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Spice Advice: Berbere

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Written by: D. Lanzet
There is no single universal berbere blend, or 2 don’t become 1, varying from region to restaurant to the spice girl next door. Berbere (bur-bu-ree) in Amharic, Ethiopia’s state language, translates to “pepper” or “hot” and is the fiery pillar of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. With little documentation of Ethiopian cuisine before the 13th century, it’s believed that berbere first appeared around the 5th century when Ethiopia controlled the Red Sea route to the Silk Road.
Sure berbere is spicy but it’s also complex and citric: ours has cayenne, paprika, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, and allspice. Traditionally, berbere is found in Ethiopia’s national dish doro wat (chicken stew) and misir wot (spiced red lentils). When combined with tej (honey wine or mead), or pastis, ouzo, or arake, it becomes a citrusy, tangy dipping sauce called awaze, often used to braise and grill meats and fish, as a condiment in vegetarian dishes like dinich alicha (cabbage potato carrots) and ater kik alicha (yellow split peas), and for a good injera (Ethiopian teff bread) drag. We’re not kidding when when we say you’re really, really, really gonna wanna make it last forever, not even a lentil. 
Spice up your life and sprinkle on fruit and popcorn. Whisk into yogurt for a zesty side sauce with crispy chickpeas. Crispy smoked berbere wings with honey cayenne sauce will zigazig ah until you know how we feel. And when you’re ready to make doro wat, we’re here to sweat with you.
Looking for more Berbere inspo? Check out our recipes for tangy tomatoey Berbere Shakshuka (a classic North African and Middle Eastern dish), Berbere Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and our Berbere Bloody Mary.
berbere bloody mary brussels Shakshuka

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