Excited to cook some Ethiopian but don’t have any Berbere Spice? I’ve got you covered. Here are my favourite simple Berbere Spice substitutes.
What is Berbere Spice?
Berbere Spice is an Ethopian blend of spices with a subtle chilli heat.
The ingredients generally include Sea Salt, Cumin Seed, Coriander Seed, Black Peppercorns, Ajowan Seed, Fenugreek Seed, Allspice, Ginger, Chilli, Nutmeg and Cloves.
It works well with eggs, meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
The Best Berbere Spice Substitutes
1. Curry Powder
While curry powder has a more earthy rounder heat than the fresh complexity of berbere spice, curry powder works in a similar way to berbere spice. Depending on the curry powder you may want to use less to start and add more as needed. A squeeze of lemon or lime or some grated fresh ginger along with the curry powder will add the extra freshness you’d normally get from Berbere Spice.
2. Garam Masala
In India the spice blend Garam Masala is used as a ‘finishing spice’ to add flavour at the end of cooking. But I like to use it interchangeably with curry powder when I want a milder flavour. Garam masala doesn’t contain chilli so if you want some heat add a little chilli powder or some chilli flakes.
3. Ground Cumin + Coriander
While this is a completely different vibe, plain ground cumin and coriander will give a mellow spice flavour to your dish. For a closer match add lots of black pepper and some dried chilli powder or flakes.
4. Chilli Flakes or Powder
If it’s heat you want, a pinch of chilli flakes and powder will give a more simple result.
5. Curry Paste
If you have an Indian, Thai or other curry paste, feel free to use it. Be prepared to add much more than you would use for berbere spice powder. Generally for every teaspoon of berbere spice I’d start with 1 tablespoon of curry paste.
How to Store Berbere Spice
Best stored in an airtight container in the pantry. I buy my spices in ziplock bags which are great because they minimize the air in the pack, keeping the spices fresher for longer.
Berbere Spice flavour pairings:
- eggplant (aubergine) & berbere spice
- lentils & berbere spice
- chicken & berbere spice
- lamb & berbere spice
- beef & berbere spice
- mushrooms & berbere spice
- tomato & berbere spice
- fish & berbere spice
- eggs & berbere spice
More Tips for Cooking with Spice
- Have You Tried this Amazing Spice?
- My 3 Favourite Spice Blends (and their substitutes)
- Interview with a spice master
- How to stock a minimalist spice collection
More Ingredient Substitutes
- Smoked Paprika
- The Ultimate Guide to Vegetable Substitutes
- Collard Greens
- Miso Paste
- Oyster Sauce
Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.
Have fun in the kitchen!