Berbere (Ethiopian Spice Blend)

Berbere (Ethiopian Spice Blend)

Whenever possible, I make my own spice blends. There is just no comparison between store-bought blends and the freshness and vibrancy of ones that you can easily whiz up in your own kitchen. They keep well for months in a well-sealed jar in a dark and dry place. Recently I received a copy of Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking by Kittee Berns that is all about Ethiopian cooking, with a vegan approach. Berbere is a fairly spicy and wonderfully aromatic spice blend that is central to Ethiopian cuisine — indeed, the foundation of so many Ethiopian dishes — so I made up this colorful spice blend up before even cooking from the book. That will come soon, as I picked up a fresh bag of teff and it has always been one of my favorite grains. Regrettably, I haven't eaten it for sometime now, but armed with this new book and this spice blend, I'm looking forward to trying some of the recipes.

Oddly enough, the book did not include a recipe for the spice blend, so after doing some research, I came up with my own version with ingredients that many cooks will already have on hand in their pantry. If not, if you live in an urban center, everything that is included can easily be found at Indian and Asian grocery stores, or online if there is not somewhere nearby to obtain the spices.

Berbere (Ethiopian Spice Blend)Berbere (Ethiopian Spice Blend)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Published on July 10, 2015

A colorful, hot and aromatic spice blend that is the basis for many classic Ethiopian dishes

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 3 minutes

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  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seedss
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon nigella (kalonji or black onion) seeds
  • seeds from 3 green cardamon pods
  • seeds from 2 black cardamon pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 5 dried whole red chilies, broken into bits
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • In a dry unoiled heavy non-stick skillet, dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, ajwain seeds, nigella seeds, cardamon seeds, cloves and chilies for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant. Let cool.

  • In a spice grinder or small food processor, mix the seed mixture with the paprika, turmeric, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne. Process until everything is reduced to a fine powder.

  • Store in an air-tight glass jar in a dark dry space for up to 6 months for optimal freshness.

Makes 6 to 8 tablespoons

Other homemade spice blends you are sure to want to include in your pantry:
Chaat Masala
Curry Powder
Garam Masala
Sambar Powder

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