Berbere is the spice mix of Ethiopia and Eritrea. It’s centered on dried chiles, both hot and sweet, and spices like fenugreek and coriander seeds. The mix we use also features warm flavors like cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger. It brings both heat and a bit of sweetness, and is full of layers. Like Xawaash spice mix in Somalia and dry rubs for barbecue in the American South, berbere differs from region to region, family to family, even neighbor to neighbor. Which is to say: Feel free to add a little bit more of one spice or less of another if you’d like, or try swapping one for something else. Try it in Ma Gehennet’s Shiro (Ground Chickpea Stew), Doro Wat (Stewed Chicken Legs With Berbere & Eggs), or Shahan Ful (Mashed Limas With Onions, Tomatoes & Chiles). You can also add it to any stew or braise (start with about 1 tablespoon berbere for every four servings) or try rubbing a light coating on shrimp or chicken thighs before grilling (you can let them sit overnight in the refrigerator after seasoning or just season right before grilling).
Place the cinnamon, coriander, fenugreek, peppercorns, cardamom, and allspice in a small heavy skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the smell is very aromatic and the spices are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Transfer the mixture to a clean coffee grinder, add the chiles and onion flakes, and grind to a fine powder (or use a mortar and pestle and some elbow grease). Transfer the ground spices to a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and sift. Regrind whatever large pieces remain in the sieve and add them to the bowl with the ground spices.
Add the paprika, ginger, and nutmeg. Whisk well to combine and transfer the mixture to an airtight jar. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.