Ethiopian Spices

I love spices!  There are few things that make me happier than walking into a spice shop and breathing in all the delicious smells.  My own pantry is a mini spice shop, and it is A-MAZ-ING! 

Next week, February 24th, marks the beginning of the Great Fast (Abiye Tsom) for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  It is a 55-day fasting period before they celebrate Easter (similar to Lent, but longer).  During this fast, Orthodox Christians only eat in the late afternoon or evening, and they cannot partake in any animal products, making their diet entirely vegan. (For more information on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s fasting dates and rituals, check out this website!)

One of the most common dishes during the Great Fast is called a Bayaynet.  It consists of half a dozen vegan side dishes on requisite Injera.  For the next several weeks, I’ll be introducing you to a new vegan side, and by the end, you’ll be able to make your own Bayaynet at home!

Before we can start on the yummy food though, I wanted to introduce you to some of the more common spices and spice mixes that we’ll be using over the next several weeks.

If you’re not already, now is the time to become BFFs with your local spice shop! If, however, you are like me and can’t seem to find a good spice shop near you, then it’s time to become BFFs with Amazon or Shega Spices!  

The following is a list of the spices you’ll need for the various dishes.  I would recommend using whole spices instead of ground, but if you only have ground, then we can definitely make that work! I would just recommend blitzing your already-ground spices in your spice grinder just for a few seconds to bring out more powerful flavors.

*The one exception would be Turmeric—I use pre-ground.

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Spices to stock up on:

Spice Mixes to stock up on:

And now for the spice mixes!

The most important of these three are the Berbere and Mekelesha Kimem. The Shuro Powder will only be used for one of the dishes, but the others are used in multiple.

**I like to make my own Mekelesha Kimem. Check out my recipe here!**

Once you have these spices and mixes, you’ll be all set to start cooking delicious Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine!

Mekelesha Kimem (Ethiopian Finishing Spice)

Mekelesha Kimem is the Ethiopian Finishing Spice. Rather than buying it at an Ethiopian store, I like to make my own.   

Much like curry seasoning, this spice blend depends on region and household.  Most of the blends are the same 6 or 7 spices, but the quantity of each may vary. 

I learned about this spice combination from my dear neighbor, Rabiya.  She makes the BEST Kay Wat on the planet! No joke!  To make hers, she would measure out 2 spoonfuls of each spice, so roughly equal volumes (roughly, being the key word). 

I decided to weigh out each spice to get more consistent results.  Also, if you don’t have the whole spices at home, but you have the ground, you can weigh out the ground and still have pretty similar results.

Mekelesha Kimem

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Heat up a frying pan.  Put all of the spices in the pan and toast them over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until you start to smell the delicious aromas.  Toasting them helps to release the amazing flavors.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the spices return to room temperature. Once they’ve cooled, grind the spices together in a spice/coffee grinder, turning them into a fine powder.  I like to put it through a fine sieve to make sure that there are no large large chunks of spice. 

This yields just under 1 cup of spice mix. Store the powder in an air-tight container.  I actually leave mine in the freezer to keep it longer.