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Ethiopian cuisine

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Beyaynetu: This meal consisting of injera and several kinds of wat (stew) is typical of Ethiopian cuisine.
Location of Ethiopia

Ethiopian cuisine (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ምግብ "Ye-Ītyōṗṗyā məgəb") characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes. This is usually in the form of wat, a thick stew, served on top of injera (Amharic: እንጀራ), a large sourdough flatbread,[1] which is about 50 centimeters (20 inches) in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour.[1] Ethiopians usually eat with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes.[1]

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church prescribes a number of fasting periods known as tsom (Ge'ez: ጾም ṣōm), including all Wednesdays and Fridays and the whole Lenten season (including fifteen days outside Lent proper). Per Oriental Orthodox tradition, the faithful may not consume any kind of animal products (including dairy products and eggs) during fasts; therefore, Ethiopian cuisine contains many dishes that are vegan.[2]


Ethiopian kita herb bread

A typical dish consists of injera accompanied by a spicy stew, which frequently includes beef, lamb, vegetables and various types of legumes, such as lentils is traditionally consumed on the mesob.[3] The cuisines of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region and the Sidama region also make use of the false banana plant (enset, Ge'ez: እንሰት ïnset), a type of ensete. The plant is pulverized and fermented to make various foods, including a bread-like food called kocho (Ge'ez: ቆጮ ḳōč̣ō), which is eaten with kitfo.[4] The root of this plant may be powdered and prepared as a hot drink called bulla (Ge'ez: ቡላ būlā), which is often given to those who are tired or ill. Another typical Gurage preparation is coffee with butter (kebbeh). Kita herb bread is also baked.

Due in part to the brief Italian occupation, pasta is popular and frequently available throughout Ethiopia, including rural areas.[1] Coffee is also a large part of Ethiopian culture and cuisine. After every meal, a coffee ceremony is enacted and coffee is served.

Restrictions of certain meats[edit]

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, Ethiopian Jews and Ethiopian Muslims avoid eating pork or shellfish, for religious reasons. Pork is considered unclean in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Most Ethiopian Protestants or P'ent'ay also abstain from eating food already prohibited from the Orthodox church. Many Ethiopians abstain from eating certain meats, eating mostly vegetarian foods, partially from the high cost of meat, eggs, dairy products.

Traditional ingredients[edit]

Ajwain or radhuni, korarima, nigella and fenugreek (clockwise, from top) are used with chilis and salt to make berbere (Amharic: በርበሬ), a basic ingredient in many Ethiopian dishes.

Berbere, a combination of powdered chili pepper and other spices (cardamom, fenugreek, coriander, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cumin and allspice)[5] is an important ingredient used to add flavor to many varied dishes like chicken stews and baked fish dishes. Also essential is niter kibbeh, a clarified butter infused with ginger, garlic, and several spices.[6][7]

Mitmita (Amharic: ሚጥሚጣ, IPA: [mitʼmitʼa]) is a powdered seasoning mix used in Ethiopian cuisine. It is orange-red in color and contains ground birdseye chili peppers (piri-piri), cardamom seed, cloves and salt.[8] It occasionally has other spices including cinnamon, cumin and ginger.

In their adherence to strict fasting, Ethiopian cooks have developed a rich array of cooking oil sources—besides sesame and safflower—for use as a substitute for animal fats which are forbidden during fasting periods. Ethiopian cuisine also uses nug (also spelled noog, also known as "niger seed").[2]



Doro wat, consisting of stewed chicken and boiled eggs, is one of the most popular dishes for breaking religious fasts in Ethiopia.
A typical serving of wat
Ethiopian food merged with American barbeque influence

Wat begins with a large amount of chopped red onion, which is simmered or sauteed in a pot. Once the onions have softened, niter kebbeh (or, in the case of vegan dishes, vegetable oil) is added. Following this, berbere is added to make a spicy keiy wat or keyyih tsebhi. Turmeric is used instead of berbere for a milder alicha wat or both spices are omitted when making vegetable stews, such as atkilt wat. Meat such as beef (ሥጋ,[9] səga), chicken (ዶሮ,[10] doro or derho), fish (ዓሣ,[11] asa), goat or lamb (በግ,[12] beg or beggi) is also added. Legumes such as split peas (ክክ,[13] kək or kikki) and lentils (ምስር,[14] məsər or birsin); or vegetables such as potatoes (ድንች,[15] Dənəch), carrots and chard (ቆስጣ) are also used instead in vegan dishes.

Each variation is named by appending the main ingredient to the type of wat (e.g. kek alicha wat). However, the word keiy is usually not necessary, as the spicy variety is assumed when it is omitted (e.g. doro wat). The term atkilt wat which simply means 'vegetable' is sometimes used to refer to all vegetable dishes, but a more specific name can also be used (as in dinich'na caroht wat, which translates to "potatoes and carrots stew"; but the word atkilt is usually omitted when using the more specific term).


Meat along with vegetables are sautéed to make tibs (also tebs, t'ibs, tibbs, etc., Ge'ez: ጥብስ ṭïbs). Tibs is served in a variety of manners, and can range from hot to mild or contain little to no vegetables. There are many variations of the delicacy, depending on type, size or shape of the cuts of meat used. Beef, mutton, and goat are the most common meats used in the preparation of tibs.

The mid-18th-century European visitor to Ethiopia Remedius Prutky [cs] describes tibs as a portion of grilled meat served "to pay a particular compliment or show especial respect to someone."[16] It may still be seen this way; today the dish is prepared to commemorate special events and holidays.

Kinche (qinch'e)[edit]

Kinche (qinch’e), a porridge, is a very common Ethiopian breakfast or supper. It is simple, inexpensive, and nutritious. It is made from cracked wheat, Ethiopian oats, barley or a mixture of those. It can be boiled in either milk or water with a little salt. The flavor of kinche comes from the nit'ir qibe, which is a spiced butter.[17]


Azifa is an Ethiopian lentil salad made with mustard seed, jalapeños, and onions, and it is a dish often served cold.[18][19][20] Buticha is an Ethiopian chickpea salad which is often served cold,[21][18] and is sometimes compared to hummus.

Ethnic dishes[edit]

Oromo dishes[edit]

The Oromos' cuisine consists of various vegetable or meat side dishes and entrées. As part of a long-established custom, practice, or belief, people do not eat pork in Oromia.[22][unreliable source?]

  • Foon Waaddii – minced roasted meat; specially seasoned
  • Anchotte – a common dish in the western part of Oromia
  • Baduu – liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained (cheese)
  • Maarqaa – porridge like substance made from wheat, milk, chili and spices
  • Chechebsaa – shredded biddena stir-fried with chili powder and cheese
  • Ukkaamssa (Affaanyii) – Stewed ground beef with spices, minced onion, garlic, green chili pepper, and clarified butter. [23]
  • Qoocco – also known as kocho, it is not the Gurage type of kocho but a different kind; a common dish in the western part of Oromia
  • Itto – comprises all sorts of vegetables (tomato, potato, ginger, garlic), meat (lamb)
  • Chukkoo – also known as Micira; a sweet flavor of whole grain, seasoned with butter and spices[24]
  • Chororsaa – a common dish in the western part of Oromia
  • Hulbata- slow cooked thick stew, made up of organic fenugreek seed powder, potato, lamb rib or loin chops seasoned with chili, garlic and tomato spices served on top of Biddena; mostly cooked in East Hararghe Zone and West Hararghe Zone of Oromia
  • Dokkee – a common dish throughout Oromia state
  • Qince – similar to Marqaa but made from shredded grains as opposed to flour
  • Qorso (Akayi) – A snack made by roasting barley seeds[25]
  • Dadhii – a drink made from honey
  • Hanida/Haneed– slow-roasted lamb dish usually served with rice
  • Shitney/Shatta sauce– a mixture of herbs and peppers used as a side for hanida
  • Farsho – Beer like beverage, made from barley
  • Buna – Coffee[26]

Gurage dishes[edit]


Kitfo served rare

Another distinctively Ethiopian dish is kitfo (frequently spelled ketfo). It consists of raw (or rare) beef mince marinated in mitmita (Ge'ez: ሚጥሚጣ mīṭmīṭā a very spicy chili powder similar to berbere) and niter kibbeh. Gored gored is very similar to kitfo, but uses cubed rather than ground beef.


Ayibe (or Ayeb) is a local cheese made from the curds of buttermilk that is mild and crumbly, close in texture to crumbled feta.[27][19] Although not quite pressed, the whey has been drained and squeezed out.[19] It is often served as a side dish to soften the effect of very spicy food. It has little to no distinct taste of its own. However, when served separately, ayibe is often mixed with a variety of mild or hot spices typical of Gurage cuisine.[28]

Gomen kitfo[edit]

Gomen kitfo is another typical Gurage dish. Collard greens (ጎመን gōmen) are boiled, dried and then finely chopped and served with butter, chili and spices. It is a dish specially prepared for the occasion of Meskel, a very popular holiday marking the discovery of the True Cross. It is served along with ayibe or sometimes even kitfo in this tradition called dengesa.

Sidama dishes[edit]


The enset plant (called wesse in the Sidamo language) is central to Sidama cuisine and after grinding and fermenting the root to produce wassa, it is used in the preparation of several foods.


Borasaame is a cooked mixture of wassa and butter sometimes eaten with Ethiopian mustard greens and/or beans. It is traditionally eaten by hand using a false banana leaf and is served in a 'shafeta, a vase-like ceramic vessel. A common variant of borasaame uses maize flour instead of wassa and is called badela borasaame. Borasaame is typically paired with a seasoned yogurt drink called wätät. Both are common foods for funerals and the celebration of Fichee Chambalaalla, the Sidama new year.


Amulcho is an enset flatbread used similarly to injera to eat wats made from beef, mushrooms, beans, gomen, or pumpkin.

Gomen ba siga[edit]

Gomen ba siga (ጎመን በስጋ, Amharic: "cabbage with meat") is a stewed mixture of beef and Ethiopian mustard served under a layer of amulcho bread.


A commonly grown crop in Sidama, maize (badela in Sidaamu; also known as "corn" in North America) is often eaten as a snack with coffee. It can be ground into flour to make bread, roasted on the cob, or the kernels can be picked off to make bokolo, which is served either boiled or roasted.


Fit-fit, or chechebsa, made with kitcha (unleavened bread), niter kibbeh (seasoned clarified butter) and berbere (spice), is a typical breakfast food.

Fit-fit or fir-fir is a common breakfast dish. It is made from shredded injera or kitcha stir-fried with spices or wat. Another popular breakfast food is fatira, a large fried pancake made with flour, often with a layer of egg, eaten with honey.

Chechebsa (or kita firfir) resembles a pancake covered with berbere and niter kibbeh, or other spices, and may be eaten with a spoon. Genfo is a kind of porridge, which is another common breakfast dish. It is usually served in a large bowl with a dug-out made in the middle of the genfo and filled with spiced niter kibbeh.

A variation of ful, a fava bean stew with condiments, served with baked rolls instead of injera, is also common for breakfast.


Typical Ethiopian snacks are dabo kolo (small pieces of baked bread that are similar to pretzels), or kolo (roasted barley sometimes mixed with other local grains). Kolo made from roasted and spiced barley, safflower kernels, chickpeas and/or peanuts are often sold by kiosks and street vendors, wrapped in a paper cone. Snacking on popcorn and traditional lentil samosa is also common.[1]


Traditional alcoholic beverages[edit]

There are many different traditional alcoholic drinks which are home made and of natural ingredients.


Tella is a home-brewed beer served in tella bet ("tella houses") which specialize in serving only tella. Tella is the most common beverage made and served in households during holidays.

It is an alcoholic drink which is prepared from bikil (barley) as main ingredient and gesho (Rhamnus prinoides) for fermentation purpose.

In Oromiffaa, the drink is called farso and in Tigrinya siwa.

Tej (honey wine)[edit]

Tej is a potent honey wine.[1] It is similar to mead, and is frequently served in bars, particularly in a tej bet or "tej house".

It is prepared from honey and gesho. It has a sweet taste and the alcoholic content is relatively higher than tella. This drink can be stored for a long time; the longer it is stored, the higher the alcohol content, and the stronger the taste.

Areki (katikala)[edit]

Areki, also known as katikala, is probably the strongest alcoholic drink of Ethiopia.[29] It is a home distilled spirit that is often filtered through charcoal to remove off tastes or flavored by smoking or infusion with garlic.

Non-alcoholic beverages[edit]

Ethiopians have diverse traditional non-alcoholic drinks which include natural and healthy ingredients.

Kenetto (keribo)[edit]

Kenetto, also known as keribo, is a non-alcoholic traditional drink. It is mostly used as substitute for tella for those who don't drink alcohol.[30]


Borde is a cereal-based traditional fermented beverage famous in southern Ethiopia.[29]

Manufactured drinks[edit]

Just like the rest of the world, Ethiopians also enjoy several locally manufactured beers, wine and non-alcoholic products like Coca-Cola and other similar products.

A Coca-Cola bottle in Ethiopia, with the distinct logo in the Ethiopic script

Ambo Mineral Water or Ambo wuha is a bottled carbonated mineral water, sourced from the springs in Ambo Senkele near the town of Ambo.[1][31]

Non-alcoholic brews (hot drinks)[edit]


Atmet is a barley- and oat-flour based drink that is cooked with water, sugar and kibe (Ethiopian clarified butter) until the ingredients have combined to create a consistency slightly thicker than eggnog. Though this drink is often given to women who are nursing, the sweetness and smooth texture make it a comfort drink for anyone who enjoys its flavor.


An Ethiopian woman roasting coffee at a traditional coffee ceremony

According to some sources, drinking of coffee (buna) is likely to have originated in Ethiopia.[1] A key national beverage, it is an important part of local commerce.[32]

The coffee ceremony is the traditional serving of coffee, usually after a big meal. It often involves the use of a jebena (ጀበና), a clay coffee pot in which the coffee is boiled. The preparer roasts the coffee beans in front of guests, then walks around wafting the smoke throughout the room so participants may sample the scent of coffee. Then the preparer grinds the coffee beans in a traditional tool called a mokecha. The coffee is put into the jebena, boiled with water, and then served in small cups called si'ni. Coffee is usually served with sugar, but is also served with salt in many parts of Ethiopia. In some parts of the country, niter kibbeh is added instead of sugar or salt.

Snacks, such as popcorn or toasted barley (or kolo), are often served with the coffee. In most homes, a dedicated coffee area is surrounded by fresh grass, with special furniture for the coffee maker. A complete ceremony has three rounds of coffee (abol, tona and bereka) and is accompanied by the burning of frankincense.

Tea (shai)[edit]

Tea will most likely be served if coffee is declined. Tea is grown in Ethiopia at Gumaro and Wushwush.

Boiled coffee leaves[edit]

Across southern Ethiopia, many groups drink boiled coffee leaves, called kuti among the Harari in the east and kaari among the Majang in the west. This is often made with widely varying seasonings and spices, such as sugar, salt, rue, hot peppers, ginger. The Ethiopian Food Safety Authority has registered the safety of coffee leaf infusions with the European Union.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Javins, Marie. "Eating and Drinking in Ethiopia." Archived 31 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine Gonomad.com. Accessed July 2011.
  2. ^ a b Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time: A history of Ethiopia (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p. 12 and note
  3. ^ Shinn, David (29 March 2004). Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. Scarecrow Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-8108-6566-2.
  4. ^ "Uses of Enset". The 'Tree Against Hunger': Enset-Based Agricultural Systems in Ethiopia. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 1997. Archived from the original on 19 August 2007. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
  5. ^ Peter, K.V. (2012). Handbook of herbs and spices Volume 2. p. 124.
  6. ^ Debrawork Abate (c. 2003) [c. 2001]. የባህላዌ መግቦች አዘገጃጀት [Traditional Food Preparation] (in Amharic) (2nd ed.). Addis Ababa: Mega Asatame Derjet (Mega Publisher Enterprise). pp. 22–23.
  7. ^ Gall, Alevtina; Zerihun Shenkute (3 November 2009). "Ethiopian Traditional and Herbal Medications and their Interactions with Conventional Drugs". EthnoMed. University of Washington. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  8. ^ Mesfin, D.J. Exotic Ethiopian Cooking (2006): 20. Falls Church, VA: Ethiopian Cookbooks Enterprises
  9. ^ Selam Soft, "ሥጋ", Amharic-English Dictionary, 4/30/13
  10. ^ Selam Soft, "ዶሮ", Amharic-English Dictionary, 4/30/13
  11. ^ Selam Soft, "ዓሣ", Amharic-English Dictionary, 4/30/13
  12. ^ Selam Soft, "'በግ, Amharic-English Dictionary', 4/30/13
  13. ^ Selam Soft, "ክክ", Amharic-English Dictionary, 4/30/13
  14. ^ Selam Soft, "ምስር", Amharic-English Dictionary, 4/30/13
  15. ^ Selam Soft, "ድንች", Amharic-English Dictionary, 4/30/13
  16. ^ J.H. Arrowsmith-Brown (trans.), Prutky's Travels in Ethiopia and other Countries with notes by Richard Pankhurst (London: Hakluyt Society, 1991), p. 286
  17. ^ slow food foundation for biodiversity
  18. ^ a b Moges, Luladey (25 October 2022). Enebla: Recipes from an Ethiopian Kitchen. TouchWood Editions. pp. 74, 77. ISBN 978-1-77151-363-0.
  19. ^ a b c Zeppieri, Susan (13 July 2021). Keto Ethiopian Style: Guide To Ethiopian Keto. Susan Zeppieri. p. 31.
  20. ^ "Azifa (Ethiopian Lentil Salad)". Bruno Spice. 17 February 2021. Archived from the original on 24 April 2023.
  21. ^ "Buticha (Ethiopian chickpea flour salad)". Bruno Spice. 17 February 2021. Archived from the original on 24 April 2023.
  22. ^ Let Us Talk About Food: Oromo vs. Ethiopian, 7 June 2009, retrieved 7 June 2009
  23. ^ TYPES OF OROMO FOODS / RECIPES, 2024, retrieved 9 June 2024
  24. ^ Ethiopia: Special Cuisines As a Symbol of Oromo Lifestyle, 15 September 2020, retrieved 15 September 2020
  25. ^ "UNPO: Oromo: Farmer from Ethiopia Mmay be the Oldest Living Person in the World".
  26. ^ "Let Us Talk About Food: Oromo vs. Ethiopian". 7 June 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  27. ^ "Ayeb (Ethiopian Cheese)". Brundo Spice Company. 14 December 2020. Archived from the original on 24 April 2023. Retrieved 24 April 2023.
  28. ^ Tara (6 September 2019). "Ayib (Homemade Fresh Cheese) and Ethiopia Cookbook Review". Tara's Multicultural Table. Retrieved 10 December 2022.
  29. ^ a b Tafere, G. (2015). "A review on Traditional Fermented Beverages of Ethiopian". S2CID 9535830. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  30. ^ Dibaba, Kumela; Tilahun, Lelise; Satheesh, Neela; Geremu, Melkayo (1 April 2018). "Acrylamide occurrence in Keribo: Ethiopian traditional fermented beverage". Food Control. 86: 77–82. doi:10.1016/j.foodcont.2017.11.016. ISSN 0956-7135. S2CID 103268712.
  31. ^ "About us". Ambo Mineral Water. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  32. ^ "Ethiopia". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 12 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  33. ^ "Technical Report on the notification of infusion from coffee leaves (Coffea arabica L. And/Or Coffea canephora Pierre ex A. Froehner) as a traditional food from a third country pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EU) 2015/2283". EFSA Supporting Publications. 17 (2). 2020. doi:10.2903/sp.efsa.2020.EN-1783. S2CID 243369943.

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