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Berbere – Ethiopian Spice Blend to Add Subtle, Sweet Heat

Berbere is the flavor cornerstone of Ethiopian cuisine.

Spicy and sweet, with citrus notes and a delicious pungency, the taste of this amazing seasoning is like a combination of barbecue, curry, Southwestern steak rub, and Indian masala.

It also gives a beautiful, deep red color to foods.

Preparing berbere in Ethiopia takes days and is usually made in great quantity. The chilies are dried in the sun for a few days, ground with a mortar and pestle, then added to ground spices, and set in the sun to dry again. This recipe has been simplified to only take 10 minutes, but will still give a depth of flavor and aroma.

Each Ethiopian family has its own recipe for this universal seasoning with varying degrees of spice and heat. Here we have a little less heat from the chili and paprika, which gives more attention to the other spices.

Thankfully, you don't need to be adept in the Ethiopian culinary arts to enjoy the wonderful flavors of this country - berbere is fairly quick to make and super easy to use! Just add it to any dish—typically lentils or peas—to give it an Ethiopian flare. You can also use it to season stews and grains.

Our Mesir Wat is a delicious red lentil stew made with Berbere recipe from yours truly!

Berbere Spice Blend

By Chef Katie Mae

Makes ¾ cup | Ready in 10 minutes | Stores 6 months in a cool dark space



  • 8 dried red chiles, seeds removed
  • seeds from 10 cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ½ teaspoon whole cloves
  • 6 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic granules
  • 2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


  1. Place a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the red chiles and cardamom, cumin, coriander, and fenugreek seeds. Toast the whole spices for two minutes, or until their aroma released.
  2. Turn off the heat and let the spices cool.
  3. Once cool, grind the spices using a coffee or spice grinder.
  4. Add the remaining spices to the grinder, and grind the spices again.
  5. Transfer the spice blend to an air-tight container.



Try sprinkling berbere over some vegan mac 'n cheese, soup, corn on the cob, or even mix it in with veggie meatballs! Get creative... the possibilities are endless!


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