How is berbere (spice blend) used in Eritrean cuisine?

What is Berbere spice blend and its ingredients?

Berbere is a hot and flavorful spice blend used extensively in Eritrean cuisine. It is made from a mixture of dried red chili peppers, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, black pepper, and other spices. The exact blend of spices used can vary depending on the region and the family recipe.

Making Berbere is a labor-intensive process as all the spices need to be roasted and ground to create a fine powder. This spice blend is a staple in Eritrean kitchens and adds a unique flavor to dishes. The combination of hot and aromatic spices gives Berbere its distinctive taste, and it is often compared to Indian curry powder.

How is Berbere used in Eritrean cooking?

Berbere is used in a variety of dishes in Eritrean cuisine, from stews and curries to snacks and appetizers. It is a vital ingredient in many meat dishes, especially lamb and goat. One of the most popular dishes that use Berbere is Doro Wat, a slow-cooked chicken stew. Berbere is also used in Tibs, a spicy beef or lamb sauté, and Zigni, a spicy beef stew.

Berbere is also used to season vegetables. It adds a pleasant heat to lentil dishes, and it is often used to flavor chickpeas and other legumes. Berbere is also used in snack foods, such as Kicha, a spicy flatbread. It can be sprinkled on popcorn or mixed with nuts to create a spicy snack.

Berbere recipes: from stews to snacks.

Berbere is a versatile spice blend that can be used in a variety of dishes. Below are two recipes that use Berbere in Eritrean cuisine:

Doro Wat (Chicken Stew)


  • 2 lbs chicken, cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons Berbere spice blend
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt, to taste


  1. In a large pot, heat the butter and sauté the onions until they turn translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute.
  3. Stir in the Berbere spice blend and tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat in the spice blend.
  5. Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve with Injera, a sourdough flatbread.

Kicha (Spicy Flatbread)


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Berbere spice blend
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds


  1. In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, Berbere spice blend, and sesame seeds.
  2. Add the olive oil and mix until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  3. Gradually add the warm water and knead until a smooth dough forms.
  4. Divide the dough into golf ball-sized portions and roll them out into circles.
  5. Use a fork to prick the surface of the dough and brush with some olive oil.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Serve as a snack.

Berbere is an essential spice blend in Eritrean cuisine. Its unique flavor and aroma make it a versatile ingredient in stews, curries, snacks, and appetizers. Whether you’re making Doro Wat or Kicha, Berbere adds a spicy kick to your dish, making it a must-have in your pantry.

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Written by John Myers

Professional Chef with 25 years of industry experience at the highest levels. Restaurant owner. Beverage Director with experience creating world-class nationally recognized cocktail programs. Food writer with a distinctive Chef-driven voice and point of view.

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