Berbere chicken and lentils is a high protein dish with vibrant, warm spices. Make this Ethiopian chicken recipe for an easy, healthy meal!
White meat chicken breasts are lean, and definitely a healthy protein choice on their own. But with the chicken and lentils, you have another boost of protein, plus fiber, and nutrients.
Season them both with aromatic berbere spice mix (a blend of spices like cinnamon, allspice, fenugreek and cayenne) and you are in for a seriously delicious Ethiopian meal that just happens to be good for you, too!
Want to try other healthy chicken recipes? Start with Steamed Lemon Chicken. The Asian flavors are tantalizing, and the dose of vitamin C is great at helping to chase away those nasty winter colds.
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 Beret, 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.
Barbere Chicken Ingredients and Notes
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts- If you prefer dark meat, boneless skinless chicken thighs are a great option. Or, swap out the chicken for turkey or another lean protein of your choice.
- Lentils- Brown lentils are the authentic choice for this dish. If you would like to use a different variety, green lentils are a good choice because they also hold their shape well when cooked.
Hulled red and yellow lentils are not the best for a dish like berbere chicken, as they will break down and become too mushy. They're best for using in soups or for dishes like lentil burgers, where the consistency and texture won't matter as much.
- Berbere seasoning- The signature flavor in this Ethiopian chicken recipe comes from a blend of aromatic spices like cinnamon, allspice, fenugreek and cayenne. You can certainly buy it, but for the best flavor, consider making your own berbere spice mix.
FOR THE LENTIL DRESSING
The citrus flavor in the tangy dijon-lemon vinaigrette balances perfectly with the warm flavors of the berbere chicken. It's also a delicious salad dressing and marinade!
I add a small amount of berbere seasoning to the dressing as well. However, if you plan to use the extra dressing for a mixed green salad, feel free to omit the seasoning.
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
- 8 cups water
- 3 tsp salt divided
- 1 lb dried brown lentils rinsed, drained
- ⅔ 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
- 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.
- 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 ¾ cup dressing over warm lentils and toss to coat, set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.