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.

53 thoughts on “Niter Kebbeh

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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… :)

  4. 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.

  5. 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!!!

    • 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.

  6. 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!

      • 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!

    • 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?

      • 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!”

    • 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.

  7. 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…

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