Ethiopia: Injera and Memories (taking the good with the bad)

Nearly 9 years have come and gone since I left my town of Mizan Teferi in southwestern Ethiopia—how time flies! Every once in a while, I sit down and look through old pictures.  With my recent blogging and the Great Ethiopian Fast just around the corner, I’ve spent so much time looking at pictures.  They make me smile when I see the faces of my beautiful friends.  They make me cry when I think of how hard and lonely some of my time spent there was.  They make me laugh when I remember some of my hilarious fellow volunteers. Most of all, they remind me of how blessed I am to have gotten to experience two years of life in that beautiful country with some very special people. 

It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. In fact, I would say that there often seemed to be more difficult days than not.  Sometimes in reminiscing, it’s easy to forget the bad days.  The days when I laid in bed until noon because I just didn’t have the courage to face the day.  The days when I longed to just blend in—to be able to go to the market without being yelled at, pointed at, stared at, or touched.  The days when it would have been so much easier to just throw my cloths into a washing machine instead of spending hours bent over a bucket of soapy water, scrubbing them by hand. The nights when I laid in bed for hours listening to the rats in my mud walls and watching their little clawed feet scamper across my tarped ceiling, hoping they weren’t going to fall through.  The days when all I wanted to do was talk to my mom, but I couldn’t because we didn’t have electricity or the phone services were down.

My sweet, resilient friend, Genet.

But, there were a lot of good days too!  The days when my neighbor, Rabiya, would invite me over for dinner, and we conversed as best as we could while we watched her sweet little twins, Ekma and Amar, play. The days when the rain pounded so hard on the tin roof that you couldn’t have a conversation even if you wanted to, but oh, what a beautiful sound!  The days when my sweet friend, Genet, would welcome me into her home and treat me as if I were her own sister.  The days when children raced up to you, so excited to practice their English—you just couldn’t help but smile at their enthusiasm and desire to learn. The Sundays I got to spend with my beloved Russian sisters-in-Christ.  The genuinely joyful ‘hellos’ and hugs from my Ethiopian host family when I would come for a visit.

I think it’s so important to not dwell on just the bad or the good, but to take it as whole.  They balance each other out.  They form the whole experience—an experience I hope I never forget.

So, what do all my musings have to do with Injera? Well, nothing really. Other than it was, generally, the people who shaped my experiences in Ethiopia. Beautiful people, some of whom I get to call my friends.  A lot of the interactions we had were over food. Friendships were kindled over delicious Injera. We laughed, shared stories, and learned from one another over shared meals. Food brings people together. And in my case, Injera brought me a loving Ethiopian family and a handful of very sweet friends.

My very kind neighbor, Rabiya and her adorable twins, Amar and Ekma.

So, lets jump into Injera: that delicious, sour, spongy, flat, round “bread” that’s served at nearly every meal.  I, unfortunately, never took the opportunity to learn how to make Injera when I lived in Ethiopia. When I came back to the States, I didn’t live in a place that had an Ethiopian restaurant nearby, so, when I craved Injera, I started researching how I could make it myself.  I tried several different methods that I found on YouTube, but this one is by far the best!  It may not be exactly how they make it in Ethiopia, but it has turned out beautifully for me every time. 

The guy who put together the video tutorial, Chad Dykstra, has done an excellent job of explaining the process.  I contacted him recently and he graciously gave me permission to share his video and method here on my blog.  The amounts I’m posting here are for a half batch, because it’s just Husband and me, and we can’t eat that much Injera. The half batch makes about 6 Injeras, which is perfect for 2-3 meals for us (the Injera starts to get a bit stale after a couple days and is just not as good, so unless you’re planning to have a group of friends over, or you have a big family, I would recommend making this half batch amount).  

Beautifully developed “eyes” on the Injera

I highly recommend that you go to YouTube and watch Chad’s video as well! It’s about a half hour long and is very informative.  I ended up buying a Bethany Housewares Lefse griddle as well as a 2-gallon fermenting bucket for the process because I make it enough that it seemed worth it.  If you don’t have these items and don’t want to purchase them, you can use a large 1-gallon pitcher and a large non-stick frying pan, though the frying pan doesn’t produce as good of results, and you have a much smaller Injeras. 

When it comes to the starter, I make sourdough bread often, so am able to use that as my starter for the Injera.  A couple days before I know I’m going to make Injera, I take out about ¼ – ½ a cup of my starter and put it in a new container.  Add equal weights of water and teff flour, mix and let it rise.  I do this a couple of times until I get my 1 cup of starter needed for the half batch.  If you’re doing a full batch, just add a bit more teff/water each time you feed it so that you have a full 2 cups of starter. 

Far from perfect Injera: I’m still a bit of an amateur, but they taste good.

A couple of helpful notes/hints:

  • You’ll want to start the main Injera batter process about 34-36 hours before you plan on eating the Ethiopian meal, so it’s something you definitely need to plan ahead for!  
  • I struggle to find barley flour, so I just substitute it with half white and half teff flour. 
  • As far as the water amounts go, it’s not exact because different flours respond differently to moisture, and everyones sourdough starters are of different moisture contents, so it’s impossible for me to tell you exactly how much water to add.  The amounts I’ve listed are just approximately what I use, though it varies slightly each time I make it. A lot of it is determined by feel and look—this is where the video is really helpful!
  • If you’re looking for sides/sauces to top the Injera, check out these recipes for ideas: Ethiopian Misir Wat (Lentil Sauce), Ethiopian Nej Gomen (Cabbage), Ethiopian Ater Wat (Split Pea Sauce), Ethiopian Shiro Wat (Chickpea Sauce), Ethipian Atikilt Ruz (Vegetable Rice), Ethiopian Habesha Gomen (Kale)

Ok, I think it’s time to jump into the recipe.  Happy cooking, my Friends! 

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Homemade Injera

Yield: about 6 16″ Injeras

My Half-Batch Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Teff (325 grams)
  • 1.5 cups All-Purpose Flour (225 grams)
  • 1 cup Teff sourdough starter (mine weighs about 300 grams)
  • I used a little under 1 liter (900 grams or so) of initial water
  • 1 cup Self-Rising Flour (150 grams)
  • Warm/hot Water

*See Below for Chad’s full-batch Ingredients list as he has it in the video.*

**As I mentioned above, our household is so small, that I prefer halve the recipe that Chad does.  If you have a larger family, or you are planning to have friends over for the feast, then I would recommend doing the full amount.  A half batch yields about half a dozen Injeras.  The full batch yields about a dozen. **

Feeding and growth of Teff sourdough starter.

Helpful Supplies to have:


Start feeding your Teff sourdough starter a couple days ahead of time.

Check out Chad’s YouTube Tutorial!

Recommended start time:  34-36 hours before you plan on eating the Ethiopian meal.

Day 1:

Wash your hands and lower arms well because you’ll be doing a lot of mixing by hand.

Mix the Teff and All-purpose flours together with a whisk in the fermenting bucket.

Take your starter (lit), and add it to the flour mixture. Squish it around with your hands until it’s well mixed—it’ll be a bit dry and crumbly.

Slowly add lukewarm water, and keep mixing and squishing with your hand. Continue to add water until you have a firm dough ball.  Knead it for a couple of minutes. 

After kneading, slowly start to add more water to it, working it with your hands, until you have a fairly runny batter.  (I use a little less than 1 liter).  You’ll want to really run your fingers through it to make sure that there are no lumps.

Once the batter is nice, smooth and runny (runnier than a pancake batter but not as runny as crepe batter), use a little bit of additional water to rinse your hand and the sides of the bucket. Don’t mix the newly added water.  Just place the lid on and fill the airlock with water.

Let it sit for 24 hours in a warm place.

Day 2:

24 hours later, place a tea kettle on the stove to heat up.  Turn it off just as it starts to whistle/boil.  Remove the lid from the fermentation bucket.  You should see a fair amount of water on the surface of the batter and a ring about an inch above the water level.  Don’t stir the batter at this point!

Before 24 hours of fermentation vs. after 24 hours of fermentation

Carefully pour the water off of the surface, making sure not to pour the batter itself out.

Once you have the surface water removed, set the bucket aside.

In a separate bowl or pitcher, place 1 cup of self-rising flour.  Add hot water (not so hot that you can’t touch it with your hands though).  I add 1-2 cups of water.

Mix the flour and water until it’s a pretty runny consistency.  Self-rising flour gets quite lumpy, so Chad recommends using a blender to blitz the self-rising flour mixture to help get rid of the lumps.  I do it this way, and it works great!

Pour the blended self-rising flour mixture into the bucket with the injera batter.  Stir it with a spoon so that it’s well combined. 

Beautiful, dark, rich Teff flour

Lastly, you’ll slowly add the hot water from the tea kettle (about 300 grams).  Make sure to add it little by little and stir it well with the spoon.  Add enough water to get to that “runnier than pancake batter, but thicker than crepe batter” consistency.  It’s okay if you end up adding a little too much water. You’ll have one more opportunity to pour it off just before we cook the Injeras. 

Place the lid back on the bucket and set it in a warm place for 4-5 hours.

After 4-5 hours, move the bucket to a cold location (I put it in my fridge) for 4-5 final hours (the times are dependent on when you plan to eat dinner).

Cooking the Injera:

Pre-heat the Lefse griddle/Mitad to 450 or 475 degrees. (I prefer 475)

Remove the batter from the fridge, and take the lid off. You should see that the batter has once again separated, with a layer of water on the surface.  Pour the water out, carefully like before, but this time, pour it into a small pitcher or cup so that you can add some back if it’s too thick.  You can always add to it, but you can’t take water out once you’ve mixed it, so make sure to remove some to start with. If the batter is too thin, it doesn’t cook properly.

Batter ready to be poured

After removing the water, stir the batter.  If it seems like the right consistency, then we can go ahead and start the cooking process.  If it seems a bit too thick, slowly add some of the water that you poured off back into the bucket, stirring, and checking the consistency again before adding more. (I often use my hand again to really feel how runny it is.)

Pour the ready-to-cook batter into a large pitcher (for easier pouring).

Use about 1 cup of batter per injera.

Pour in a circle, starting from the outside and working your way to the inside. It’s a bit of an art.  I’m pretty terrible at it, but am getting a little better each time I make it.  Have patience with yourself, and remember that it’ll still taste good, even if it’s got bare/holey spots.

Let the Injera cook uncovered for 30-60 seconds, or until about half of the batter has developed “eyes” (the little dimpled holes), then cover it to finish cooking it (with your pizza-pan lid).  I keep mine covered until I stop seeing steam coming of the sides (maybe 1-2 minutes—its not a long cook at all). 

Chad has a sefed (the flat, woven mat) to cool his Injera on.  I don’t have one of these, so just place the cooked injera on a clean, cotton tea towel.  Once they’ve cooled, you can stack them on top of each other.

Serve the Injera on a large tray (again, I just use a round 16” pizza pan) with whatever toppings you’d like.  Eat it with you fingers (right hand only) with your family and friends.  What a great way to celebrate community!

Happy Eating, Friends!

Chad’s Full-batch Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Teff flour
  • 2 cups Barley flour
  • 2 cups White flour
  • 2 cups Teff Sourdough Starter
  • Warm water
  • 2 cups Self-rising flour
  • Additional warm/hot water

**I struggle to find barley flour, so I use 4 cups of Teff and 3 cups of all purpose when doing a full batch.