Ethiopian cooking can be heavy on meat — but the east African country’s cuisine is also full of delicious and super-satisfying dishes that are perfect for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten and lactose-free eaters.
Ethiopian food is probably best known for the spongy sourdough flatbread called injera, which serves as the “spoon” for lentil, bean, meat, and vegetable sauces piled on top. Part of what makes Ethiopian food perfect for so many diets is that there’s always a “fasting” (or animal-free) option: Many Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians and traditionally eat vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as other special days.
Ethiopia’s cuisine is very similar to the food of its neighbor and rival Eritrea (which until 1991 was part of Ethiopia). Some of the country’s culinary style also reflects the influences of neighbors like Sudan (where the sour bread is called kesra), and the lasting impact of Italy’s partial colonial rule in the mid-1900’s.
Shiro is a delicious chickpea powder-based dish (sometimes also including lentils and broad beans), slow-cooked with Ethiopia’s popular — and spicy — red berbere sauce. There are several kinds of shiro to enjoy, from the soupy thin shiro wot to the thick and glob-like (but still delectable) shiro tegamino. Atkilt wot is a delicious vegetable combo of cabbage, carrots, and potatoes simmered in a light sauce.
Azifa is a green lentil salad that’s perfect on its own or mixed with injera. Gomen is made of collard greens and spices cooked to tasty perfection. Inguday tibs are mushrooms sautéed with onions. In Ethiopian cooking, tibs dishes usally consist of meat, but make it with mushroom and vegan.
Mesir wot is a delicious (and beautifully colored) combination of split red lentils simmered in spicy berbere sauce. Fasolia are string beans, often sautéed with carrots and caramelized onions.
Kik alicha is a split pea stew-ish dish often cooked with a light turmeric sauce. There are different kinds of alicha dishes (and ways to spell it in English), depending on the exact spices and consistency of the lentils and sauce. Ethiopian beet salad is a tangy and delicious combination of marinated beets, spice, and sometimes potatoes and carrots.
Chechebsa, also called kita firfir (also called kita fitfit), is typically eaten for breakfast and is one of the rare Ethiopian dishes eaten with a spoon. Chechebsa is made of lightly fried injera or other bread cooked in berbere sauce and often served with honey. On the right it’s pictured with eggs, which can be substituted out to make it vegan.