Okay, friends. You have no idea how ecstatic I am to share this recipe post with you. It’s all about making Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian spiced clarified butter).
As someone who is extremely excitable and more than willing to jump in and get my hands dirty before knowing anything about what I am supposed to be doing, I plotted a “oh yeah I’ll do a DIY Niter Kibbeh” post and everyone will be so pleased with me. My mind chatter went something like, “I know how to make ghee and I have a full-to-the-brim spice cabinet so I’m sure I can just use my Indian spices for this and it will be a breeze.”
Oh no, how wrong I was.
I became skeptical when I started melting some butter on the stove and then started comparing the most popular google search result from The Kitchn with multiple Ethiopian You Tube recipes (if you’re wondering about my methods.. see this post on how I research and invent internationally inspired recipes). The spice mixtures just didn’t match up. At all.
I’ve purchased legit Niter Kibbeh before and am oh so familiar with the part of Ethiopian cooking where, pre-niter-kibbeh, you can start with a mediocre “this taste sort of close” type result, to post-niter-kibbeh “o.m.g. I am an Ethiopian cooking goddess” reaction of pure eyes rolling back in head bliss.Needless to say, I was quite concerned about this discrepancy and wanted to make sure that my recipe was as authentic as possible.
So, me being me, I trotted on over to my local Ethiopian grocery store to find some answers.
Luckily, I live within walking distance to an amazing Ethiopian grocery store and they supply me with all my Ethiopian food needs including amazing injera bread and a perfectly balanced berbere blend (I am determined to find out what’s in it!) They also sell niter kibbeh, but it would defeat the whole purpose if I just purchased some… But, the point is, I immediately began questioning the owner about Ethiopian herbs and spices and asked him directly what he puts in his niter kibbeh.So this recipe is his recipe and includes the correct spices (that you may never have heard of before.. I hadn’t) that you need to make the best niter kibbeh.
The spices that I included are as follows:
- Ground korerima: It should be noted that this is a variety of cardamom, but is uniquely different from Indian green and black varieties. You really can’t substitute here. I’m including a link for more information on Korerima. Here’s a link for where to purchase Korerima if you don’t have access to an Ethiopian store.
- Dried Korseret: The only think remotely close to this herb is our version of oregano, but even that doesn’t quite match the flavor profile of this herb. Another flavor you really can’t substitute. Find it for sale here.
- Dried Besobela: also referred to as sacred basil. To me, it has less of a basil aroma and smells to me like a woody black tea. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s an essential for niter kibbeh. Find it for sale here.
- Turmeric: This one should be easy to find. It’s the same as the turmeric you are putting in Indian curry and your turmeric lemon water “cleanse.” 😉
I chill my niter kibbeh (just like I chill my ghee). *Technically* I don’t think you need to, but you should be very sure that you have eliminated all milk solids or else you can risk the oil turning rancid. I typically just scrape out a tablespoon or two as I need to for Ethiopian recipes, but you can also quickly soften it in the microwave before using.
Making Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian Spiced Clarified Butter)
- 1 lb butter
- 2 cloves garlic sliced
- ½ medium onion sliced
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground korerima
- 1 tablespoon dried koseret
- 2 tablespoons dried besobela
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- In a medium saucepan begin melting the butter over low heat.
- Once butter is just melted, add garlic, onions, korerima, koseret, besobela, and turmeric.
- Increase to medium heat and bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to low or medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often.
- Once mixture is completely cooked, turn off heat and allow to rest for a minute.
- Line a fine-mesh strainer with a folded piece of cheesecloth (the cheesecloth helps to catch any milk solids). Set the strainer on top of storage container of your choice.
- Carefully pour hot niter kibbeh through the strainer to remove all the solids.
- Using the back of your spoon, mash the solids to strain as much oil out as possible.
- Cover and store in the refrigerator and use in your favorite Ethiopian dishes.
- Keeps for about 1 month.