What can I use instead of Berbere spice? The best substitutes for Berbere spice include spice blends with similar ingredients, such as Ras el Hanout, Baharat, Harissa, curry powder, and Garam Masala. Allspice, Jamaican Jerk seasoning, and Dukkah are also great alternatives with similar flavor profiles to Berbere.
Berbere forms the backbone of Ethiopian cuisine. Spicy, earthy, zesty, and sweet, this vibrant and complex spice blend is used as an all-purpose seasoning or dry rub to instantly enhance the color and flavor of curries, stews, soups, meat, and vegetables. If you cannot pick up Berbere at your local supermarket, you can try one of these flavorful spice substitutes:
The Best Substitutes For Berbere Spice
Ras El Hanout
With over half a dozen spices in this blend, you won’t compromise on flavor when using Ras el Hanout as a substitute for Berbere.
Ras el Hanout (an Arabic phrase for ‘top shelf’ or ‘head of the shop’) is another North African spice mix that will add color and life to dishes that typically call for Berbere.
The Ras el Hanout blend varies from household to household and can contain up to 100 different spices. However, the base ingredients are very similar to Berbere, which includes chili peppers, coriander, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, ginger, and black pepper.
Ras el Hanout is now more accessible than the lesser-known Berbere, thanks to the increasing popularity of Moroccan cuisine.
With its fragrant aroma, intense heat, and earthy undertones, Ras el Hanout is an excellent alternative for seasoning stews, vegetables, soups, and tagines or as a flavorful dry rub for meat and seafood.
Baharat is essentially Berbere’s mild Middle Eastern cousin. With a warm, woody, and zesty flavor profile similar to Berbere, this aromatic all-purpose seasoning makes an excellent alternative.
As with numerous spice blends, Baharat’s ingredients can vary across regions.
Despite this, Baharat shares the same foundational spices as Berbere, such as black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and nutmeg.
Baharat (‘spices’ in Arabic) is a fantastic Berbere substitute for hearty dishes like roasted vegetables, stew, pilaf, and soup.
The addition of paprika imparts a smoky-sweet flavor when used in marinades, braises, or as a dry rub for poultry, meat, and seafood.
Use Baharat as a 1:1 replacement for Berbere. It tends to be slightly milder, so you may want to add a pinch of cayenne pepper or chili flakes into the mix for an extra kick of heat.
Turkish Baharat blend typically includes mint, which may alter the final taste of your dish.
Heat-seekers won’t miss out on Berbere’s spiciness with Harissa as a substitute. Harissa is a North African red chili paste that’s a central ingredient in Tunisian cooking.
With similar ingredients, such as dried red chilis, coriander, and cumin, Harissa infuses food with bold, aromatic flavor and a gorgeous red hue, much like Berbere.
Generally, Harissa is available as a paste or sauce, although some supermarkets and spice stores sell it as a dry seasoning blend.
You can swap Berbere for Harissa in equal amounts to amp up the heat and impart a depth of flavor, and color to Ethiopian Misir Wot (lentil stew), soups, curries, and roasted vegetables.
Harissa powder is superb as a dry rub for steak, chicken, or fish, while the paste makes an excellent addition to marinades or dressings for roast meat, salads, eggs, and pasta.
Mix Harissa paste or powder with a bit of olive oil and enjoy as a spicy dip.
When you’re in a pinch, Garam Masala, a spice you’re almost certain to have in your pantry, makes a fantastic berbere substitute.
With the exception of red chilis and fenugreek, Garam Masala contains most of the warm, earthy ingredients found in berbere- cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.
Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend highly favored for its gorgeous fragrance and perfect balance of warm, sweet, spicy, and pungent flavor.
Use Garam Masala as a 1:1 replacement for Berbere to add delicious aroma and depth of flavor to curries, stews, roasted vegetables, and soups, or as a dry rub for meat, poultry, and seafood.
While most Garam Masala blends contain red chili powder, it will still be milder than Berbere. Simply add a good pinch of cayenne pepper to turn up the heat.
Among the most accessible substitutes on this list, allspice works a charm when you are pressed for time to prepare a meal that calls for Berbere.
As the name suggests, allspice truly is the spice that does it all!
Often mistaken for being a blend of assorted spices, allspice is actually derived from the unripe, dried brown berries of the Pimenta dioica tree, native to the Caribbean.
Also known as Pimento or Jamaica pepper, allspice has an unbelievably complex flavor profile, with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, fennel, cloves, and star anise- many of which are present in Berbere.
As with Berbere, allspice has a highly fragrant, warm, spicy-sweet taste, which makes it an ideal alternative to add aroma and depth of flavor to stews, soups, curries, and vegetables.
Swap Berbere for allspice as a dry rub to season beef or lamb.
If you miss Berbere’s heat, add red chili flakes or cayenne pepper to taste.
Curry powder is another popular pantry staple that makes a tasty and straightforward stand-in for just about any dish that requires Berbere.
Curry powder is not an authentic Indian ingredient; it was created by the British, who were inspired by Indian cuisine.
This highly versatile spice blend features numerous spices present in Berbere, such as ginger, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, red pepper, turmeric, and fenugreek- a key component of Berbere.
Curry powder’s vibrant yellow hue and unique combination of sweet and savory spices come together to form the perfect Berbere substitute.
It will add an irresistible fragrance, pop of color, and an earthy, piquant flavor to food.
While curry powder can be applied as a dry rub for meat, it is best used in liquid applications such as stews, curries, soups, and sauces.
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
If you’re looking for something as vibrant, fiery, and robust as Berbere, then Jamaican Jerk seasoning is the substitute for you.
It is delicious as a dry rub for grilled or roasted meat or a delicious flavoring for marinades, stews, rice, and casseroles.
The name Jamaican Jerk stems from a cooking style implemented by the enslaved Maroons and indigenous tribes of Jamaica.
Meat is seasoned with a blend of spices, then smoked and dried in the sun or over a fire (the process is called Jerky today).
Sweet, smoky, spicy, and savory, Jamaican Jerk seasoning is a mouth-watering fusion of spices that enliven your meal with color, aroma, and flavor complexity.
It has a stronger taste than Berbere, so add gradually until you achieve the desired intensity.
Jamaican Jerk and berbere blends share similar spices, like nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and chili peppers.
Dukkah is an excellent solution when you can’t find Berbere or don’t have the time to mix your own spices.
The uniqueness of this famous Egyptian blend lies not just in its spices but also in the fact that it contains nuts and seeds.
In this flavorful blend, toasted sesame seeds, fennel seeds, hazelnuts, and spices like cayenne, cumin, and coriander combine to produce a similar citrusy, nutty, spicy flavor to Berbere.
While Dukkah offers a slightly nuttier taste and crunchier texture than Berbere, it infuses a meal with gorgeous color, fragrance, and depth of flavor.
Use Dukkah as a deliciously crunchy coating for meat, fish, or chicken or as a seasoning for dips, roasted vegetables, sauces, pilaf, or salads.