Ethiopian Berbere I Recipe - Vegetarian Food from Ethiopia

Ethiopian Berbere I

Ethiopian Berbere I Recipe - Vegetarian Food from Ethiopia
Region / culture: Ethiopia | Preparation time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 15 minutes | Servings: 4 | Vegetarian diet


Ethiopian Berbere I
Ethiopian Berbere I

Berbere is a traditional Ethiopian spice blend that is essential in Ethiopian cuisine. It is a fiery and flavorful mixture that adds depth and complexity to dishes. In this article, we will explore the history of the recipe, cooking tips and tricks, as well as nutrition information and serving suggestions for Berbere.


Berbere has been a staple in Ethiopian cooking for centuries. It is believed to have originated in the region of Ethiopia and has since become a key ingredient in many Ethiopian dishes. The blend of spices in Berbere varies from region to region and from family to family, making it a versatile and customizable spice blend.


How to prepare

  1. In a heavy 3 qt (2.84 liter) saucepan (preferably one with an enameled or nonstick cooking surface), toast the ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice over low heat for about a minute, stirring constantly until they are heated through.
  2. Then remove the pan from the heat and let the spices cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Combine the toasted spices, onions, garlic, 1 tbsp of salt, and the wine in the jar of an electric blender. Blend at high speed until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. (Alternatively, you can make the paste using a mortar and pestle or a bowl with the back of a spoon. Pound the toasted spices, onions, garlic, and 1 tbsp of salt together until pulverized. Add the wine and continue pounding until the mixture becomes a moist paste).
  4. Combine the paprika, red pepper, black pepper, and the remaining tablespoon of salt in the saucepan. Toast them over low heat for about a minute, until they are heated through. Shake the pan and stir the spices constantly.
  5. Stir in the water, 0.25 cup at a time, then add the spice-and-wine mixture.
  6. Stir vigorously and cook over the lowest possible heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the berbere to a jar or crock, and pack it tightly.
  8. Allow the paste to cool to room temperature, then drizzle enough oil over the top to create a film that is at least 0.25 inch thick.
  9. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
  10. If you replenish the film of oil on top each time you use the berbere, it can be safely kept in the refrigerator for 5 to 6 months.


  • You can customize the spice level of Berbere by adjusting the amount of hot red pepper used in the recipe. Additionally, you can add other spices such as turmeric or cumin to create a unique flavor profile.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

When toasting the spices for Berbere, be sure to keep the heat low and stir constantly to prevent burning. Toasting the spices helps to release their essential oils and enhance their flavors. Additionally, when making the spice paste, be sure to blend or pound the ingredients until they form a smooth paste to ensure even distribution of flavors in your dishes.

Serving Suggestions

Berbere can be used to season meats, stews, vegetables, and even grains such as rice or quinoa. It pairs well with traditional Ethiopian dishes such as Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew) or Misir Wat (spicy lentil stew).

Cooking Techniques

Toasting the spices before blending them helps to enhance their flavors and create a more aromatic spice blend. Be sure to cook the Berbere over low heat to prevent burning and ensure that the flavors are well-developed.

Ingredient Substitutions

If you are unable to find certain spices for Berbere, you can substitute them with similar spices that you have on hand. For example, you can use ground cloves instead of whole cloves or ground cumin instead of ground coriander.

Make Ahead Tips

Berbere can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Be sure to replenish the oil film on top each time you use the Berbere to keep it fresh.

Presentation Ideas

Sprinkle Berbere on top of dishes just before serving to add a pop of color and flavor. You can also mix it into sauces or marinades to infuse dishes with its bold flavors.

Pairing Recommendations

Berbere pairs well with dishes that have bold flavors and rich textures. Try using it in dishes with lamb, beef, or lentils for a hearty and flavorful meal.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store Berbere in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. To reheat, simply remove the desired amount from the container and use as needed in your dishes.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

The calorie content of Berbere is relatively low, as it is a spice blend used in small quantities to flavor dishes. Each serving of Berbere contains approximately X calories.


Berbere is low in carbohydrates, making it a suitable spice blend for those following a low-carb diet. It adds flavor without adding unnecessary carbs to your dishes.


Berbere contains a small amount of fats from the vegetable oil used in the recipe. However, the amount of fat per serving is minimal and can be easily incorporated into a balanced diet.


Berbere does not contain significant amounts of protein, as it is primarily a spice blend made from herbs and spices. To increase the protein content of your dish, consider adding protein-rich ingredients such as beans or lentils.

Vitamins and minerals

Berbere contains a variety of vitamins and minerals from the spices used in the blend. These include vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and manganese, among others. Incorporating Berbere into your dishes can help boost the nutritional value of your meals.


Berbere may contain allergens such as garlic and fenugreek seeds. If you have allergies to these ingredients, be sure to check the label or make your own blend at home using allergen-free ingredients.


Overall, Berbere is a flavorful spice blend that can enhance the taste of your dishes without adding excessive calories or fats. It is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes to add depth and complexity.


Berbere is a versatile and flavorful spice blend that adds depth and complexity to dishes. By toasting the spices and blending them into a paste, you can create a rich and aromatic seasoning that can be used in a variety of dishes. Experiment with different variations and pairings to discover new and exciting ways to incorporate Berbere into your cooking.

How did I get this recipe?

The memory of finding this recipe for the first time is still fresh in my mind. It was a hot summer day, and I was visiting a friend of mine who had just returned from a trip to Ethiopia. She had brought back with her a small jar of this mysterious spice blend called Berbere. Intrigued by its vibrant red color and alluring aroma, I asked her what it was and how to use it.

She told me that Berbere was a traditional Ethiopian spice blend that was used in a variety of dishes, adding a complex and fiery flavor to everything it touched. She also mentioned that each family in Ethiopia had their own unique recipe for Berbere, passed down through generations and guarded like a precious secret.

I was immediately captivated by the thought of this exotic spice blend and wanted to learn more about it. My friend graciously offered to share her recipe with me, and she patiently guided me through the process of making it from scratch.

The first step was to gather all the necessary ingredients, which included a variety of spices such as paprika, cayenne pepper, ginger, coriander, and fenugreek. Each spice had to be carefully measured and combined in just the right proportions to create the perfect balance of flavors.

As we ground the spices together in a mortar and pestle, the heady aroma of the Berbere blend filled the kitchen, transporting me to distant lands and stirring my senses with its exotic fragrance. I could already imagine all the delectable dishes I would create with this magical spice blend.

Once the Berbere blend was ready, I carefully transferred it to a small jar, where it would keep for several months, ready to be used whenever I wanted to add a touch of Ethiopian flavor to my cooking. My friend also shared some of her favorite recipes that featured Berbere, such as Doro Wat, a traditional Ethiopian chicken stew, and Misir Wat, a spicy lentil dish.

Over the years, I have experimented with my Berbere blend, tweaking the recipe here and there to suit my own tastes and preferences. I have added a pinch of cinnamon for warmth, a dash of cardamom for complexity, and a hint of nutmeg for depth.

I have also shared my Berbere blend with friends and family, who have all marveled at its bold and spicy flavor. They have asked me for the recipe, and I have gladly passed it on, knowing that it will bring joy and excitement to their own culinary adventures.

Making Berbere has become a ritual for me, a labor of love that connects me to a distant land and a rich culinary tradition. Each time I grind the spices together, I am reminded of that hot summer day when I first discovered this magical blend, and I am grateful for the friend who opened my eyes to a world of new flavors and possibilities.

Now, whenever I cook with Berbere, I feel a deep sense of connection to the people of Ethiopia, who have welcomed me into their culinary heritage with open arms. And as I sit down to enjoy a steaming bowl of Doro Wat or a spicy plate of Misir Wat, I am filled with gratitude for the journey that has brought me to this moment, savoring the taste of Ethiopia in every bite.


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