The 12 most delicious Ethiopian dishes
Ethiopian cuisine is the sheer magic that will appeal to any foodie. Here you can find both delicious meat dishes and hearty vegetarian food based on chickpeas and beans.
So, on occasion, be sure to go to a restaurant of Ethiopian cuisine and enjoy the unusual and healthy dishes. If you do not have such a restaurant in your city, some dishes you can prepare yourself!
Yndzher is a fermented sour flatbread made of teff flour. Naturally, ndzhera is gluten-free and free of animal products. These tortillas accompany almost any dish, acting as a “substrate”. Depending on the type of flour, the yndzher can take on various hues.
Shiro is a very thick sauce made with chickpea flour and spices. If you want to try an authentic sauce, you should buy a special mixture and dilute it with water or make shiro according to the recipe below.
Method of preparation:
Fry a few finely chopped garlic cloves in olive oil, add chopped onions to the pot and stew for about 20 minutes. When the onions are soft, add a glass of water and a few spoons of chickpea flour to the pot, stir the sauce thoroughly and continue to cook for another 30-40 minutes, adding water as needed. When the sauce is almost ready, add 1 teaspoon of berbere (an Ethiopian seasoning, if you can’t find it, use whatever you like) and let it marinate.
Atkilt-uot is a delicious vegetable dish made from cabbage, carrots and potatoes.
- ½ cup olive oil;
- 4 thinly sliced carrots;
- 1 finely chopped onion;
- 1 teaspoon sea salt;
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper;
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin;
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric;
- ½ bale of shredded cabbage;
- 5 potatoes, peeled and diced.
Fry carrots and onions in hot olive oil for 5 to 6 minutes. Add salt, spices and cabbage to the skillet with vegetables and cook atkilt-uot for another 15-20 minutes. Then put potatoes in the dish, cover, reduce the heat and stew until tender.
Gomen is a spiced cabbage stew popular in Ethiopia.
- 450 grams of washed and chopped leafy cabbage;
- 2 cups water;
- 2 tablespoons olive oil;
- ¾ cup finely chopped onions;
- 8 cloves chopped garlic,
- 1½ cups chopped green peppers;
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice;
- 1 teaspoon salt;
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric;
- ½ teaspoon paprika;
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice;
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger.
- Place the sliced cabbage in a saucepan, fill with water and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer the cabbage until tender (15-20 minutes). Toss the cooked cabbage in a colander and set aside. Set aside the drained water for further cooking.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pot, add onion and fry until light brown. Without reducing the heat, add the garlic, cooked cabbage, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and pour the drained water into the pot. Braise the dish without a lid on medium heat until the liquid has completely evaporated (10-15 minutes).
- Add green pepper, ginger, spices, salt and lemon juice to the pot and continue to stew over medium heat until tender.
5. Ingudei Tibbs.
Ingudei tibbs are mushrooms sauteed with onions.
- 2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil;
- 1 large green pepper, cut into strips;
- 1 large red onion, cut into rings;
- 2 medium sized tomatoes, diced;
- 450 grams of mushrooms, peeled and cut into quarters;
- 2 teaspoons berbere seasoning (you can substitute it with a 1:1 mixture of garam masala and ground paprika)
- 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic;
- 1 teaspoon white wine (can be replaced with lemon juice).
- Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions, peppers and tomatoes. Braise the vegetables over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, then add the mushrooms.
- Mix the spices with the garlic and wine and pour into the skillet with the mushrooms. When the dish is almost ready, salt and add parsley or cilantro. Serve inhudei tibbs with rice, bread, or sindjer tortillas.
6. Messir oot.
Messir oot is a delicious and beautiful combination of red lentils and traditional Ethiopian spices.
- 185 ml vegetable oil;
- 1 finely chopped onion;
- 125 ml of seasoning “berbere” (if you do not like spicy food – reduce the amount of spices);
- 1 tablespoon mashed fresh ginger;
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic;
- 250 ml dried red lentils;
- 750 ml water;
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt.
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan, add onion and fry, stirring constantly, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the seasoning, ginger and garlic to the pan and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
- Then add lentils, stir, pour water over them and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer lentils until fully cooked, stirring occasionally.
Beans are a popular Ethiopian dish of beans stewed with carrots and fried onions.
- 2 onions cut into rings.
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil;
- 85-100 grams of tomato paste;
- 4 cups of green beans;
- 3 carrots, cut into circles;
- 2-3 tomatoes, cut into thin slices;
- 2 teaspoons mashed ginger;
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic;
- salt to taste.
Fry onions over medium heat until translucent (about 7-8 minutes), add oil and tomato paste; stir to combine. Place the beans and carrots in the pan and cover. Braise the vegetables over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, then add the tomatoes, ginger, garlic and salt, stir and cook until tender.
8. Baiticha .
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas;
- 1 teaspoon chili powder;
- 1 cup water;
- 2 tablespoons olive oil;
- ½ cup chopped red onion;
- 1 teaspoon mustard;
- juice of ½ lemon;
- salt and pepper to taste.
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, pasty.
- Transfer paste to a container with a lid and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
The baiticha should be served cold.
9. Cechepsa .
This is one of those rare dishes that is eaten with a spoon. Locals believe that cechessa is the perfect breakfast dish. The dish consists of slices of Ethiopian flatbread fried in berbere sauce.
- 1 cup flour;
- 3-4 tablespoons melted or olive oil;
- 2 teaspoons berbere seasoning;
- Mix the flour with a pinch of salt, add water and whisk the batter well so that there are no lumps. Slowly pour the batter onto a hot griddle. The thinner the layer, the tastier the scone will be. Fry the tortilla first on one side, then gently flip to the other. When the tortilla has cooled, tear it into small pieces.
- Heat oil with spices in a pan, add pieces of tortilla and mix thoroughly.
10. Firfir shiro.
Any leftover firfir? Just mix it with the spicy shiro sauce for the recipe below.
- 2 large finely chopped onions;
- ¼ cup vegetable oil;
- 1-2 tablespoons berbere;
- 85 grams of tomato paste;
- 2 tomatoes, chopped into small wedges;
- 1/4 to 3/4 cup water;
- chopped ginger and garlic to taste;
- 3-4 tortillas, torn into pieces;
- 1-2 jalapenos or other hot peppers. Slice into thin strips.
- Fry onion over medium heat until translucent. Then add oil and spices to skillet and cook a few more minutes.
- Put tomato paste, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and salt in the pan and braise vegetables over low heat until tender.
- When the vegetables are fully cooked add water to the pan so that it becomes a thick tomato soup and bring to a boil.
- Place tortillas in the pan with the soup and continue to cook until the yndzher has absorbed all the liquid. Before serving, sprinkle sliced jalapenos over the prepared dish.
11. Ethiopian Pastries
Dessert is not a staple of Ethiopian cuisine, but nevertheless, Italian classics like tiramisu and chocolate mousse feel right at home in Africa.
Coffee is a huge part of Ethiopia’s culture and economy, and thanks to Italian influence, macchiato has become the most popular drink here.
When considering the various African culinary trends, not all, even the gourmets with a long experience, focus on Ethiopian cuisine. Some find it too monotonous, others are surprised by strange combinations. And there are those who, having been in this sunny country, claim that the method of cooking the main dishes is not very suitable for them. The methods of food processing and storage rules of the finished product are sometimes at odds with the usual way of life of average Europeans.
But true experts advise not to bypass such an exotic culture of indulgence and be sure to make your own opinion regarding nutritional and taste characteristics.
Influence of isolation
Historians claim that Ethiopian cuisine is not at all like European and even many African offshoots. The explanation for its pretentiousness is that the development of food culture here was quite isolated.
But this scenario has its own advantage. Even the perfect dishes of the locals have little in common with what their closest neighbors are used to eating. Borrowing has increased in recent decades, but the locals cherish authenticity so much that in small settlements they still use instructions from their great-grandfathers.
The authenticity of the local diet is based on the peculiarities of the tropical climate. Thanks to the calibrated temperature conditions here it is quite easy to grow a variety of crops, which have a rich supply of energy.
In addition, people long ago learned to breed not only sheep and goats, but also camels. This made it possible to brighten up the daily menu by adding nutrition to it. Due to the old ingrained habits of gathering, many villagers close to the rich harvest area do not only go to their vegetable garden for ingredients for dinner. They are aided by nature’s bounty of fruits and vegetables.
Skilled hunters also often bring home a few fish from a nearby body of water for dinner, allowing them to fill their physically exhausted bodies with protein of animal origin.
The most important problem for those who have decided to experience Ethiopian recipes for themselves is simply unbearable spice. The locals are so accustomed to it that the newcomers asking to put out the fire in their mouths during the next sampling will only be laughed at.
The basic spices that can be found in almost any meal served on weekdays and holidays are:
- red pepper; ;
- onions; ;
- cloves; .
They may also partially explain why you don’t find obese people among the natives. Spicy spices help to start the metabolism, which destroys excess fat layer, from which in the scorching heat more harm than good.
Another logical explanation is the bactericidal and at the same time decontaminating properties of various spices. They help Ethiopians to resist various illnesses, as well as cope with disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. The latter is not uncommon in Ethiopia, as dinner preparations often deteriorate due to the intolerable scorching sunlight before cooking even begins.
Another feature that is not directly related to cooking, but is still an important aspect of food culture, is the lack of cutlery. Instead of spoons or simply sticks they use a special kind of flatbread. They are made of thef flour and called injira. For the Slavs, they resemble quite familiar pancakes. Pre-cooked meat, sauce, vegetables or just plain porridge is placed on the ready-made tortilla, if the family is not able to boast of significant prosperity.
Then the eater nibbles off a piece of the tortilla that suits his size and puts it with the filling in his mouth. A spoon may be encountered except when stirring food of liquid consistency in large pots. The use of a knife is also allowed, but only when the guests are served raw meat, which is not uncommon here either.
The vegetarians who come to the country will be especially happy. Since Ethiopians still follow the canons of the Old Testament, fasting is commonplace. About 200 days a year are allowed to eat only fasting food, which will satisfy the needs of even the most skeptical vegetarians.
If munching on the local bread and vegetables to it quickly gets bored, you can always order something of meat in the authentic restaurants. The raw material here is often:
- homemade chicken; ; ;
Even the tail of a crocodile is not too exotic. Surprisingly, even the Christian part of the country prefers to forgo pork. Instead, they are more likely to serve elephant’s feet or processed pig’s meat.
With seafood the situation is selective. To taste such delicacies is possible only in the coastal zone. One is unlikely to take them to the center of the country, since the storage conditions of frozen raw materials still leave much to be desired in some places.
The situation with fruits and vegetables is quite different. Also Ethiopians appreciate pulses in almost any form. If this is a poor family, the main menu will be based on:
Supplementing the somewhat meager diet will be except herbs found in the neighborhood by vigilant hostesses.
If the family is well-to-do, then the table is filled with:
All this is beaten into a mousse, or poured with syrup to make a jelly. Notably, the poor usually overcook the undercooked stuff on the first day to serve later in the morning, billing it as a new dish to save money.
Of other obligatory attributes are millet porridge, varieties of which exist in every particular region, and cottage cheese. With the help of the latter people try to get rid of heartburn, which is often a consequence of too spicy food.
Injira dominates at any feast or everyday meal. Its preparation requires a special kind of flour, as well as water. After the teff (or tefa) dough is kneaded, it is left to sour for a couple of days. This frees housewives from having to look for yeast somewhere.
The baking procedure takes place on an open fire with a mogogo, a special clay tray of impressive size. Many tourists do not like this alternative to baked goods because of sour taste. But nutritionists advise not to pass it up. The reason for that is the high content of vitamins and trace elements in the cereal, which is not subjected to a particularly long thermal treatment.
With the help of microelements that are present there, people not only saturate the organs and tissues with nutrients, but also perform the purification of the body in a natural way. Additionally, the cereal works as a blood stabilizer.
Among other traditional recipes that are consistently high in demand, both a hundred years ago and today, it is worth noting:
- Koumiss. A kind of meat stew, where they put either pre-cooked pieces of beef or lamb. Serving it involves making a separate searing sauce.
- Fischalarusaf. Standard for Ethiopians chicken dish which is dressed with the same sauce which is unbearably spicy for many people.
- Tybs. Slices of meat are first fried with green peppers. It is served only on special tortillas and it is recommended to wash down with beer.
- Kitfo. An exotic hello from Ethiopia that not all tourists risk trying. It is raw meat, twisted into minced meat. Because of some safety aspects, not all vacationers are willing to experiment on their own stomachs.
Still surprised by the wedding custom of the inhabitants of Ethiopia. It is customary here for weddings to give the young couple a piece of raw meat from an animal that has literally just been slaughtered. This is still shocking to Europeans who happened to be at the wedding.
Nowadays, things are quite simple with spiders and locusts roasted in palm oil. Since the insects are pre-heat-treated, almost all guests agree to eat them.
If you want something more simple, you should pay attention to the oot – stewed onions mixed with boiled eggs and spices to taste. If you cook it yourself, you can adjust the spiciness without damaging the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract.
Also sparingly offered are African-style eggs. They are served with a toasted slice of bread and ham. The eggs themselves are boiled. It is believed that such a simple meal saves many tourists who can not stand the intolerable spiciness of most national foods.
To wash down the various delicacies is worth a local or barley beer, which is called tela, or honey brogue. The latter is called tej.
The Tsar’s Coffee
Coffee is by right Ethiopia’s national drink, which is drunk here in immense quantities. And if in many countries where coffee beans are gathered for export, the locals themselves do not celebrate it, in Ethiopia the situation is quite the opposite. It is not for nothing that coffee got its name just from the name of the same geographical place in the country. We are talking about the Ethiopian province of Caffa.
Here it is quite usual to drink up to ten cups of a truly strong drink a day. People are not even embarrassed by the unbearable heat, which is usually poorly compared to the invigorating properties of caffeine, designed to raise blood pressure levels.
Medics argue that this may be one important reason, along with spicy and rather monotonous food, which negatively affects the average Ethiopian.
They start pouring the invigorating drink into themselves at about three o’clock in the morning. And the guests must also drink it very often. Anyone who has not had at least three cups a day, automatically becomes the one who has shown ignorance of the hospitable host.
For convenience, coffee drinkers have even divided all drinking approaches into three categories:
The first item involves serving a particularly strong drink, which is reserved for men. Not all coffee fans from Europe and America will be able to endure such a thing several times a day without significant health consequences against the backdrop of high temperatures.
The medium brew, that is, the second brewed grounds, is left to the women. Thus, hostesses regularly receive a charge of vivacity, which allows them to cope with a plethora of household items. The weakest version is given to children and teenagers, whose bodies are not yet quite strong enough for shocking doses.
Here, the very procedure of making coffee is treated very carefully. First the owner of the house will gather all the guests, and then in front of them will start roasting the beans and grind. After that, the aromatic mixture is sent to a special clay vessel, which can withstand a constantly high temperature, keeping the liquid almost fiery for a long time.
Such vessels are almost a family heirloom, which is handed down from generation to generation.
Thick Shiro Sauce
One of the main attractions of Ethiopian cuisine is shiri. This sauce has a truly thick consistency, as it consists of chickpea flour and an abundance of spices. Experts recommend tasting the original dish first and then trying to adjust it according to personal preferences.
The simplest cooking option is to fry a few finely chopped garlic cloves in olive oil. Then, chopped onions are added to the pot and will stew for 20 minutes. Once the onions are soft, a glass of water is poured into the pot and a couple of tablespoons of chickpea flour is poured in. The mixture is stirred and simmered for about 35 minutes more. If necessary, in the middle of the process it is allowed to add a little water.
When the sauce is almost cooked, pour into the mixture Ethiopian brand spice berbere, and leave it to infuse. If you cannot find berbere, you may replace it with something simple at your discretion. The latter option is even preferable, as it allows you to control the spiciness.