Ethiopian cuisine features spiced stews called wot (usually with berbere, Ethiopia's signature spice blend, and tomato paste as part of the base) and milder stews called alicha. This yellow split pea dish is an alicha, mildly spiced with turmeric and the triumvirate of onions, garlic, and ginger.
Because kik alicha is mildly spiced, I added in generous pinches of some of the highlight spices you'd find in Ethiopian spiced clarified butter, niter kibbeh. Niter kibbeh would generally be used for kik alicha. You can of course make and use niter kibbeh or its dairy-free, oil-based alternative, ye'qimem zeyet.
You cook kik alicha in a pot on the stovetop similarly to how you'd cook split pea soup, letting them simmer away over a low flame for a long time in plenty of stock or water, 4 cups. Stovetop cooking requires more monitoring, so that you can stir every now and again and add stock/water if needed so that the split peas on the bottom don't stick and burn.
Instant Pot method
To cook kik alicha in an Instant Pot, you'll want to add half the amount of stock or water thay you would on a stovetop, 1 ½ cups. You want the split peas to end up very soft and begin breaking down, so the cook time for them is 20 minutes on high pressure, plus natural pressure release (you can release manually after about 20 minutes with good results if you're pressed for time, once most of the pressure has gone down anyway).
Looking for more Ethiopian recipes?
- Injera - Ethiopian Teff Sourdough Flatbread—the perfect serving vessel for this or any Ethiopian stew.
- Ethiopian Cabbage, Carrot, and Potato Stew – Tikel Gomen
- Ethiopian Stewed Yellow Split Peas – Kik alicha
- Ethiopian Spicy Stewed Red Lentils – Misir Wot
- Ethiopian Collard Greens – Ye’abesha Gomen
- Ethiopian Tomato Salad with Berbere
Ethiopian Stewed Yellow Split Peas - Kik Alicha (dairy or parve)
- Instant Pot, optional
- 1 cup dried yellow split peas
- 3 cups water for stovetop - 1 ½ cups for Instant Pot
- 2-3 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil
- 2 small to medium onions - chopped
- 1 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste - or 2 tsp minced ginger + 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp salt
- pinch nutmeg
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch ground cloves
Presoak the split peas:
- Place the split peas in a medium bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Sauté the aromatics and spices:
- In an Instant Pot or large pot such as a Dutch oven, heat the oil/ghee over medium-high heat. Add in the onions and sauté until softened and beginning to brown, 7 minutes.
- Add in the garlic, ginger, and spices, and toast for 1 minute, until fragrant.
Add the split peas:
- Drain the split peas and add them to the pot. Pour the water over top and stir.
Instant Pot method:
- Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add in the water. Seal and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, natural pressure release.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for around 45 minutes until the split peas begin to break down.