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.  One of the main uses we have is for eggs, especially scrambled or omelets.

Yield is between 1/2 to 3/4 pounds, and I’m trying to stretch that with experimentation.

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

  • 1 pound butter (salt/unsalted doesn’t really matter)
  • 1/2 medium red onion (5-6oz), roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic (1-1/2 tbsp) chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger chopped
  • 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 1/2 the  butter melting in a sauce pan or saucier (preferred) on a medium/high heat ~ so it simmers but doesn’t full-on boil. You don’t want to burn the butter.  Add all the seasonings, then the rest of the butter. This makes it easier to get rid of more of the fats.

Anyway, once the butter is melted, skim most of the crud off the top, then stir slowly until until everything is mixed well, and continue to simmer for at least five minutes to let the spices work their way in.  Carefully skim as much as you can 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, without removing too much butter. 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 container. 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.  I’ve found some silicone butter molds that work pretty well.

**pro-tip: Top prevent a rather expensive visit from a plumber to remove a ‘fat berg”, use paper towels to get rid of the leftover fats and seasoning remains into either the trash or (if you live in California, the green bin). You really want to do this with any leftover kitchen grease.

Thoughts? Questions?  Drop a comment below. Or give it a like for no reason whatsoever other than I know someone liked it.