Armenian Lentil Stew is a thick, rich medley of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, onions, golden raisins, and lentils, all flavored with a savory-sweet blend of traditional herbs and spices. Naturally vegan and gluten-free, it is wonderful alone, or served over a bowl of rice or bulgar.
The Story Behind this Recipe
Some years ago, my daughter married a young Armenian named Vahe. When I first met Vahe, I could barely locate Armenia on a map; moreover, I knew virtually nothing about its rich culture and even less about the tumultuous history of its proud and faithful people. All I knew was this earnest, poetic young man loved my daughter, which is all I really needed to know back then.
And I knew he could cook, because whenever he visited us, that is what he did – COOK! Using nearly every pan in my kitchen, he would make us a bountiful feast of Armenian-inspired fare.
He made us everything from delicious garlicky green beans with eggs to delectable eggplant rolls stuffed with carrots and raisins to amazing fire-roasted shish kabobs. (Like many Armenians, Vahe is a master of fire and skewer.)
Over the years, I’ve developed a great appreciation and genuine respect for my son-in-law and the hard-fought struggle he has endured to become an American citizen. I’ve gained a heartful of amazing Armenian-American grandchildren and a wonderful extended family. I’ve read books and articles on Armenian history (of which I was taught virtually nothing about in school), and I've learned some about traditional Armenian cooking as well.
The Rich History of Armenian Cooking
With a recorded history of about 3500 years, the small, landlocked country of Armenia has a cuisine as old as the nation itself, where it occupies a unique place in Asiatic cuisine. Relying on a rich medley of diverse tastes and fragrances, Armenian cooking often employs savory flavors like lemon, garlic, onion, paprika, and sumac, and warm spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves.
When I saw Armenian Lentil Stew on a restaurant menu awhile back, I knew that I had to give it a go. In the end, I don’t know how traditional this recipe is; in fact, my culinary instincts are telling me that, even with my exhaustive research, it may be a bit Americanize. All I know is, it’s delicious.
When it comes to ethnic recipes, I'm usually a stickler for authenticity, but under the circumstances, I think this recipe is a perfect metaphor. My son-in-law - who coaches his daughters' soccer teams and reads Kant (in Russian) to his three-year old son, who would move heaven and earth for my daughter, and who stood in 2016 in a Utah courthouse and pledged his allegiance to the United States of America... well, he's a little Americanize now, too.
How to Make this Recipe
Like most stews, Armenian Lentil Stew is always better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to play together.
Rinse lentils and place them in a large saucepan. Add the chicken broth and golden raisins (or chopped dried apricots) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pan over medium heat until it begins to glisten, and then add chopped onions. Saute onions until translucent; about 8-10 minutes.
Add eggplant, tomatoes, bell pepper, and garlic to the chopped onions. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the lid and add the lentil mixture, along with the brown sugar, paprika, kosher salt, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, dried mint, and lemon zest to onion mixture.
Simmer until lentils are tender; about 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
If stew becomes too thick while cooking, add additional broth or water.
Garnish with fresh mint or cilantro and a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.
Serve as is, or over cooked bulgar or basmati rice.
FAQs & Expert Tips
Bulgur is the instant rice of wheat. It's made from cracked whole grain wheat berries that are partially cooked and then dried. Since it is precooked, it can be rehydrated in just 10 minutes, making it a faster option on a busy day than wheat berries, regular cracked wheat, or rice.
We can do one better! You can make it vegan by simply replacing the chicken broth with vegetable broth.
More Armenian-Inspired Recipes
Armenian Lentil Stew
- 1 Wooden Spoon
- 1 cup dried red or brown lentils or combination
- 6 cups chicken stock or canned broth
- ½ cup golden raisins or chopped dried apricots
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 pound eggplant peeled and diced ¼-3/8"
- 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes undrained
- 1 whole bell pepper red, green or yellow, diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons hot paprika or regular paprika
- 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons crushed dried mint leaves
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- fresh mint or cilantro chopped
- sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- Rinse lentils and place in large saucepan. Add broth and golden raisins (or chopped dried apricots) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pan over medium heat until it begins to glisten, and then add chopped onions. Sauté onions until translucent; about 8-10 minutes.
- Add eggplant, tomatoes, bell pepper, and garlic to onions. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add lentil mixture and remaining stew ingredients to onion mixture in Dutch oven. Simmer until lentils are tender; about 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. If stew becomes too thick while cooking, add additional broth or water.
- Garnish with fresh mint or cilantro and a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt. Serve as is, or over cooked bulgar or basmati rice.
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