Tag Archives: Ethiopian recipes

Recipe: Kinche


Kinche is a very common Ethiopian breakfast food, their equivalent of oatmeal, if you will.  It’s incredibly simple, inexpensive, and nutritious.  It is made from cracked wheat, which you can find in any grocery store.  You can boil it in either milk, or part milk/part water.  And in Ethiopia, after the kinche is cooked it is mixed in the pan with niter qibe (clarified spiced butter) or oil and fried onions.  Personally, I skip that step, but only because I make the kinche the day beforehand and Adam heats it up for the kids in the morning.  Very un-Ethiopian of us, from both a culinary and gender-role perspective, but I am literally never conscious while the kids are eating breakfast and Adam is kind enough to get up and feed them in my absence, but won’t do much more than make toast or heat milk in the microwave.  So the kinche with fried onions and qibe is out.  But the kids still eat it and like it.  I bet your Ethiopian kids will, too.


3/4 cup cracked wheat
3 cups milk (or some combination of milk and water)
niter qibe OR oil and finely chopped onions
salt, to taste

Heat the milk and add the cracked wheat.  Cook on low or low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until the wheat is cooked, about 20-30 minutes.
If using qibe: heat the qibe and stir the kinche to mix thoroughly.  Salt to taste.
If using oil and onions: fry the onions in the oil.  Stir in the kinche and salt to taste.

Recipe: Injera Chips

Sour, spicy injera chips

Sour, spicy injera chips

Before we head off for the weekend, I just wanted to share two things.  First of all, check out our kids’ photo, featured over at Anti-Racist Parent under “Gratuitous Cut Kid Pic.”  Second, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these injera chips that I made the other day.  The recipe was given to me by a woman in our local adoption group who has four older Ethiopian kids.  I couldn’t believe how easy they were (they’re nearly impossible to screw up) and it’s a fantastic way to use up injera that is starting to get old.  I literally can’t make them fast enough to keep up with demand.

You will need:


Preheat the oven to 275°.  In a small bowl, combine the oil and berbere in proportions to your liking.  We bought some berbere recently that isn’t particularly hot, so I added at least a tablespoon for every quarter-cup of oil.  Tear a piece of injera in half and arrange it on one baking sheet as shown, and then do the same on a second baking sheet.

This doesn't look very appetizing...but I promise, it comes out great!

This doesn't look very appetizing...but I promise, it comes out great!

Using a pastry brush, spread the oil and berbere mixture onto the injera.  Bake for about 60 minutes (more for really crispy, crunchy chips, less for chewier chips) and allow to cool before breaking into chips.  Repeat.  In the future, I’m planning on getting even more creative with these chips and adding ginger or garlic or other Ethiopian spices.  Yum.

Recipe: Timatim Salad, Timatim Firfir

Timatim firfir

Timatim firfir

This is by far one of our favorite Ethiopian dishes.  We first tried the Timatim Salad last year before our kids came home at a restaurant and loved it.  I immediately tried to find a recipe and came across this.  It was very similar to what we had at the restaurant.  If you want, you can stop here and just use that recipe.

There are two versions of this recipe.  Timatim firfir includes broken up pieces of injera- that’s why it’s called firfir.  The other recipe is the same, but minus the injera- so if you don’t have easy access to an Ethiopian grocery store, just go ahead and make the timatim salad .  Berbere and jalapeño peppers are key ingredients, so no matter how much you use, the salad will have at least a little bit of a kick to it.  But the salad is very flexible and you can alter the proportions to suit your own tastes.  The funny thing is that I actually hate (yes, hate) onions and peppers.  And yet every time I make this recipe, I find myself standing in front of the open refrigerator late at night, devouring the salad straight from the bowl.



1/4 c. canola oil
3 tbsp. vinegar or wine (I’ve used white vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine, really old leftover white wine…the recipe is forgiving.  Use what you have!)
Juice of one lemon (about 2-3 tbsp. bottled juice)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. berbere (I use more, but we like it very hot)


3-4 large tomatoes (or any other kind of tomatoes you have)
1/2- 1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 jalapeño peppers, chopped and if desired, de-seeded for less heat
2 pieces injera, torn into bite-size pieces

Combine the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chopped vegetables (and injera, if making the timatim firfir).  Serve chilled.  Or just eat it the way it is and don’t tell anyone you made it so you don’t have to share.  Whatever works for you… :)

Recipe: Gomen (Collard Greens)

Before trying gomen for the first time at an Ethiopian restaurant, I don’t think I had ever eaten collard greens before in my life. I don’t know why- I’m a longtime vegetarian who is unafraid of trying all sorts of more adventurous greens, like kale or swiss chard- but I sure was missing out. To me, gomen is a must-have when I make several Ethiopian stews for dinner. Having a healthy green really seems to balance it all out, taste-wise and nutritionally.

This is a recipe that I have to admit I’ve sort of come up with on my own. By using recipes online, asking Kiddy for her ingredient list and using her cooking methods, and memorizing the flavors from several Ethiopian restaurants, I experimented and came up with the following. Adam thinks it tastes even better than the kind we get at one of our favorite restaurants, and Dawit gets a look of pure delight on his face when he sees me pulling out a big bag of greens as I put away the groceries, so I think the recipe’s a hit. I almost always supersize the recipe to ensure that I get a taste :)

On a side note: some Eth. restaurants use spinach instead of collard greens. It tastes good, but Dawit was unfamiliar with spinach when he came to America and I suspect that the substitution is an Americanization and not “authentic.” Stick with the collard greens if you have them at your local grocery store.

Recipe: Gomen

2 bunches of collard greens
1 large onion, chopped
1/3+ c. canola oil (replace some of the oil with niter kibbeh or butter if desired)
minced garlic and ginger (about 2-3 tsp. each, would be my guess. If you’ve read my other recipes, you know how this works)
2 jalapeño peppers, de-seeded and chopped
salt, to taste

Pull off the leaves of the collard greens and discard the stems. Tear the leaves into medium-sized pieces (just small enough to get them into the pot for cooking- you’ll chop them into smaller pieces later) and wash them well under cold water. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to boil and add the greens. Cook for about 10-15 minutes- the greens should change color and soften. Drain in a large colander and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out all of the excess moisture and chop into small pieces. Set aside.

Cook the onions on medium heat until they start to soften and turn translucent, about seven minutes. Add the oil/niter kibbeh/butter and cook for several minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeños and saute for several more minutes. Add the chopped greens and stir well, ensuring that the greens are thoroughly mixed in with the other ingredients. Add salt and cook on medium-low until the greens have soaked in the flavor.

Recipe: Fossolia

Fossolia is a delicious green bean dish. Like many other Ethiopian dishes, there are countless ways to prepare them. Kiddy’s version has a strong tomato flavor, giving it an almost Italian essence. I don’t know if I’ll admit it to her, but I ended up eating the leftovers over pasta and thought it went together perfectly. It’s very easy to make and doesn’t require any special hard-to-find Ethiopian spices, so it’s an ideal recipe to start with if you are new to Ethiopian cooking.


2 onions, chopped
1/3 c. canola oil
3-4 oz. tomato paste (about 1/2 of a 6 oz. can)
4 cups green beans, ends snapped off and cut or snapped into halves or thirds
3 carrots, cut into stick-shaped pieces
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
minced ginger and garlic (as much or as little as you’d like- I use about 2 tsp. each)
salt, to taste

Start by cooking the onions on medium heat for about seven minutes, or until the onions begin to turn translucent and soften. Add the oil and continue cooking for several more minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and allow several minutes for the ingredients to simmer together. Add the green beans and carrots, stir well, and cover. Continue cooking on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, then add the tomato, ginger, garlic, and salt, and simmer until all of the vegetables are tender.

Recipe: Missir Wat

Missir wat is a hearty lentil dish with a rich berbere flavor. This is a great dish to bring along to a potluck or family gathering. It’s a nice introduction for newcomers to Ethiopian cooking, easily doubles for a large crowd, and is one of the easiest recipes to make. And at around $3 per batch, it’s inexpensive. You can turn the heat up or down by adjusting the amount of berbere to your liking. I make it pretty spicy because that’s our family’s preference (even at age 2, Sula can take it like a champ!) but if you aren’t too keen on heat, definitely limit the berbere to a tablespoon or so the first time you make it. The recipe below could easily feed six. Before starting, take a look at this post that explains the basics of Ethiopian cooking- much of it applies to a recipe like this.

3 onions, chopped
1/2 c. oil
2-3 tbsp. berbere
1/2 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 c. water, plus extra on hand
2 c. split red lentils, rinsed well
minced ginger and garlic (about 1 tbsp. each)
salt to taste

In a large stock pot, cook the onions on medium/medium-high heat for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the oil and cook for a few more minutes before adding the berbere. Add the berbere and allow the ingredients to simmer together for several minutes (berbere should always have plenty of time to cook before other ingredients are added- Kiddy told me about a word,”kulait,” for a sort of uncooked/raw flavor of berbere that wasn’t allowed to cook through all the way. I know what she means and it’s important to avoid it). Add the tomatoes and several spoonfuls of the tomato juice and stir. Then add three cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the rinsed lentils and stir to combine all the ingredients. Turn the heat to low-medium and simmer, but keep a close eye on the lentils- if the liquid has been absorbed before the lentils have softened, add more water as needed and continue cooking on low heat. Add the ginger and garlic and salt, stir well, and continue simmering until the lentils are completely tender.

Recipes: Shiro Alecha and Shiro Wat

When we were in Ethiopia we had very few opportunities to explore the city, but I did make sure I stopped into a grocery store. I purchased several kilos of spices, powders, and other unfamiliar substances with the idea that a) whatever the stuff was, I could learn how to make it, and b) it would be a lot cheaper to buy it in Ethiopia than in America. Among my bags of mystery goods were two types of shiro: plain shiro and mit’in shiro. Shiro is a flour made from ground legumes. It is not entirely clear what kind of legumes- I have heard chickpeas, fava beans, and split peas are all possible ingredients, although it seems like the menus at the Ethiopian restaurants we frequent say it’s made from chickpeas. Mit’in shiro is just like plain shiro except it already has spices added and thus has an orange color. Mit’in shiro (used to make shiro wat) is hot, but shiro alecha is mild. Adam prefers shiro wat, but I love both versions; it just depends on what you’re in the mood for!

You might notice that the recipes are virtually identical. The only difference is that the wat recipe calls for tomato paste where the alecha recipe calls for turmeric. And I use a hot pepper to add a little bit of flavor at the end of the alecha. That’s it; otherwise, the recipes are the same. If you go to an Ethiopian restaurant, check out the menu- many offer the same dishes with the choice of wat or alecha (misser wat/misser alecha; doro wat/doro alecha; etc.).

Shiro Wat

1 onion, chopped
1/2+ cup oil
2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2-3 c water
3/4 c mit’in shiro
minced ginger and garlic
salt, to taste
**see Notes

Cook the onions dry in a large, stirring frequently, for several minutes on medium/medium-high heat. When the onions have softened, add the oil. When the oil has heated through, add the tomato paste and mix well. Wait a few minutes, add 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Add the shiro slowly and stir briskly (preferably with a whisk) to remove any lumps. Add more water or oil as needed to achieve the right consistency (see Notes below). Add the ginger and garlic and stir. Add salt if you desire.

You can tell when the shiro is ready when it gets very thick and pops (careful, it can get messy!). The oil will also separate and rise to the top.

Shiro Alecha

1 onion, chopped
1/2+ cup oil
1 tbsp turmeric
2-3 c water
3/4 c shiro
minced ginger and garlic
salt, to taste
1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded and sliced into thin strips (optional)
**see Notes

Cook the onions dry in a large, stirring frequently, for several minutes on medium/medium-high heat. When the onions have softened, add the oil. When the oil has heated through, add the turmeric and mix well. Simmer a few minutes, then add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the shiro slowly and stir briskly (preferably with a whisk) to remove any lumps. Add more water or oil as needed and continue cooking. Add the ginger and garlic (I actually measured the other day and I used about 1 tbsp. of each) and salt, if desired, and stir.

You can tell when the shiro is ready when it gets very thick and pops (careful, it can get messy!). Add the pepper before serving.

NOTES: I have not had to purchase shiro or mit’in shiro in the U.S., but I will have to eventually when my stock runs out. You can buy it online (fyi, the sites I’ve come across spell it mitten shouro, in case you are looking), but your best bet is to find an Ethiopian grocery store in your area or just stock up like crazy when you’re in Ethiopia. You can substitute a pureed tomato for the tomato paste in the wat. I use a lot of turmeric in the alecha because I love it, but you might want to cut back the first time you try it if you’re unsure. Same with the ginger (you can use powdered if you don’t have fresh) and garlic- I can never have too much of either of those, but I know not everyone feels the same way. The most important thing to pay attention to when making shiro is the consistency. It should be smooth and thick, but not too thick. Definitely something you would eat with a spoon (or, obviously, injera!!) and not a fork. Make sure that no lumps remain- Kidist and I had a funny shiro-making experience a few weeks ago when it came out very lumpy for some reason we couldn’t figure out. She was horrified; apparently, lumpy shiro is a telltale sign of an inexperienced cook in Ethiopia :) So just whisk like crazy when you’re adding the shiro, and add water or oil to smooth it out if it’s getting too lumpy or thick.

Recipe: Firfir

Firfir is another one of my new favorites. It is an excellent way to use leftover injera that is past its prime but still edible.

2 large onions, chopped

1/4 cup canola oil

1-2 tbsp. berbere

3 ounces tomato paste (it comes in 6 oz cans, so 1/2 can)

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4-3/4 cup water

minced ginger and garlic

3-4 pieces injera, torn into pieces

1-2 jalapenos or other hot green peppers, de-seeded and cut into thin strips


**See notes at the bottom**

Cook the onions for several minutes until they start to soften and turn translucent. Add the oil. When the oil is hot add the berbere and stir. After a few minutes, add the tomato paste and cook for several more minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and a bit of salt, and cook on low-medium heat until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked. Add the water and bring to a simmer. It should look like a really thick tomato soup at this point. Add the injera and stir, gently chopping the injera as you mix it in. Continue cooking until the injera has absorbed all of the liquid. Top it off with jalapenos and enjoy!

**This can be made without the fresh tomatoes if you don’t have them. The amount of water you use will depend on the amount of injera you use. Less injera –> less water. As always, the amount of ginger and garlic is undefined. I would guess that I use maybe 2-3 tsp. of minced ginger and the equivalent of four or five cloves of garlic. You could substitute powdered ginger if you don’t have fresh on hand. The one thing I really wouldn’t try to do is use a fake (as in quickie, non-sourdough) injera for the recipe. As injera is the main ingredient, the lack of the sourdough taste would ruin it for me (but that’s just my opinion).

Recipe: Tikil Gomen

This is a vegetarian vegetable dish. We just made this for the first time on Sunday and it’s already one of my favorites. Like other Ethiopian dishes, it would be very easy to double or triple, or alter the quantities of several ingredients. For example, if you want to use more or less potatoes or carrots or cabbage, it’s fine. Just make sure that if you increase the amount of vegetables, you increase the other flavoring ingredients.


2-3 onions, chopped
1/3-1/2+ cup canola oil
1-2 tbsp. turmeric
3/4 cup water
4-5 Yukon gold potatoes, cut in half lengthwise then sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
3-4 carrots, chopped into stick-shaped pieces
1 head green cabbage, chopped
6 scallions (white parts with some of the green), chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. dried basil (you can use fresh basil- the store just didn’t have any that day)
finely chopped garlic (see note at bottom)
finely chopped ginger (see note at bottom)
salt (to taste)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and sliced into thin strips

In a large pot, cook the onions, stirring occasionally, on medium/medium-high heat until they start to soften and turn translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the oil (as much as your arteries can take!) and cook until the oil gets hot. Add the turmeric, stir to ensure the it is evenly distributed, and cook for another few minutes (and please be sure to take a second to enjoy the aroma). Add the scallions and cook for another minute or two. Add the water and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes, stir, and cover. Since the potatoes take longer to cook than the other vegetables, let them cook for at least 5-10 minutes. Then add the carrots, cover again and allow them to cook for several minutes, and add the cabbage. Add the salt and continue cooking until the cabbage starts to shrink and soften. When the potatoes are almost finished cooking, add the basil, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno peppers and cook until the vegetables are tender.

***It’s really hard for me to pin down how much garlic and ginger to use, as I keep large quantities of both freshly chopped in the refrigerator and just dump a bunch in when I’m cooking. I would guess that I use roughly five or six cloves of garlic and a 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped. Really, I have no idea. I would ALWAYS err on the side of adding too much of these. You can never have too much flavor, you know?

Adventures in cooking, part 1

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, we are incredibly, wildly fortunate to have a wonderful Ethiopian tutor/cook/cultural liason in our lives. Kiddy has been coming every week now for a few months to work with Dawit on his Amharic and to teach me more about the miracles of Ethiopian food. Dawit is making good progress, maintaining his previous comprehension and speaking skills while learning a bit more about reading and writing in Amharic. Sula secretly loves it when Kidest comes; she talks about Kiddy all week but gets very shy when she comes over. My guess is that Kiddy seems mysteriously familiar to Sula- she looks and sounds like the nannies who cared for her in Ethiopia- and yet she’s showing up at her ferenji parents’ house in America. How confusing, right? The most interesting thing happend this past week when I was cooking an Ethiopian dish that Kiddy had taught me; Sula (who is just beginning to put together subject-verb-object sentences) was watching me and said “Kiddy cooked that.” WHAT?!?! I had her repeat it just to be certain. I could not believe it- it was like she saw me chopping the onions and adding the ginger and garlic and turmeric and just *knew* that it was Ethiopian food. There’s a lot we don’t know about how Sula has processed the whole adoption and move to America but it’s so clear that there is this underlying recognition of all things Ethiopian.

Anyways, now Kiddy has helped me build up quite a repertoire of Ethiopian recipes and I figured it was time to start sharing. Adam and I are OBSESSED with Ethiopian food. When I’m not eating it, I’m fantasizing about it. When I make enough to last a week, it lasts a day or two at most. I sometimes even find myself sneaking bites of the stuff for breakfast, it’s *that* good. The flavors are so complex and tantalizing, and I think a lot of that has to do with the method of cooking. Keep in mind that Kiddy’s method is not representative of that of all Ethiopians (obviously) but there seems to be a science to it and I don’t want to mess with a great thing :)

I’ll start with the basics. Ethiopian dishes tend to be either spicy (with either berbere or mit’mit’a, both of which are blends of hot pepper and other spices) or mild (with turmeric). This is simplifying things a lot, but it holds true for the recipes that I cook. All of the recipes I cook also have four ingredients in common: onions, oil, garlic, and ginger. To be honest, before I started cooking with Kiddy I had never used fresh ginger (and, uh, wouldn’t have even known how to work with the stuff), just the powdered kind. Now I buy massive pieces of the ugly knobby root at the grocery store and use it all up within a shockingly short time period. I use my mini food chopper and chop up a whole head of garlic and a huge piece of ginger each week for my Ethiopian cooking. And onions- oh my gosh, I absolutely HATE to chop onions, but they are an evil necessity. I tried to use my food processer for those, but I don’t like the way some of the onions get too liquified while there are still big chunks that go unchopped when I do that, so for now I’m sticking to cutting them up the old-fashioned way and trying not to let my snot and tears drip onto the cutting board.

So, for the cooking part. No matter what the recipe, Kiddy always starts by adding the onion (no oil!) to the pot first. This is new for me- I was accustomed to starting with oil- but Kiddy is the second Ethiopian I have witnessed cooking onions dry so that’s what I do. We always let them cook until they are getting transluscent and soft, about five to seven minutes or so on medium heat. THEN we add the oil. This is another thing I have to get used to. In the past, I used so little oil in my cooking that the bottles of oil in my kitchen cabinet usually expired before they were used up, but since Kiddy has started cooking with me, I have gone through an average of one enormous bottle of oil per month. Ethiopian food uses an obscene amount of oil. And IT IS WORTH EVERY CALORIE. Keep in mind that in Ethiopia, cooking oil is one of the only sources of fat in a typical Ethiopian diet, unlike here in America, where fat is practically dripping from everything we eat. I usually can’t bring myself to use quite the full amount of oil when Kiddy isn’t around. But when she is cooking, I would guess that she uses at least a half cup of oil per recipe. (This is another thing I should mention- Kiddy (and the other Ethiopians I know) does not measure anything while cooking. Quantities are just eyeballed. I’ve encouraged her to use measuring spoons and cups so that I can replicate her recipes when she isn’t around and she is very helpful and willing to do so, but that’s just not the way she’s accustomed to cooking. I have gotten used to that and am now able to cook without being completely chained to a recipe and measuring utensils, but my recipes might not be precise enough for others to follow. Leave a comment and let me know if you need more specific information about any of the recipes and I’ll do my best to help.)

After adding the oil, we add the spice. As I mentioned before, that’s usually either berbere or turmeric. Each ingredient afterwards (vegetables, lentils, etc.) is added separately and given time to soak in before the next ingredient. I like this method because I think it allows all of the flavors to meld together evenly. Then at the end of cooking, we add the ginger and the garlic. Those are key ingredients and by adding them near the end, they keep most of their flavor without being too pungent.

So, to recap and simplify:

-Cook the onions first until they start to soften.

-Add the oil. More than you think. WAAAAY more than you think.

-Let the oil and onion simmer a few minutes, maybe five or so, on medium heat.

-Add the spice, usually either berbere or turmeric.

-Let the spice, oil, and onions cook together for several more minutes.

-Add the other ingredients, one at a time (but hold off on the garlic and ginger), and give each ingredient time to simmer before adding the next.

-Add the garlic and ginger at the end, and cook for another ten minutes or so.

When it’s finished, pig out and wish you made more :) I’ll post several of the recipes I have, but these are the basics of “how to” cook Ethiopian food as I’ve been taught. I’ve found that now that I am familiar with the methods involved, I am able to learn how to make new recipes much more confidently and without the need for precise directions.