These two lovely jars have been sitting happily in my refrigerator since I got the bug to learn some Ethiopian dishes. Inspired by an amazing meal at an Ethiopian restaurant in Portland, and furthered by my Mom’s gift to me of her Time-Life Foods of the World Collection the creation of these two foundation ingredients have become welcome staple items.

Niter Kebbeh and Berberé
Niter Kebbeh is a spiced butter that is made very much like ghee. The amazing glow in the dark color is proof of the wonderful flavors saturated in the butter. Niter Kebbeh is used to start off stew making via the sauteeing of onions and browning of meats. It is also stirred into homemade cheese curds and boiled winter greens.

Other ways it can find its way into your kitchen? Niter Kebbeh can be replaced for any fat called for in a savory recipe. Biscuits and cornbread practically beg for a double dose.

Berberé is a thick paste of cooked down paprika and wine. It lends a wonderful depth to ones recipe: a full spicy flavor of peppers that doesn’t carry heat. This paste is a base flavor of doro watt, a red paprika laden stew of chicken and topped with hard boiled eggs simmered in the bright sauce.

How can you use this in your kitchen? Rubbed on meats to be roasted, stirred into stews, added to homemade bbq sauce or ketchup is where this paste wants to live.

Heads up: these recipes involve a lot of spice toasting and grinding. This will acquaint you with the eye stinging properties of many of these flavors, but its worth the labor. And even better, these both have a long storage life.

Niter Kebbeh: Spiced Butter

Melt in a heavy saucepan:

Use moderate heat, not letting the butter brown while melting it.
Increase the heat to bring the melted butter to a boil. When surface is covered in white foam, add:

Reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer, and leave uncovered and undisturbed for 45 minutes.

When the milk solids on the bottom of the pan are golden brown, slowly pour the clear liquid layer through a strainer lined with dampened cheese cloth. Discard the spices. Do not include any of the milk solids as they will cause the butter to go rancid.

Store the clear spiced liquid into a jar that can be sealed tightly and store either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Makes approximately 2 cups and stores for 2-3 months without refrigeration.

Berberé: Red-Pepper and Spice Paste

Over low heat combine in a heavy pan:

Stir constantly till heated through and beginning to toast.

In a blender combine toasted spices with:

Blend to create a smooth paste.

In a medium sized pan, over low heat combine:

Stir constantly till heated through and beginning to toast.
1/4 cup at a time, stir in:

Add the spice and wine mixture from the blender and cook over low heat while stirring constantly for 10 – 15 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a lidded jar, and cool to room temperature. Store with a 1/4 inch thick film of oil over the top of the paste surface to keep the mixture air tight. Replenish this oil with each use.

make approximately 2 cups and stores for 5-6 months with refrigeration.

Cooking Adventures Inspired by the Foods of the World Series


posted April 18th, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Oooh! Now this I have to try! Must be really yummy. Where did you use these?

Hi Johane

I went on an Ethiopian cooking extravaganza (that I didn’t blog- doh!).
We made doro watt, spiced greens, homemade curds, and injera (which I’ll probably blog as the recipe I developed came out fabulously).

Add I’ve become addicted to my spicy ketchup which uses the Berberé paste!

It was also fun making biscuits and gravy with the spiced butter.


posted April 18th, 2007 at 3:34 pm

Yay, I love the Time-Life series. Such an awesome resource!

- Sean
posted April 19th, 2007 at 5:07 am

I really don’t know much about Ethiopian cooking, but that butter really looks tempting.

As I was just recently gifted the entire Time-Life Series (absolutely love it!), there’s no excscuse!

posted April 19th, 2007 at 2:26 pm

[...] Berberé paste works into homemade ketchup perfectly! [...]

posted April 21st, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Is there an adequate substitute for the red wine in the Berberé paste? I am allergic to it, but I’d love to make the paste.

Hi Kiki,

Are you allergic to all alcohol? If not, substitute another type of alcohol in. Perhaps so vodka, with water to bring up it up to volume.
If its alcohol that you are allergic to, try using a 50:50 mix of vinegar and water.

While I’ve never had to substitute out red wine, I believe these two ideas should work towards helping extract the flavors of the spices.

- Kiki
posted April 22nd, 2007 at 6:31 pm

Ok, I’ll try it with the vinegar/water — thanks! Maybe apple cider vinegar…

- Kiki
posted June 10th, 2007 at 11:59 am

I went to a restaurant at the Miami are “Sheba” and for the firts time tasted Ethiopian flavors.
I m totally in love with the lentil cool salad (sorry I dont remenber the name of the dish) it was listed as vegetarian.
If if possible,I will like you to send me a similar recipe and specially the spices to use in this dish.


- barbara pumpido
posted December 21st, 2007 at 5:01 pm

You do not have to have wine to make Ethiopian berbera or paste add the recommended spice and hot water will be good.

thanks tsdale. If you have any more suggestions- please tell us more.


- tsdale
posted June 3rd, 2016 at 3:33 pm

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