Ethiopian Berbere Sauce Recipe

This sauce is the basis for a lot of ethiopian dishes.  It can be quite spicy, depending on the number of red chilies that you use.  While the recipe calls for whole seeds for many of the spices, I’ve substitute ground versions in place of the seeds occasionally.  If I do that, I usually reduce the amount by about a third or so, to make up for the differences in volume between whole seeds and ground spices.

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Toast the seeds/spices for a few minutes in a hot pan – nonstick works best.  Shake them constantly so they don’t stick.  You can stop when they start to toast and give off an aroma.  Grind them in with a mortar and pestle or an electric grinder.

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup water
  • 6-8 small hot chilies (seeded)
  • 2 tb paprika
  • 1 tb cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmet
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 tb red wine
  • 3 tb vegetable oil

Put the onion, garlic and water into a food processor and process until smooth.  Add the toasted ground spices from the first step, the chilies, and the rstof the spices and continue to blend.  Add the red wine, and then slowly drizzle in the oil while processing, until the sauce thickens.  Add extra oil if necessary.

The level of heat will depend on the type and number of chilies used.  We use small dried piquins, which are very very hot, so we don’t use too many.  Our current batch, obtained here from Penzey’s is a bit old, so they aren’t quite as hot as they were originally.  Start with less, and add to adjust to your own taste.

We usually make up a large batch, and freeze it in small containers.  It keeps well that way.


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