The Foods eaten by the people of Eritrea

The culinary traditions of Eritrea have deep historical roots, influenced by its indigenous populations as well as outside influences from trade, colonization, and migration. The country's geographical location by the Red Sea has also shaped its food culture. Eritrean cuisine is closely related to Ethiopian cuisine, given their shared historical and cultural backgrounds.


  • Injera: A fermented flatbread made from teff flour. It is a staple food and often serves as a plate for other dishes.
  • Teff: A native grain that is ground to make flour, mainly for injera.
  • Sorghum and Millet: Other grains used for bread or porridge.


  • Meat: Goat, lamb, and chicken are common meats. Due to the large Christian population, fasting periods where vegan meals are consumed are common.
  • Fish: Consumed mainly in the coastal areas.
  • Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, and a variety of beans are used in various dishes.


  • Okra, Spinach, and Collard Greens: Commonly used in stews.
  • Tomatoes, Peppers, and Onions: Used in salads and as a base for many stews and sauces.


  • Bananas, Papayas, and Oranges: Common fruits.
  • Dates and Figs: Often consumed as snacks or used in desserts.

Spices and Condiments:

  • Berbere: A spice mixture containing chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and other spices.
  • Mitmita: Another spice blend, made of African bird's eye chili peppers, cardamom seeds, cloves, and salt.
  • Niter Kibbeh: A spiced clarified butter.


  • Coffee: Coffee ceremonies are a vital part of the culture. The coffee is often flavored with spices like cardamom.
  • Suwa: A traditional homemade beer.
  • Tea: Also consumed, sometimes flavored with mint or lemon.

Traditional Dishes:

  • Zigni: A spicy stew made with meat and berbere.
  • Shiro: A stew made from ground legumes, often chickpeas or lentils.
  • Alicha: A less spicy stew made with meat, turmeric, and vegetables.
  • Tsebhi derho: Chicken stew flavored with berbere and served with injera.

Historical Influences:

  • Indigenous Traditions: Native grains like teff and various spices.
  • Trade Routes: Spices and cooking techniques from the Middle East and Asia have been integrated.
  • Italian Colonization: Pasta and some Italian cooking methods were incorporated during the Italian colonization period.

Modern Influences:

  • Diaspora Influence: The Eritrean diaspora has influenced local cuisine by bringing back new ingredients and techniques, and also by popularizing Eritrean cuisine in other countries.
  • Globalization: In urban areas, international cuisines and fast food are becoming more common.

The foods consumed in Eritrea over the last 500 years have been shaped by a variety of influences, including its native agricultural products, religious practices, and historical interactions with other cultures. The end result is a rich and diverse culinary landscape.

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