Although it might be challenging to locate, berbere spice is a key component of Ethiopian cuisine. What happens if you run out or are unable to locate it? How can the same flavor profile be produced? What are the finest berbere spice alternatives? Ras El Hanout, Barahat, and Garam Masala all have flavors that are comparable. Tsire powder, Tandori Masala, Curry Powder, and even Jerk Seasoning are additional simple replacements. If you want to use these spices in place of berbere spice, you might need to modify the recipe. We have everything you’re looking for, whether it be something hot, smoky, or earthy. So start cooking and introduce Ethiopian delicacies to your own kitchen!
What Is Berbere Spice?
Barbare means “pepper” or “hot” in Amharic, Ethiopia’s official language. And, certainly, the country is home to some of the world’s spiciest cuisine! Berbere is a popular Ethiopian and Eritrean spice combination. It’s created using chili peppers, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, and other spices. The precise ingredients and proportions vary according to area and the cook’s personal preference. Berbere is frequently used to flavor stews, imparting a rich and deep flavor.
It can also be applied to meat before frying or grilling. When employed in this manner, the spice combination contributes to the formation of a tasty crust on the exterior of the meat while keeping it moist and soft on the inside.
Berbere, when coupled with oil and mead or red wine, produces awaze. Awaze is offered as a table condiment and can also be used as a marinade for meat or vegetables. Although chili peppers are the main ingredient in berbere, the flavor profile is fairly diverse due to the addition of other spices.
Berbere is a savory blend of allspice, peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, fenugreek, and cardamom. This distinct blend provides berbere its trademark fiery flavor, as well as citrus undertones and a slightly sweet taste.
Although this flavor profile is difficult to imitate, there are many spices that have some of the same components as berbere spice and can thus be used as alternatives.
Best Substitutes For Berbere Spice
Let’s take a look at some great substitutes for berbere spice and how best to use them.
1. Ras El Hanout
Many of the same applications for Ras El Hanout, a North African spice blend, as those for Berbere spice, include flavoring meat and adding flavor to stews. This is understandable considering that Ras El Hanout has many of the same elements as berbere spice, including black peppercorns, allspice, coriander and cumin seeds, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, chili peppers, cardamon, and turmeric.
Ras El Hanout also contains other components that are indigenous to North Africa, such as orris root, ash berries, and cubebs, in addition to these spices. These components contribute to the stronger, more potent flavor of Ras El Hanout. Ras El Hanout’s flavors will be more potent than Berbere’s if you wish to use it as a 1:1 replacement for that spice.
Barahat is a spice that is popular in Middle Eastern cooking. Because of the presence of coriander and cumin seeds, black peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, turmeric, and cinnamon, the flavor is similar to berbere spice. The spice in barahat, on the other hand, is occasionally made with paprika, which is not as fiery as normal chili peppers. As a result, the flavor is typically softer than that of berbere spice.
Because of extra ingredients such as dried rosebuds and sumac, barahat is slightly sweeter than berbere spice. If you use barahat as a 1:1 alternative for berbere spice, make sure to modify the other ingredients so that your dish is not overly sweet. To increase the fiery characteristics of the spice, add a little more black pepper to the mix.
3. Garam Masala
You can readily get garam masala at many grocery stores. It is a mainstay in Indian cooking and is frequently used to spice stews and curries. Thanks to a fairly similar recipe that calls for coriander and cumin seeds, black peppercorns, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, this is a fantastic alternative to berbere. Although Kashmiri chili powder is not as hot as chili powder, it gives Garam Masala its spicy flavor. To enhance the spicy flavor when using Garam Masala in place of berbere spice, you could wish to add a tiny bit of chili powder.
Additionally, Garam Masala lacks Berbere’s earthy undertone; instead, it has a warming flavor that is better suited for curries and stews. Garam Masala might not be the best option if you’re seeking for a condiment replacement for berbere.
4. Tsire Powder
Tsire powder is another trademark spice of African food, and its flavors may be familiar from kebabs. Because to the presence of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and chili peppers, it also has a warming, earthy flavor. Tsire powder, on the other hand, has a distinct nutty flavor due to the inclusion of peanuts and sesame seeds. These flavors might be overpowering, so decrease the amount if you want to use Tsire powder as a replacement for Berbere.
If the flavor is a little bland, add a little of allspice and chili powder to complement the spicy, earthy tone. This blend is best suited for use as a dry rub for red meat. If you use it in a stew, the powdered texture may not be uniformly distributed throughout the dish. As a result, you may want to combine it with a little water to make a paste before adding it to the stew to enhance the tastes.
5. Tandoori Masala
If you’re looking for a dry rub for meat and seafood, tandoori masala is a fantastic alternative to berbere spice. Many of the ingredients of tandoori masala, such as coriander and cumin seeds, fenugreek, cinnamon, ginger, black peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom, are also found in berbere spice. Tandoori is an Indian spice mix that resembles Garam Masala but emphasizes Kashmiri chili powder over normal chili powder. It is therefore not as hot and cannot be used as a condiment.
Tandoori masala can be used as a 1:1 swap for berbere. To make the meal even spicier and more reminiscent of berbere spice, you may choose to add a tiny bit of chili powder.
6. Curry Powder
Curry powder is yet another Indian cooking staple that has grabbed the world by storm. You undoubtedly have curry powder in your spice cabinet, which is a perfect substitution for Berbere spice! Curry powder recipes vary greatly over the world, but the most basic ingredients are relatively similar to Berbere spice. If it contains coriander and cumin seeds, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, fenugreek, and red pepper, curry powder can be used as a 1:1 alternative for Berbere spice.
Curry powder, on the other hand, will not be as spicy as Berbere spice. If you want your cuisine hot, add a dab of chili powder to bring out the flavors. If you’re seeking for a dry rub for meat and seafood, this is the perfect solution.
7. Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
When you want to give your roast beef a rich, spicy flavor that is characteristic of Caribbean food, Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is frequently used as a dry rub. If you want a dry rub with a similar flavor profile to berbere spice, you can try Jamaican Jerk Seasoning instead. Allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and black pepper are among the elements used in jerk seasoning, which shares many of the same components as Berbere.
With the addition of dried herbs, the flavors may be a little bit too strong in comparison to Berbere because the spicy flavor is made with cayenne pepper and hot chili peppers. So that the flavors are just correct, we advise watching how much jerk seasoning you use.
Homemade Berbere Spice Mix Recipe
If you can’t get Berbere spice in a store, make your own! This simple recipe will make a jar of Berbere spice for your present and future cooking experiments.
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp black peppercorn
- 4 tsp coriander seeds
- 6t tbsp sweet paprika
- 10 dried red chilies (with seeds removed)
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- 8 cloves
- 2 tsp salt
The cumin seeds, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, red chilies, fenugreek seeds, and cloves should all be heated over high heat in a non-stick skillet until fragrant.
The toasted mixture should be processed in a food processor until it is powdered.
Blend in the remaining spices thoroughly with the mixture.
Place in a container that is well sealed, then keep it somewhere cool and dry. Within a year, use.