Red lentil soup with berbere

Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 12
Print RecipePrint Recipe

A pot of lentil soup, that health food standard, uses red lentils, turmeric and ghee and comes dosed with homemade berbere, the addictive Ethiopian spice blend that dyes the soup red and jettisons the flavor.

From the story: Cookbook of the week: ‘In My Kitchen,’ by Deborah Madison, and a soup recipe




In a dry skillet heated over medium heat, combine the coriander, fenugreek, peppercorns, allspice, cardamom and cloves. Toast until fragrant, then turn the seeds out onto a place to cool for several minutes. Grind the toasted spices to a powder, then place in a bowl and whisk in the chile powder, paprika, salt, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Store in a tightly covered jar in a cool place.

Red lentil soup


In a heavy soup pot, combine the lentils with 2 ½ quarts water, the turmeric, 2 tablespoons ghee and 2 ½ teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and gently simmer until the lentils are soft and just short of falling apart, about 15 minutes. If you prefer a smoother soup, puree the lentils.


While the soup is cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the last bit of ghee. When it’s hot, add the onion with the cumin, mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon berbere and cilantro stems, stirring occasionally. When the onions are softened, add them to the lentils along with the chopped cilantro leaves, along with the juice from 2 limes. Taste and add additional juice, if desired, to bring up the flavors. The soup should be a tad sour.


At this point, if the soup seems too thick, add extra water, stock, coconut cream or coconut milk. Mix the remaining teaspoon of berbere with the olive oil and drizzle it over the surface of each bowl.

Adapted from a recipe by Deborah Madison in her cookbook, “In my Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes.”