Kitfo – Ethiopian Beef Tartare

Ever since my menarche I regularly get a powerful craving for raw beef about once a month. When I was younger I didn’t waste time thinking about it and would just head to the fridge, chow down on whatever raw meat I could find in there and end up feeling rather crazy, but satiatied. I kept this to myself for many years, but after coming across Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell everything made more sense, I was simply following a nutritional imperitive dictated by my body.

These days I am careful to be sure to use grass-fed meat for my raw meat dining experiences. When I stumbled upon Ethiopian kitfo I was infatuated. Raw grass-fed beef served with spiced butter from grass-fed cows, mild cottage cheese and collard greens is something I love to crave. The cardamom is one of my favorite spices and adds a very special flavor.

Kitfo is the perfect food for a menstruating woman, full of easily utilized iron, B vitamins, zinc and more, my body is replenished and restored after feasting on Kitfo. In fact, writing up this recipe has me drooling slightly and plotting a trip to our local grass-fed butcher first thing tomorrow.

The following recipe is my version of Kitfo and is enough for two people. Check out this lovely photo essay by Marcus Samuelsson for a more traditional example.

  • 1 pound of grass-fed beef, minced
  • 1/4 c niter kibbeh or unsalted grass-fed butter
  • 1 t ground cardamom
  • 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1 t salt
  • A dash of fresh ground black pepper
  • fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ground sesame seeds (optional)

Allow your fresh grass-fed beef to come to room temperature clean the meat from all fat and sinew. Finely mince the meat with a sharp knife.

Slowly heat the butter until it starts to simmer (don’t burn it). Mix the hot butter, spices, meat, salt and sesame seeds and serve with fresh a lime wedge.

It is important not to serve the kitfo too cold as the butter will harden up into chunks which isn’t very appetizing. It is much more delicious when it is served at room temperature or slightly warmer.

Don’t use ground beef for this recipe. It is better to use a good cut of quality grass-fed beef and mince it just before eating. This way there is much less surface area exposed for much less time, limiting the opportunity for pathological organisms to grow on the meat.

Generally Kitfo is served with injera (the traditional fermented flat bread of Ethiopia), collard greens, home-made cottage cheese (ayb) and mitmita (red chili powder).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Liz

    Hi there – we (including my 9 year old) LOVE Ethiopian food and regularly have kitfo. I keep a jar of nitr kibe in the fridge for raw meat emergencies, and your recipe is really close to the one I use and have tweaked over the years. We don’t typically add anything but warmed butter, salt, and a dash of mitmita and/or berbere (I bought a motherlode from an Ethiopian grocery in DC a while back). I’m still working on perfecting my injera, but other the kitfo accompaniments you suggest really make the meal. Soooo good – thanks for posting!

    1. hellaD

      Awsome! Love it! I have been thinking a lot more about the dehydrated and powdered green leafy veggies too, I’m gonna start doing more of that as well. I haven’t tried making injera yet, I keep wanting to make dosai, so maybe I’ll start with that… they seem quite similar.

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