Berbere (Hot Pepper Seasoning)

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Berbere is a hot pepper seasoning essential for most Ethiopian dishes. You can buy it at some African and Middle Eastern stores. Here are several recipes that I have found for Berbere.


2 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon whole black pepper
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 cup dried shallots
3-ounces long red dried chilies
3 to 6 small, dried hot chili peppers
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
2 teaspoons salt

In a small frying pan, combine cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom pods, black pepper, allspice, and fenugreek. Cook for about 1 minutes over medium heat, until lightly toasted.

Put mixture in a blender and add shallots. Grind finely.

Discard the stems and seeds from the chilies. Break up the pods and process until ground. Combine with the toasted mixture and the remaining spices.

Makes 1 cup


1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons salt
1-2/4 cups cayenne pepper
1/2 cup paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Toast ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and allspice together on low heat for about 4 or 5 minutes, stirring. Add salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, black pepper and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool.


For smaller quantities

1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all spices together.


1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspooon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups paprika
2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups water

In a cast-iron skillet, toast the ginger, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice over low heat. Do not burn; this should only take a minute or so. Set aside to cool.

Combine the spices, onions, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the salt, and 3 tablespoons water in a small jar of a blender and blend until smooth.

Combine the paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and the remaining tablespoon of salt in the skillet and toast over low heat for a minute or so. Stir in the water, 1/4 cup at a time. Then stir in the blended mixture. Stirring vigorously, cook over the lowest possible heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the Berbere to a jar, packing it in tightly. Let the paste cool to room temperature, then cover with a film of oil. Store in the refrigerator between uses.