Ethiopia is one of the largest and most culturally diverse countries in Africa, which makes it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.
So many different ethnic groups have made up the region of eastern Africa for such a long time that societal and cultural norms change from one town to the next.
This is especially true for the culinary experience, as a lot of the traditions are passed down from parent to child to the point where a dish’s name may mean two different things, depending on where you are from.
This complex culinary tradition makes Ethiopian food absolutely delicious and considering it is a very old country, there are many recipes to try.
As such, we have created a list of the different types of Ethiopian food that you have to try.
We can’t talk about Ethiopian food without also talking about Injera.
This is a type of sourdough flatbread made from Teff flour that is part of the meal, but also a part of the eating utensils.
When a main course is served, almost all the food is served upon injera which is used similarly to a plate.
This is possible because the injera is thin, flat, and very wide, meaning you can have multiple dishes on top without them touching.
The injera is a staple in Ethiopia, in much the same way as rice or potatoes are, and to eat you rip off a piece, cup it in your hand, and grab the other within the injera piece you hold.
2. Beef Tibs
Beef tibs are basically diced beef pieces that are made when a beef sirloin is cut up into multiple parts.
The beef is then pan fried in an incredibly fragrant sauce of cardamom, fenugreek, ginger, and cloves with onion and butter or niter kibbeh.
After some time, the sauce will adhere to the beef and create a symphony of smells throughout your kitchen that will make your mouth water.
Served on injera, with rice, with vegetables, or with all three, it is a wonderful, simple dish, that will take you to the heart of the Ethiopian highlands in an instant.
3. Shiro Wat
Shiro Wat is a type of chickpea stew and can be compared to the dal of India in its importance to Ethiopian cuisine – if you have an Ethiopian meal, the likelihood is that you will have Shiro Wat appear somewhere on the table.
The stew itself can come in a variety of different types, with many being vegetarian and some having meat, but they will almost always contain chickpeas or broad bean meal as the primary ingredient.
It is a one pot meal that has chickpea flour added, so it is less watery and more thick, like a spread or purée.
This way it can be scooped onto rice or spread onto bread if you fancy.
4. Teff Stew
Teff might well be the oldest, cultivated grain in the world, and it is only grown in huge amounts along the Horn of Africa, especially in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t readily available in other parts of the world.
The grain itself acts a bit like barley in the stew, making it wonderfully creamy, while the spices give the food a sinfully delicious and fragrant aroma that warms the body with its savory and slightly spicy taste.
It is well worth making just for the smell alone.
5. Misir Wat
From one staple food to another, we are moving on to a lentil stew here or misir wat.
Ethiopia loves to use lentils and incorporate them into their cooking in a variety of ways, but no lentil dish is more widely eaten than misir wat.
The stew uses red lentils as a robust base, while adding caramelized onions for a little sweetness, a rich, savory broth, and an intense spice mix consisting mainly of berbere.
The whole concoction takes 10 minutes to prepare, but needs to be slowly cooked together for at least an hour.
The end result is definitely worth the wait, though.
6. Kik Alicha
Most cultures have some kind of split pea soup or stew, and Ethiopia is no different.
Like many of these other cultures, the Ethiopian split pea stew is made with few ingredients, only six in actuality.
It is actually incredibly similar to the Indian dhal (see also our favorite Indian vegetarian recipes), which is not surprising as both cultures have had close contact for thousands of years.
The thing that sets this stew apart from dhal is the use of berbere instead of garam masala and its use of multiple types of pea.
This makes it a slightly spicier and more robust cousin of the Indian variant.
If injera is to Ethiopia what rice is to India, then berbere is the garam masala.
It goes in almost all savory dishes and provides a depth of flavor that is intense and also uniquely Ethiopian.
It is used to marinate meats, seasoning stews, soups, and sauces, and give a kick to any vegetables that may need a pick me up.
All you need to make the spice is a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and the various different spices.
Luckily, this is quite easy, as these spices are all readily available at any large store.
8. Kitcha Fit-Fit
Kitcha is a type of unleavened flatbread that is quite common in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine.
It is made from wheat flour, salt, and water into a dough, before being cooked in a pan – like a pancake, though that is where the similarities end.
The most common variant of kitcha meal is kitcha fit-fit or Chechebsa, which is when the kitcha is pulled apart, mixed with butter and berbere, and served on a plate or bowl with a dollop of yogurt in the middle.
Gomen is a classic Ethiopian side and are actually basically the Ethiopian version of collard greens, with the difference being what spices are added to the dish.
The braised greens or kale, depending on what you use, are cooked in broth and a spice blend until the broth is reduced, before serving.
It is normally served as a side along with a plethora of other dishes, but can easily become a healthy, light meal in its own right if you add some protein to it, like chicken, eggs, or even beef.
10. Atakilt Wat
Another vegetable based side is atakilt wat, but this one is far more hearty and robust than gomen.
It is normally served as a side, but – due to the ingredients – it can easily become a main with a few adjustments.
A mix of potatoes, carrots, onion, cabbage, and chilies are cooked for a long period of time in a butter and spice blend to create a marvelously delicious vegan dish.
The ingredients are recent additions to the Ethiopian diet, which shows the extraordinary adaptability of the cuisine culture there, and the meal has very few allergens in it, meaning that most people can enjoy it.
Genfo is a type of savory porridge that is made typically for breakfast within many Ethiopian regions and within the Ethiopian expat community.
Traditionally, it is made with toasted barley flour and water, but this can be hard to find in western countries, so wheat flour or cornmeal is often used as a substitute.
The flour is added to boiling water until the water is absorbed, and the mix has become thick and smooth.
Then the porridge is molded into a bowl shape with an indentation in the middle, after which a mix of niber kibbeh (or unsalted butter) and berbere are put in the indent and spread over the top, to act as a sauce.
The Ethiopian version of the Indian samosa, the sambusa has been in Ethiopia and Somalia since the two have had contact with India, so at least a few hundred years.
The pastry is exactly the same as their Indian counterparts, but the filling is normally a vegan lentil mix seasoned with berbere.
It is eaten year round, but is most commonly consumed during the periods of fasts for Christians of the Ethiopian Orthodox church.
13. Doro Wat
Once again, Ethiopian food is coming to bat for people on specific diets, as doro wat or chicken stew is not only an absolutely delicious meal you should definitely try, it is completely gluten-free and even grain free.
Chicken drumsticks are slowly simmered in a chicken stock with berbere, ghee, cardamom, ginger, onions, and garlic, until everything is incredibly tender and rich.
Then it is served on a plate as is, but it can also come with sliced up boiled eggs to add another texture to the entire dish. It is simple, but incredibly comforting.
There is no way to beat the heat in the summer than with a fruit smoothie, and no culture does fruit smoothies better than Ethiopia, especially when they have spris on the cards.
All you need is a mango, a papaya, an avocado, sugar, water, ice, and lime juice.
The fruits are then blended separately with sugar, water, and lime juice, before being added to the glass.
First is the papaya mix, then the avocado is spooned on top, and finally the mango.
You need to layer it in such a way that they stay separate, so that when you drink it, you get three different drinks rolled into one.
If you are looking for a light, but filling lunch or a side that can stand up to any main, then you may want to try Azifa.
It is a lentil salad made of lentils, lime tomatoes, red onion, and very mild red chili peppers, all tossed together in a bowl.
Each ingredient injects a little bit of unique flavor into the dish, making it much greater than the sum of its parts.
Azifa is also incredibly healthy with almost no fat added whatsoever and the combined ingredients providing you with a lot of key nutrients that you need.
16. Gored Gored
Gored Gored is a raw or incredibly rare beef dish that is very popular within Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is considered a national dish by most.
The beef is not minced, but instead cubed and left unmarinated a few minutes before it needs to be served.
Then, it is normally served with or rolled in a mitmita seasoning blend, berbere, niber kibbeh, and an awazi sauce, before being given to the customer.
Like most foods, it is most commonly served on injera.
Kitfo is very similar to Gored Gored in that it is raw and includes a very similar spice blend, however the meat is marinated in this spice for a while before being served.
If a person wanted to cook the meat, they could make a kitfo leb leb, which is a lightly cooked kitfo that is still almost raw.
This dish is often served on special occasions, mainly around traditional or religious holidays.
It is especially common on the Meskal holiday of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on the 27th September.
18. Ingudai Tibs
This dish is one of the most simple to make on the list, but the flavor is lovely and somehow complex at the same time.
Mushrooms, peppers, onions, and tomatoes are chopped up and sautéed together in butter, before a spoonful of berbere is added to the whole affair, making a delicious side for all.
19. Yataklete Kilkil
If you are feeling chilly on a cold winter’s night, then this hearty vegetable stew is definitely the remedy for you.
Yataklete kilkil combines potatoes, carrots, green beans, and onions with light spices and hot peppers in a rich, reduced tomato sauce.
Its ingredients will fill you all the way up, while also taking the chill out of your bones and the air around you.
If you want to make it a little less spicy, you could add a dollop of yogurt or sour cream to the side as well.
From hearty stew to refreshing salad, timatim is a tomato salad that utilizes lots of fresh vegetables and a vinaigrette to make you feel rejuvenated and ready to seize the day.
Tomatoes, onions, and jalapeño peppers are diced and tossed together in a vinaigrette of canola oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and berbere seasoning, giving it a sweet and spicy kick.
Since this dish is served cold, it is perfect for summer evenings with your family or on cool spring nights with your friends.
21. Enqulal Fir-Fir
The Ethiopian equivalent of scrambled eggs, it is often served for breakfast with niber kibbeh serving as the butter.
However, unlike our own scrambled eggs, many other ingredients are mixed in as well, like onions, red and green peppers, tomatoes, and chili peppers.
It is a fantastic way to start the morning and for those who would prefer it not to be spicy, taking out the peppers will take away all the spice.
Ethiopian people love having a variety of dipping sauces to the side of their meals, probably because of the intense flavors, including spicy, sweet, and savory, that come with every meal.
Awaze is one of these sauces, it is incredibly easy to make and just adds a little heat where you may need it.
Himbasha is another Ethiopian flatbread, but this one is more of a sweetbread that is flavored with cardamom and raisins.
Normally, you would see this bread upon the table for breakfast, as part of a celebration, or put out with tea after having an old friend come round to visit.
Some himbasha have black sesame seeds inside them instead of raisins to provide a more nutty flavor to them.
Ethiopia has a rich and amazing culinary tradition that continues to this day and has made its mark upon the world.
Its position on the eastern edge of Africa has made it a culinary crossroads between the continent, the Middle East, and South Asia, giving it a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights that you should try today.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Eat With Injera?
First, remember to only eat with your right hand, as your left hand is considered unclean.
Then, break off a piece of injera and use it as a scoop to collect one of the many dishes served on top of the bread, before putting it in your mouth.
If you want to add sauce, collect the injera and food first and add the sauce once you move away from the big plate that is being shared with a spoon.
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