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Ecuadorian lentil stew {Menestra de lentejas}

Arroz con menestra de lentejas is a traditional Ecuadorian lentil stew simmered with onion, pepper, tomato, garlic, cumin, and cilantro. Menestra is usually served with rice and thin grilled steaks or carne asada.
Course Main dish, Side Dish
Cuisine Ecuadorian, Latin
Keyword Ecuadorian menestra, Lentil stew, Menestra de lentejas
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6 to 8 people


  • 2-3 tbs oil
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 3 tomatoes diced
  • 6 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp achiote powder or ground achiote
  • 4 tbs chopped cilantro
  • ~7 cups of water
  • 1 lb lentils rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • Green or ripe plantain - optional see notes at the end


  • Heat the oil on medium heat in a large sauce pan or cooking pot.
  • Add the onion, bell pepper, tomato, garlic, cumin, salt, achiote and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro to make a refrito for the stew.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients have softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the water and increase heat to bring water to boil.
  • Add the lentils and reduce the heat to medium low, cover partially and cook until the lentils are tender. Taste and add salt if needed, stir in the remaining 2 tbs of cilantro, and remove from the heat.
  • Serve with Ecuadorian style cooked rice, carne asada o carne frita (fried thin beef steaks), fried ripe plantains or fried green plantains, and a small salad or avocado slices.


For an extra boost of flavor, prepare a quick refrito or sofrito by sauteeing about 1/2 onion with a few cloves of crushed garlic, a couple of diced tomatoes, and ground cumin/achiote powder/salt to taste until the ingredients are softened and you have a flavorful sauce. Stir in the sauce to the main menestra when the lentils are done cooking.
To add a green plantain, peel a green plantain and grate it using a fine grater, stir the grated plantain into the menestra during the last ~15-20 minutes of cooking, mix it well so that it integrates into the stew - you will notice how it thickens the dish and adds a slight plantain flavor.
To add a sweet plantain, peel and cut a plantain into 1/2 to 1 inch slices and add them to the menestra during the last 20-25 minutes of cooking, they should be fully cooked by the time the dish is ready.