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I’ve been on an Ethiopian food kick again (hence my latest favorite injera recipe that I posted) and with that has come experimenting with spices! I made a batch of Doro Wat (recipe to come) and I wanted to try adding Mekelesha Spice Blend, but couldn’t locate it at my local Ethiopian market, so I figured – why not just make it myself?
What is Mekelesha?
If you’re at all familiar with Indian cooking, Mekelesha is similar in concept to garam masala. It’s a pre-toasted spice blend that includes a lot of “warming” or “sweet” spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. It is a spice blend that is usually reserved as a “finishing spice,” or in other terms, a spice blend that is added at the later stages of the cooking process to round out the flavors of the dish.
And, to me, it has the ability to take a delicious curry to an Ethiopian curry. It is so so delicious.
That being said, it is potent. I am the type of cook who always heavy handedly tosses in “approximately” the amount of spices a recipe recommends, but I definitely urge you not to do that with Mekelesha. A little touch is all you need, and it should be added at the end of the cooking process. And I really urge you not to skip adding this when you’re making Ethiopian recipes.
It really does make your Ethiopian wat recipes pop and make them taste so much more authentic. (Or what I assume to be authentic, based on what I’ve tasted at restaurants in America…. eek! Someone correct me if I’m saying anything wrong here!)
What Spices are In Mekelesha?
It really depends on the cook/ chef, and likely each person who makes Ethiopian cuisine is going to have a slightly different version of Mekelesha. From my searches on this, however, I followed what seemed to be a pretty standard ratio of spices which include Korerima (Ethiopian Black Cardamom – I don’t recommend substitution – you can find them here), Black Peppercorns, Cinnamon sticks, Cumin, Cloves, and Nutmeg.
Looking for some other great Ethiopian Recipes?
Check out these The Gourmet Gourmand favorites:
- Shiro Wat – One of the blog’s highest performing recipes to day! A simple stew made from chickpea flour and spices.
- Misir Wat – A delicious Ethiopian Wat made from red lentils.
- Injera from Sourdough Starter – An extensively tested recipe for making injera at home using sourdough starter! Mmmm.
- Niter Kibbeh – A recipe for spiced clarified butter to use in all your favorite wats.
- Sauteed Cabbage with Carrots and Turmeric – a vegetarian classic!
Mekelesha Spice Blend
- 2 tbsp Korerima (Ethiopian Black Cardamom) Seeds
- 2 tbsp Black Peppercorns (I recommend Tellicherry)
- 2 2 inch Cinnamon Sticks broken into pieces
- 1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tbsp Whole Cloves
- 2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- Combine all ingredients except ground nutmeg into a small skillet.
- Toast spices over low heat until fragrant and lightly toasted (takes just 1-2 minutes). Be careful not to burn. Once toasted, transfer to a small plate or bowl to cool completely.
- Once cooled, transfer spice ingredients into spice grinder (I use an old coffee grinder) and grind until you achieve a fine powder consistency. Add ground nutmeg and pulse a few times to combine. Transfer entire spice blend mixture to storage container.