Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian Magic Butter)

Niter kibbeh is a staple in Ethiopian cuisine, where if the recipe says “butter”, they probably mean this.  It’s basically clarified butter with onions and a bunch of aromatic stuff in it. This recipe makes a fair amount, but I don’t doubt you’ll find plenty of other places to use it.


It’s pretty straight-forward, so I’ll just list the ingredients and dig in:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, or 1/2 medium onion, diced small
  • 5 cloves of garlic (1-1/2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp ginger (I use paste)
  • 1-1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1″ cinnamon sitck
  • 1 clove

Prep all the things, and get the butter melting in a sauce pan or saucier (preferred) on a medium/low heat ~ this is important, because if you burn the butter, you start over.

Anyway, once the butter starts to soften add in all the other ingredients. Stir slowly until the butter is melted and the chunky stuff sinks to the bottom.  Around this time, crud will start to form on the surface. Carefully skim this off without also taking too much of the liquid (I strain the spoon against the wall of the pot a bit). Stir occasionally, but keep skimming the crud off until you’ve removed as much as possible. It takes a little patience but it’s worth it.

To finish, you’ll need some cheesecloth/coffee filter/etc. ~ I have a funnel with a crud screen ~ and filter the butter into a bowl or jar. Let it solidify in the fridge so the flavors come together and the butter gets firm. What you don’t use straightaway will keep for ages so long as it’s in a sealed jar or reusable container.