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Niter Kibbeh – Ethiopian Spiced Butter


This delicious spiced clarified butter is amazing with eggs, popcorn, sauted vegetables of all sorts, lentils, kitfo [2], on toast, mashed potatoes, hash browns — pretty much anything. All the spices make it a powerful antioxidant as an added bonus. There are many ways to spell niter kibbeh — I have seen it as nitr kibe, nit’ir qibe — there are also many ways to make niter kibe — everyone has their own favorite combination of spices.

Butter is traditionally made in Ethiopia from soured milk, not cream. The sour milk is placed in a clay churn or a bottle gourd (calabash). The churn may have previously been smoked with Olea africana [3]. Besides imparting a distinct flavour to the butter, smoking the churn has a bacteriostatic effect. After filling, the churn is stoppered with a plug — a false banana leaf, or a piece of skin or leather stretched over the mouth and securely tied. The churn is then agitated — often by simply rolling it around on the lap until the butter forms. (Source [1])

This is how I like to make niter kibbeh which is mostly based on this recipe [4] from www.congocookbook.com [5]. Feel free to leave out any of the herbs and spices if you don’t have them.

Makes about 1 cup


Lightly toast clove, fennel, cardamom, cumin and fenugreek until the aroma fills your nose. Grind the spices.

In heavy saucepan, heat the butter over moderate heat. Stir and turn the butter so they melt evenly. Do not allow the melted butter to brown or bubble. Lower heat if necessary.

As soon as all of the it is melted, increase the heat and quickly bring it to all to a boil. A mass of small bubbles will form on the top. Stir in the “wet” ingredients: the garlic, ginger, and onion. Cook for a minute or two, then add the remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to a very low simmer.

Simmer on a very low heat for 20-30 minutes. Do not stir. The milk soilds will sink to the bottom.

Carefully strain the liquid through a clean cloth (cheesecloth). Repeat as necessary to obtain a liquid that is clear and free of spices and milk solids.

Pour the niter kebbeh into a clean jar with an airtight cover. Keep in the refrigerator and use as needed. Niter Kebbeh will turn solid when chilled. Will keep for three months in the fridge.

*Koseret is a herb not used much in Western countries. I discovered this information on this forum [6] about ethiopian food. One of the members posted the following image and mentioned that Koseret is Lippia Javanica [7] which is a type of verbena.