I tried making a popular Ethiopian spice mix, berbere, following a recipe by Marcus Samuelsson. I followed it exactly, only making a few modifications.

  • 4 tsp corainder seeds
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp allspice berries
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 8 cloves
  • 1/3 cup onion powder
  • Dried chiles de árbod
  • 1 tsp nutmeg ground
  • 1 tsp ginger ground
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 6 tbsp paprika (I used Spanish dulce paprika)


  • Instead of cloves, I used ground clove, substituting 8 whole cloves for 3/4 tsp of ground clove

  • I didn't have the chiles, so I used 2 tbsp of cayenne pepper powder instead. I also didn't want it to be too spicy.

Following the recipe, the seeds were toasted on a pan before being mixed using a pestle and mortar with the other spices. However, the end result was pungent and slightly bitter. How is berbere supposed to taste exactly?

  • 1
    I hope it is a typo, the recipe call for "4 whole cloves" not 8. according to the ingredients, I expect it to be on the bitter side of things – Max Dec 17 '17 at 15:12
  • I doubled the recipe actually (but forgot to change the proportions of the fenugreek and corainder written there so it's a typo indeed) – user60513 Dec 17 '17 at 19:01
  • I can't remember ever tasting it straight (and I've never made it from scratch), but I don't recall it being bitter when used in recipes. (maybe it was something in the recipes that balanced it out, though) – Joe Dec 17 '17 at 20:09
  • 1
    I have no idea if it's supposed to be bitter, but fenugreek is quite bitter, and its bitterness increases quickly when toasted. – Willem van Rumpt Dec 18 '17 at 7:21
  • toasting of spices can make them bitter if the heat is too much, or if you left them on the hot skillet too long. Did you smell some bitterness when grinding them? – Andrea Shaitan Oct 19 '18 at 8:20

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