This Berbere spice recipe is a versatile Ethiopian spices mix of fiery, aromatic, and vibrant whole and ground spices that add warmth and flavor to stews, veggies, lentils, and more.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
✔ Easy to make. Toast whole spices and blend all the ingredients in a spice grinder, then store the result in a dry place. That's it!
✔ Flavorful. There are a lot of berbere recipes and traditional blends. We love This one the most for its complex flavor, earthy notes, and fiery spice.
✔ Lasts for years. The shelf life of homemade spice blends is limited only to the freshness of your individual spices.
✔Convenient. Once you make the berbere spice mix, you can easily add a teaspoon here and there to add unique flavor to foods.
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Dried red chilies. Chili is an essential ingredient, but you can use several types of red chili peppers depending on your heat preference. Break the chilies and shake out the seeds to reduce the spiciness. Red pepper flakes (1-2 teaspoons) are an easy substitute. You can also experiment by adding cayenne pepper or Kashmiri chili powder.
White peppercorns. Use black peppercorns if you don't have white or ground black pepper.
Paprika. I use a combination of sweet and smoked paprika. Some smoked paprika is very spicy, so consider this when adding dried chili.
Fenugreek. Sweet, fragrant, with vanilla undertones. Use ground if you can't find fenugreek seeds (see the chart below for approximate conversions).
Ground ginger. Ginger flakes can be used.
Cardamom. Look for cardamom seeds or pods (which contain the seeds). If you get the pods, use 6 for about 1 teaspoon of cardamom seeds.
Allspice berries. Allspice berries look like large cloves. Use ground if you don't have them.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
Berbere is traditionally a hot spice blend; however, you can adjust the number and type of dried chilies and the spiciness of the paprika. Salt is optional. It can always be added to individual recipes.
Step 1: Toast the spices in a heavy-bottomed skillet.
Step 2: Use a spice grinder to blend the whole spices. Then and then add the ground spices and blend to combine.
Toast the spices on low heat and stir them constantly. Take them off the heat immediately to stop the cooking process.
Grind the whole spices first, so you can easily check that they are broken down. Add the rest of the spices or everything to a sealed container or jar and shake to mix them.
When using your Ethiopian blend for the first time, start with just a little and add more as needed.
Use this fiery blend as a seasoning or dry rub for Ethiopian dishes, or get creative. Use a pinch to spice veggie burgers, bulgur with vegetables, or seasoned root vegetables like sweet potatoes. Add it to basic chickpea or beet hummus, or give lemon and tahini dressing a spicy lift. Let your taste buds lead you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Ethiopian Berbere spice lasts on the shelf for years; however, the potency of the blend depends on the freshness of the different spices used. Store the blend in a dark place or a spice cabinet, away from the stove, in a jar or airtight container. Refrigeration is not recommended because of the extra humidity, but you can freeze whole spices and blends, which extends their freshness by 3 - 5 years.
Berbere spice and mitmita are used in Ethiopian cooking and share common spices. Mitmita tends to be spicier (hotter). Depending on regional influences and individual recipes, mitmita often contains onion powder, extra salt, and garlic powder.
Berbere has a unique blend of spices. Since dried red chilies are a primary ingredient, berbere can be spicy hot. But it's balanced by the sweetness of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.
More Homemade Spice Blends
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Berbere Spice Recipe (Ethiopian Spices Mix)
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- 5 whole dried red chilies - 2 teaspoons red chili flakes
- 1 - 1 ½ inch stick cinnamon - 1 teaspoon ground
- 2 whole allspice berries - ⅛ teaspoon ground
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds - 10 cardamom pods or 1 ½ teaspoons ground
- ½ teaspoons cloves - ¼ teaspoon ground
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds - 2 ½ teaspoons ground
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds - 2 ½ teaspoons ground
- 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds - 1 teaspoon ground
- 1 teaspoons white peppercorns - or black peppercorns, 1 teaspon ground
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Break the red chilisand shake the seeds out if you want your berbere less hot. Break the cinnamonstick.
- Toast the whole spices in a heavy-bottomed skillet or frying pan for 1-2 minutes over medium heat until they become fragrant. Stir them constantly so they don't burn, and immediately remove them from the heat.
- Transfer the whole spices to a spice grinder and grind the spices until they are broken down into a fine powder.
- Add the rest of the spices to the grinder to blend them or add all the ingredients to a sealed container or jar and shake them.
- Makes about 6 ½ tablespoons.
- The potency of the blend depends on the freshness of the different spices used. Store in a dark place or a spice cabinet, away from the stove, in a jar or airtight container. Refrigeration is not recommended because of the extra humidity, but you can freeze whole spices and blends, which extends their freshness by 3 - 5 years.
- Berbere is traditionally a hot spice blend; however, you can adjust the number and type of dried chilies and the spiciness of the paprika. Salt is optional. It can always be added to individual recipes.
- When using your Ethiopian blend for the first time, start with just a little and add more as needed.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.