Would You Like Some ... Ethiopian-Spiced Butter?

Before you get scared off by the word butter, know two things … this will be the best butter you’ve ever cooked with (that’s what it’s for), and butter is good for you.  Please, read this before if you assume it’s to be avoided … I’d hate for anyone to miss out on this amazing stuff due to cholesterol fears!

This glorious golden flavor-burst is the basis of lots of Ethiopian dishes, and while I don’t expect you to go out and make all the required spice mixes and time-consuming condiments that go into a good Ethiopian stew (I’m insane like that about once a year), please give this one a try.  It will make your next stir fry amazing, zest up a meat stew, and turn seared chicken breasts into something truly fantastic.  Did I mention it keeps practically forever in the fridge?  ‘Nuff said. 

Ethiopian Spiced Butter (Niter Kebbeh)

  • 2 lbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (don’t be freaked by 2 lbs of butter, it makes a lot and you won’t have to do it again for a year.  Really!)  You could always halve the recipe I suppose :)
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons garlic
  • 4 teaspoons fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick (approximately 1-inch long)
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


In a large saucepan, melt the butter slowly over medium heat; do not let it brown.

Then bring butter to a boil. (yes, boiling, I know it seems weird).

Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

Reduce the heat and just barely simmer, uncovered and undisturbed, for 45 minutes.

Milk solids on the bottom of the pan should be golden brown (mine get pretty dark brown), and the butter on top will be transparent.

Slowly pour the clear liquid into a bowl, straining through cheesecloth.

It is important that no solids are left in the niter kebbeh.

Transfer the kebbeh into a jar.  It makes about 3 1/2 cups, which gives you plenty to use yourself, and share a jar with a friend too. 

Cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator.  Use it often, even sparingly, and it will last forever. 

Wondering what it smells like?  It’s a crazy pungent mix of the garlic/ginger/onion, with those almost sweet overtones of cinnamon and clove.  Crazy crazy good. 

If you’re intrigued by how I use it in Ethiopian recipes, email me and I’ll send you the little 20-page cookbook I put together that covers all the basics, and with photos of some of the trickier steps.