The foods eaten by the people of Ethiopia

The Ethiopian diet is rich and varied, influenced by its diverse geography, cultures, and history. One of the oldest nations in the world, Ethiopia has a culinary tradition that stretches back centuries. The following is an overview of the foods and culinary practices that have been prominent in Ethiopia over the last 500 years.


  • Injera: A sour, fermented flatbread made of teff flour, which is a native grain. Injera serves as both a plate and utensil for various stews and salads.
  • Teff: Besides injera, teff is also used to make porridge and alcoholic drinks.
  • Barley and Maize: Used for making bread and porridge.


  • Meat: Beef, chicken, goat, and lamb are commonly consumed, often in the form of stews.
  • Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, and various types of beans are used to make stews and side dishes.
  • Fish: Consumed in some regions, especially around the Rift Valley lakes and rivers.


  • Cabbage, Carrots, and Potatoes: Commonly used in alicha, a type of vegetable stew.
  • Greens: Such as kale and collard greens, known locally as "gomen," are often cooked with spices and served as a side dish.


  • Avocado, Papaya, Mango, and Banana: Commonly consumed fresh.

Spices and Condiments:

  • Berbere: A complex spice mix made of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek.
  • Mitmita: A spicier blend made of African bird's eye chili peppers, cardamom seed, cloves, and salt.
  • Niter Kibbeh: A clarified butter infused with spices.


  • Coffee: Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee, and coffee ceremonies are a fundamental part of Ethiopian culture.
  • Tej: A honey wine flavored with a type of hops called "gesho" leaves.
  • Tella: A traditional beer made from barley.

Traditional Dishes:

  • Doro Wat: A spicy chicken stew.
  • Kitfo: Minced raw meat, usually warmed in a pan with butter and spices.
  • Shiro: A stew made from powdered chickpeas or lentils, flavored with spices.
  • Firfir: Shredded injera soaked in a spicy sauce, often mixed with additional ingredients like meat or vegetables.

Historical Influences:

  • Religious Practices: The Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes many fasting days, during which only vegan food is consumed. This has led to a wide variety of plant-based dishes.
  • Trade Routes: Ethiopia’s location made it part of historical spice routes, bringing spices like black pepper, cardamom, and fenugreek.

Modern Influences:

  • Italian Occupation: While short-lived, it left a legacy of pasta and Italian-style pastries.
  • Diaspora: The Ethiopian diaspora has influenced local cuisine by bringing back new ingredients and cooking techniques, and also by popularizing Ethiopian food around the world.

Throughout its long history, Ethiopian food has maintained its distinct character while also incorporating influences from neighboring regions and historical contacts. It remains a central part of the country's cultural and social fabric.

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