Jacob's Red Stew

Jacob's red stew in a cooking pot

Written by McDonald, T.  |  Date 27th of March 2023      

Who is Jacob?  Why is his stew so important? The story comes from the Old Testament Book of Genesis.  Jacob and Esau were brothers, the sons of Isaac and Rebecca.  According to the story in Genesis 25, Esau is so hungry that he trades his birth right for a bowl of stew!  While the beans and lentils fill the stew with textures and nutrition, the flavours come from the seasoning and spices.

“29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. 30 Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!’ (Therefore he was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ 32 Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ 33 Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus, Esau despised his birthright.” (Gen 25:29-34, NRSVACE). 

As we can see, the stew is red and has lentils in.  However, if we add a few beans, it becomes a lot more nutritious and tastier.  Some people will use red lentils, but I find it is better to use green or black lentils with beans.  The red lentils tend to become creamy, and I want this stew to have a meaty feel to it. To give it a red colour, I used tomatoes and paprika.   

Jacob and Esau making a deal for stew.  Image by John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com.

How and why I selected ingredients

After reading an article from Wikipedia about pre-Israelite food, I decided to include the following:

  • Broad beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Figs
  • Dates

Broad beans have great nutrition value including roughage, B9 (folate) and manganese.  Chickpeas have great levels of protein as do the lentils.  Furthermore, The carrot is a great source of vitamin A.  While the figs provide some calcium and sweetness, I decided to use them as a desert instead.  Dates, often used to make a sweetener called date honey at the time, also seem like a likely ingredient for Jacob's red stew.  This is also the reason I added the fruit syrup since I am not going to make the date honey.  The onions and garlic are mainly for flavour.  As for the cumin seeds, that idea came again from the Wikipedia post I read.

More about the story

Jacob conspires with his Mother, Rebecca, to gain the blessing of his Father, Isaac, by dressing up to resemble Esau.  This was possible because Isaac was old, and his eyesight was failing.  After fooling his Father, he goes into exile for 20 years, leaving Esau, who vowed to kill him, and his family behind. Obviously, there is a lot more to the story including Jacob taking two wives.  As Jacob scams his brother and Father, Jacob's Uncle scams Jacob into marrying both his daughters, Leah and Rachel.  Jacob is so infatuated with Rachel that he is easily manipulated as Esau was so hungry that he was easily manipulated into giving up his birthright. Ask yourself this, are you so desperate to have something that it blinds you to the point that you would do anything to get it?  If so, can someone you know see how much you want it and is using that knowledge to scam you?


  • Remember, if you are going to use dry beans, you will need to prepare them by soaking and cooking first. 

  • If you are using tinned beans, remember to drain them first.  

  • You can use dark brown sugar in place of the fruit syrup. 

  • You might be tempted to forgo the lemon juice.  Please don't since it really adds something to the taste and sends it to the next level!  In addition, it adds vitamin C to the dish. 

  • If you like, you can add some green veg as a side dish such as fried or steamed cabbage.

  • Cup measurements are imperial. 

  • Although it does taste great, don't give away your birth right for it!

Jacob's red stew with new potatoes and cabbage

Serves 4

Time, 1 hr 40 m


  • Green lentils x 1 cup or 1 tin can
  • Broad beans x 1/2 a cup or 300 g tin can 190 g when drained
  • Chickpeas x 1/2 a cup or 400 g tin can 240 g when drained
  • Chopped tomatoes x 400 g
  • Carrot x 1 diced
  • Onion x 1 chopped
  • Garlic x 4 cloves chopped
  • Tomato paste x 4 tbsp
  • Fruit syrup x 1/4 (I used the syrup from a tin of peaches)
  • Dates x 4 cut in half
  • Red wine vinegar x 50 ml
  • Vegetable stock x 200 ml
  • Lemon juice of 1/2 a lemon 
  • Zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • Paprika x 1.5 tsp
  • Cumin seeds x 1 tsp
  • Coriander x 2 tsp
  • Black pepper x 1 tbsp
  • Salt x 2 tsp


  1. If you are using dried beans, soak them for 24hrs. If you are using tinned beans, drain them. 
  2. If you are using dried lentils, boil them first in water for 10 minutes and then drain them.  If you are using tinned lentils, drain them.
  3. Fry the onion in the bottom of a suitable sized saucepan with the garlic and cumin seeds. 
  4. Dice the carrot.  Add them to the pot with the stock, tomatoes, and vinegar. 
  5. Chop the dates in half and add to the pot.
  6. Add the beans and all the other ingredients and stir.
  7. Let it simmer for 1 hr and 30 minutes if you used dried beans, or 40 minutes if you used canned ones. 
  8. Serve with potatoes and bread.

Yes, it really is that easy!


Excellent!  Every mouthful was a taste sensation.  The flavour of the cumin seeds comes through at just the right pace. 

I hope that you liked this blog and if you do try this recipe, please let me know how you got on and what it turned out like. You can leave a comment in the comments below.


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