Ethiopian cooking can be heavy on meat – but the east African country’s cuisine is also full of delicious and super-satisfying dishes that are perfect for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten and lactose-free eaters.
Ethiopian food is best known for “Injera” that is made from a grain known as Teff, which is ground into flour, made into a batter, slightly fermented, and then fried on a heavy skillet into a giant circular pancake. The texture is soft and spongy and the flavor would be lightly sour for the first tester.
Part of what makes Ethiopian food perfect for so many diets is that there’s always a “fasting” (or animal-free) option: Many Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians and traditionally eat vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as other special days.
Ethiopia’s cuisine is very similar to the food of its neighbor and rival Eritrea (which until 1991 was part of Ethiopia). Some of the country’s culinary style also reflects the influences of neighbors like Sudan (where the sour bread is called kesra), and the lasting impact of Italy’s partial colonial rule in the mid-1900’s.
So next time you eat out, order the Bayenetu, a collection of meat-free dishes. And in the meantime, try a few of these delicious options:
Injera is a sour and spongy round bread, made of Teff flour, that’s naturally vegan and gluten-free. Sauces and dishes are commonly poured on top of the Injera, which is then used as a vehicle to get the deliciousness from table to mouth.
The bread comes in a darker and lighter version, depending on the Teff variety. Injera has a very strong taste and texture for the first time tester.
Shiro is a delicious chickpea powder-based dish (sometimes also including lentils and broad beans), slow-cooked with Ethiopia’s popular – and spicy – red berbere sauce. There are several kinds of shiro to enjoy, from the soupy thin shiro wot to the thick and glob-like (but still delectable) shiro tegamino.
3. Atkilt Wot
Atkilt wot is a delicious vegetable combo of cabbage, carrots, and potatoes simmered in a light sauce.
Gomen is made of collard greens and spices cooked to tasty perfection.
5. Mesir Wot
Mesir wot is a delicious (and beautifully colored) combination of split red lentils simmered in spicy berbere sauce. (Depending on the ingredients, it may be look darker.)
Fasolia are string beans, often sautéed with carrots and caramelized onions.
7. Kik Alicha
Kik alicha is a split pea stew-ish dish often cooked with a light turmeric sauce. There are different kinds of alicha dishes (and ways to spell it in English), depending on the exact spices and consistency of the lentils and sauce.
Chechebsa, also called kita firfir (also called kita fitfit), is typically eaten for breakfast and is one of the rare Ethiopian dishes eaten with a spoon. Chechebsa is made of lightly fried injera or other bread cooked in berbere sauce and often served with honey. On the right it’s pictured with eggs, which can be substituted out to make it vegan.
9. Shiro Firfir
Still got leftover injera? Mix it with a spicy berbere sauce for shiro firfir.
10. Timatim Salata
Ethiopia’s tomato salad is a refreshing mix of vegetables and berbere or jalapeño pepper sauce.
For a twist on the tomato salad, toss it with injera to make timatim firfir.