Niter Kebbeh

Niter Kebbeh is a spice-infused butter. Along with berberé, niter kebbeh is an essential element of cooking Ethiopian cuisine. The recipe I use, and have for years, is from the Time-Life series called Foods of the World.

I made this spiced butter after the lockdown in March. It’s typically made with butter, then clarified. I used 24 ounces of ghee, which is clarified butter, instead of 32 ounces of butter. The process was easier because the solids didn’t have to be removed. Following is the original recipe.

Niter Kebbeh
Spiced Butter Oil
Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
4 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cardamom pod, slightly crushed with the flat of a knife, or a pinch of cardamom seeds
1 piece of stick cinnamon, 1 inch long
1 whole clove
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

In a heavy 4- to 5-quart saucepan, heat the butter over moderate heat, turning it about with a spoon to melt it slowly and completely without letting it brown. Then increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is completely covered with white foam, stir in the remaining ingredients.

Reduce the heat to the lowest possible point and simmer uncovered and undisturbed for 45 minutes, or until the milk solids on the bottom of the pan are a golden brown and the butter on top is transparent.

Slowly pour the clear liquid into a bowl, straining it through a fine sieve lined with a linen towel or cheesecloth. Discard the seasonings.

If there are any solids left in the butter, strain it again to prevent it from becoming rancid later.

Pour the kebbeh into a jar, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. It will solidify when chilled.

It can safely be kept, even at room temperature, for 2 or 3 months, but I keep mine refrigerated.

By Published On: November 16th, 202053 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

53 Comments

  1. spree March 26, 2013 at 10:32 AM - Reply

    Like an aromatic, warmly spiced ghee! What a lovely thing this must be!

    • chef mimi March 26, 2013 at 11:23 AM - Reply

      I know. I cooked a spinach omelet with this in the pan this morning!

  2. Cowboys and Crossbones March 26, 2013 at 11:10 AM - Reply

    I’ve never had Ethiopian food – ever. But this looks really good!

    • chef mimi March 26, 2013 at 11:22 AM - Reply

      If you ever find an Ethiopian restaurant – go! It’s a fabulous experience!

  3. richardmcgary March 26, 2013 at 3:15 PM - Reply

    What is the name of the Ethiopian market in DFW? I would love to check it out.

  4. ladyredspecs March 26, 2013 at 4:18 PM - Reply

    We have quite a large Ethiopian community in Melbourne too, but have to confess I have never eaten their food. Can’t wait to see what you’ll make with the spices and butter.

    • chef mimi March 26, 2013 at 4:19 PM - Reply

      Oh, you really to go to one. It’s a fabulous experience. Just the bread is fantastic!!!

  5. camparigirl March 26, 2013 at 6:23 PM - Reply

    I am not very familiar with Northern Africa’s cuisine but seems like a great introduction!

  6. yummychunklet March 26, 2013 at 7:48 PM - Reply

    Sounds delicious!

    • chef mimi March 26, 2013 at 8:12 PM - Reply

      I made an omelet with some of this today! Fabulous flavour!

  7. ChgoJohn March 26, 2013 at 11:05 PM - Reply

    I pinned the berberé recipe and now I’ll pinning this one, too. Please say that you’ll be posting some recipes using both. I’d love to experiment and give them a try. And, of course, thank you for sharing both recipes with us.

    • chef mimi March 27, 2013 at 8:47 AM - Reply

      oh yes. next week, Sik Sik Wat and Yewollo Ambasha!!!

  8. myhomefoodthatsamore March 27, 2013 at 8:29 AM - Reply

    This looks amazing, intriguing, beguiling … I’ll have to make it one of these days. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  9. Amman M. Said June 4, 2013 at 9:53 AM - Reply

    The ingredients / spices in Niter Kibbeh also prevent the butter from spoiling. Sometimes for up to a year. This was important when you realize most people did not happen to have a fridge… :)

  10. Amman M. Said June 18, 2013 at 7:12 AM - Reply

    There is an cook in Addis with a hole in the wall restaurant. He has a “personal” method of cooking which involves adding spices, certain vegetables, and Je-ne-sais-quoi’s in his cooking. I tried his food and it was good, sometimes damn good, and once Scary Good! :) I’ll try to finangle a recipe or something if you are interested… Scouts honor.

  11. JoeyG July 20, 2015 at 9:18 AM - Reply

    The way your house smells when you make this butter is out of a dream. Mmmm so good.

    • chef mimi July 20, 2015 at 6:42 PM - Reply

      Absolutely! I could just saute onions in butter for potpourri!!! But the other spices make a house smell wonderful!

  12. Patricia Reeves July 30, 2017 at 6:54 PM - Reply

    I have made Sik Sik Wat before and it is fabulous and the Berbere and Niter Kebbeh last for along time in the fridge. Haven’t made it for a long time but now I am anxious to make it again!!!

  13. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen November 16, 2020 at 8:29 AM - Reply

    I will certainly try this! Sounds divine!

  14. The Parmigiana Whisperer November 16, 2020 at 10:17 AM - Reply

    sounds divine!!

    • chef mimi November 16, 2020 at 10:18 AM - Reply

      Thanks, it really is!

  15. Tandy | Lavender and Lime November 16, 2020 at 9:56 PM - Reply

    I’ve got some ghee that needs spicing up so I’m going to follow the same route you did. Can’t wait to try this.

    • chef mimi November 17, 2020 at 6:54 AM - Reply

      Oh fun! You might as well. It could be the start of just about any soup or stew or braise!

  16. sherry November 16, 2020 at 10:01 PM - Reply

    how interesting. i’ve not heard of this before. sounds tasty!

    • chef mimi November 17, 2020 at 6:53 AM - Reply

      It’s an incredible butter. I think you’d only come across it when you delve into Ethiopian cuisine. I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

  17. spicedblog November 17, 2020 at 6:09 AM - Reply

    What a great idea to use ghee as a shortcut for this recipe! I do enjoy infused butters, but I’ve never tried it with these seasonings. I bet it’s amazing!

    • chef mimi November 17, 2020 at 6:52 AM - Reply

      It is truly amazing, and it makes your house smell really good.

  18. Healthy World Cuisine November 17, 2020 at 9:26 AM - Reply

    I can image a million different ways to use this delicious niter kibbeh! Really love this series Mimi! Such a fun idea! Thanks so much for doing this and looking forward to following along. Take Care

    • chef mimi November 17, 2020 at 9:41 AM - Reply

      Aw, thanks!

  19. homecookexplorer November 17, 2020 at 3:37 PM - Reply

    There you go. We’re both doing Ethiopian!

    • homecookexplorer November 17, 2020 at 3:42 PM - Reply

      We should give each other’s recipes a whirl.

      • chef mimi November 17, 2020 at 3:44 PM

        I’ve got berberé coming up next, then yewollo ambasha and doro wat. Then I thought I’d give people a rest! Although there seems to be more interest than I’d thought there would be. So glad you have a friend from Ethiopia!

      • homecookexplorer November 18, 2020 at 4:29 AM

        Apparently the berbere pepper is unique to the region. Later on I’ll send you a pic of the ingredient list of some berbere I got recently.

    • chef mimi November 17, 2020 at 3:48 PM - Reply

      I mentioned this on your post, which looks fabulous by the way, but I’ve never seen Ethiopian food on another blog, and I follow hundreds. Maybe people have a hard time believing that Ethiopians have a cuisine?

      • homecookexplorer November 18, 2020 at 4:24 AM

        For me it’s one of the truly unique cuisines on the planet .. up there with Italian, Greek, Indian. Chinese etc. Its not derivative. Its completely original.

      • chef mimi November 18, 2020 at 5:54 PM

        I agree. That’s why I wanted to post again. I need to explore more Ethiopian recipes. As I say on my blog, “so much food, so little time!”

  20. Raymund November 17, 2020 at 3:39 PM - Reply

    That butter would be really tasty

    • chef mimi November 17, 2020 at 3:47 PM - Reply

      It is! I’ve only used it for Ethiopian dishes, just because it’s so special, but it really can be used for any kind of dish.

  21. sippitysup November 18, 2020 at 6:55 PM - Reply

    This takes cooking fat to a whole new level! GREG

  22. Kiki November 19, 2020 at 4:09 AM - Reply

    I’ve made many types of herbed butter for BBQs but never thought of a spiced one. I have to try this!

    • chef mimi November 19, 2020 at 6:51 AM - Reply

      It’s really amazing. So full of flavors!

  23. Ron November 19, 2020 at 7:11 AM - Reply

    Mimi, I’m enjoying this series as I’m very fond of Ethiopian food. We have a great Ethiopian restaurant and market in nearby Lund. Prior to the CV19 restrictions I would buy fresh made Niter Kebbeh there. I love it on rice among other things. Now, I can make my own, thanks…

    • chef mimi November 19, 2020 at 2:08 PM - Reply

      Oh, how lucky you were. I’ve only had my own butter. Yes, I think Ethiopian food is exquisite.

  24. David Scott Allen November 21, 2020 at 2:13 PM - Reply

    Glad to see you used ghee, too — a no brainer, really. Love the stuff!

    • chef mimi November 21, 2020 at 2:57 PM - Reply

      Exactly!

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