Ethiopian Berbere: The Spice that Makes African Food So Addictive

Categories: Spice Girl
Berbere isn't something you can just pick up in Phoenix; even Penzey's doesn't carry it. At least the ingredients are easy to find, and you can make your own blend of berbere at home. Remember that it's flexible, so don't sweat it if you end up skipping a minor player like turmeric or cumin. You can also add in coriander or nutmeg if you have them on hand. Once you have berbere, it's a cinch to cook Ethiopian dishes like miser wot and doro wat (chicken stew). As for homemade injera, that might be a little tricker, especially since it requires teff flour. If you can't work that part out, pick some up from Café Lalibela or Ethiopian Famous to complete your meal.

Fresh berbere blend
Berbere Spice Blend
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
• 8 -10 small dried red chilies
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger (grated) or 1 teaspoon dried ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 1/2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
• 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
• 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 or with a mortar and pestle, finely grind together the toasted spices and the chiles.

5. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

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Location Info



Café Lalibela

849 W. University Drive, Tempe, AZ

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help

Chow Bella,
 You did a good job doing your research. As to the Ethiopia/Eritrean thing it just feud between some minority extremists. Ethiopia included Eritrea until very recent (1993). You will be the judge go test Eritrean food and if you find it different or not. If someone takes you to two restaurants, Ethiopian and Eritrean and takes you in backdoor without looking the sign in front you would not tell which is which. Eritreans want to be different than their Ethiopian compatriots, but non-Ethio-Eritrean person can't differentiate between the two. Because there is no different facial look or their food at all.

Tekie zai
Tekie zai

eritrean and ethiopian food is nearly similar not quite. we both use berbere. as far as i know somalians don't. just to be clear eritrea was never part of ethiopia, the british colony decided to pass eritrea to ethiopia before they left eritrea without peoples consent that is why we fought for 30 years to get our country back. if you are from eritrea or ethiopia you would really know the fascial differnce because i would know the minute i see ethiopians or eritreans. i guess just knowing the differnce between chiness or japaness.


You still believe that fairy tale?

David Bickford
David Bickford

"While isn't any strictly Eritrean or Somali restaurants in the Valley"
Unusual syntax aside, Juba is a Somali restaurant, as is Blue Ocean. Both are located on McDowell on the east side of Phoenix, and Juba recently took over the old Blue Nile space to establish a second location in Tempe.


Thanks for the tip! I haven't visited either restaurant and didn't mention them since there's competing information online. Juba is listed on Yelp as "Greek, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern," and Blue Ocean is listed on as "Ethiopian/African," only mentioning Somali food at the bottom of the page.

I'll have to check them out soon. Do you recommend one in particular or have a favorite dish?


I haven't visited either restaurant, and I decided not to mention them since there's minimal information online. Juba is actually listed on Yelp as "Greek, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern," and Blue Ocean is listed on as "Ethiopian/African," only mentioning Somali food at the bottom of the page.

Thanks for the tip. I'll have to check them out soon!


Berbere is an Ethiopian spice and Eritrean food is no different, Eritrea was until recent part of Ethiopia. Somalia is different and they dont use Berbere.

Samra, What do you mean its not African food? Ethiopia is in Africa.


Thanks for the clarification. An Eritrean student I once taught explained to me that their cuisine is subtly different (and in their opinion, better) than Ethiopian food, so I can't completely agree with you there. But, I do apologize if I made it seem like Eritrean/Ethiopian and Somali cuisine are the same.


This is not African food. More related to Indian. Eth's got it over to India :) ``````````````````````````````````````````


Samra: It's so simple: Ethiopia is African, therefore, its food is African. 

Have you tasted food from other parts of Africa? There are some places where the food is a lot more like Indian food than in Ethiopia.


Berbere is pretty much solely an Ethiopian spice..Somali cooking is totaly different. And I should know, I've been an Ethiopian cuisine foodie for decades. You just have to look at geography- Ethiopia is basically the only place where the numerous ingredients used in Berbere can be grown and every household and village has its own pateneted and highly secret Berbere recipe. . Somali food on the other hand isn't really heavy on spices as such.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. As "an Ethiopian cuisine foodie for decades," your input is greatly appreciated. And if you have any tips about cooking Ethiopian food, please share!

A few sources I've found (including do include
berbere as a Somali spice blend, but it's clear that it doesn't have
the same widespread use there. I removed Somalia from the opening statement to help clarify that it's a primarily Ethiopian ingredient, so thanks again.

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