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Making Homemade Berbere to Make an Excellent Chicken Stew

When Jedd gave me a new coffee grinder for Christmas last year I was confused. I’m more of a “drink Earl Gray until I twitch” kind of hot beverage lover. But when he told me that it was to play around with to make my own homemade spice blends, I was thrilled. And berbere was one of the first things I played with.

Berbere is a traditional African spice that is spicy but complex. It won’t necessarily make you sob – but it has just enough heat to let you know that you’re alive. And in this chicken and lentil stew, the berbere brings earthiness and a little fire to a stew that’s simple enough to make on a work night.

Homemade Berbere Spice

Berbere ingredients

1 teaspoon of allspice

3 teaspoons of cardamom pods

5 cloves

4 fenugreek seeds

2 teaspoons of ground black pepper

1 teaspoon of turmeric

4 teaspoons of cayenne

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Lightly toast the cardamom pods, cloves and fenugreek seeds in a dry frying pan on low heat until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Set aside and let cool for a couple of minutes. Then grind all of the ingredients in a spice grinder until smooth.

African Chicken Stew with Lentils and Kale

African stew

Serves 4.


2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 large carrots, diced

Salt and pepper

1 cup of cooked chicken

1 ½ tablespoons of the berbere spice

1 small can of diced tomatoes

½ cup of green lentils

2 cups of hot chicken stock or broth

1 cup of diced chicory or kale


In a large pot saute the onion and carrots until soft, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the chicken, berbere, tomatoes and hot stock stir well and bring to a boil. Add the lentils, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or until the lentils are done. Add the chicory and let it soften, about 3 minutes.

Serves 4.

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