Quick Ethiopian Dinner – gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, and really yummy!

Quick Ethiopian Dinner

Quick Ethiopian DinnerI love
Ethiopian food! The salty complex flavors, the variety of different dishes, the unusual way of eating it family-style with flatbread instead of silverware. Fun and yummy!

When my family first went gluten-free, I thought we would still be able to eat at our local Ethiopian restaurants, because all of the Ethiopian stews are gluten-free, and the Ethiopian flatbread, called injera, is made with teff flour — and teff is gluten-free. Alas, when I asked the local Ethiopian restaurants about it, I found out that they all use regular American flour, made from wheat, in their injera. So I could not eat there. How sad!

Cooking Ethiopian

In the front you can see three pans that are cooking injera. In the background is a pot of split pea alecha. To the left you can see the batter for the flatbread. In front of the batter, I keep a saucer with a metal 1/4 cup measuring cup, for scooping batter into the frying pans.

So, of course I had to learn to make my own!

Ethiopian food is usually served family style, with a single platter shared by everybody at the table. You are served a huge metal platter, covered in injera, with about six piles of different types of Ethiopian stew on top of the injera. Sharing food with your tablemates is hygienic because instead of silverware, you use pieces of injera to pick up your food — and then you eat the injera and the food together. I think of it as eating my silverware after every bite, so that there is always brand new, fresh, clean silverware for the next bite.  :)


A stack of cooked injera.

I wanted to be able to make Ethiopian food as a weeknight dinner, so I have greatly simplified this recipe, in order to be able to make it quickly enough to serve it as a regular dinner for my family. It isn’t nearly as fancy as a real Ethiopian feast at a restaurant. But it has that same yummy Ethiopian flavor. Plus, because it is quicker to cook, I make it a lot more often, so we end up eating it much more often than we would if it was a more elaborate recipe.

Split Pea Alecha

Split Pea Alecha


Quick Ethiopian DinnerRelatedly: I recently bought a cookbook called Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking, which is an entire cookbook of vegan Ethiopian recipes, made with Americanized ingredients. I haven’t cooked anything from it yet, but I bought a copy and am eagerly looking forward to experimenting with it. I’ve linked its title to the book on Amazon in case you are interested in finding a copy too.

My Ethiopian recipes in this posting are heavily adapted from the wonderful cookbook Vegan Lunch Box: 130 Amazing, Animal-Free Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love! — another really wonderful cookbook.

There are three parts to this meal: Injera (the flatbread), a split pea stew called Split Pea Alecha, and some broccoli.

I make Injera from my crepe recipe, but replacing most of the gluten-free flour mix with teff flour. Teff is the smallest grain, and the highest in iron. It is from Africa. It gives a “wheaty” taste to gluten-free baked goods.

The timing for this recipe works like this:

  1. Start cooking the Split Pea Alecha.
  2. While it cooks, make the injera. IMPORTANT: Make a triple batch of injera, so that you’ll have enough.
  3. Toward the end of making the injera, cook a pound of frozen broccoli as a side dish. See my quick and easy broccoli recipe here.
  4. To serve, put a piece of injera on each plate. Add a scoop of Split Pea Alecha, a scoop of cooked broccoli, and a folded piece of injera.
  5. Serve!
  6. Eaters tear off a piece of injera and use that to scoop up a bite of stew or broccoli, then eat it. They may need some extra injera to eat their meal. When you finish your folded piece of injera, you can also eat the injera that is under the food on the plate. Yummy!

To make injera, make a triple batch of my crepe recipe. You can optionally replace up to three quarters of the flour mix with teff flour, to make it more Ethiopian.

My broccoli recipe is here. It is quick and yummy.

Split Pea Alecha - gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, Ethiopian food and really yummy!
Prep time
Total time
This is the main component of a quick weeknight Ethiopian dinner. It has the lovely allure of Ethiopian spices, but it is simple enough to cook for dinner on a weeknight.
Recipe type: dinner
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Serves: serves 6-8
  • 3 cups dried split peas - either green (cooks faster) or yellow (more authentic) is okay
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 slices (1/4 inch) fresh ginger, chopped finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or 2 pods, crushed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (or 1 clove, crushed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  1. Put the split peas into a big pot, with water. Sprinkle with the turmeric. Check the package from the split peas for how much water to use, or use 6 cups if you are using green split peas, or 10 cups if you have yellow split peas. (Yellow seems to be more absorbent.)
  2. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat.
  3. Simmer until the liquid has been mostly absorbed and the stew is starting to look thickened. The amount of time that this takes varies widely depending on the variety of split peas and how long ago they were harvested. In my experience it can take anything from 30 to 90 minutes. Green split peas cook faster; yellow ones take longer.
  4. Stir in all of the other ingredients.
  5. Serve on injera (see recipe notes), with broccoli and more injera for scooping.


This recipe has been entered into the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck. Yum!!!

This recipe has been shared on Gluten-Free Fridays.  Yum!!!

What to eat when you are too upset to eat — in memory of Jan Wolter

Jan Wolter

Wow. It’s been three months since I last posted here. This is a big gap! My goal is to post something every few days.

What happened in these three months?

First my kids were off school for winter break. Then we all came down with the flu. And then my life-partner, a kind and gentle man named Jan Wolter — died. The doctors said that he choked on mucus from a combination of allergies and the flu, and the choking stopped his heart. I called 911. Ambulances, police cars, and fire engines came to our house. They re-started his heart and took him to the hospital.  But, a few days later, he died. I had no idea that a person could die that way. Poor Jan!!!!!

As you can imagine, our lives have been turned upside down. As you would expect, the kids and I are sad and sorry and wish that he was still here.

But we are also doing okay. I am honestly surprised by how okay we are. I am also surprised by how, despite the awfulness of losing Jan, how little our lives have been changed.

But since this is a cooking blog, I am not here to talk at length about Jan and our kids. But, because it is a cooking blog, I will talk about the impact that losing Jan has had on my cooking.

For one, I have three kids, all of whom are limited eaters. So my cooking audience has changed quite a bit.

The youngest of my kids has autism and has been working on toilet training for a long time. After two years of hard work, in December he finally got the hang of using the bathroom consistently. But now he visits the bathroom a zillion times a day, often making four visits to the bathroom while I am cooking dinner. He is seven years old, but functions about like a two year old, so he generally needs some amount of supervision. So now when I cook, I am also multitasking between cooking and supervising a kid who behaves like a toddler and may make four visits to the bathroom while I am cooking a meal. So, after Jan died, it took a while for me to find my stride and start cooking longer meals again. For a while all of the dinners that I cooked were just the quickest homemade meals that I could make. But over time I have started branching out again into more elaborate meals too. And I am finding my way with this process of cooking while also supervising a kid — it is okay.

Still another change in my family’s eating habits is that Jan was allergic to tomatoes, onions, and garlic, so there was very little of any of those in the recipes I posted. Now that Jan is gone, I have been experimenting with cooking with those foods again. So far I have found that garlic fits right into my cooking and we are enjoying it. Tomatoes are touch-and-go, but mostly go. But onions, to my surprise, have been harder to add back in. Recently I cooked a favorite dinner that Jan used to cook, called Pasta, Beans and Greens. (I will post that recipe on this site someday — it is a great recipe: easy, yummy, and nutritious.) Jan and I had been cooking that recipe without the onions, even though the original recipe called for onions. So I added onions back in. And, to my surprise, I found that I like the recipe much better without the onions! So adding onions back into my cooking is going to take some time and experimentation.

Another change in my cooking is a reduction in how much rice we choose to eat. Consumer Reports has released more articles about the dangers of arsenic in rice. It seems that the danger of rice increasing your chances of getting cancer are a real concern, especially for people who eat gluten-free and have a lot of rice in their diet. So I have been reducing the amount of rice my family eats, and replacing it with other, safer, foods.

Anyway, during the three months since my last blog posting, I have thought a lot about what to put into this next blog posting. I wanted to write a posting in memory of Jan, and something that talked about the transition my family is going through. So I decided to write about what to eat when you are too upset to eat, since, when Jan fell ill, that was how I was feeling.

Now I am okay again. I am eating just fine, and I am honestly surprised by how cheerful and happy I usually feel each day. It feels strange to be so cheerful again — I feel like I should mourn Jan’s death for at least a year. But my finding my way back to cheerfulness again makes me think of a TED Talk that I listened to recently, about how people adapt to bad things that happen to them. The speaker said that when people had a choice, they agonized over their decision and had a hard time coming to terms with it. But when they had absolutely no choice or control over something bad that happened to them, then they just adapted and went on with their lives. This TED Talk really resonated for me — it is how I feel. If I could choose, of course I would choose that Jan would still be alive. But he is gone, I don’t have a choice, and so the only thing I can do is adapt. And so adapting is what I am doing. And honestly adapting is going pretty well.

But I still want to write about how I got through the weeks when I was too upset to eat, because I experimented and learned and found my way through a really difficult time in my life, and I think that this could be valuable information for other people who are going through their own life experiences that make them too upset to eat.

Of course I don’t know if what worked for me will work for anybody else. But here is what I did:

I found that what worked for me was to cook healthy, nutritious, simple, soupy foods, such as 15-Minute Chili or Spinach Bean Soup. Storebought soup would have been fine too. When I set a soupy food down in front of myself, I didn’t want to eat it or anything else. But if I could make myself eat a few small spoonfuls, then my appetite would come back and I could eat. After the first few spoonfuls, I would find that I was hungry enough to comfortably eat the rest of the serving of food.

Will it work for anyone else? I don’t know, but I think it could.

If you are reading this because you are too upset to eat: Hang in there, and take good care of yourself. I am sending you **a long, quiet, peaceful hug** from me to you.

Farewell, Jan Wolter. You are missed.