Sunday, November 25, 2012

Truly Authentic Mesir Wot

A few years ago, I posted a really great mesir wot recipe. But after I spent the last couple years living in Ethiopia, I realized that while awesome, the recipe wasn't quite authentic. With the help of my good Ethiopian friend Ruti, I came up with this recipe that is more full-flavored and dead-on authentic. It's identical to the mesir wot I used to order at the little food shack across from my house.

Note—it’s important to NOT use a non-stick pan for this. The recipe involves scalding the lentils to the pot bottom and using a Teflon-coated pot will ruin the coating and ensure that you end up with a lot of Teflon flakes in your dinner. Use cast-iron, ceramic-lined, or a plain metal pot, like all old Ethiopian women do.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

4 TBSP oil
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red lentils

½ tsp ground cardamom
3 TBSP berbere
1 tsp salt or to taste
A pinch or two of sugar (optional)

Heat your large non-nonstick sauce pan, over medium to med-high heat with just the onions in it; no oil yet. (The idea is to sweat some of the moisture out before adding the oil and other ingredients.) Stir the onions almost constantly while doing this. Sweat them for several minutes, not allowing them to stick to the bottom, until they've become translucent. Add oil and sauté a few more minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, sauté a few additional minutes.

Now add the cardamom and berbere, as well as a couple tablespoons water. Reduce your heat a notch and stir very frequently for about 10 minutes, adding an additional splash of water if necessary to avoid sticking.

Add ¼ cup of water and lentils. Sauté, stirring with a metal spatula almost constantly, until water is absorbed. Continue adding water about ¼ cup at a time. The idea is that you want the lentils to scorch to the bottom a bit each time but not burn. You then scrape the caramelized lentil gunk into the rest of the wot to give it a sweet, nutty flavor. Continue doing this until the lentils are fully cooked. Then top off with enough water to give it a nice, wot consistency. Adjust seasoning an add salt and a bit of sugar, if necessary.

Serve with injera and other delicious Ethiopian vittles.


  1. I love your blog so far. I noticed there could be a linebreak missing after the word "lentils" in the ingredients list. All the best!

  2. Just wanted to say I've come to this page like a hundred times over the past few years to refresh my memory on how to make mesir wat - I love this dish! Making some tonight - thanks!!!

  3. I love this recipe!!!! I've made it over five times. It tastes exactly like the Mesir Wot I get at my favorite Ethiopian Restaurant. I love serving this with mango and greens spritzed with tasty!!!

  4. Holy crap! One of the best dishes I've ever made! Using the linked recipe for berbere, of course.


  5. Thank you for sharing. I always loved Ethiopian food and recently started cooking it myself. I found lots of recipes online that were really helpful and Ethiopian spices such as berbere and shiro from It's been a great experience. I'd say my favorite food is now spicy Misir wot

  6. HI
    How much water does this recipe use?

    1. No set amount. Just keep adding a quarter cup (or so) at a time, cooking it off, and adding another quarter cup until the lentils are fully cooked. In all, I'd say several cups. But I couldn't get much more specific than that. It will vary every time.

  7. We spent a couple of weeks in Ethiopia and I was looking for a good lentil recipe. Made this tonight and it tasted amazing! Not only did we like it but our 4yr old & 9yr old boys asked for seconds and our neighbor loved it. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  8. TRULY authentic! Thank God. I've been tweaking all these different recipes I've found and finally here it is. I've been missing the cardamom. You are amazing!!!

  9. I traveled to Ethiopia for adoption. The place is has never left me. I read you read your backstory of staying in ethiopia and learning from Gete. I had to laugh because I couldn't get anything out of the tight lipped older ladies that I knew here in the states and the men looked at me kind of wierd when I was prodding them for tips on a dish. But I've picked up alot through trial and error and have nailed a few dishes to the point of even making an injera that had an old Eritrean lady asking me for tips!!! Anyway...I tried doing Masir this way and think this will be my method from here on out. It was great. Thanks.

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  11. I am half Ethiopian and was craving Ethiopian food. I have made Mesir several times as I learned from my Dad and my Aunt Tsigie. I used your recipe as a guide because it had been awhile since I made it on my own and I was great. Every family does things a bit differently and we always use shallots instead of onions and I am vegan so I spiced some coconut oil with butter spice and used that (instead of the cardamom) and it was fantastic. It really was authentic. Thanks.