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 41 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. This meal was absolutely fantastic. On this chilly evening, it was the food and smells that truly soothed my soul. We followed the recipe to the tee, but shhould have gone with the 3 tbs of spice in the lentils rather than 2.. we like our stuff on the fire side! Overall 5 out of 5.

  2. Looks outstanding! Was gifted some berbere by my niece, whose husband is from Eritrea. Question: do you soak the lentils overnight like you would other legumes?

    1. Awesome! Glad you liked this! I don’t usually soak lentils, but feel free to. It will shorten cooking time so be mindful of this. 😉

  3. OMG, Sylvia! You do have the most amazing recipes! My only dilemma is how long it takes me to go in and save each one to my recipe book when you have a list of 2, 5 and I love 20 of them! Do you have a cookbook for sale, or is there a way to save a whole batch of recipes in one go ;D
    The berbere chicken is mouthwatering, and making the spice mix was great fun! Thanks so much!

  4. Would the lentils be tasty by themselves (without the chicken)? I’m a vegetarian. Would they go better over pasta or rice? Thanks so much.

    1. Are you vegetarian? They are also great with Berbere Tofu- see recipe notes. Or over rice would be good too.

  5. A friend gave me a packet of Berberi spice mix, and I did not know what to do with it. I found this recipe on Pinterest, and was so pleased with the results! I ended up not having enough spice mix, so was thrilled to have it included in the recipe. It was spicy enough for my brother, who likes to eat fire for meals (well, practically), and had depths of flavor that made it worth the heat for me. The best part is that I have found this very inspiring blog about beautiful food! I preserved some lemons last week, and am going to start some kimchi this week. So excited to have found you!

    1. Awww, thanks! Glad you are enjoying the blog! have fun with the preserved lemons and kimchi!

  6. Absolutely fantastic. This was so delicious, the kind of food that makes you want to dance after the first bite. Thank you for all your wonderful recipes!

    1. Absolutely fantastic. This was so delicious, the kind of food that makes you want to dance after the first bite. Thank you for all your wonderful recipes!

  7. My most ambitious recipe to date but your instructions saw me through it! My wife loved it as did I and will definitely make it again!
    Thank you!

  8. We are in an international supper group and I think I may use this recipe when it’s my turn. I’m so excited to try this. Your food looks heavenly.

  9. I have a huge bag of berbere that a friend brought back from Ethiopia. I’ve been making this recipe for years now. It’s a total go to for an easy, healthy, tasty dinner. I like to serve with a side of greens of some sort. Last night was kale. If I’m a bit heavy handed with the spice I serve the lentils with some sour cream to tame them. Sometimes a squeeze of lemon in them too. I have also used pork in place of the chicken.

  10. The smell in my house while making this is absolutely divine!
    Eating it is even better!
    Many many thanks for this recipe!
    Canadian Rockies

  11. I love Ethiopian food and this was excellent and easy to make. I especially appreciated the Berbere spice recipe. I also made it with cut up beef and it was also a winner. Thank you for the recipe.

  12. Truly delicious. We were worried the redundancy of spices in both the lentils and chicken would make for a dull dish, but they both took on an entirely different taste. Lovely Sunday meal. Thank you.

  13. I thought it would be really spicy but it was sweet and then had a little bit of a kick to it at the end. It was really good! I will defiantly make this again.

  14. Have made this several times following the main tenets of your recipe.
    I actually made a mistake the first time and after browning the chicken put it in with the onions, carrots, lentils etc in my pressure cooker. The resulting “casserole” was delicious (I’d clearly inadvertently gone off piste at this point as I’d also fortunately added a bit more water to cover everything in the pot)! Anyhow, I now deliberately do this every time and it is a firm favourite with everyone who tries it. Thanks!

    1. So Glad you have been enjoying this – and good to hear it works in the instant pot! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Fabulous! I cooked the chicken and used the same pot to cook the lentils, and used chicken broth and white wine instead of water. Yummmy!

    1. I used Bone-in, but either should work, just adjust cooking time. It will cook faster without bone. 😉

  16. I have made this 3x already in the span of the past week as it is THAT good!!! The Berbere spice mix is absolutely divine and I keep craving it day in and day out (it is the PERFECT mixture!). I added 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper to the lentils just to kick it up a notch and it turned out spicy and delicious. I also made a Persian style rice to go with.

    I combined 1 Tablespoon of butter, 1 cup of rice, 1.5 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1 teaspoon ground saffron that was soaked in 1 tablespoon of hot water and placed this into my rice cooker. Once the rice was ready and the cooker automatically shut off, I turned it back on intermittently, as you want the rice to have a nice crisp on the bottom.

    For serving, I layered this in a lovely glass serving bowl with rice on bottom, topped with lentils, chicken and chopped parsley. Simply heaven!

  17. My friend recently returned home from serving in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps. He was staying with his family in Florida and decided to move in with my boyfriend and I in Spokane, WA (I’ll have to check out the Kitchen Engine next time after eating at the Queen of Sheba). I asked what he’d like his first meal here to be, he enthusiastically replied “Ethiopian!”. So, he is flying in today and I hope he’ll love this recipe! Thank you!

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