Friday, September 6, 2013

Berbere Kitchen Lab.

Clockwise from top: homemade berbere paste, awaze from homemade berbere and awaze from store bought berbere powder. Awaze is a hot sauce made a bunch of different ways, but the ones above have red wine, toasted onion granules and oil.
I spent yesterday working on my berbere paste recipe and funking around with awaze sauce. 

Anyway, if you're interested in berbere, I learned a thing or two about it yesterday. First of all, the good stuff, which can be purchased from Ethiopian markets in real life and on the internet, is a spice blend made from loads of dried onion and garlic, hot dried peppers, and lots of other warming spices. When you stick your finger in it and taste it, it's hot, but it's not insanely hot. It's easy to pick out the onion, salt and other flavors beyond the heat. That's why I was so surprised when I tasted the Penzey's berbere. It's SO HOT. I couldn't taste anything beyond the heat at all and the package sez it's made with cayenne pepper.

Everything you need in a kitchen lab and more.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I knew I had to redo my berbere paste recipe with something besides cayenne pepper. So I looked at one of those pepper charts and saw that New Mexico chiles are dried red Anaheim peppers, which are also pretty low on the heat index. They're also easy to find and not too hard to grind up for experiments.

Much better!



  1. I'm new to your blog (thank you Vegan mofo) but I've really enjoyed going through the new and older posts! I've yet to try Ethiopian food it looks/sounds like it would be right up my alley, any suggestions on a first recipe to try or one you would make for someone who hadn't tasted any yet?

  2. Interesting! I have a go to berbere recipe from a vegetarian cookbook by Celia Brooks Brown. It's probably not very authentic but soo good. Now I have to look up the ingredients again to find out how much garlic and onion powder she uses. And which kind of chili.

  3. I made a berbere spice blend a loooong time ago and remember there being a crapload of different spices in it. I kept it in an air tight container but sadly, I think it disappeared when we moved. It was really good! I'm too much a lazy bum these days to make it again. Maybe I will check out the markets for the premade stuff. Making Ethiopian food scares me so hard. I don't know why. But I'm hoping that your posts will inspire me finally to take the plunge. I have your Papa Tofu cookbook thanks to a friend but I haven't tried anything yet.

  4. You said spicy and I said- I'm in! I'm not sure I've had this before, but based on what you said is in it, I think I'd be in love with it! Mmmm!

  5. Is there a particular berbere available online that you'd recommend? I have a couple of homemade berbere blends from Vegan Eats World and Fatfree Vegan in my cupboard, but I'd be interested to try a pre made one that you think is really good.

  6. I especially like the wet stains on the lined paper, I can do that, but duplicate your yummy sauce I don't know about that.
    So if I stick my finger in the sauce to taste this, would it be okay if I wipe my eyes too, or would you recommend not doing that?

  7. I am SO GLAD that you mentioned the Penzey's berbere powder, because that stuff is nuclear! I thought I was just a wuss. Is there a brand of berbere powder that you like? Because I love having it handy, but I hate that every time I put it in my lentils they set me mouth on fire. And I love spicy food! This stuff is just over the top.

  8. I can't do hot spice mixes at all. This paste looks amazing!


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