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Niter Kebbeh – Ethiopian Spiced Butter

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You can purchase it but niter Kebbeh is easy to prepare at home.

Niter kebbeh is a deliciously spiced butter that is used in a lot of Ethiopian cooking. The spicy butter adds another layer of flavour to popular Ethiopian dishes like beef tibs.

You could just use ghee in such dishes but taking the time to make niter kebbeh will add to the flavour. It really takes things up a notch or two.

Niter Kebbeh

What is niter kebbeh?

As you will see from the ingredients list, this Ehtiopian spiced butter flavoured with whole spices, aromatics and herbs. You could easily adjust the ingredients to use your niter kebbeh in other cuisines.

Doing this, it might not be very authentic to other cuisines but it works! Leave the oregano out, for example and every other ingredient is used in Indian cuisine. There is not reason you couldn’t use this in an Indian curry recipe.

How do you make clarified butter or ghee?

I use ghee or clarified butter for this recipe as it is easier. To make traditional niter kibbeh, you start with unsalted butter and then slowly bring it to a simmer. As the butter simmers you will see that some of the solids go to the bottom of the pan and it becomes foamy on top. 

Skim the foam off the top and then pour it all into another pan, leaving the milk solids at the bottom of the pan behind. You now have clarified butter!

How do you make Ethiopian spiced butter?

All you need to do is roast the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in a pan over a medium heat until fragrant and warm to the touch. Then transfer the spices to a plate.

Bring your ghee or clarified butter to a simmer and return the roasted spices to the pan with the remaining ingredients.

Simmer over a low heat for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour for a more intense flavour. Stain the butter through a fine sieve and use as required.

How long can you store niter kebbeh in the fridge?

You can store your Ethiopian spiced butter in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Wrap it tightly in a bowl and use as required.

Can you freeze Ethiopian spiced butter?

Yes and it freezes really well. This is a great way of retaining the flavour for future cooks.

I recommend freezing your Ethiopian spiced butter in portion sizes that are convenient for you. I usually freeze in portion sizes of 2 to 3 tablespoons. 

Step by step photographs.

Ingredients for the spiced butter.

Get all your ingredients together before starting. It’s easier that way.

Removing the seeds from the cardamom pods.

You do not need to do this for this Ethiopian spiced butter. The cardamom pods have no flavour so to ensure you get the cardamom flavour in your butter, you do needed to smash the pods before adding.

Toasting the whole spices.

Toast the whole spices over a medium heat until fragrant and warm to the touch but not smoking. Transfer to a plate.

Adding ghee to a pan and bringing to a simmer.

Add the ghee to the pan and bring to a simmer. Once half of the ghee has melted, add the toasted spices to the pan.

Stirring in the garlic, shallots and all the remaining ingredients.

Also add the remaining ingredients.

Simmering the niter kebbeh.

Simmer all these ingredients for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour over a low heat.

Straining the spiced butter through a sieve.

Strain the butter through a sieve leaving all the solid ingredients behind.

The finished nitter kebbeh.

Use immediately or place the nitter kebbeh in the fridge until needed.

niter kebbeh

Use as required. Freezing the nitter kebbeh in small portions is a great way to keep it for a long time without much loss of flavour.

In addition to Ethiopian food, you can use your Ethiopian spiced butter, minus the oregano in these popular curries.

Actually, the oregano won’t hurt the flavour of any of these recipes so go ahead and leave it in if you like.

Beef Biryani
Chicken Biryani
Chickpea Biryani
Chicken Karahi
Lamb Korma
Shami Kebab
Aloo Gobi
Lamb Nihari
Chapli Kebabs
Lamb Seekh Kebabs
Staff Chicken Curry
Butter Chicken
Chicken Haleem
Tarka Dal
Pilau Rice
Chicken Tikka Masala
Grilled Lamb Chops
Spicy Kashmiri Lamb Chops


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Yield: 16 tbsp

Ethiopian Spiced Butter - Niter Kebbeh

niter kebbeh

You could also use clarified butter for this recipe which is widely available at supermarkets. You can make your own clarified butter. Please see notes.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 10 green cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 450g (1 lb) ghee
  • 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1.2 tsp ground turmeric


  1. Place the cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick in a large skillet and roast over medium high heat until warm to the touch and fragrant but not yet smoking. This should only take about a minute.
  2. Remove these whole spices from the pan and add the ghee. Melt the ghee and bring to a simmer and then return the roasted spices to the pan along with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour and then strain through a fine sieve. Your Ehtiopian spiced butter (niter kibbeh) can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks and can also be frozen for much longer.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 10Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 13mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

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