Kitfo With Berbere Spice Brown Butter

July 16, 2021
1 Ratings
Photo by Angie Mosier
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer, and 1 1/2 cups berbere spice brown butter
Author Notes

When I want to come up with the Ethiopian menu, I always ask my wife Maya for her take. Truth is, I'm not even allowed in the kitchen at home when Maya and her sisters are cooking Ethiopian food. Her sisters and cousins, who fly in from DC, Toronto, and London, think what I do is "cute." No matter how long I've been cooking, they don't consider me an Ethiopian chef who cooks Ethiopian food. And every time we are in Ethiopia, Maya's mom stuffs our bags with food, because she doesn't fully believe we have real food in America. Butter, cheese, it's all crammed inside our suitcases, and I'm the one who's nervous about going through customs at JFK. Her mom just looks at me and says, "What's your problem? Get on board."

On big days and special occasions, even Maya has to step aside to let her older sister Alema set the record straight in the kitchen. Kitfo is an Ethiopian beef tartare, cooked lightly or eaten raw. It is a specialty of the Gurage people, Mya's tribe of Southwest Ethiopia. Maya and her sisters make kitfo with enormous pride for special occasions, family gatherings, feasts, and holidays. The word means "finely chopped," and it is true to its name, a mixture of finely diced beef, spices, chili powder, and warm butter. Minced raw beef recipes like steak tartare aren't only enjoyed ind Europe. Kitfo has been around for centuries.

Niter kibbeh is a staple of Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. A seasoned clarified butter, niter kibbeh is similar to Indian ghee but infused with spices before the dairy solids are removed. That aromatic flavor is imparted to whatever is cooked with it—seared fish or meat, or stirred into legumes or a stew like doro wat. It can take high heat without burning and ferments well. The longer it sits, the better it tastes.

Adapted slightly from THE RISE by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn. Recipes with Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook. Copyright © 2020 by Marcus Samuelsson. Photographs by Angie Mosier. Used with permission of Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Hear more from Marcus on getting booting from his own kitchen—what he calls "the best comedy show"—on Food52's food-meets-music podcast Counterjam.Marcus Samuelsson

What You'll Need
  • Niter kibbeh
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cardmom pods
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Kitfo with berbere spice brown butter
  • Kibbeh (above)
  • 1 tablespoon berbere seasoning
  • 1 pound trimmed chilled beef tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Flatbread chips
  1. Niter kibbeh
  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. As form rises to the top, skim and discard it. Continue cooking, without letting the butter brown, until no more foam appears. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, cardamom, fenugreek, cumin, oregano, turmeric, and thyme and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned and aromatic.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with a cheesecloth. Add the berbere spice and stir to combine. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or proceed with the recipe.
  1. Kitfo with berbere spice brown butter
  2. Slice the tenderloin into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice into 1/4-inch strips and then into 1/4-inch cubes.
  3. Heat the berbere butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. As soon as it melts, add the cardamom and black pepper and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the shallot and grated garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly. Add the beef, lemon zest and juice, and salt and toss to combine. Drizzle with more berbere butter just before serving with flatbread chips.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Heather Wood
    Heather Wood
  • kufico

2 Reviews

Heather W. April 11, 2022
This is possibly my favorite Ethiopean dish, along with gomen. I usually purchase from a local restaurant/spice company but I wanted to do it myself and this recipe comes as close as I think I can get. Delicious, I do mine lebleb, so it is partially cooked - I also use either a very high quality top round or a slab of a new york cut. Either way, it's delicious. Filet sounds almost ridiculously spendy, so I probably won't do that version.
kufico July 19, 2021
Thanks for sharing. We are providing business opportunity for own kumbakonam filter coffee shop in all over tamilnadu.