Berbere Chicken and Lentils

5 from 5 votes

Today’s recipe for berbere chicken with lentils is an easy and satisfying dish that is sweet, smoky, tangy, and subtly spicy. Tender lentils are tossed in a lively berbere vinaigrette before being topped with succulent, sauteed chicken and caramelized onions. 

Overhead shot of Berbere Chicken and Lentils

Berbere chicken with lentils is a great recipe when you are looking for something to fill you up without weighing you down. Featuring Berbere Spice, this Ethiopian-inspired recipe has a delightfully complex flavor profile. Get ready for a delectable dish that is bright, tangy, spicy, and sweet all at once. 

But that’s not all! Berbere chicken gets even more bonus points for being a nutritional powerhouse complete with loads of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Delicious and nutritious is hard to beat!

Watch the video on how to make this recipe below in the recipe card!

For more light yet filling chicken recipes, check out my Arabic Chicken and Rice, Chinese Roast Chicken, or Chicken Tikka Kebab

The Flavors of Berbere Chicken

If you have yet to experience the exhilarating aroma and flavor of Ethiopian spices, you are in for a treat with Berbere. In case you are wondering, the spice blend is pronounced bare-bur-AY… like the hat or hit song, Raspberry Berét, by former artist Prince.

The flavor combines smoky, sweet, and citrusy flavors. While the flavors are warm, this addictive spicy blend is one of my personal favorites.

pouring mustard dressing onto cooked brown lentils

INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS 

  • Chicken – I chose breast meat, but feel free to use thighs if you prefer dark meat. 
  • Brown Lentils – Stick with brown or green lentils for this recipe. Red and yellow lentils tend to break down more and will get a bit too mushy. 
  • Red Wine Vinegar – Adds a dash of bright acidity. Apple cider, white wine, or other vinegars make acceptable substitutes. 
  • Dijon Mustard – Brings a potent pop of sharp, spicy, and tangy flavor. If needed, you can sub in another spicy mustard like stoneground, spicy brown, or horseradish mustard. 
  • Berbere Spice – Featuring allspice, fenugreek, cayenne and more this aromatic superstar adds a blast of warm, earthy, and bright citrus flavors. Check out the link to make your own at home.  
  • Cinnamon – Adds a warming, earthy element to the dressing while harmonizing the other flavors. 
  • Cloves – Offers another dose of spicy-sweet and intensely aromatic flavor.
  • Onion – Caramelized onions elevate the dish with rich umami and savory-sweet tones. 
  • Parsley – Tops off the dish with a blast of fresh flavor and vibrant green color. 

HOW TO MAKE BERBERE CHICKEN AND LENTILS

  1. Prepare the Lentils. Use a large pot to combine the water and a teaspoon of salt. Place over high heat, add lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. You can read more about lentils here.
  2. Drain the Lentils. Drain the lentils. Rinse them thoroughly with cold water and drain again. Put the lentils in a large bowl. 
  3. Make the Dressing. Use either an immersion blender, or regular blender, to combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, 1 tablespoon berbere spice, cinnamon, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt until the mixture is thick and emulsified. 
  4. Dress the Lentils. Use ¾ of a cup of the dressing to pour over the warm lentil. Toss to coat and set aside. 
  5. Season the Chicken. Use the remaining berbere spice and salt to season and rub the chicken. 
  6. Saute Chicken and Veggies. Place a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Toss in the onion and saute for about 8 minutes, until nice and caramelized. Remove the onions, set them aside, and add the chicken breasts to the skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes per side or until they are cooked all the way through. 
  7. Prepare to Serve. Give the lentils another good toss with the dressing before arranging them on a serving platter or individual plate. Next, top the lentils with the sauteed chicken breast and caramelized onions. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the dish. 
  8. Serve and Enjoy. For the finishing touches, sprinkle fresh parsley over the top and serve with freshly sliced lemons for squeezing. Enjoy!
chicken and lentils with garnish of chopped parsley and sauteed onion

Tips for Making Chicken and Lentils

Blending the dressing

When making the lentil salad dressing, I use us an immersion hand blender, but any blender will to do to emulsify and thicken it. Of course, it’s easy enough to just add the ingredients to a mason jar and shake to combine.

However, mixing the ingredients in that way does not create an emulsion. Without an emulsion, the oil and vinegar will separate shortly after you combine them.

How to tell when chicken is cooked

The risk of serious illness from eating uncooked chicken is not something you should take lightly. When chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165° F., it is safe to eat.

You may have heard that chicken is cooked when the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear. While this is accurate, the best way to measure the doneness is with an instant read cooking thermometer. Simply insert it into the thickest portion of the meat.

Serving suggestions for berbere chicken

Berbere chicken and lentils is a light, well balanced dish. To keep the meal healthy, consider serving it with steamed or marinated vegetables.

A side of flatbread, naan, or even whole wheat pita bread would be a great choice as well.

Berbere Chicken and Lentils on a white plate

What is Berbere Spice?

Berbere spice, the MVP of berbere chicken, is a bright, warming, aromatic spice blend from the treasure trove of Ethiopian cuisine. 

Featuring a menagerie of spices including allspice, fenugreek, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, chilies and more, this spice blend delivers earthy warmth, lively spice, and vibrant citrus tones to everything it touches. 

The combination of sweet, spicy, savory and tangy flavors makes this versatile spice blend amazing with all types of foods. It makes a mouthwatering meat rub or marinade, but that’s not all! This tasty seasoning can be used to enhance all manner of rice and vegetable dishes, sprinkled on popcorn, or even served with fruit! I like to make mine from scratch, here’s my recipe for Berbere Spice Mix.

What Do I Serve With Berbere Chicken?

Berbere chicken and lentils is light and well balanced while also being hearty and satisfying. 

You can serve this filling meal as it is or try adding some steamed or sauteed vegetables to the mix. You might also serve berbere chicken with a nice fresh garden salad and some homemade Garlic Naan Bread Recipe, Khubz (Arabic Pita Bread), or other flatbread. 

Do I Have to Soak Lentils Before Cooking Them?

No. It is not necessary to soak lentil for this berbere chicken recipe. Instead, simply give them a good rinse and be sure to remove any debris. 

However, if you prefer to soak your lentils to maximize digestibility, go right ahead. Around 2 hours of soaking is adequate. Keep in mind that soaking your lentils will soften them significantly and will cut the required cooking time in half. 

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This recipe post, originally published on Silk Road Recipes January, 2021, was updated with new content, photos and/or video in May, 2023.

overhead: berbere chicken and lentils

Berbere Chicken and Lentils

5 from 5 votes
Berbere chicken and lentils is a hearty, healthy Ethiopian dish that is easy to make and bursting with the best flavors of the region.
Servings: 6
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 8 cups water
  • 3 tsp salt divided
  • 1 lb dried brown lentils rinsed, drained
  • cup olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp berbere spice divided
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts (or boneless thighs)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 lemon slices

Instructions 

Lentils

  • Combine the water and 1 teaspoon salt in large saucepan over high heat. Add lentils and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, drain again. Place in large bowl.

Dressing

  • In a blender or using a immersion hand blender, mix the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, 1 tablespoon of berbere, cinnamon, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt, until thick and emulsified. Pour 3/4 cup dressing over warm lentils and toss to coat, set aside.

Chicken

  • Rub chicken all over with remaining 1 tablespoon berbere and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and caramelized, about 8 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add chicken breasts to skillet and sauté 3 minutes per side, or until cooked through.

Serving

  • Toss the lentils with the dressing again. Arrange lentils on large platter or individual plate. Place chicken on top of lentils, onions on top of chicken and drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon slices.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 719kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 1126mg | Potassium: 1355mg | Fiber: 25g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 299IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 8mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
berbere chicken with onion on top

Kevin

I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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Recipe Rating




8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is amazing! Oh my goodness, so good! I added some chopped kale when it was time to dress the cooked lentils and used boneless skinless chicken thighs. It’s just me so I am thrilled about these leftovers! Thank you!!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this dish on Saturday and hubby and I LOVED it. As you know, I had to modify the spice because of hubby but it was flavorful and delicious and I can’t wait to make it again!

  3. 5 stars
    We loved this dish so much I made it twice in one week! Also made another batch of the dressing to apply on….well, almost everything. I love making your Silk Road recipes, thanks for expanding your catalog. We have tasted these wonderful foods when we traveled, now I’m happy to be able to make these dishes at home.