The Flavors of Ethiopian Vegan and Vegetarian Cuisine
Ethiopian cuisine is known for its distinct and well-seasoned flavor. Some may assume meal options are limited to meat-based dishes, but locals incorporate the diverse plant life of Ethiopia in a variety of vegan and vegetarian foods.
In Ethiopia, diners eat most meals with their hands. Instead of traditional western utensils, Ethiopians use pieces of injera, a fermented flatbread, to scoop and soak up food from a communal style dish.
Atir kik alicha
Pea soup is popular in many cultures, but this split pea stew is a uniquely Ethiopian dish. Cooks use turmeric to flavor atir kik alicha, making it a milder option for people who aren’t fans of spicy food.
The recipe is traditionally made by cooking down the pea base until it’s soft and mushy, then adding onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, and turmeric to the stew. Some people reduce the cooking time in their own homes to give the meal a firmer texture. Depending on the consistency, people serve atir kik alicha with rice or injera.
Many Ethiopians prepare this dish during religious fasting days, like Ramadan or Tsom, the meat abstinence period in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Shiro is a stew made from broad bean or chickpea purée. Onions, garlic, ginger, and regional spices give shiro its rich flavor, while tomatoes and chili peppers create a deep red hue.
Shiro is one of Ethiopia’s most popular dishes. Although many people make it from scratch, you can buy “shiro powder,” which is a mix of chickpea flour and flavoring spices, in stores.
Tibs typically refers to slices of lamb or beef, but the inguday variety consists of mushrooms sauteed in berbere spice with peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Inguday tibs can be served as a sandwich filling or with injera bread.
Traditionally, this celebratory dish is served to show respect or commemorate a special occasion.
Tikil gomen is a one-pot cabbage dish similar to a stir fry. Chefs season cabbage, potatoes, and carrots with a variety of spices, including cardamom, coriander, cumin, ginger, cloves, ginger, and turmeric to make this richly flavored dish. It’s also often served with injera bread.
Misir wot is a red lentil stew made with onions, garlic, and tomatoes that includes a well-known Ethiopian spice blend called berbere.
Ethiopians make berbere seasoning by mixing chili powder, fenugreek, allspice, and cinnamon. However, each family may make their berbere differently depending on their flavor preferences and the regional availability of ingredients. It takes a long time to make the spice blend from scratch, so people often make large batches once a year.
A favorite of visitors, beyaynetu translates to “a bit of every type.” This dish consists of a colorful spread of different vegan and vegetarian options. Shiro, misir wat, and tikil gomen can all be found on a beyaynetu platter served atop injera.
Beyaynetu is a great way to sample a variety of Ethiopian flavors. It is widely available in fancy and casual restaurants due to Ethiopians’ religious tradition of abstaining from eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays.