Alitcha Birsen Recipe: Delicious Eritrean Vegetarian Dish

Alitcha Birsen

Alitcha Birsen Recipe: Delicious Eritrean Vegetarian Dish
Region / culture: Eritrea | Preparation time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 60 minutes | Servings: 4 | Vegetarian diet


Alitcha Birsen
Alitcha Birsen

Alitcha Birsen is a traditional Ethiopian lentil stew known for its mild flavor profile, contrasting the often spicy dishes of Ethiopian cuisine. This dish is a testament to the rich culinary traditions of Ethiopia, showcasing the versatility of lentils and the depth of flavor that can be achieved with simple ingredients. It's a comforting, hearty meal that's both nutritious and satisfying, making it a staple in many Ethiopian households.


The origins of Alitcha Birsen can be traced back to the diverse culinary landscape of Ethiopia, where lentils have been a crucial part of the diet for centuries. Lentils are not only a source of affordable protein but also thrive in the country's climate, making them a sustainable choice for farmers. Over time, various regions in Ethiopia have developed their own versions of lentil stews, with Alitcha Birsen being one of the milder variants, appreciated for its simplicity and the subtle balance of flavors.


How to prepare

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic until light golden.
  2. Add the sliced skinned tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the washed lentils and simmer briefly.
  4. Add salt, pepper, ginger, chili, and boiling water.
  5. Cover the pan and simmer the mixture over low heat for 60 minutes.
  6. Serve with injera.


  • Add diced carrots or potatoes for extra texture and nutrition.
  • For a spicier version, increase the amount of fresh red chiles.
  • Incorporate spinach or kale during the last few minutes of cooking for added greens.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

To achieve the perfect Alitcha Birsen, consider the following tips:

- Rinse the lentils thoroughly before cooking to remove any dirt or debris.

- Use ripe, juicy tomatoes for the best flavor.

- Adjust the amount of water based on the type of lentils used, as some may require more liquid to become tender.

- Simmer the stew gently to allow the flavors to meld together beautifully.

- For a richer taste, you can substitute vegetable oil with ghee or clarified butter.

Serving Suggestions

Alitcha Birsen is traditionally served with injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture. You can also serve it with rice or any flatbread of your choice for a fulfilling meal.

Cooking Techniques

The key technique in preparing Alitcha Birsen is the slow simmering of lentils, which allows for the development of flavors and ensures the lentils are perfectly tender. Gentle frying of the garlic and tomatoes before adding the lentils also enhances the dish's overall taste.

Ingredient Substitutions

If sunflower oil is not available, any neutral-flavored oil or even olive oil can be used.

- Red lentils can be substituted with green or brown lentils, though cooking times may vary.

- Fresh tomatoes can be replaced with canned tomatoes if necessary.

Make Ahead Tips

Alitcha Birsen can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, allowing the flavors to meld together even more. Simply reheat gently before serving.

Presentation Ideas

Serve Alitcha Birsen in a beautiful bowl, garnished with fresh cilantro or parsley. Accompany it with lemon wedges for a fresh, zesty finish.

Pairing Recommendations

Pair Alitcha Birsen with a crisp, green salad dressed with lemon and olive oil to complement the dish's flavors. A light, fruity white wine or a non-alcoholic ginger beer would also pair well.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave, adding a little water if the stew has thickened too much.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

A typical serving of Alitcha Birsen contains approximately 250-300 calories, making it a relatively low-calorie option that's filling and nutritious.


A serving of Alitcha Birsen is a good source of carbohydrates, primarily from the lentils, which are high in dietary fiber. This dish provides a slow-releasing form of energy, making it an excellent option for sustained energy throughout the day.


The fat content in Alitcha Birsen comes mainly from the vegetable oil used in cooking. Using sunflower or other vegetable oils contributes a modest amount of healthy unsaturated fats, which are beneficial for heart health.


Lentils are an excellent source of plant-based protein, making Alitcha Birsen a great option for vegetarians and vegans. This dish provides essential amino acids necessary for muscle repair and growth.

Vitamins and minerals

Alitcha Birsen is rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate, magnesium, and zinc, thanks to the lentils. Tomatoes add vitamin C and potassium to the dish, enhancing its nutritional profile.


This recipe is free from common allergens such as nuts, dairy, and gluten, making it suitable for individuals with these allergies. However, always check the ingredients used for cross-contamination if you're highly sensitive.


Overall, Alitcha Birsen is a balanced, nutritious dish that provides a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, along with essential vitamins and minerals. It's a wholesome meal that supports a healthy diet.


Alitcha Birsen is a delightful, nutritious Ethiopian lentil stew that's easy to make and packed with flavor. Its simplicity, combined with the rich cultural history and nutritional benefits, makes it a perfect dish to explore Ethiopian cuisine. Whether you're a seasoned cook or new to Ethiopian dishes, Alitcha Birsen is sure to satisfy.

How did I get this recipe?

I can still recall the sense of amazement I felt when I first saw this recipe for Alitcha Birsen. It was a warm summer day, and I was visiting my dear friend Sara, who had recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia. As we sat in her cozy kitchen, sipping on fragrant Ethiopian coffee, she pulled out a worn notebook filled with handwritten recipes.

"This one is a family favorite," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "It's called Alitcha Birsen, a traditional Ethiopian dish made with lentils, potatoes, and a flavorful blend of spices."

I watched in awe as Sara expertly guided me through the recipe, explaining each step with care and precision. She told me about how her grandmother used to make this dish for special occasions, and how it always brought the family together around the table.

As I listened to Sara's stories and followed her instructions, I felt a deep connection to the rich culinary heritage of Ethiopia. The vibrant colors and bold flavors of the Alitcha Birsen seemed to come alive in front of me, filling the kitchen with warmth and nostalgia.

After hours of simmering and stirring, the dish was finally ready. The tender lentils and creamy potatoes were infused with the aromatic spices, creating a symphony of flavors that danced on my taste buds. I took a bite, savoring the complex blend of turmeric, ginger, and garlic that lingered on my palate.

As I sat down to enjoy the Alitcha Birsen with Sara and her family, I felt a sense of gratitude for the shared experience of cooking and eating together. It was more than just a meal – it was a celebration of friendship, culture, and love.

From that day on, Alitcha Birsen became a staple in my own kitchen. I would make it for my family and friends, sharing the story of how I learned the recipe from Sara and the memories we created together. It became a cherished tradition, a reminder of the power of food to bring people together and create lasting bonds.

As the years passed, I continued to experiment with the recipe, adding my own twists and variations to make it my own. But no matter how many times I made it, the essence of the dish remained the same – a taste of Ethiopia, a taste of friendship, a taste of love.

Now, as I sit in my own kitchen, surrounded by the comforting aroma of simmering lentils and spices, I can't help but smile as I think back to that fateful day with Sara. The day I learned to make Alitcha Birsen, a recipe that has become a beloved part of my culinary repertoire and a cherished memory of a dear friend.

And so, as I serve up a steaming bowl of Alitcha Birsen to my family tonight, I will do so with a heart full of gratitude and a spirit brimming with joy. For in every bite of this fragrant and flavorful dish, I am reminded of the power of food to nourish not just the body, but the soul.


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