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Warm, Comforting Berbere Spiced Stew with Shrimp
There’s so much to love in Ethiopian food! In this post, we transport your tastebuds across the globe to Ethiopia. A place defined by magical culinary adventures. At the top of our list is this recipe for Berbere Shrimp Curry. We think it’s the best Ethiopian autumn stew highlighting the warm, spicy Ethiopian Spice Blend, a unique profile of flavor and heat that’s the backbone of Ethiopian cuisine.
Ethiopian spice is a spice blend used in many different dishes, including Ethiopia’s national dish Doro wat, a spicy chicken stew made with a fiery assortment of flavorful spices.
Our recipe uses the influence of the national dish and the spices used to create it, to make an Americanized autumn-inspired version that swaps out the chicken for fresh shrimp and includes a combination of sweet potato, cauliflower, and peas to make it extra hearty and comforting.
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What is Berbere?
Berbere is an incredible spice combo made from dried spices, with the taste varying across regions or even from household to household, depending on who makes it. The warm, spicy, sweet, and citrusy elements from the combined spices come together to create a complex fusion of seasoning that adds flavor to many types of protein, fruits, and vegetables.
The Ethiopian berbere spice blend can be used as a dry rub or blended with oil or water and honey to create a flavorful paste called Awaze. It’s essential for traditional Ethiopian dishes, and it’s a tasty spice blend to rub grilled vegetables, fish, and poultry for frying or grilling.
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How is it made?
Most berbere spice blends contain over a dozen different spices. The key ingredients include red chili peppers, fenugreek, and ginger, with other warm spices like coriander, cardamom, allspice, cumin, peppercorns, cloves, and cinnamon. Blends can also include some lesser-known indigenous spice elements depending upon the region from where it comes.
The Ethiopian Spice Blend consists of all organic spice components found in everyday Ethiopian cooking. With its paprika base and various familiar, warm spices, this blend makes an excellent African BBQ Rub or versatile ingredient!
Non-traditional Ways to Use This Ethiopian Spice Blend
An essential ingredient for Ethiopian cooking here are a few non-traditional ways to enjoy this spice blend:
- Use it to flavor many types of protein, fruits, and vegetables for frying or grilling
- Spice up bean dishes
- To season roasted chickpeas
- Add it to stews for a rich, warm, flavorful heat
- Use as a dry rub for meats
- Season meatballs
- Swap out other seasonings for this blend in grilled chicken or wing recipes
- Blend with oil or water and honey to create a flavorful paste called Awaze.
- Make a zesty dip or a sauce to accompany meats by whisking a little to taste with Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Whisk into Greek yogurt or sour cream for a zesty dip or sauce to accompany meats
Where to Buy Berbere Spice
You can buy the Ethiopian Spice Blend, which I get at The Spice House. But you can also purchase Berbere in the spice or international section of well-stocked grocery stores, global markets, specialty stores, and other spice purveyors, and it’s easily made at home if you prefer to DIY using ground spices.
In ideal conditions, three to four years is a rule of thumb for most ground spices. For the best flavor, you’ll want to use your Ethiopian Spice Blend within six months to a year. It will not “go bad,” so to speak, but it will begin to lose its flavor over time, eventually taking on a more bland, woody taste.
How to Make Berbere Shrimp Curry
Our version of this stew starts with sautéing oil with onions and sweet potatoes to develop the flavorful base. After about three minutes, the onions will become translucent.
From there, you’ll add the crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, Ethiopian Spice Blend, and cauliflower, bringing it all to a simmer and cooking for about 15 minutes longer or until the cauliflower and sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
As the stew simmers, you will notice the aromatic and spicy mix from the blend of paprika and more than twelve spices simmering. The fragrant, warming, sweet notes from ginger and cinnamon, fennel, and cloves will fill your senses as the spices’ robust herbaceous qualities combine to fill your kitchen with comforting smells.
In the final step, shrimp and peas are added, then you’ll continue to simmer until the shrimp is opaque and cooked through, about five minutes more.
If you’d like, serve this stew with rice or injera (Ethiopian flatbread). The crêpe-like flatbread is a slightly sour, sweet, fermented sourdough bread traditionally eaten with Berbere spiced meals in Ethiopia. You’ll find it in the international section at many supermarkets, or you can make it yourself, which I intend to do someday soon, using the injera recipe from Cultures for Health which uses their gluten-free sourdough starter.
While this Berbere Shrimp Curry makes a warm and delicious autumn meal, I would encourage you not to let my reference to autumn dictate the season for enjoying this stew. Let your tastebuds be the guide in selecting the meals that appeal to you during this season, and always.
Have you tried this recipe? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment. Click the blue-green comment bubble on the bottom left of your screen to jump to the comment area.
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Berbere Shrimp Curry
- Large Saucepan or Dutch Oven
- Cutting Board
- Utensils (Cooks Knife, Measuring Cups & Spoons, Rubber Spatula or Large Spoon, Ladle)
- 1 tablespoon Oil Non-GMO Grapeseed Oil recommended
- 1 medium yellow Onion
- 1 Sweet Potato 10 ounces frozen cubed
- 1 can Crushed Tomatoes 28 ounces
- 1 can Coconut Milk 13.6 fl. ounces
- 2 tablespoons Ethiopian Spice Blend
- 1 small head Cauliflower 12 ounces frozen Cauliflower florets
- 1 pound raw Shrimp peeled and deveined
- ½ cups frozen Peas
- Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat. Add onion and sweet potato. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, Ethiopian Spice Blend, and cauliflower. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the cauliflower and sweet potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the shrimp and peas. Simmer until the shrimp is opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.
- Serve as a stew with rice or flatbread if desired. 
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