Berber – Ethiopian Spice Mix

Berber, the Ethiopian spice mix, is central to cooking in the Horn of Africa region.

The wonderful flavours of Ethiopian cuisine are a combination that, while varying from household to household, remains generically a mix of whole spices toasted, notably: coriander, cardamom, allspice, cloves, chilli, black peppercorn and fenugreek; and of ground spices, notably: paprika, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

The mix below is my variation, a little extra of this and a little less of that; but, most significantly, I have not included chilli. Instead, I add this when cooking, finding it the best way to vary the quantity and type of chilli depending on the meal and who is dining. For a meat or legume dish that has a moderate chilli flavour, I add 2 tsp chilli to 2 tbsp Berber spice mix.

Chilli can also be added at the table. This is a normal practice in Ethiopia where a small bowl of chopped green chilli on the side is commonplace and I have adopted this as a way of catering for individual preferences.

Berber is used in many dishes and most famously in an Ethiopian ‘national dish’ Doro Wat, a spiced chicken curry.

A recipe I have posted recently is also a famous dish,Shiro Wat. It is a chickpea paste that is served with vegetables and injera (pancake of teff flour). Alternatively, try it as a very tasty and spicy humus-style dip.

Diets for which Berber – spice mix is suitable:

Diabetic, Diary Free, Fodmap, Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Fat, Nut Free, Paleo, Vegetarian and Vegan.


Preparation: 15 mins | Cooking: 3 mins | Serves: 1/4 cup

8 cardamom pods
4 cloves
1/2 tsp fenugreek
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp paprika.
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice

chilli, 1 tsp chilli per tbsp spice.
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt, can be added to taste after cooking


HEAT a heavy frying pan.
TOAST the whole seeds – cardamom, cloves, fenugreek, coriander and peppercorn – until fragrant, approximately 3 minutes. (Stir constantly to prevent burning.)
GRIND the seeds in a pestle or spice grinder.
ADD remaining spices.
STORE in an airtight container.


– Fresh for up to 3 months.


* This spice mix can be made as a paste with the addition of garlic, onion, fresh ginger and oil.

Recipes the use Berber, spice mix:

Shiro Wat – Humus

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