Friday, March 20, 2009

Berbere, The Spice Mix I Love

Berbere (homemade)

I haven't blogged for a while. This one was started back in March and I haven't released till now. I have been busy with work(TJIJ - Thank God I still have a Job) and family that this blog is delayed.

I love spices and love meals with a lot of spices such as Indian, Indonesian, and Thai. I think that's because I grew up with spices in a spice island: Java. Recently, I found that Ethiopians also use a spice mix that I really like. After visiting Ethiopian restaurants several times, I grew to love Ethiopian food. I did try to make injera (Ethiopian bread) but I didn't like the result. However, I succeeded in making their spice called Berbere. The one I made look exactly like the picture in this wiki info. I found the recipe in the Internet and modified it to be less spicy. Whenever I use this spice in cooking, our house smells so wonderful. Our neighbors made comments that they can smell my cooking and that it smells so good they say, thanks to Berbere. DH often comes back home from work and can smell the aromatic smell before he enters the house.

I love this Ethiopian Berbere spice mix combined with garlic and onions. Ethiopians use clarified butter or ghee mixed with spices too and it is called Niter Kibbeh. I tried make it with Earth Balance once by melting it and add some spices to it. It was good but I still like using Virgin Olive Oil and/of Grapeseed oil in my cooking so I don't use Nitteh Kebeh in my Ethiopian cooking.

Toasting spices on dry mini cast-iron pan

Adopted from

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
3/4 teaspoon cardamom seed
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
4 small dried red chilies
1 teaspoon dried gingerroot powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika or smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

  1. In a small frying pan, on medium-low heat, toast the cumin, whole cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, allspice, fenugreek, and coriander for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Discard the stems from the chiles.
  4. In a spice grinder (a coffee grinder for spices only) or with a mortar and pestle, finely grind together the toasted spices and the chiles.
  5. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
  6. Store Berebere refrigerated in a well-sealed jar or a tightly closed plastic bag.

The original recipe uses 8 dried red chilies which make it fiery hot. Therefore, I reduced it to half. If you don't like spicy hot food, you can reduce it even more. This is a dry spice mix and not a paste. There are berbere spice paste for sale in the Internet. I haven't really bought any so I can't recommend one.

The reason that I like the dry spice mix instead of the paste is that I can use the dry spice on popcorn. It's quite delicious to drizzle this dry spice mix on freshly made popped corn.

Below is a simple recipe of a vegetable stew spiced with Berbere. In the picture above, it's the one on the right hand side. I served this stew with Indian style lemon rice and chana masala. The stew is good with brown rice, too. Or, if you can buy or made fresh injera, that will be the way to enjoy this stew.

Spicy Vegetable Stew with Berbere
Serves 4

1.5 cups peeled and chopped carrots
1.5 cups peeled and chopped sweet potato
1.5 cups yellow squash
1.5 cups chopped fingerling potato
1.5 cups chopped zuchinni
1 peeled large onions, chopped finely
6 cloves peeled fresh garlic, minced.
1 cup tomato sauce
vegetable broth (1.5 to 2 cups)
1 Tbsp. Berbere
1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp Olive or Grapeseed oil

  1. Cut all the vegetables about 1-inch cube (as pictured).
  2. Sautee onions and garlic in oil on a medium heat in a 2-quarts sauce pan.
  3. After onions is translucent, add berbere spice mix and stir for a minute until aromatic.
  4. Add all the vegetables in to the pan and mix. Stir for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato sauce and vegetable broth enough to cover the vegetables and no more.
  6. Add salt and simmer for 20 minutes or untill all the vegetables are soft.

Pictured above are roasted vegetables with Berbere, boiled fingerling potatoes, and new Trader Joe's Vegan Stuffed Chick'n with blackbean and corn. Roasted vegetables with Berbere is so good and easy. I usually use about 1 Tbsp dry Berbere mixed with 2 - 3 Tbsp olive oil and salt. I coat onions, zucchini, yellow squash, and garlic with this mix and roast them in 425-450 F oven. Any other vegetable that is good for roasting will be good with Berbere.


Regina said...

Yahoo! Selamat datang kembali! (I hope I still remember some of my Bahasa Indonesia!) I just made some Ethiopian food a couple of weeks ago - see my blog if you are interested. I use a Niter Kebbeh recipe from Vegan Lunch Box, which calls for canola oil. I have used that with positive results, and I have also tried it with Spectrum refined coconut oil.

Unknown said...

Selamat! My bahasa Indonesia is not that great anymore (been in the US too long). Niter Kibbeh with clarified Earth Balance is not good. It leaves an oily after taste that I don't like. I'll try using canola oil or grapeseed oil next time.

Eric said...

Oh both of those dishes look really good. I just bought some fingerling potatoes, I'll have to give the Berbere a try :)

Mihl said...

Berbere is my favourite spice mix too! I throw it into everything. Your stew sounds delicious.

Eric said...

The meetups have kinda slowed down lately.....we've all been so busy that we haven't scheduled any kind of official meetup in a few months. I'm going to set one up soon though, probably for Au Lac (its a reliable place that everyone likes).

Coming up, I want to have a meetup at Mother's Cafe and then a jaunt down to The Road Less Traveled, which is around the corner. It is a cool eco shop.

Isn't Rick Bayless' cooking show awesome? It may be omni, but he is a world famous, top-notch chef and the things he does with vegetables and herbs/spices is amazing and inspiring. And he is a huge advocate for organic farming and humane meat (free-range, pasture raised).

Enjoy your trip to Hawaii! I'm sure it'll be a great time.

cherrybombpie said...

this looks freaking delicious. I need to bookmark this recipe.

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Hua said...


That looks so delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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Unknown said...

Your recipes look really good! I'm going to try this potato salad one tonight. If you want, check out my blog at

Deborah Dephicit

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This is a good recipe. I made it with authentic Berbere purchased from It is much easier and tastier to use the imported berbere b/c it is more rich in flavor and has been sun-dried for days. DELISH! thanks for posting :-)

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