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Eating Ethiopian Food

Lamb, a delicious meal you may come across when eating Ethiopian food.


Have you experimented with many types of worldly cuisine and are looking for something niche and new to add to your cooking repertoire? Or perhaps you are having Ethiopian guests over for dinner in the near future? If so, look no farther!
In this blog, we will help you prepare you and your guests for eating Ethiopian food that will please all who are anticipating your next meal. We will discuss common ingredients, appetizers, main dishes, drinks, and desserts.

Common Ingredients to Expect when eating Ethiopian food

Champion Ground Nutmeg
Champion Ground Nutmeg

Ethiopians have many fasting days on their religious calendar, in which they must not eat any meat or animal products. For this reason, much of Ethiopian food and drink is vegan. For non-fasting days, common meat that is served includes beef, lamb, chicken, and goat. Vegetables present in many meals may often include lentils, split peas, potatoes, carrots, chard, and qocho (pulverized false banana).

Ethiopians include at least three grain-based foods in their meals. The most common one is injera (sourdough made from fermented teff flour, which comes from an annual bunch grass grown in Ethiopia). Also present are Kita herb bread and wheat-based pasta.

Since eating Ethiopian food is a spicy experience, we will discuss three common spice mixes. The most popular and hottest of all the mixes is called berbere spice (which is made from chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves). Another much more forgiving common spice mix is named niter kibbeh (made from 100% milk fat butter, infused with garlic, ginger, and other spices). Finally, there is also mitmita (ground chili peppers, cardamom seed, cloves, and salt).

Champion Himalayan Pink Salt
Champion Himalayan Pink Salt

Ethiopian Appetizers

There are two popular choices for appetizers that will be covered in this blog. The first option is called Dabo kolo, which consists of small pieces of baked bread, similar to pretzels in texture and shape. The second option is named kolo, which is a simple recipe of roasted barley, that is sometimes mixed with other grains, or chickpeas and peanuts.

Best Ethiopian Dishes

For a traditional option sure to suit any occasion, wat is the quintessential Ethiopian stew. It is made by sautéing red onion and then adding either niter kibbeh as mentioned earlier or, for the creation of vegan recipes, using spiced safflower or sunflower oil in the place of niter kibbeh. After this, the cook has the option of using berbere for a spicy dish, or turmeric for a less spicy dish. To this mix, the cook then adds vegetables such potatoes and carrots, and legumes. The entire dish is then most often served on to injera sourdough and wrapped up so that it may easily be eaten by a person using only their right hand, which is the traditional way of eating Ethiopian food.

Ethiopian stew.
Ethiopian stew.

At breakfast time, Ethiopians traditionally eat qinch’e, which is made from cracked wheat boiled in milk or water, sometimes with the addition of the ubiquitous spiced butter (niter kibbeh).

For a meal fit for an Ethiopian feast, there is the more complex recipe of alicha (veal and basil curry), which is made from veal shins, potatoes, beef stock, onions, bok choy/gomen, basil, turmeric, and chilies. This is the type of meal one is likely to serve when impressing guests, as they will be sure to be grateful for the time investment required to create this dish.

Ethiopian drinks and desserts

The best format for eating Ethiopian food is a main dish followed by a traditional dessert. Coffee is a beverage both well-liked in, and strongly associated with, Ethiopia, and is customarily served as a dessert. There is a ceremony of brewing coffee after a big meal has been served. The beans are usually roasted with the guests present. The coffee roaster then walks around and wafts the smell of the coffee so that those in attendance will want some. In this way, the anticipation of their tasty dessert can be built up. After this, the beans are ground and boiled in a traditional clay pot designed specifically for coffee. Coffee can be served with sugar, or even with salt or salted butter. Popcorn and toasted barley may also be served with coffee.

Coffee is a staple drink in Ethiopia.
Coffee is a staple drink in Ethiopia.

Another option for dessert is to serve atmet, which is a drink made from barley and oat-flour cooked in water, sugar and 100% milk fat butter.

For special dining events that call for the consumption of alcohol, one popular alcoholic option is tella, which is an Ethiopian beer that can be brewed in the home. This is made by mixing a solution of one-quarter honey and three-quarters of water, and in this mixture fermenting stems and branches of gesho (a native shrub known in English as the shiny-leaf buckthorn). The gesho is removed after two weeks, and the mixture is allowed to ferment for another four weeks before it is ready to be served.

In conclusion

Show off your knowledge of niche cuisines and simultaneously dare to be bold and spicy in your cooking with Ethiopian influences. Your guests will appreciate the effort you’ve spent in preparing for something new and exciting.