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Spices, Sauces & Other

Almost every family and restaurant in Ethiopia make their own spices — all kinds. Ethiopians will buy peppers from local markets, dry them further in the hot, Ethiopian sun and then grind everything together with other ingredients to make a mix.



Berbere is quintessentially Ethiopian: no dish is complete without it and it’s what gives most dishes their dark red color. Berbere is used in almost every meal. In the case that it’s not used in a specific dish the food will likely be dipped in Awaze, which features Berbere as the main ingredient.

If you see a dried chili in Ethiopia you will most likely be looking at berbere. The final concoction, however, is made of up to twenty ingredients, including: ground berbere peppers, garlic, ginger, African basil, rue, white and black cumin, coriander seed, black pepper,koseret (similar to oregano), fenugreek, thyme, rosemary, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, salt and cinnamon and more. Every auntie, grandmother and mother has their own highly guarded recipe.

See our blog for more on berbere.


Awaze, mitmita and senafich


Awaze is made of Berbere powder and a liquid, usually either water, tej (local honey wine), red wine, or beer. It’s mixed into a paste and then used as a delicious, spicy dip for meat.  Awaze is also sometimes used as a seasoning for raw meat, most commonly in the case of gored gored.


Unlike Berbere, mitmita is used mainly as a dip for cooked and raw meat. This mix features birds-eye chili with Ethiopian cardamom, white cumin, garlic and salt. Some variations also include koseret, rosemary and black cumin.

Although we love all the Ethiopian spices, we like this one the best because of its versatility. We use it on just about everything: sprinkled over popcorn, mixed with eggs, rubbed onto roasted veggies and cooked into soups. Endless possibilities!



Senafich is a spicy mustard sauce that’s a bit more liquidy than its western mustard equivalent. Ethiopians use senafich as a dip rather than a spread. It is made from ground mustard seeds, vinegar, garlic, oil and salt – although, like most everything, it is prepared differently at every home or restaurant.


There are two types of butter in Ethiopia: the kind you eat and the kind you put in your hair. The kind you eat is the base of many Ethiopian dishes and it is so special that people travel with it in frozen blocks when they go abroad to ensure food tastes just right. Our favorite use ofkibbeh is when it is poured liberally over kitfo!

Ethiopian butter is clarified and mixed with koseret, African basil, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, Ethiopian cardamom, and nutmeg.


Ayib is a pungent, drier version of ricotta made from cow’s or goat’s milk that has a distinct, smoky taste. Ayib’s level of pungency depends on the cheese’s freshness, but it’s always rich, tangy and a perfect way to cut the kick from the wide array of Ethiopian spices. Our favorite place to eat ayib is Kategna.

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown Ethiopia CNN

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