Berbere Paste

The origin for this paste is The World Food Cafe cookbook (kudos).

The variations are that the following recipe quadruples all the portions, uses some Smoked Spanish Parika, and adds a lot more oil. A batch will last at least two months in a jar in the fridge. It is easy to make, though there are a lot of ingredients and it takes a while to make, so it is worth making enough to keep you going for a while. The amount of salt and oil may seem excessive, but remember that when you use the paste you’re only adding about a tablespoon of the paste to a dish.


  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 3cm piece of ginger – grated
  • 1 large red onion – chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns
  • 2 tsps of cardamom seeds (remove seeds from pods)
  • 2 tsps coriander seeds
  • 2 tsps fenugreek seeds
  • 16 cloves
  • 4 tsps cumin seeds
  • 28 medium sized dried red chillies – these grind up easier later if they are chopped or cut up before roasting
  • 8 tsps paprika
  • 8 tsps of spanish smoked paprika
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup of olive oil

To make:

  • Dry roast all the seeds and the chillies for about 8 minutes in a hot oven. Adjust time as required to avoid the seeds burning.
  • Finely grind all the seeds and the chillies in either a mortar and pestle (in batches) or in a food processor.
  • Bamix the onion, ginger and garlic to a smooth paste, using a little of the oil if necessary
  • Bamix in the powdered spices, salt, and the ground up spices, together with the rest of the olive oil. It is best to do this by adding a little more spice and a little more powder…and blend…and add some more….and blend.
  • Keep in a sealable jar in the fridge.