What is Ethiopian food? For us, Ethiopian food is one of the world's most unique, fascinating and delicious cuisines. In addition to its flavorful dishes, stews, and spices, Ethiopian cuisine also features a strong culture around how food is served and shared with friends and family.
This Ethiopian food guide includes an extensive list of traditional Ethiopian dishes you seek out and what sort of flavors and spices might you find when you visit the country or an Ethiopian restaurant at home.
When we headed to Ethiopia, I went packing with high expectations of the food. Years ago, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Ethiopian food fresh out of university.
In Washington, D.C., just new to world cuisine, I clearly recall my first pull of a round stretchy pancake-like injera bread, beautifully colored mounds of what looked to me like curries, and a massive circular tin plate from which we all grabbed and chowed down.
The flavors and communal style of eating was cool and unusual, like nothing I had experienced before. I wanted to learn more.
After praising Ethiopian food upon our recent return from our trip to Ethiopia – yes, it’s as good on the home turf as it is in restaurants abroad — I was surprised by how little awareness seemed to exist not only of Ethiopian dishes, but also of the distinct existence of the cuisine itself, even among some friends I consider well-traveled and food aware.
This isn’t terribly surprising. After all, how often do you hear someone raving about and posting photos of cuisine from sub-Saharan Africa?
With its rich, spicy stews and diversity of flavors, Ethiopian food surely qualifies as one the world’s great stand-alone cuisines.
Considering the country’s history and geography, particularly in situ, it makes sense. The cuisine follows the culture, formed and informed by millennia of trade and exchange with the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean. Amidst this storm of positive culinary influence, acquired spices blend with Ethiopia’s indigenous ingredients.
And, poof! You get Ethiopian food, a unique table befitting the context.
Here’s what we discovered about Ethiopian food during our time in country: from the basic ingredients and spices that make the cuisine so unique to some of our favorite Ethiopian foods and dishes.
Let’s dig in!
Note: This post was originally published on June 27, 2014 and updated on October 21, 2018.
How to Eat Ethiopian Food
Eating Ethiopian food is a social event, a shared experience that includes everyone around the table and usually involves eating with ones hands thanks to the use of injera (Ethiopian bread) as a sort of utensil. This is not only delicious but also a shocking amount of fun!
Injera (Ethiopian Bread)
Ethiopian food without injera might be considered heresy by Ethiopians. This spongy pancake-like flatbread made from fermented tef (a gluten-free grain indigenous to Ethiopia) is fundamental to every Ethiopian meal.
Injera features a slightly sour flavor that comes from the fermentation of its primary ingredient, a grain called tef. Although we enjoy eating injera, for some it may be an unusual, if not acquired, taste. The tangy flavor, however, seems well-designed to complement the flavors found in Ethiopian stews.
In traditional Ethiopian restaurants and homes you’ll often find circles of injera rolled out like a natural plate, atop which are arranged a smattering of spicy stews, cooked vegetables and salads (see Mixed Platters below). Although the presentation may appear similar to that of an Indian thali, the flavors and style is uniquely Ethiopian.
Injera is meant to be eaten with your hands. Tear off a small bit with your right hand (as in many countries, eating with one's left hand is a no-no in Ethiopia) and scoop bits of the stews and various dishes into it, forming a bite sized food parcel and gingerly tuck it into your mouth.
Don’t feel embarrassed if you get some of the stew or sauce on your fingers in the process – it’s natural and is part of the fun. Tempted though you may be to lick your fingers, know that Ethiopians don't care for that practice, either.
Injera tip to beat all injera tips: the best bits of injera are the spice- and sauce-infused patches underneath the piles of stew on the tray!
Restaurants will usually bring out baskets full of additional napkin-rolled injera rounds. One thing is almost certain in Ethiopia – you'll never ever have to worry about running out of injera during a meal!
It's unlikely you'll ever emerge hungry from a meal with lots of injera, as it fills the stomach for hours. After a big lunch in Ethiopia, it's rare that we ate a full dinner later in the day, if we ate at all.
Ethiopian Mixed Platters: Meat and Vegetarian
The best place to begin with Ethiopian food is to order a mixed platter – meat, vegetarian, or both — so that you can sample a variety of stews (wats) and dishes at one sitting. Although the mounds delivered to your table may individually appear small, collectively the portions are often staggeringly large. We recommend sharing a plate with others so you don't feel overwhelmed.
Although some dishes may appear regularly in mixed platters, the ones that comprise yours will likely be based on whatever happens to be cooked fresh that day. Always a tasty surprise!
Maheberawi (Meat Mixed Platter)
Ethiopian meat-based mixed platters usually combine several stews like key wat (beef stew), tibs (lamb, beef or goat cubes cooked with nitter kibeh and herbs like rosemary), and kitfo (raw ground beef). We highly recommend ordering one of these and sharing it with at least two to three people.
Yetsom Beyaynetu (Vegetarian Mixed Platter)
Also known as a fasting platter, yetsom beyaynetu is a mixed vegetarian platter that usually includes several types of lentil and split pea stews (e.g., misir wat, alecha kik or mesir kik) with kale (gomen) and a spicy tomato stew (sils). Talk about a vegetarian – if not a vegan — dream.
Yetsom Beyaynetu is usually available in restaurants in Ethiopia on Wednesday and Friday when practicing Orthodox Ethiopians (the majority of the population) forego meat and dairy products. These dishes are also readily available during the fasting periods before Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas and Easter.
Bigger restaurants that are more accustomed to foreigners may offer a vegetarian fasting plate every day, while smaller local restaurants may not.
Ethiopian Traditional Foods
Doro Wat (Chicken Stew)
This rich chicken stew is one of Ethiopia’s most famous dishes. We were told that when an Ethiopian girl wants to marry, she has to make doro wat for her fiancé’s family as a demonstration of her culinary proficiency and thus worthiness to be chosen as a wife. While this traditional cooking exam may still hold in rural areas, it is quickly dying out in Ethiopian cities.
Doro wat takes time to make, which is why in Ethiopia it is often only served during holidays and on special occasions. Because it is so tasty, it's a staple in Ethiopian restaurants around the world. It involves slow cooking red onions, berbere spice and chicken parts for hours, until just the right consistency and blend of flavors has been achieved.
We were fortunate to enjoy a home-cooked version of doro wat at our guide’s friend’s girlfriend’s house. Though the connection was tenuous and the meal difficult to photograph, the taste was wonderful.
Doro wat may be difficult to find at restaurants in Ethiopia due to the amount of time it takes to prepare, but it is worth the extra effort to seek it out. Ask your guide, other locals and hotel or restaurant staff well in advance of your meal and they may be able to point you in the direction of where to find it. If it’s not on a restaurant’s standard menu, ask if you can pre-order it for that night or for the following day.
Minchet (Spicy Ground Beef Stew)
Quite often our favorite meat dish, minchet is often placed at the center of a maheberawi (mixed meat plate). This ground meat stew is made from simmered red onions blended with ground beef and berbere. It’s often served topped with a boiled egg or two. Apparently you can ask for a low-spice version, too.
Key Wat (Spicy Beef Stew)
Similar to minchet, but made with meat chunks instead of minced meat. Also served with a boiled egg on top, in the middle of a mixed plate.
Tibs (Stir-Fried Meat)
Cubes of meat (beef, lamb or goat) stir-fried with onions, peppers and other vegetables in niter kibbeh. Quite often, twigs of rosemary or other herbs are added to it. Tibs can also be served spicy with some berbere thrown in. A simple and unassuming dish that's got more flavor than you would imagine.
Gomen Be Sega (Meat with Vegetables)
Beef or lamb simmered in copious amounts of niter kibbeh with collard greens and other vegetables like carrots, cabbage and onions. On the occasions we tried gomen be sega, the meat was tough but the vegetables were absolute perfection thanks to the blended flavor of the meat and spiced clarified butter.
Kifto, raw lean ground beef blended with berbere, is another signature dish of Ethiopia. Think of it as the Ethiopian version of the French raw beef steak tartare. As such, visitors will earn bonus points from locals for eating this. Before you judge kitfo and yell “OMG, raw meat in Ethiopia!”, we suggest you give it try. You may look at eating raw meat – and doing so in Ethiopia — in a whole new light.
Raw meat fine dining at its best. Gored gored features raw cubes of the highest quality beef warmed slightly in spiced Ethiopian butter (niter kibbeh) and turned with berbere spice. Even if you try kitfo and decide that raw meat is not for you, we recommend that you still give gored gored a try. When done well, it’s a spectacularly flavored and textured dish.
Fir-Fir (or Fit-Fit)
Made of sliced pieces of injera turned in berbere sauce or leftover wat, fir-fir is a traditional and hearty (some may say heavy) way to start your day.
Kolo (Roasted Barley)
Kolo became our go-to beer snack at the end of the day. It’s often served mixed with peanuts and other seeds or nuts. Hearty and healthy, it pairs nicely with a St. George beer at the end of a long day.
Ethiopian Vegetarian Dishes
Ethiopian food can be very vegetarian and vegan friendly since it features a selection of standard vegetarian dishes that you'll find available at almost every Ethiopian restaurant.
Vegetarians and vegans traveling to Ethiopia should consider visiting just prior to Orthodox Easter and Orthodox Christmas as you will be virtually guaranteed to find vegetarian food everywhere at this time. During these periods, more strict Ethiopians observe a fast and forgo meat and dairy products for upwards of 50 days. Fasting plates served during these periods are terrifically delicious, and may not always be available in restaurants during non-fasting periods — particularly when locals are ravenous for meat, just after the conclusion of the fast.
Shiro (Chickpea Stew)
Both a fast food and a fasting food, shiro is a vegetarian stew made from chickpea flour mixed with berbere and other spices. It can be served either thick (tagamino) or thin (feses). Although shiro often serves as the center of a yetsom beyaynetu fasting plate, you’ll also find it served on its own. For vegetarians, this is reliable and widely available.
Mesir Wat (Red Lentil Stew) and Kik Wat (Split Pea Stew)
A rich and spicy red lentil stew, mesir wat was among our favorite staples on a fasting plate. Made with sautéed onions, berbere, cardamom and other spices, misir wat is the ultimate vegetarian comfort food.
A similarly styled stew made with split peas is called kik wat.
Kik Alicha (Split Pea Stew)
A non-spicy split pea stew made with turmeric, kik alicha helps balance out all the other flavors and spice on an Ethiopian plate. Although kik alicha does not pack a lot of heat, it still features a lot of flavor.
Gomen (Kale or Collard Greens)
Gomen is a simple, flavorful dish made from kale (or collard greens), onions, niter kibbeh and other spices sauteed and simmered together. Gomen made a regular appearance on vegetarian platters and is a welcome addition amongst all those lentils and beans.
Sils (Tomato Stew)
A savory tomato stew made from blended roasted onions, tomatoes, and berbere, sils provides a one-part tart and one-part sweet balance to the greens and beans on a vegetarian platter.
If you tire of injera and traditional food and order pasta in Ethiopia, it’s likely that sils will form the base of your pasta’s red sauce. A unique and roasted twist on Italian pasta sauce.
Ethiopian Spices, Seasonings, and Hot Sauces
If you enjoy heat like we do then you'll enjoy the spices and that are fundamental to Ethiopian cuisine. And, if you'd like to further spice your Ethiopian meal here are a couple of additional spice condiment items to consider requesting at an Ethiopian restaurant. Not only will your food be spicier, but you’ll also likely impress or puzzle your hosts with the request.
The signature red spice mound that delivers magic to most Ethiopian stews, berbere is composed of ground semi-spicy chili peppers (which themselves are called berbere to further confuse) mixed with upwards of 20 individual herbs, spices and ingredients including garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, and fenugreek.
Mitmita is another core spice blend composed of chili peppers (smaller and hotter than berbere), cardamom seed, cloves and salt. While mitmita is often turned in meat dishes to add an extra kick during the cooking process, it's also used as a condiment to lend some additional heat to the meal on one's plate.
Niter kibbeh, a spiced clarified butter similar to Indian ghee, is one of Ethiopia’s secret, magic ingredients that we all ought to know more about. It's also pure culinary fusion inspiration.
Niter kibbeh is made by cooking butter together with a raft of ingredients including onions, garlic and ginger and spices like fenugreek, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. After a long simmer, the solids are then strained away from the concoction leaving a delicious clarified butter that adds both richness and distinction to most Ethiopian dishes, especially tibs (stir-fried meat), wats (stews), and gored gored (raw beef).
A typical and traditional dark red spice sauce made of berbere blended with water or oil. In traditional Ethiopian restaurants unaccustomed to tourists, it’s typical for this to be served automatically with your meal. In Ethiopian restaurants that cater more to tourists, you may have to ask for it.
A thick, pulverized chili topping. We came across a red chili variety and a green variety that tasted like a blend of Ethiopian low-heat green chilis and green herbs.
Da'ta is especially good if you’d like to spice up western food (e.g., pasta) when you’re taking a break from traditional Ethiopian fare.
Coffee in Ethiopia, the land where it was first discovered, is a treat not only because the quality of the coffee is very high, but also because its preparation is careful and elaborate.
Regardless of whether you take your coffee in a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony or from an Italian espresso machine (a legacy of the short Italian occupation of Ethiopia during World War II), you are likely to be pleasantly surprised.
A traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony will likely take at least twenty minutes from start to finish for the first cup of coffee, but it is worth the wait. It begins with your host, always a woman, roasting raw green coffee beans in a pan over a small charcoal oven.
When the beans have finished roasting, your host will bring the pan to each person present so that he may enjoy the aroma. At the same time, she'll light some frankincense to purify and clear the air. Popcorn is usually served as a snack.
The boiled water and freshly ground coffee beans are mixed together in a jebena, a traditional coffee pot, and a magic process — one that only the host knows to ensure a perfect cup of strong coffee — ensues. The coffee is then poured gracefully into small, handleless cups.
Traditionally, a full coffee ceremony involves three rounds of coffee that proceed from strong (abol) to medium (tona) to weak (baraka), with the final round considered as bestowing a blessing on the coffee drinker.
Coffee ceremonies serve an important social function beyond the actual coffee consumed. Our guide told us that women in the community used to gather each afternoon for a coffee ceremony that takes several hours to finish, thereby ensuring ample time to discuss all news and family issues. Coffee meetings such as these rotate from house to house in a community group, so as to give each of the hosts a break.
Tej (Honey Wine or Mead)
An Ethiopian local specialty, tej is a honey wine featuring varying degrees of sweetness. The first batch we tried was almost like a dessert wine (our guide called it “the children’s version”). We took our second taste of a cloudy, earthy and higher alcohol tej in a tej betoch (honey wine house) at Torpedo Tejbet nightclub in Lalibela.
Tej is usually served in a rounded vase-like or beaker-like glass container called a berele. Although it’s typical to order one berele per person, drinker beware if you manage to finish it all.
A traditional Ethiopian beer made from tef, barley, maize or other grains blended with a green herb called gesho. Tella is usually brewed at home. You'll often find it in grimy, nondescript plastic bottles lurking in the doorways of local homes. Alcohol concentrations vary widely.
During one of our monster lunch Ethiopian food gorging sessions, I asked Fekadu, our guide: “What do Ethiopians do when they get an upset stomach?”
His response without skipping a beat: “We take a shot of araki.”
Araki is essentially the Ethiopian version of grappa (firewater or moonshine, if you like). If the name sounds like Greek raki or Balkan rakia, that’s because it’s likely descended from or related to the Mediterranean distilled spirits of a similar name.
It’s made from gesho leaves and features an alcohol level of around 45%. No wonder it is good for an upset stomach. It likely kills anything in its path, bacteria included.
Talk to anyone who likes a beer about their experience in Ethiopia and they might wax long about St. George beer. It’s not an incredible beer — and there are certainly other, more complex beers for those who search — but it is tasty enough, particularly after a long day of rock-hewn church hopping.
Be sure to check out the St. George beer label in detail. It’s one of the more colorful and notable beer labels in this part of the world.
Other Ethiopian beers in order of our preference include Dashen, Bedele, Castel, Harar and Meta.
Ethiopia makes wine? Turns out that it does. We had no idea, either.
Although some Ethiopian wines are unimpressive — sweet and appropriate for aperitif drinking (e.g., Axumit) — it’s rumored that French winemakers have been brought on board to help.
If the oak aged Rift Valley Syrah 2013 (of Castel Winery) is any indication of the future, the situation for Ethiopian wine is looking up. This wine is drinkable straight out of the bottle (or aired for a bit) on its own or paired with doro wat, mesir wat or shiro.
Less remarkable, though still good, is the Rift Valley Merlot 2013.
Although restaurants and hotels may sell these wines at the equivalent of $15/bottle, we were able to find each of them at approximately $7 from a night club in Lalibela. It never hurts to ask.
Recommended Restaurants in Ethiopia
Kategna Restaurant, Addis Ababa: Highly recommended for gored gored as the meat is high quality and the flavor is incredibly delicious. The maheberawi (mixed meat platter) and gomen be segawere also spot on.
Lake Shore Restaurant, Bahir Dar: The best place (or us) in Ethiopia for kitfo. It also helped that this was Easter day so the meat was incredibly fresh and rolling out of the kitchen as if it were going out of style. Also recommended for maheberawi (mixed meat platter).
Four Sisters Restaurant, Gondar: The best yetsom beyaynetu (vegetarian mixed platter) we ate in Ethiopia. The staff may encourage the buffet as all the vegetarian dishes are there as well, but if you order the fasting plate straight from the menu it is cheaper and prettier, and still quite plentiful.
Seven Olives Restaurant, Lalibela: Some of the best gomen be sega in the country and runner up for yetsom beyaynetu.
Ethiopian Coffee at Tomoca, Addis Ababa: If you are looking for a truly outstanding espresso or macchiato, this is the place to go. This unassuming coffee roaster and café features a decor of a bygone era and serves up an incredibly rich brew at the hands of a couple masterful baristas. It's also a good place to purchase whole bean or ground Ethiopian coffee to take home as gifts.
Ethiopian food demonstrates that we are a product of cultural and culinary evolution. A blend of influences, experiments and vessels carrying flavors that were once unknown.
If you’d like some homework, we have a suggestion: find an Ethiopian restaurant near you, gather together some friends and go. Order a mixed platter, sample widely and marvel at the injera bread with your eyes and mouth.
This will inspire you to travel to Ethiopia one day.
Melkam megeb! (መልካም ምግብ)
Disclosure: Our Discover Ethiopia tour was provided to us by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the thoughts contained herein — the what, the why, and the how — are entirely our own.
This article includes affiliate links, meaning that if you book a G Adventures tour through clicking on one of the links above, the price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission to support this website and stories like this. Check out this article for the different G Adventures tours we've taken and recommend.
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68 thoughts on “Ethiopian Food: A Culinary Travel Guide to What to Eat and Drink”
Ever since I went to Le Nil Bleu, an Ethiopian restaurant in Montreal, I’ve adored the cuisine. The flavours are so distinct and delicious and I love using injera to eat – eating with you hands is always a winner for me. This post shows I’ve still you so much Ethiopian food still to try though!
Agreed Charlie, hand eating is good fun. No silverware to clean up, too. Glad you’ve had such a good experience with Ethiopian cuisine.
Thanks so much for this! We’ve only had a small taste of Ethiopian food but enjoyed it immensely and it was great to learn so much more about it. Of course, now I’m starving! My one continuous question whenever we travel is how on earth do people in other countries wear white and stay pristine? From school children in Mexico to the coffee servers in Ethiopia! I wear a white blouse to the office and have a mark on it in a matter of minutes.
You’re welcome, Rhonda. How do Ethiopians manage to eat without making the mess that we visitors might make? Through years of practice. I suspect a similar rule applies around the world.
I also took a closer look at some folks in white at a local market in Ethiopia. I found that white clothes often appear cleaner from a distance than they do up close.
I am UW student in seattle, WA. I am taking food and culture class; I am looking for my cultural Ethiopian food to write about this class assignment and I read lots of comment about Ethiopian food. It is interesting to know that people from other culture like our food.
Thank you so much. I truly enjoyed reading it. Great article!
You are welcome, Mekdes. Glad you liked it!
I’ve never really heard anything about African cuisine outside that of Morocco. This looked really interesting and really nice. I already wanted to go to Ethiopia for the History and the Nature. Now I want to go for the food too.
Ethiopia is definitely worth a visit for its culture and history (as we wrote about at length here: https://uncorneredmarket.com/ethiopia-travel/), but we went with an eye clearly to the cuisine. Ethiopian is one of those cuisines that helps one understand the country’s backstory.
Fantastic overview of Ethiopian food Daniel and Audrey. Ethiopia is such a remarkable and unique country for eating, not only for the amazing flavors, but also for the passionate eating culture. After reading this, there’s nothing I want to do more than feast upon a maheberawi platter with an extra giant side of kitfo!
Thanks, Mark. An extra giant side of kitfo?….You really are courageous.
To your point, cultures are a reflection of their cuisine and vice versa. Ethiopia is no exception.
This is right up my alley! As a vegan, I’m always so happy to hear about cuisine that is nearly guaranteed to be vegan…and while I’ve yet to try Ethiopian cuisine, I know there are some Ethiopian restaurants in Toronto that I HAVE to try! I’ve heard it is delicious! Thank you for sharing such detailed descriptions 🙂
You are welcome, Lauren. Good luck and let us know how your experience goes with Ethiopian food. As cuisines go, you are right: it seems about as suited to vegan dining as a cuisine could be. I imagine you’ll have a great time. Eat well!
Seriously, I am astonished how diverse Ethiopian cuisine can be! I am not a meat and coffee lover, but I wouldn’t mind vegetarian plate at all! Well, it’s time to reconsider maybe our plans to postpone Africa for later 🙂
The vegetarian plates in Ethiopia are really terrific. A lot more flavor than we even give credit for in this piece. When you are headed that direction, let us know.
Thanks, Dan! For sure we’ll get back to you for some more info and tips.
Ethiopia is just an exotic food-lover’s paradise. I never tried Ethiopian food until a friend took me to an authentic place which served the meat, fish, and various vegetables on a large injera (amongst other dishes). It was a delight that was hard to forget…
Ethiopian food….hard to forget. Apt description. Glad you had such a great experience, Rashad.
The food looks great. And they use a lot of ingredients. Some places are so special because you get a piece of their culture and you realize how diversified different countries can be. I didn’t know their food is really delicious.
Ethiopian food is terrific and very much a reflection of the diversity of influences on the country. Give it a try and let us know when you do!
Wow! I was totally unfamiliar with Ethopian food prior to this post and now I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for broadening my culinary horizons!
You’re welcome, Katie. Glad we could share something new with you.
Amazing and the food looks so delicious would love to try it.
Let us know when you do. We’ll be curious to hear about your experience.
It’s incredible how diverse Ethiopian cuisine is, it looks like it is very meaty but I’m sure I’d find some tasty vegetarian dishes for me too. I love how they serve the coffee and being a coffee lover, it would probably be one of the first thing I’d like to try.
Hi Franca, please check out the vegetarian section of this article (Ethiopian Vegetarian Dishes). Loads of vegetarian and vegan options in Ethiopian cuisine, particularly during the fasting period prior to Easter and Christmas.
I must say I’ve never had Ethiopian before, but a friend of mine is a big fan. After reading this post I’m thinking I should give it a try:)
Great article! It all looks delicious.
My mouth is watering! I knew very little about Ethiopian food, thanks for sharing the wisdom and the photos too!
Hi Laura, you are welcome! That’s the idea. Turn people onto to something tasty that they’ve never heard about. And that’s Ethiopian food. We’ll be interested to hear about your experiences if you have the chance to try it.
This was fan-freaking-tastic! I’m a huge fan of Ethiopian food, and it is so cool to see it explained so well. It’s a delicious cuisine, but different than what many people are used to, and sometimes can be intimidating to people new to it, because how you eat it, what’s in it, the names, the preparations, are all pretty unique.
Glad you enjoyed the piece, Joe. Agreed. Ethiopian food is not something very many people have experienced or even think to experience. The reason that you point out — that its preparation and ingredients seem too exotic — has definitely proven a bit of an impediment to Ethiopian cuisine being better understood and more widely consumed.
The food looks delicious! I’ve never tried Ethiopian food before but after seeing these pictures, I’m sure I will try it! I really like to see how people in other countries live and eat, and seeing the diversity in cuisines. Thanks for sharing!
You are welcome, Manuela. When you give Ethiopian food a try, let us know. We’ll be interested to hear about your experience!
Great recap- and pretty spot on for non-Ethiopians!:) Sega wot is actually not with any eggs- traditionally, that is. Some of these dishes are traditional meals of particular ethnic groups: kitfo for instance, is a national dish of the
Gurage people, although everyone in Ethiopia enjoys it. And if you’re lucky you’ll have it with some “kocho” (yet another type of bread)! The longer you stay, the more snacks and dishes you’ll discover. Breakfast alone could be at least 5-8 options. Pretty amazing, 🙂 o
Thanks for the compliments, clarification and suggestions. We really appreciate it. I have no doubt that what we’ve published here is really only scratching the surface of Ethiopian cuisine.
By the way, next time we’re looking for Ethiopian food, we’ll be on the lookout for kocho!
Liliy – I agree with most of your points, But many Ethiopians assume that kocho and kitfo are national dishes of the Gurage people ONLY, In fact these are ethnic dishes to a number of people in southern Ethiopia such as Sidama, Wolayita, Kembata, Hadiya and etc. It is true that the dish is introduced to the main stream society by the Gurage people who settled in the capital Addis Ababa in large numbers.
Wow – hidden jewels of Ethiopian cuisines 🙂 it never comes to mind that Ethiopia could have some amazing food & with your insight – it surely stands out. It’s in my list to travel to Ethiopia especially for wilderness/communties but yes cuisine & brew of coffee will be my attraction. Thank you for sharing guys 🙂
Thanks, Àbhishek. I’ve known about Ethiopian cuisine for a while, but as always, tasting for oneself on native soil enlightens the most.
In Ethiopia, it’s also crucial to understand the culture and socioeconomy and how population, agrarian patterns, and history have all conspired to leave the country approximately 10% forested– and, birds aside, a little thin on traditional forms of African wildlife.
For a little bit of background, check out items #9 and #10 in our Ethiopia Travel Impressions if you haven’t already. And when you go, please be sure to let us know.
Thanks Daniel, Just amazing to know about the anthropological richness in your write-up on Ethiopia Travel Impressions. Thanks for posting & will be troubling you whenever i go to Ethiopia.
You don’t see many posts about Ethiopian food. There’s a great Ethiopian restaurant in COlumbus, Ohio where I first tried it and have kept going back. I think a lot of people would be surprised by how good it is!
Adrienne, we were definitely aiming to increase the amount of conversation regarding Ethiopian food and also to get feedback regarding additional dishes we might have missed. Indeed, Ethiopian is a surprising cuisine. Glad you’re enjoying it.
I never tried Ethiopian food, with your post, I can’t wait to try it… 🙂
I had no idea Ethiopia had such an elaborate coffee ceremony tradition! Adding that to my travel bucket list!!!
Diana, if you travel to Ethiopia, you’ll likely experience several coffee ceremonies. So you can compare. Looking forward to hearing more about your travels.
Excellent work. We are leaving for Ethiopia on Sunday for a week or so and all of the information you have provided makes for wonderful reading and will certainly go a long way in guiding us through the culinary experiences awaiting us. I am particularly fond of hot spicy food so this is quite enticing….
Thanks, Marius. We will look forward to your thoughts on visiting Ethiopia, including your experience with Ethiopian food. We are glad this guide will help!
I enjoyed reading your in site on Ethiopian food. Even though I left home at the age of 15 during the previous communist government, with practice, I got better cooking the delicious dishes I loved. I love the reaction I get from my non-Ethiopian friends about my cooking. I encourage anyone who enjoys eating our food to try learning how to cook. DON’T BE INTMIDATED. You can buy the spices and a bag of Ingera from most restaurants or Ethiopian market. To keep the ingera fresh, take it out of the bag, fold it twice individually, place it in the plastic bag or zip lock. and freezer. place wax paper in between to prevent from sticking. Heat in microwave 30 seconds, open the fold and heat 3o seconds.
Thanks, Sofia. This is a terrific suggestion — for Ethiopian food or any other cuisine. We are looking forward to getting some teff to make injera. We have some of the spices we need, including berbere, in our spice rack already.
Thanks so much for the suggestions for keeping injera fresh. Terrific!
This post and the photos here are literally making me feel hungry to death….. I stayed in Ethiopia for quite sometime and when I initially when I tried “injera” I did not like the taste of it at all but got used to it slowly and later addicted to it…specially if you have with the “dorowatt”. Very nice and recalled my old memories…
Aaliyah, I think that’s a common experience with Ethiopian food and injera specifically. It’s an acquired taste, but once you’ve acquired it (it does not take long, I suppose), it’s easy to be hooked. And all the flavors of the various wats/stews, doro wat included, makes it quite easy.
I live in Ethiopia and I am pleased to say that this blog is legit. Most people do not know anything of Ethiopia and assume it it Kenya or Tanzania. Despite what they think Ethiopia is very much its own country and very beautiful at that. I love Habesha food, shurro and injera is my personal favorite and the one of the best shurro is at Negash Lodge in Wolissio. but our seratengya makes the best in Ethiopia! Kaldi’s coffee is very popular in Ethiopia and it has wonderful coffee. The best place to get tibs is at Antika in Addis Abeba.Thank you much for sharing what you know of Ethiopia!
Thanks so much for the vote of confidence from Ethiopia, Kate. We appreciate it. With this article, we attempted to do our best to unpack Ethiopian cuisine, as it was, as we experienced. I’m glad it lived up to the reality you experience on the ground. Thanks also for the shurro, tibs and coffee recommendations!
I’d love to get your feedback on our travel in Ethiopia article as well, including anything you’d like to add.
Would like to say thanks for getting good information in different cultural food preparations.
I just finished eating Doro Wat for dinner! This dish is SO worth learning how to make! (My ex-husband is from Ethiopia and I learned from the best!) The secret to a perfect Doro Wat is patience! It takes a long time to properly simmer the onions dry so they get that rich, smokey flavor. It involves a lot of stirring too! I use chicken thighs – skinless with the bone in – for a richer chicken flavor. You want to trim the fat off also to avoid a greasy Wat. When the meat is falling off the bone, lift it out and shred the meat from the bones and put it back in the Wat. Other than that, it’s almost impossible to mess up.
Hint: Refrigerate the onions a few hours before you peel them, then peel them under cold running water – this prevents the fumes from giving you the watering eyes! Then just cut them into quarters and chop them up in a food processor (don’t puree them).
Enjoy! You WILL love it!
Thanks for the Doro Wat preparation tips, Fyllis! Really inspiring. We will definitely try our hand at making this sometime soon. When we do, your advice is going to come in very handy. And we’ll let you know how it turns out.
Thanks for the delightful (and mouthwatering) virtual culinary tour! I discovered Ethiopian food a while ago at a farmer’s market while on vacation and it was so incredibly delicious but I haven’t been able to find a restaurant in my home state. I would love to replicate it at home, and wonder if you have successfully done the same. I feel like it would be difficult if not impossible to do so without the spice blends and tef. Do you know where I might be able to find those in the states?
Good question, Tara. We’ve tinkered with the bebere and mitmita. You might be able to find tef/teff at your local organic/bio store, and berbere at an international spice shop. Alternatively, try something like these on Amazon. Happy experimenting and let us know how you get on.
Ethiopian foods that are not on this list: kinche( bulgar wheat mixed with kibe, you can add mitmita) dirkosh (dried pieces of ingera, made into fir fir), genfo, bula, alicha wat, bozena shiro (shiro made with kibe and diced meat), fasolia (carrots, string beans and onions cooked sautéed together), buticha ( chickepea dip with lemon juice), chechebsa/kita fir fir ( well known breakfast food, a flatbread broken into pieces and cooked with Berbere and kibe, can be served with honey and yogurt), sambusa, dulet, atmit and shai. Also, kitfo is made with mitmita, kibe and korarima. If you don’t like the idea of raw meat you can ask for half- cooked or fully done.
Beautiful combinations and excellent additions, Ruth. Thank you for the additional suggestions of Ethiopian dishes that we missed!
It seems that Ethiopian food would be great for someone with a gluten allergy. Do you know if that’s true?
Injera, the bread served with Ethiopian meals, is made from teff, a gluten-free grain. So it would certainly seem that Ethiopian food is a good choice for those allergic to gluten.
Amazing insights. Thanks for sharing the foods I enjoy every day. But I don’t think the picture of the Doro wat is doing justices to it the actual food.
Thank you! Doro wat is difficult to photograph. Gives us an excuse to have our next Ethiopian food experience, though — so we can replace the doro wat photo.
OMG– I am salivating while reading this and I am Ethiopian. Although I have lived most of my life abroad and in many different countries and love most kinds of foods there is nothing like this food. there is a mystery to it and its pure love.
thank you for sharing this..
Thanks, Elsa. Indeed, Ethiopian food, mystery and love. Great sentiment!
Thanks for sharing. Indeed, Ethiopian food is a healthy choice but still lucks the the awareness it deserves. There is a website http://www.fassica.com who sells injera bread and ships all over the US. I have been ordering from them for a while now as there isn’t any Ethiopia restaurant where I live (nearest being 70 miles away). I hope your readers learn about the food and culture.
Mail order injera. Impressive. Thanks for the tip, Barbara!