Tsebhi birsen is an Eritrean red lentil dish made with simmered onions, berbere and a whole other set of ingredients. Especially when made vegan friendly, it's delicious!

Tsebhi Birsen: Eritrean Red Lentils Simmered in Berbere




Yield 4 people


BerbereĀ (Fenugreek and Cayenne Required, the Rest Optional)


Stage 1 - Prepare Berbere (Optional)

  1. Take a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add in all your ground spices
  2. Toast the spices for 2-3 minutes over this heat, stirring constantly so as to prevent burning. Once the spices have toasted and the smells very fragrant, take the berbere off the heat and store in a container at room temperature

Stage 2 - Create Base for Tsebhi Birsen

  1. Take a stockpot over medium-high heat and add your olive oil. When the oil is heated, next add in your onions and begin to cook
  2. Cook your onions for 2-3 minutes as they begin to sweat and become translucent
  3. Next, add in your berbere spice and mix vigorously into the onions. Continue to cook for 4-5 minutes
  4. Add in your tomatoes and tomato paste, stir well and cook for another 2 minutes
  5. As the pot begins to bubble and the tomatoes cook, add in your garlic, ginger, ground cumin and ground cardamom and stir around again

Stage 3 - Add and Simmer Lentils

  1. After another 1-2 minutes with the mixture simmering, add in your lentils as is and stir vigorously throughout to coat the lentils in flavor. Continue to stir for at least another 30 seconds or even a whole minute
  2. Pour in your water (enough to submerge the lentils) and cover the stockpot as the water comes to a boil
  3. Once the water has reached its boiling point, reduce the stovetop heat to a simmer
  4. Simmer your tsebhi birsen for 45 minutes (stirring every 7-10 minutes), then turn off the heat and serve. Enjoy!

Courses Main

Cuisine Eritrean

Recipe by Arousing Appetites: Home to the Serious Cook at