15 Best Foods From Ethiopia: Traditional Ethiopian Food Guide

Ethiopian cuisine is like a delicious secret that the rest of the world has yet to discover. With a history dating back thousands of years, it is a culinary tradition rich in flavour, culture, and spice.

The foods from Ethiopia are a feast for the eyes and taste buds, from the famous injera flatbread to the aromatic stews and fiery sauces.

15 Best Foods From Ethiopia: Traditional Ethiopian Food Guide

Ethiopian cuisine is like a delicious secret that the rest of the world has yet to discover. With a history dating back thousands of years, it is a culinary tradition rich in flavour, culture, and spice.

The foods from Ethiopia are a feast for the eyes and taste buds, from the famous injera flatbread to the aromatic stews and fiery sauces.

Hi, we’re Rach & Marty!

We’ve visited every country in the world and want to help you get the most out of your travels!

Whether you need an expertly planned itinerary, some experienced hints and tips, or just craving a delicious food adventure, we’ve got you covered!

Hi, we’re Rach & Marty!

We’ve visited every country in the world and want to help you get the most out of your travels!

Whether you need an expertly planned itinerary, some experienced hints and tips, or just craving a delicious food adventure, we’ve got you covered!

Hi, we’re Rach & Marty!

We’ve visited every country in the world and want to help you get the most out of your travels!

Whether you need an expertly planned itinerary, some experienced hints and tips, or just craving a delicious food adventure, we’ve got you covered!

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Foods From Ethiopia - Yetsom Beyanetu hand eating Featured

Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or just looking for something new and exciting, Ethiopian cuisine is an adventure you want to experience. 

So grab your fork (or better yet, your hand) and get ready to discover the mouthwatering world of Ethiopian food.

What Is Ethiopian Cuisine?

Ethiopian cuisine is a delicious blend of spices, stews, and curries that come together in a mouthwatering symphony of flavour. What sets this cuisine apart is its unique presentation, where dishes are served on top of a large spongy flatbread called injera. 

This bread acts as the meal’s plate and utensils simultaneously, and diners tear off pieces to scoop up the food with their hands. 

It’s worth noting that Ethiopians consider the left hand unclean, so be sure to stick to using only your right hand when enjoying this feast.

What’s more, Ethiopia boasts a vast array of vegetarian and vegan options, as many Ethiopians avoid certain foods for religious reasons.

But, when it comes to the meat, you can bet it will be fresh.

Whether you’re a meat-lover, a plant-based eater, or keen to taste it all, Ethiopian cuisine has something to offer everybody.

Foods From Ethiopia - Marty and Rach eat

How to Eat Ethiopian Food

In Ethiopia, meal times are usually a communal activity. As a result, many popular or traditional Ethiopian dishes are served atop injera; a staple flatbread in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. 

You will not be given utensils to eat foods from Ethiopia, nor do you need them; foods from Ethiopia are to be eaten by hand. Remember, right hand only!

Sure, it may take a little practice – but you get used to it. I do believe that food (from many cultures, not just foods from Ethiopia) tastes better when you eat with just your hands. 

Here are a few tips to help you enjoy Ethiopian cuisine like a local:

  1. Tear off a piece of injera: Using your right hand, tear off a small piece of injera. Injera is soft and spongy, so tearing off small pieces is easy.
  2. Scoop up the food: Use the piece of injera to scoop up a bite of stew, curry, or other dish. The injera will soak up the dish’s flavours, making each bite flavourful and delicious.
  3. Eat in small bites: Ethiopian cuisine is meant to be enjoyed slowly, so take small bites and savour the flavours.
  4. Don’t double dip: When eating with your hands, it’s important not to double dip. Use each piece of injera to scoop up a single bite of food and then discard it.

Eating Ethiopian food with your hands is meant to be a communal experience, so don’t be afraid to dig in and share with your dining companions.

Foods From Ethiopia - Rach with Yetsom Beyanetu
Foods From Ethiopia – Rach with Yetsom Beyanetu dish

Berbere Is A Key Ingredient In Many Foods of Ethiopia

Similar to Indian cuisine, Ethiopians are known for their love of spices. 

Berbere is a key ingredient in Ethiopian cuisine, specifically in many meat and vegetable dishes. It is a fiery, aromatic spice blend that typically includes chilli powder, paprika, ginger, garlic, onion, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and other spices. 

The recipe for berbere can vary from region to region and even from household to household. Still, it is an essential flavouring agent in many Ethiopian dishes, including stews, sauces, and marinades.

Ethiopian Dining Culture – What is Gursha?

Foods From Ethiopia - Gino feeding Marty
Our Ethiopian friend, Gino is showing gursha to Marty in Addis Ababa

The Amharic term Gursha translates to “mouthful,” “tip,” or “bribe” and involves taking a large piece of food wrapped in injera and placing it in another’s mouth at the table.

The act is reciprocated and is typically performed first for elders or guests as a sign of respect, following traditional rules.

Gursha is a unique and communal aspect of Ethiopian dining culture.

The Best Ethiopian Food You Need To Try

1) Injera

Injera is a sourdough flatbread staple in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. Made from teff flour, a gluten-free grain native to Ethiopia, it has a spongy texture and slightly sour taste.  

The batter is fermented for up to three days, which gives it a distinct tangy flavour. Then, the batter is poured onto a hot, circular griddle and cooked into a sizeable spongy pancake-like bread.

As you may have noticed from this list of traditional foods in Ethiopia, most Ethiopian dishes are served on top of or alongside injera.

RELATED POST: Eritrea Travel Tips | 10 Essential Things to Know Before You Go

Foods From Ethiopia - Injera
Injera is commonly served with many foods in Ethiopia

2) Yetsom Beyaynetu

Yetsom Beyaynetu is a traditional Ethiopian vegetarian platter typically served during fasting periods in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which occurs several times a year.

“Yetsom Beyaynetu” translates to “fasting platter” in Amharic ( a Semitic language that is spoken primarily in Ethiopia).

The platter comprises various vegetarian dishes, typically made with lentils, vegetables, and spices. The dishes included in Yetsom Beyaynetu can vary depending on the region and the season. 

Still, some typical dishes include gomen (collard greens), atkilt wot (mixed vegetables cooked in a spicy sauce), yekik alicha (split peas cooked with turmeric), shiro (ground chickpea stew), fasolia (green beans cooked with spices), and tikil gomen (cabbage cooked with spices).

Foods From Ethiopia - Yetsom Beyaynetu

Yetsom Beyaynetu is traditionally served on a large platter atop injera, and it’s common to serve extra injera on the side. 

Diners tear off the injera pieces and use them to scoop up the different dishes on the platter.

I remember enjoying a particularly memorable Yetsom Beyaynetu while visiting Lalibela’s fascinating city for two days.

3) Misir Wat

Misir Wat is a popular Ethiopian dish from red lentils cooked in a spicy sauce. 

The dish typically includes a combination of red lentils, onions, garlic, ginger, berbere spice (a mix of chilli peppers, garlic, ginger, coriander, and other spices), and sometimes tomatoes. 

The lentils are cooked until soft and then mixed with the spicy sauce, which gives the dish its characteristic deep red colour.

Foods From Ethiopia - Misir Wat
Misir Wat is the red lentil stew (wat) in the bottom right hand corner.

4) Doro Wat

What is traditional Ethiopian food? This dish, Doro Wat, is often considered the country’s national dish. It’s a spicy chicken stew that is rich in flavour, and no surprise that you will find it served with injera.

The dish is made with marinated chicken (from lemon juice and spices) and then simmered in a spicy sauce made with onions, garlic, ginger, and Ethiopian spice blend, berbere. 

Foods From Ethiopia - Doro Wat
One of the foods in Ethiopia that you should try is Doro Wat

Berbere spice mix typically includes chilli peppers and this is what gives Doro Wat its deep red colour and fiery flavour.

The sauce also includes tomatoes, which help to give it a rich, thick consistency. Hard-boiled eggs are also a traditional ingredient in Doro Wat, often added to the stew toward the end of the cooking process.

5) Tibs

Foods From Ethiopia - Tibs

I love this dish; Tibs are such tasty foods from Ethiopia.

Tibs is Ethiopian food typically made with beef, although lamb and goat can be used too. 

To make Tibs, small pieces of marinated meat in a mixture of spices, including berbere, and then sautéed with onions, garlic, and sometimes tomatoes.

It is a stir-fry dish that is cooked quickly over high heat, resulting in tender meat that is crispy on the outside.

There are also variations of Tibs, including Awaze Tibs (made with a spicy sauce), Key Wat Tibs ( a spicy beef stew), and Kitfo Tibs (seasoned, raw beef that is cooked quickly over high heat).

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6) Genfo

Genfo is an Ethiopian porridge made from roasted barley flour. It’s a nourishing meal, usually served as a breakfast dish.

To prepare this tasty porridge, barley flour is roasted in a dry pan until it turns a deep golden brown colour and has a nutty aroma. Next, the flour is mixed with hot water to form a thick, dough-like mixture.

The mixture is then kneaded by hand until it becomes smooth and pliable and is typically served warm.

Genfo is a communal meal, served in a large mound with a hole in the centre, filled with a mixture of niter kibbeh and berbere. This traditional Ethiopian food can be eaten with the hands or with utensils.

Genfo can be served plain or with additional ingredients, such as butter, honey, or salt, and commonly served with a side of yoghurt or milk.

It is a staple food for many Ethiopians, particularly in rural areas.

Foods From Ethiopia - Genfo
Ethiopian food – Genfo. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

7) Shiro Wat

A tasty Ethiopian stew that I find so comforting. Shiro Wat is made from ground chickpeas, which are first roasted and then ground into a powder.

Foods of Ethiopia - Shiro Wat
Foods of Ethiopia – Shiro Wat is very popular Ethiopian cuisine.

The powder is cooked with onions, garlic, and spices, including berbere and niter kibbeh, a spiced clarified butter; this is what gives the stew a silky texture.

The result is a thick, hearty stew rich in flavour and typically served with injera.

Shiro Wat is one of the foods from Ethiopia that I highly recommend.

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8) Kik Alicha 

Foods From Ethiopia - Kik Alicha

Kik Alicha is a staple food in Ethiopia, often served as part of a larger meal alongside other dishes, such as Doro Wat or Shiro Wat. 

Essentially, a dish made from split yellow peas simmered with onions, garlic, and turmeric. It is a warming Ethiopian dish, often served as a regular vegetarian option in Ethiopian cuisine.

9) Fit fit

Fitfit is a satisfying dish, rich in flavour and texture, and a great way to use leftover injera. Fitfit is a popular breakfast dish or street food in Ethiopia, usually served warm and is often eaten with a cup of tea or coffee.

To make fitfit, pieces of injera are torn into small pieces and mixed with clarified spiced butter and berbere spices. 

Foods From Ethiopia - Fit fit
Foods From Ethiopia – Fit fit. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

There are two main versions of fitfit: the one made with injera flatbread, and the other made with unleavened kitcha bread.

The mixture is then heated over low heat until the bread has absorbed the sauce and has softened. 

Add boiled eggs, cheese, or cooked vegetables for extra flavour and nutrition.

10) Siga Wat

Siga Wat is a traditional Ethiopian dish similar to Doro Wat but made with beef instead of chicken.

It is a slow-cooked stew that results in tender chicken that melts in your mouth. And yes, you guessed it; it often comes served with injera.

11) Gomen

Gomen is a popular Ethiopian dish made with collard greens that have been chopped and simmered with onions, garlic, ginger, and various spices.

Foods From Ethiopia - Gomen
Foods From Ethiopia – Gomen, the green vegetable dish pictured here.

It’s a tasty and nutritious dish that’s generally served as a side dish or used as a filling for injera rolls.

Gomen is often paired with other Ethiopian dishes such as doro wat or kitfo to create a well-rounded and satisfying meal.

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12) Kitfo

Kitfo is a traditional Ethiopian dish made from raw minced beef, sourced from high-quality cuts, and spiced with various seasonings. It’s usually eaten with injera, a sourdough flatbread made from teff flour, and other side dishes such as cooked greens or a mild cheese called ayibe.

Some common spices in Kitfo include mitmita (a spicy chilli powder), salt, and niter kibbeh (spiced clarified butter).

In addition to the standard version of Kitfo made from raw beef, there are cooked versions. “leb leb” Kitfo is lightly cooked, while “tibs” Kitfo is cooked through. 

Foods From Ethiopia - Kit
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13) Kitcha

Kitcha is a thin unleavened bread, widely popular in both Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. 

The flatbread consists of wheat flour, water, and salt, pressed into a flat dough, then cooked on both sides in a pan with clarified butter.

While kitcha can be eaten as is, it’s often used in a popular Ethiopian breakfast dish called kitcha firfir (or kitcha fit fit). 

The kitcha flatbread is torn into small pieces to make this dish and mixed with berbere and niter kibbeh.

Typically, kitcha firfir is served with a dollop of plain yoghurt and paired with hot Ethiopian coffee or tea. 

This dish is a delicious and filling breakfast option that is sure to start your day off right!

14) Deep Fried Whole Fish

Foods From Ethiopia - Fried Whole Fish

Deep-fried fish (often tilapia) is fantastic in Ethiopia. First, the eyes are removed from the fish, before being washed in water and cardamom, scored, and then covered in wheat flour and deep-fried.

The preparation of scoring the fish makes it easier to pull pieces off and enjoy; without having to deal with a bunch of bones etc.

Fish is commonly served with fresh bread rolls arrived with a side dish of a green spicy dip (cochocha), which included ingredients such as fresh rosemary, coriander, and chilli.

15) Buticha

Buticha is a delicious Ethiopian dip made by blending chickpeas or fava beans with onions, peppers, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, cloves, and other spices. Essentially, it’s Ethiopian hummus; and it’s fantastic!

This easy-to-prepare dish is made by mixing all ingredients until a smooth consistency is achieved.

Buticha is a popular dish in Ethiopian cuisine, usually eaten with bread or injera and served as an entree or a side dish. I loved enjoying buticha in Ethiopia, it reminded me of enjoying a similar dip in Syria (learn more about 9 amazing foods from Syria here) and Egyptian food, to name just a few. 

The combination of spices and the creamy texture of chickpeas or fava beans make for a delicious and satisfying dish that is sure to please.

Ethiopian Coffee – A Contender for World’s Best

Foods From Ethiopia - Coffee

We’re often asked the question, “Which country has the best coffee in the world?” Honestly, that’s a really tough question; especially given that we’re both huge coffee lovers, and we’ve enjoyed it in every country. 

Some of our favourite coffee in the world has been in Colombia, Italy, and Australia (our home city of Melbourne), but we do rate Ethiopia as having some of the finest and freshest tasting coffee in the world. 

So, if you’re a coffee fan and especially if you enjoy strong coffee; you will love the coffee in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Foods From Ethiopia - Coffee Ceremony

Coffee drinking in Ethiopia is a social and ceremonious event that’s a mark of friendship and hospitality. The coffee ceremony ritual includes roasting and grinding beans, brewing in a jebena (a flask made of pottery), and serving with snacks, usually fresh popcorn.

Myrrh and frankincense are burned to ward off evil spirits while the guests converse and enjoy their coffee.

It’s rude to leave without at least three cups as it’s believed to transform the spirit.

Ethiopia is the top coffee producer in Africa and the 5th largest globally, providing around 4% of the world’s coffee.

Unlike other countries, Ethiopians consume as much as 50% of their coffee, reflecting the significance of coffee in their daily lives.

Foods From Ethiopia - Roasting coffee beans

Perhaps now that I’ve published a post about the 10 best food countries in the world (of which Ethiopia is also featured), I should write about my top 10 countries for coffee, too.

Tej – Honey Wine

If you do visit Ethiopia, don’t miss the opportunity to taste Tej. It’s also known as honey wine, and tej is a traditional Ethiopian alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and a special kind of hop called gesho.

It has a sweet taste and is typically served in a rounded vase-like container called a berele. Tej is a popular drink during festive occasions, especially weddings and other celebrations. It is also believed to have medicinal properties and is used in traditional Ethiopian medicine to treat various ailments.

Tej is an important part of Ethiopian culture and heritage, and it continues to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Best Food Tours in Ethiopia 

Foods From Ethiopia - Yetsom Beyanetu

I’m a huge fan of food experiences when I travel and I highly recommend joining some food tours in Ethiopia.

It’s fascinating to learn about Ethiopian food and culture, and the best person that can tell you all about it is a passionate food-loving local.

Going on an Ethiopian food tour is the best way to experience the cuisine. A local guide will show you the best restaurants, markets, and street food stalls.

Since eating Ethiopian food is a communal affair, it’s much more fun to join a group tour and enjoy the company of others.

Have you tried Ethiopian food? Is there a particular Ethiopian food you love and can’t wait to try again? What are your thoughts about the vibrant foods from Ethiopia? Let us know in the comments below!

Travel Tips for Ethiopia

We have more helpful travel guides and tips for Ethiopia—this is a diverse country!

When planning your trip, we recommend spending two days in Lalibela. Our complete guide has everything you need to know; it’s a fascinating place.

We highly recommend visiting the Simien Mountains, on a day trip from Gondor. Here’s everything you need to know.

We wrote this comprehensive post to help you learn more about Ethiopian cuisine.

Ethiopia features on our list of the 10 best food countries in Africa, and it even made it into our top 10 best countries for food lovers

Our Food Map of Africa is interesting because it explains what people eat in all 54 nations. If you’re wondering what people eat for breakfast in Africa, check out this post about the most popular African breakfast foods.

If you’re keen on an adventure, here’s how to take local transport from Ethiopia to Somaliland. If this interests you, you will need a visa. You can apply for your visa for Somaliland in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

We recommend joining a food tour in Addis Ababa. It’s a great way to taste the cuisine and learn about Ethiopian culture. Read about our food tour experience in Addis Ababa to know what to expect.

Check out our best-ever travel tips compiled from more than twenty years of experience.

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • I love Ethiopia. To be honest, Ethiopian food is exceptional. I planned to go in comming summer, rain season. አትዮጵያ

    Reply

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