Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils – a flavorful, healthy Ethiopian recipe that features Berbere Spice. This flavorful meal is vegan adaptable using tofu instead of chicken. 

 A deliciously flavorful recipe for Berbere Chicken over Ethiopian spiced Lentils with an easy recipe for Berbere Spice Blend. |

The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.
 ~Cutting for Stone~
I have come to the end of a very good book. It’s always a little bittersweet. During the last month, it has been a good companion, taking me to the faraway land of Ethiopia, stretching me in the most unexpected ways. It’s called Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. Beautifully crafted, it’s a deeply felt story about love, loss, and forgiveness, interspersed with nuggets of wisdom.
As a way to celebrate this moving book, I am making one of our favorite Ethiopian dishes tonight,  called Crispy Berbere Chicken over Ethiopian Lentils.  Berbere Seasoning is an Ethiopian spice mix, made with a combination of spices grown in the region. It’s similar to curry in that it’s a spice blend, but it is made with different spices.  My favorite way to use Berbere is to use it as a rub for chicken, lamb or tofu, and to flavor lentils or stews.
 However you use it, it will transport you to foreign lands.  Flavors are deep and exotic and warming, perfect for the cold of fall and winter. I think a copy of this book along with some homemade Berbere Spice Mix would make a really nice gift. It would be especially appropriate for people in the medical profession who like to cook. Just a thought . . . .

It starts with the spices.  You can use pre-ground spices, but using whole seeds will intensify and deepen the flavors of the Berbere.  I use a mix of both. You can purchase Berbere at select stores, but truthfully where we live it’s a challenge to find.

This recipe for Crispy Skinned Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils is hearty and flavorful. If you are vegetarian, skip the chicken and try the Berbere with Tofu- just as tasty!
 The Berbere spice mix is rubbed all over the chicken thighs, and pan-seared in a skillet and placed in a hot oven to finish. The skin becomes crackly and crispy with flavor,  while the meat remains tender and moist. I often make this with whole roasted chickens as well, and both are so tasty. Over a bed of Ethiopian spiced lentils, it’s filling, healthy, and deeply satisfying.
Toast the seeds for a few minutes to bring out their flavor.

Use a mortar and pestle, or even a coffee grinder, to grind the seeds. 
Once the Berbere spice mix is done,  start on the lentils.

 A deliciously flavorful recipe for Berbere Chicken over Ethiopian spiced Lentils with an easy recipe for Berbere Spice Blend. |

When the lentils are simmering, rub chicken thighs on all sides with kosher salt, pepper and Berbere Spice Mix.

 A deliciously flavorful recipe for Berbere Chicken over Ethiopian spiced Lentils with an easy recipe for Berbere Spice Blend. |

Heat a skillet with oil on medium-high heat and place thighs skin side down, searing until golden and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Turn over and sear a few more minutes. Place in a hot oven until the internal temp reaches 165F.  Serve over the Ethiopian Lentils and sprinkle with Italian parsley.

 A deliciously flavorful recipe for Berbere Chicken over Ethiopian spiced Lentils with an easy recipe for Berbere Spice Blend. |
Berebere Chicken and Lentils - a flavorful Ethiopian recipe that features Berebere Spice. #ethiopianfood #ethiopianrecipes #chicken #lenitls #berebere
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Berebere Chicken and Lentils - a flavorful Ethiopian recipe that features Berebere Spice. #ethiopianfood #ethiopianrecipes #chicken #lenitls #berebere

Berbere Chicken with Ethiopian Lentils

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.9 from 43 reviews
  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main, Chicken
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Ethiopian


Berbere Chicken and Lentils – a flavorful delicious Ethiopian recipe that features Berbere Spice. See notes for a vegan tofu option!


Units Scale
Ethiopian Lentils
  • 1 cup French Green, OR Black lentils, OR Beluga Caviar lentils (do not use a split lentil)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • 23 tablespoons Berbere Spice Mix (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Berbere Chicken:

  • 6 chicken thighs (skin-on)
  • 23 tablespoons Berbere Spice Mix
  • olive oil
  • Kosher Salt

Berbere Spice Mix


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Make the lentils: In a heavy bottom pot, or dutch oven, saute diced onion, carrots, garlic and ginger in 2 tablespoons olive oil, until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons Berbere Spice mix and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup lentils, 1 cup diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups water, and bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and let cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook off any extra liquid.
  3. Make the Chicken: Pat dry the chicken and salt all sides with salt and pepper and generously rub each piece with Berbere Spice Mix. The more, the spicier.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy bottom skillet, on medium-high heat, place chicken skin side down and sear until it is crispy and golden, about 6- 8 minutes. Turn over, and turn heat down to medium, searing for 2-3 minutes. Place in a 400 F oven until internal temperature reaches 165F (10-15 minutes)
  5. Serve over a bed of the Ethiopian lentils, and garnish with fresh Italian parsley.

Berbere Spice Mix:

  1. If using whole seeds, lightly toast them on the stovetop in a skillet for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Grind them using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Remember to crush or grind the chili flakes.


If subbing tofu for the chicken: Use extra firm tofu and cut into 1 inch thick slabs or “filets”, pat dry with paper towels, very lightly pressing down. Sprinkle each side generously with salt and pepper then place a few tablespoons of Berber Spice on a plate, spreading it out, and coat each side of the tofu lightly. Pan sear in a well-oiled skillet, over medium heat, allowing the tofu to form a crust thereby, naturally releasing itself from the pan. This will prevent sticking and allow easy flipping. Pan sear each side until crispy, golden and warmed through. Serve over the lentils. I’d use two large blocks for 6 people.


  • Calories: 405

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  1. Delicious recipe but extremely spicy. Would suggest using teaspoons not tablespoons of the spice when you first make it and then use more on subsequent outings.

  2. I only made the lentil part and they were delicious. I used beluga lentils and my own chicken stock for the water. The berbere spice mix worked really well and I’m looking forward to using it with other dishes. Thanks.

  3. Fantastic! Really delicious. We substituted potatoes for carrots and it came out just as well. Beautiful texture and uniquely smoky. We also skipped the oven (just cooked the chicken in a separate skillet on the stove, then combined with lentils in Dutch oven) and it turned out great. Thank you for this great introduction to a new spice for our family!

  4. I loved the Ethiopian lentils & chicken, I only used 4 tea spoon of paprika and still found it very very spicy! Too spicy for me, will add less paprika and chili peppers next time. However, the recipe is a keeper! Love using lentils rather than a carb such as rice as I’m at weight watchers… love all your recipes Sylvia!

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