Ethiopia Berbere

Jeff & Linda's Kitchen of Diversity

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Berbere Paste



This spice paste is one of the two backbones of Ethiopian cuisine.  Although it may seem reminiscent of curry in its texture and some of its ingredients, its flavor is utterly different and unique.  A good berbere paste will make your Ethiopian meal truly memorable, and we’re quite pleased with the following recipe that we have cobbled together from a number of various sources.  Before you go about making yours, refresh your memory of how to dry roast and grind spices as related in the Balti garam masala recipe.  Once you have accomplished this step, the remainder goes together quite simply.  You’ll probably want to let your berbere mature in the refrigerator for a day or two to let all the various flavorings meld.  Also, we’d suggest that you consider making a double batch as it will take hardly any additional time.  As it will keep for months and months in the refrigerator, having extra berbere on hand makes it possible for you to quickly throw together you next Ethiopian meal.  Makes about 2 cups


12 whole cloves

½ teaspoon whole Cardamom seed

½ teaspoon whole Black Pepper seed

½ teaspoon whole Allspice

1 teaspoon whole Fenugreek seed

1 teaspoon whole Ajiwain (Bishop’s Weed) seed

1 teaspoon whole Kalonji seed

1 teaspoon whole Grains of Paradise seed

3 oz mild New Mexico Chile powder

½ cup dry Onion flakes, ground

½ tablespoon ground Cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground Ginger

½ teaspoon ground Nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground Turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground Cinnamon

1 tablespoon Garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon Holy Basil leaves

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup peanut oil

½ cup dry red wine


Dry roast and grind the first 8 ingredients.  Mix well with all remaining ingredients.  If you want a hotter berbere, you can double the amount of cayenne. 

Put into a sealed glass jar and refrigerate. 

Unless you live in a city with a large Ethiopian population, you’ll need to order your Grains of Paradise and Holy Basil from an on-line vendor.  Most of the remaining specialty spices are available at any Indian or Middle Eastern market.