Recipe Index

Spiced Buttery Oil (niter kebbeh)

Makes slightly less than 1 cup, enough for one batch of all the recipes plus a little extra


The nuanced cooking fat that infuses Ethiopian food with that special something. Only this time, it’s vegan. Because vegan margarine is salted, I like to use half oil to help balance out the flavor.

As this niter kebbeh simmers, some foam may raise to the top (not unlike clarifying butter). If you prefer, skim off some of the foam. I found that a good deal of the salt gets concentrated in the foam; removing it will make a less salty oil, if you’d prefer to have more control over the salty flavors in your dishes.


  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of vegan margarine
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed or peanut oil
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 inch cube ginger, sliced into 1/4 pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 three inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 8 whole cloves

1. With the pommel end of the knife, bruise the ginger slices so they’ll release more flavor during the simmer. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine and stir in the oil. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 minutes. A layer of yellow foam will form on top of the niter; use a spoon to skim off as much as possible, but don’t worry if you don’t get it all. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 12 minutes, then turn off the heat. Stir a few times during the simmer.


2. Cool the niter kebbeh for 15 minutes, then pour through a metal strainer into a plastic container. Use a spoon to press down on the solids to release as much oil as possible; discard the solids. Store chilled until ready to use.