a little tomato paste. I prefer using paprika, but the tomato adds a nice flavor as well.

  2. What is the amount of dry lentils used (in cups or by weight?

    Thank you.

  3. Heather

    I love this so much, my husband is usually the cook he’s from Eritrea, I tried to make this on my own once it didn’t turn out. But your recipe helped me a lot, thank you so much

  4. Shar from California

    this is my first time attempting to make, what’s the minimum amount for the cinnamon addition? Can I use green cardomon in place of black cardomon? What’s the minimum amount? Thanks again

    • Danielle Bussone

      Hello, Shar,
      Every chef uses a slightly different recipe. I, personally, do not add cinnamon when I make Misser Wot, so you can leave it out entirely if you want. How much you choose to use is entirely up to you. As for the cardamom, black cardamom and green cardamom have completely different flavors. For authentic Misser Wot, you should use the black cardamom. Having said that, I know that many Americans use the green cardamom in making homemade berbere spice blend. It does change the flavor, but it is still good. I hope this helps.

  5. Shar from California

    Hi Danielle,
    Video shows split yellow lentils but recipe card says split red lentils. Is there a difference? Which is more traditional?
    Thanks much

    • Danielle Bussone

      Thank you for your question, Shar. The lentils in the video look yellow but they are actually red. Once red lentils are exposed to cooking heat, they turn yellow. When you add the spices, the dish becomes more red in color. Yellow split-peas are used in Ethiopian cooking, (particularly for making Kuk Alitcha), but not in making Misser Wot, which always uses red lentils. They are not necessarily split-lentils, whole red lentils are fine.

  6. Anonymous

    Is there any spice mix containing 75 Nos of ingredients in it in the Ethiopian cooking. One lady is selling the spice without the name. When I ask the name of the spice mix she don’t want to tell. finally she said just one time that is “hememe” sounds like that. I couldn’t able to catch it properly also she told that cant buy it from the shop and its unique. Do you know the name of the spice mix.

    • Danielle Bussone

      Theoretically, I suppose you could have 75 spices in a blend, but I doubt it. The name of the spice for Misser Wot is called Berbere (pronounced bur-BUR-ay or BUR-bur-ay)and it is the most commonly used spice blend in Ethiopian cuisine. What the woman you spoke of said about it being unique may very well be true as most families have their own particular blend, which is a variation of the same general spices; that is one may have more hot peppers than mild paprika, more garlic than ginger, etc. But they are basically the same. It contains some ingredients only found in Ethiopia but you can make something quite similar from spices widely available in the US. You can also order the authentic blend from several Ethiopian on-line markets. http://www.brundo.com is a good one with a Berbere I particularly like. http://www.ethiopianspices.com also carries a good Berbere blend. My favorite market is called Kare Baltena International Market, located on Pickett Street in Alexandria, VA. They do not have an on-line store yet but are working on putting one together and should have it completed this year. I will have an plant-based Ethiopian cookbook available on 1 Jan 2017, “Time For Change: Ethiopian,” available for pre-order hopefully in late November. It has a recipe for the spice blend using common spices you can find at most grocery stores. I hope this helps.

  7. Charlotte

    Thanks for posting this! How much lentils do you use for this recipe, and any particular variety?

    • Danielle Bussone

      I believe in this recipe it was 2 cups of red lentils, washed very well.

      • Emmanuel

        how much cups of water do you think you used for the 2 cups of lentils? please and thanks

        • Danielle Bussone

          My rule of thumb is to use 2 1/4 cups water per cup of lentils; so for two cups, use 5 1/2 cups water.

  8. Colin

    I eat a lot of lentils mainly east Indian recipes. I never knew to wash lentils except a quick rinse with a sieve basket. I will try the “big wash”

    Thanks Colin

    • Danielle Bussone

      I never washed them either before talking to Sheba’s chef. I am meticulous about it now. Who knew?

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