Berbere Spiced Chicken, Doro Wat

Berbere Spiced Chicken evokes memories of Ethiopia, the place where Paul and I first became friends. During our time in Addis, I got sick and Paul was appointed my hospital companion. I found a kindred spirit and we spent the rest of our time in Ethiopia together at every opportunity. A few months later, back home again, our relationship evolved into something more. The nuanced spice of berbere is a shared food memory; the start of a relationship, excitement of plans, passionate discussions, and the flash of recognition at finding a life partner.

Berbere is a distinctive spice mixture from Ethiopia -- fiery hot balanced with pungent garlic and warming spices. Many households prepare their own berbere mixture, and tarps laid out with drying chilies and spices were a common sight and smell in Ethiopia. Berbere Spiced Chicken is our greatly simplified and adapted version of the classic Ethiopian Doro Wat. Once you hunt down some berbere seasoning at your local spice store or online, this dish can be made in an hour and half with everyday ingredients.


Yield: Serves 4-6 as a main


   Berebere Roasted Chicken

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup berebere spice (reduce amount for a milder dish)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder

   Onion Stew

  • 2 large onions, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely diced or crushed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon berebere spice (reduce amount for a milder dish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup chicken broth (low salt)
  • Juice from half a lemon


  1. For the Berebere Roasted Chicken: Preheat oven to 325.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients (berebere, onion powder, salt, and ginger). Generously sprinkle the dry rub over the chicken thighs, and rub into the meat. You are looking for a thick even coating.
  3. Spread the spiced chicken on a roasting pan, smooth side up, and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The chicken does not need to be turned or flipped during roasting. While it is roasting, prepare the onion stew.
  4. For the Onion Stew: In a medium pot over medium-high heat, combine onions, butter, and salt. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are well caramelized.
  5. Add garlic, tomato paste, and spices (berebere, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, and ginger), and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Stir continuously to avoid burning. 
  6. Add the chicken broth, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.
  7. Remove the stew from the heat and stir in the lemon juice just prior to serving.
  8. Remove the roasted chicken from the oven, and rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  9. Serve the roasted chicken slices with a generous portion of stew. Doro Wat is traditionally served with injera (Ethiopia's tangy spongy fermented flatbread), hard boiled eggs, and accompanied with cooling cottage cheese and an assortment of vegetable dishes. For simplicity, we often just serve ours with rice and a dollop of cottage cheese to cool down the heat.