A wonderfully fragrant Ethiopian and Eritrean spice mix that is commonly used in East African dishes. Berbere Spice Mix is a wonderful addition to any lentil, bean, chicken or meaty stew recipes! Whilst you can buy it in many larger supermarkets or international food shops, you can make your own with spices that you’re likely to have in your spice cupboard at home!
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What is Berbere?
A versatile ingredient, berbere is a spicy mix with a complex flavour profile. With sweet, citrusy and aniseedy notes, the spice can be used in various vegetarian and meat dishes, including stews, dahls and as a dry rub for meat. In Amharic, barbare’ means ‘hot’, but there’s much more to this spice mix that chilli heat. Made with cumin, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon and allspice, berbere has a unique combination of warmth, spiciness, earthiness, and sweetness.
According to The Spruce Eats: ‘Berbere is thought to have come along in the 5th century when Ethiopia controlled the Red Sea route to the Silk Road. Traders had access to spices from China which found their way to local markets and eventually home cooks.’
What is Berbere Spice Mix Made of?
Berbere Spice Mix ingredients vary from country to country and from family to family. We have been researching recipes long and hard and we have finally arrived at the mix that works for us. It is not too hot, but bursts with all the different flavours.
To make it, you will need:
- Cayenne Pepper (substitute with chilli powder, if you don’t have any cayenne)
- Black Pepper
- Ground Coriander
- Ground Cumin
- Cardamom Pods (or use cardamom powder)
- Fenugreek (seeds work best)
- Cloves (or ground clove powder)
- Smoked Paprika
- Ground Ginger
See the recipe below for quantities. But if you don’t fancy making it yourself, you can buy Berbere, here.
We love cooking with spice. Another African continent favourite of ours is Ras El Hanout, commonly used in Moroccan cuisine.
Berbere Spice Mix
- Pestle & Mortar or Spice Mill
- 10 cloves
- 10 cardamom pods seeds only
- 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp allspice
- Open the cardamom pods and take the seeds out. Place them into a pestle and mortar or a spice mill alongside cloves and fenugreek seeds and blend/ crush to a powder.
- Place the powder in a bowl. Add the rest of the spices and mix well.