Berbere Spice Brown Butter

Source: Marcus Samuelsson, The Rise

Recipe Type: | Seasons: , , ,

This recipe is excerpted from THE RISE by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn. Recipes with Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook. Copyright © 2020 by Marcus Samuelsson. Photographs by Angie Mosier. Used with permission of Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Berbere is a complex spice mix containing ground chiles, garlic, coriander, and more—some versions include 20 spices, and one of my favorite blends also includes fenugreek, cardamom, allspice, paprika, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In Ethiopia, berbere is almost a currency. It’s what people make at home, but it’s also something they trade with at the market. We put it on everything. I’m so happy to see berbere gaining in popularity with chefs and others outside the Ethiopian community. Sprinkle berbere on grilled carrots or roasted chicken or a piece of lamb.

Another great way to use berbere is to add it to butter. You brown the butter, which gives you one level of flavor, then you add spices to it to make kibbeh, and finally add berbere on top of that. Put it on anything poached or grilled and get ready to smack your lips.

Active Time: 10 minutes

Start to Finish: 10 minutes

Makes about 1½ cups


Kibbeh (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon berbere seasoning


Melt the niter kibbeh in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add the berbere spice and stir to combine.

Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Niter Kibbeh

Niter kibbeh is a staple of Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. A seasoned clarified butter, niter kibbeh is similar to Indian ghee but infused with spices before the dairy solids are removed. That aromatic flavor is imparted to whatever is cooked with it—seared fish or meat, or stirred into legumes or a stew like doro wat. It can take high heat without burning and ferments well. The longer it sits, the better it tastes

Active Time: 15 minutes

Start to Finish: About 1 hour

Makes about 1½ cups


1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced 1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
4 sprigs fresh thyme


Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. As foam rises to the top, skim and discard it. Continue cooking, without letting the butter brown, until no more foam appears. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, cardamom, fenugreek, cumin, oregano, turmeric, and thyme and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned and aromatic.

Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with a cheesecloth. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

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