Friday Recipe Post: Traditional Eritrean Food

Yahel works with diverse communities all over Israel. Every Friday, we will be posting recipes to celebrate some of the different cultures throughout the country. This week’s recipes, courtesy of Haaretz, come from an Eritrean refugee currently living in Tel Aviv. To see more recipes and read more about Eritrean food, you can read the article here at

This past January, students from American University spent 10 days learning and volunteering with the African refugee community in Arad, in southern Israel. One of the participants, Sarah Schmidt, wrote of the experience:

“I spent the last two weeks in Israel living among, learning from, and conversing with a community of African refugees who journeyed from Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea, seeking refuge and stability.  Their journey can only be explained as courageous.  The culmination of our American University student alternative break trip was during the last two days in Arad where we witnessed the unity and empowerment during meetings organized for and by African refugees.  I believe this is the unity and empowerment that makes change possible.  Following the meeting, where numbers were exponentially higher than anticipated, I reflected on the concept of power and empowerment. Power is an incredible source—for good and for evil.  Throughout history, power struggles have taken countless lives, but it is important to remember that change also comes from empowerment, which is a part of the concept of power.  I think we witnessed empowerment at the community meeting.”

To read more about their trip, you can visit the program’s blog here.

Berbere spice blend

This Eritrean spice blend flavors a wide range of foods, in the manner of North Africa’s ras al-hanout or India’s garam masala. Few Eritrean dishes are made without berbere, and its strong, pungent aroma is the typical smell of Eritrean restaurants and shops. (Courtesy

2 tsp. cumin seeds

5 cardamom pods

1 tsp. fenugreek seeds

1 tsp. coriander seeds

8 whole cloves

1 tsp. black peppercorns

20 dried shata peppers

2-cm. long cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp. dried ginger powder

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tbsp. sweet or hot paprika

Roast all the whole seasonings (cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, coriander, cloves, black pepper, shata pepper and cinnamon ) in a dry skillet for about two minutes, until they give off an aroma. Grind into powder in a spice grinder and mix in the remaining ingredients. Store refrigerated, in a sealed jar.


A very popular vegetarian dish, and one of dozens of types of foods that is served on injera. Shiro powder, which is sold in Eritrean grocery stores, consists of chickpea flour, dried onion and garlic and a little berbere.

Serves six.

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced

10 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

1 very heaping tbsp. shiro (or chickpea flour )

olive oil for frying


In a saucepan, saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook for at least 20 minutes, until you have a thick sauce. Add the shiro and stir until smooth. Add salt if needed. Serve hot.

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