Berbere Spice Rub and Paste

This spice blend Berbere is a pronounced as “ber-beray”. It is a popular Ethiopian blend with a coarse earthy texture. Berbere adds wonderful spiciness when used as a rub for red or white meats for roasting, grilling, barbecuing or pan-frying. Use it as a paste to flavour stir-fries, soups, casseroles or use it as a base for curry.

Buy Berbere here!

Recipe for Berbere Spice Rub

1. Discard the stalk end and some, of the seeds from the chillies.

2. Heat a heavy-based frying pan. Bruise the cardamom pods and add them to the pan with the cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, peppercorns and ajowan seeds. Toast the spices, shaking the pan over a medium heat, until they give off a rich aroma and just begin to turn colour.

3. Remove the seeds from the cardamoms and then grind all the roasted spices to a fine powder. Mix in the ginger, nutmeg and salt.

4. Use at once or transfer to an airtight jar and store away from strong light; alternatively place in an airtight polythene container in the freezer.

Makes 1/2 cup

Berbere Spice Paste Recipe

Fry a finely chopped onion in 1 tbsp oil, with1 tsp of mild paprika and 3 tbsp of the dry Berbere spice mixture. Fry for five minutes and either use immediately or allow to cool and refrigerate for up to two weeks. See the following recipe for another version of berbere as a spice paste.

Berbere Crusted Rack of Lamb


  • 2 frenched racks of lamb (1 1/2 lb each)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed

For berbere paste

  • 1 tablespoon berbere
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons beaten egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup fine bread crumbs made from day-old firm sandwich bread
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons dry red wine

For sauce

  • 2 tablespoons berbere
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces


Marinate lamb: Combine lamb, oil, rosemary, and garlic in a large sealable heavy-duty plastic bag. Seal bag, forcing out excess air, and marinate lamb, chilled, turning bag several times, 8 to 24 hours. Preheat oven to 425°F. Make berbere paste and roast lamb: Stir together berbere, mustard, yolk, and bread crumbs, then stir in enough red wine to form a paste. Drain lamb, discarding marinade. Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until hot, then brown lamb, 1 rack at a time, over moderately high heat, about 3 minutes per side (do not brown ends). Transfer, ribs side down, as browned to a large roasting pan. Smear berbere paste on fat sides of lamb and roast in middle of oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted 2 inches into center of a rack (without touching bone) registers 140°F for medium-rare, 25 to 30 minutes.

Make sauce while lamb is roasting: Toast berbere in a dry small heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add stock and wine and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until incorporated. Transfer lamb to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes. Cut lamb into chops and serve with sauce.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Photo by Victoria Zakharchuk on Unsplash