An Introduction to Ethiopian Cuisine

Have you tried Ethiopian cuisine?

If so, you’re definitely in the minority.

On a recent trip to New York with Daisy and Nick, we ended up passing by the Injera restaurant, and after realizing we were both Ethiopian food virgins, we couldn’t help but stop.

ethiopian_platterAfter feasting on Injera’s delicious meat combination for 2, which featured 2 beef tibs, 2 lamb dishes, and 4 vegetarian choices (we went with shiro, misir wot, gomen, and fasolia), I was instantly struck with disappointment that I had somehow been missing out on this delicious genre for so long!

I immediately hit up the library to take out a few books on Ethiopian cuisine and am proud to now present you with a brief introduction to the topic within the following paragraphs. 


It’s no surprise that Ethiopia’s cuisine matches its history, with flavors that are varied, diverse and utterly distinct.

In general, most Ethiopian dishes are composed of seasoned vegetables and spicy meats often in the form of stews.

As mentioned, much of Ethiopian cuisine seems to reflect its history, incorporating fragrant Middle Eastern, Asian, and Mediterranean spices with an array of native Ethiopian ingredients.

The result forms what has been described as “one of the world’s great stand-alone cuisines”.

Pork and fish fans must be warned, however, that these items are never served in Ethiopian restaurants, as a direct result of the nation’s historical intricate relationships with Judaism, Islam, and Orthodox Christianity.

Popular Spices

  • Berbere is a staple spice of Ethiopian cuisine
  • It is basically a mixture of semi-spicy ground chili peppers and more than 20 other spices, such as garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, and fenugreek.
  • Because of its primary use of ground chili peppers, berbere is often compared to Southwestern American chili powder..
  • Mitmita is another staple spice of Ethiopian cuisine
  • It is traditionally composed of ground African birdseye chili peppers, cardamom seed, cloves, and salt, but can also include other ingredients such as cinnamon, cumin, and ginger
  • Mitmita is considered both lighter and hotter than berbere 

Popular Dishes

  • Injera is a slightly sour and spongy, fried, rolled pancake that is considered the most widely consumed starch in all of Ethiopia
  • The first taste of injera often shocks people with its sourness, however, the flavor mixes beautifully with many other Ethiopian sauces and dishes
  • Injera generally comes with every Ethiopian dish ordered at a restaurant. You do not need to order it separately.
  • Doro-Wat-5_edited (1)An Ethiopian wat is a type of stew or curry that can be prepared with a variety of different vegetables, meats, and spices
  • A common vegetarian wat is the shiro wat, which is prepared with chickpea and bean flours, garlic, and onions. It was been compared to refried beans “but smoother”.
  • A common meat wat is the doro wat, which is essentially an Ethiopian version of chicken stew, which uses boiled down onions as the basis for the sauce
  • Ethiopian tibs are large chunks of fresh, roasted meats, fried with butter and served in a piping hot ceramic dish
  • The tibs are often seasoned with spices such as rosemary and garlic, and can additional be served with injera and awaze sauce on the side.

My name is Michelle Lawrence and I am what some may call a “foodie”. Although I’ve never worked in what can be considered a “formal” kitchen setting, preparing and enjoying food has always been an integral part of my life since my early Easy Bake Oven days.

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