Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these essential ingredients.
8 May 2013 - 9:36 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM


Berbere is a spice mix used to flavour many dishes, particularly stews (wats). A basic recipe would combine equal parts of all spice, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, fenugreek, ginger and salt, with a larger portion of cayenne pepper. While berberes differ across the country, using different spices and ingredients, almost all contain fenugreek and hot red cayenne pepper. Sometimes it is a dry mix, other times it is combined with oil or water to make a paste.


Related to clover, fenugreek can be eaten as a herb (the leaves) or as a spice (the seeds). It is commonly used in many commercial curry powders and consequently the taste of fenugreek is often associated with curry. Fenugreek seeds are ground and used as a key ingredient in the Ethiopian berbere. The seeds are also used to make injera and niter kibbeh.


Cardamom is the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla. The Ethiopian cardamom is known as "false cardamom". While it is a direct relative of cardamom it is considered to have a harsh flavour, smells of camphor and is dark brown in colour.

Niter Kibbeh

A clarified butter, similar to Indian Ghee, used to enhance the doro wat. Niteh kibbeh is enhanced with spices including fenugreek, cloves, ginger, cardamom and tumeric.


Teff is the smallest of all grains. The seed is smaller than a pinhead and there are up to 2,500-3,000 seeds to the gram. It is grown solely in the Ethiopian highlands and is used to make injera, the sour flatbread served at most Ethiopian meals.


An amber-coloured wine or mead derived from fermented honey. It is cooked with a special type of hops called gesho. Tej is one of the world’s earliest fermented drinks and is a favourite during feasts and celebrations and is often served at weddings.

Cayenne pepper

A highly pungent spice made from the ground seeds of chilli pepper. It is the dominant ingredient in the Ethiopian spice mix berbere.