Lentil Sambusas



We didn’t forget that we promised to post a couple recipes from our non traditional feast that took place last Thursday, more specifically, our crispy lentil sambusa recipe. I think you’re really going to like this one.  If you haven’t caught on already, I’m a swooner for all handheld appetizers. They materialize in our kitchen very often. 🙂

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The first time I had a sambusa, it was a sambusa filled with savory lentils.  It was at an Ethiopian restaurant called Bunna Cafe out in Brooklyn. Absolutely recommend this restaurant if you are ever anywhere near the vicinity. Even if you’re out in New Jersey, doesn’t matter, you gotta check this place out too. It’s insanely flavorful vegetarian/vegan food and you’ll get happily stuffed here. They have a great cocktail menu too. I’ve always been crazy for Ethiopian food, and luckily for me I keep stumbling on restaurants that impress me more than the last. 

“Sambusa” or Samboosa is just another name for samosa. They’re referred to as sambusa in certain parts of Africa and the UK. Pastries are filled with spiced vegetables or ground meats, just like samosas.  Typically they’re fried and puff up into little golden nuggets bursting with steam.  In this case though, I spiced green lentils and stuffed them into stacked sheets of whole wheat phyllo dough. I love using phyllo dough instead, because it really helps my avoid the fryer and extra buckets of oil without compromising that crunch that I think is essential to the expereince. 


Our feast was everything!  We woke up at 8 in the morning to start cooking all of the stews. They are usually cooked for awhile so that many of the proteins break down and create this rich, soppy stew that’s the absolute perfect consistency for the spongy bread it’s served over, because the bread soaks it right up.  We armed ourselves with 2 stacks of homemade injera bread.   We picked it up at a gas station in Mission HIll. We tried fermenting our own teff flour, but the truth was we forgot to get it mixed and working in time, so we turned that part of the meal over to the pros.

We prepared a gomen wat (a collard green stew), misr wat (a red lentil stew), atakilt wat (which was a huge pot of cabbage and potatoes, then we roasted some red and golden beets with spices and grated ginger, our own little twist. All our first try for these, but they came out fabulously despite it all, and I know we will just become better at creating these with practice   The color and consistency on the misr wat wasn’t how we’ve experienced it in the past, but the flavor was insane, and everything just got better and better as the days went on, if you could imagine. 

Thankfully with this type of cuisine we didn’t have to really deviate from the way we typically prepare our food, we just added a few extra spices and used more neutral flavored oils like vegetable or safflower oil, instead of my go-to, olive oil. Our new spice additions were: berbere spice-super important and what really brought many of the veggie to life, fenugreek seeds, and cardamom.  All of these I’ve kept in the cabinet but have never tried combining before. This was one of the best excuses to get them working together.  But many of the dishes had a base of onion, garlic, ginger, chiles, and vinegar which resemble many of our recipe bases. 

After the meal, the consensus was that if we ever do Thanksgiving just the two of us again, it will be an Ethiopian feast just like this. Enough vegan stews to feed a schoolyard, and crunchy lentil stuffed sambusas that we dipped in this insane ginger avocado dressing. We made the dressing for the salad, but it did double service as a thick dip for the appetizers.  Eric was thrilled, Chris (our cat) was overwhelmed,


and I really enjoyed the kitchen prep, as always. Eric talked endlessly about how he’s never been excited for Thanksgiving leftovers until this year. Nothing too great to anticipate when the fridge is stocked with tupperware overflowing with dark meat turkey and some stuffing soaked in chicken broth. I’m so so happy we did it this way instead!

Makes 4 lentil sambusas


  • 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained 
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 thai chillies, seeds removed, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

You’ll also need:

  • 6 sheets whole wheat phyllo dough (regular is fine if you can’t find whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil 
  • a pastry brush


1.Defrost the phyllo dough by keeping it in the fridge for at least 7 hours.

Tip: I secretly hate waiting for this dough to defrost (it needs to defrost otherwise it will tear), so I just put it in the fridge as soon as I bring it home from the grocery store. By then I’m usually ready to use it.  I’ve left my dough in the fridge for up to week before I’ve used it. 

  1. In a medium saucepan add the rinsed lentils, veggie broth, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, then place a tilted lid on the pan and cook until all the liquid has completely absorbed. 

  2. In a small skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil and saute the onions until tender. Add the garlic, ginger, and chilies and cook until fragrant. Add the cooked lentils to the pan, and combine. Season with cumin, cardamom, salt, and vinegar.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. 

Fill and Roll the Dough: 

While you work, keep the phyllo sheets you aren’t using away from too much air by placing them under the plastic film they’re packaged with. Place a damp cloth over that plastic–sometimes placing the damp cloth directly on the dough itself can make it soggy. 

Step 1: Take one sheet of phyllo and lay it down horizontally on a clean surface.  Brush one side of the sheet with a light coating of oil, then fold the other side on top.

Step 2: Brush the top with more oil, and then, like making a book, place half of another sheet of phyllo on that, brush it with more oil, and then fold the sheet closed, and brush it with another coating of oil. Do this one final time so there are six layers. (Wishing now that it’s too late that I took pictures of these steps!)

Step 3: Cut the layered sheet down the middle vertically to create long, thin rectangles. 

Step 4: Take 1/4 of the cooked lentils and mound at the bottom triangle of the rectangle. Keep folding the triangle to the alternating sides until the sambusas is completely wrapped into a tight, little triangle. Place sambusas on a lined baking sheet and place in the freezer to harden for at least 30 minutes or until ready to eat. 

Step 5: Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush the tops of the sambusas with more oil, and place in the oven to bake for 15-25 minutes, or until they outsides are crunchy and browned. Serve!

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6 thoughts on “Lentil Sambusas

  1. I’ve never heard of these before, looking forward to giving the recipe a try. I think mine may not be as neat as those in your beautiful images though! Love the idea of having recipes like these to fall back on to make post-school or work snacks as well as part of a greater feast. Really enjoying browsing the blog .

    All the best!

    1. haha! He did roll these so perfectly didn’t he? lol. So excited for you to give them a try Helen. They’re really easy, and you can freeze them ahead of time and bake them off as you want to eat them. 🙂

  2. I have these sitting in the freezer right now, will be popping them in the oven soon!! So excited. Can you post the recipe for the dressing you mentioned using as a dip? Thanks!

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