Niter kibbeh is an Ethiopian spiced & fragrant clarified butter, adding tremendous depth of flavour to many dishes.
Niter Kibbeh is a deliciously fragrant spiced clarified butter, or ghee from Ethiopia, seasoned with spices and herbs.
Spiced butter is frequently used to prepare Ethiopian dishes, but it’s also very popular in Eritrea where it is known as T’esmi (both cuisines are very similar).
There are many versions of spiced ghee throughout East Africa using different spices, all of which add wonderful depth of flavour to many dishes. However we love this particular combination of spices as it is incredibly versatile and complements such a large variety of foods. (See below for ideas how to use it).
What is clarified butter?
Clarified butter is made from normal butter after much of the moisture has evaporated and milk solids have separated.
The milk solids are strained away, making it healthier than using regular butter straight from the packet.
The remaining clarified butter can be heated to a higher temperature than butter, without smoking or burning, making it perfect for stir-frying and roasting.
This is made in a similar way to Indian ghee, the difference being that for niter kibbeh unsalted butter is simmered with additional ingredients such as red onion, garlic, ginger, fenugreek seeds, korarima (black cardamom seeds), turmeric, cumin, oregano and thyme.
Korarima are the seeds from black cardamom which are also commonly associated with Indian cuisine. While Indians use the entire pod, Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine usually use just the seeds.
See my post on spices for more in-depth information on their flavours.
All these ingredients are easily available from Asian food stores.
How it’s made
Unsalted butter is gently simmered over a low heat. Milk proteins rise to the surface and can be skimmed away at this point or strained away later.
The rest of the ingredients are added, stirring occasionally.
Slowly, the milk solids descend to the bottom of the pan and start to brown, giving a richer and slight nutty flavour.
Skim or not to skim – It’s up to you which method you wish to follow, although we prefer not to skim as we like the nutty version.
After cooking, the milk solids and rest of the ingredients are eventually strained twice, leaving a clear saffron coloured spiced ghee.
Ideas for using it
The flavour of Niter kibbeh improves over time so always have some ready to use when you might need it. Why not try it:
- Brushed over roasted and bbq meats or use it to sear meats
- For stir-frying vegetables
- Drizzled over vegetables before roasting or grilling
- Stirred in to stews for extra flavour such as this Zigni
- Stirred into soups
- In sauces
- To lightly fry battered chicken or fish
- Make spiced buttery popcorn
Niter Kibbeh should keep in a closed glass jar in a cool place for up to 6 months. It does not require refrigeration.
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- 500 g unsalted butter 2¼ cups/1 pound
- 1 small red onion diced small
- 2 cloves minced garlic medium
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon korarima seeds or seeds from Indian black cardamom
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- In a heavy based medium saucepan on medium-low heat, melt the butter then add rest of the ingredients. Simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Sieve the liquified butter twice to remove all solids*, then transfer to sealed container and keep in a cool dry area.
- Optional– grind the fenugreek and black cardamom seeds before adding to the butter for a more intense flavour
- The butter becomes very hot so take care not to burn yourself.
- This recipe makes around 2 cups of spiced clarified butter.
- Storing – Niter Kibbeh should keep in a closed glass jar in a cool place for up to 6 months. It does not require refrigeration.