Part 2 of Making Ras El Hanout: Starting with Berbere (similar and a little less intimidating)

by | Jun 2, 2012

This post is part of a series. See our first step to making Ras-El Hanout here.

And…not to spoil the surprise, but after years of research, testing and sourcing the finest ingredients from local farmers around the world, we ended up nailing our special Ras El Hanout blend. Iโ€™m proud to say get compliments from people around the world on it!


As I continue working through the rather intimidating Ras-El Hanout, it has become apparent that I might want to get my feet wet before I jump in the ocean.

When we opened Pinch our friend Travis came in and requested some Ethiopian Berbere. Although we didn’t have it at the time, I promised to figure out a recipe for him. The Berbere is actually very similar to the Ras-El Hanout in that it combines a rather large list of spices.  So here we are, a perfect spice mix to get my feet wet: Ethiopian Berbere.

A little background on the Berebere

Berbere is the base of most Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. If you have ever eaten Ethiopian food, this is a very spicy blend, with a majority of its weight in the form of hot chilies.  Much like the Ras-El Hanout, the Berbere does not have a set recipe.  This is something that individual families, restaurants, spice markets, towns, etc. spin in their own way.  In my research, the key is to develop a balance between the heat of the chili with the aromatic sweetness of the other ingredients.

The Process

The process of creating this recipe has really instilled in me a new appreciation for how spices combine.  Whereas our Sizzling Steak, is a simple combination of a few key high quality ingredients, the Berbereโ€™s flavor profile goes all over the place and uses tiny amounts of powerful spices to form a symbiotic relationship and give depth and balance to the mix.

Focusing on Each Spice as an Individual Power Driver

I did a ton of research on the web to hone in on that perfect, authentic recipe.  Rather than focus on the ingredients, I became very conscious of what each ingredient did for an individual recipe.  Then, like any good spice purveyor, I searched the world for the best of the best herbs and spices. The key to the final recipe was getting the most flavor using small amounts of very strong ingredients, then kicking into spice heaven with a blast of heat.

So what did I end up putting in the Berbere blend?…

  • cayenne
  • sea salt
  • birds chili
  • chipotle
  • paprika
  • fenugreek
  • ginger
  • cardamom
  • black pepper
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • allspice
  • mace
  • tumeric
  • ceylon
  • cinnamon
  • clove

The chilies make up about 2/3 of the overall weight of the rub, so there is some real heat.  Yet the aromatic, and flavorful combination of spices that accompany them standout on their own and have staying power that lasts.

So now we are proud to offer an authentic and deliciously addictive Ethiopian Berbere.  If you like a touch of heat in your cooking, I am confident you will find some creative ways to use this rub.  So far I have made roasted chicken, spicy scrambled eggs, Ethiopien Berbere BLT’s with avocado, and a spicy Ethiopian Berbere smoke knackwurst.


Follow the saga! Read Part 3 of Making the Perfect Ras El-Hanout.


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