15 Traditional Eritrean Food In Eritrea You Have To Try

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Famously known as one of the countries in the “Horn of Africa”, this is one of the least spoken-about countries on the African continent. Eritrea has some of the most beautiful people in Africa, but beyond that, the country has some amazing culinary delicacies. Eritrean food have a way of soothing the soul. 

What Is Special About Eritrea Food?

Eritrean foods have an interesting multicultural blend to them. Due to its history with countries like Ethiopia and Italy, Eritrea has one of the best multicultural gastronomies in Africa.

Eritrean cuisine features various fresh vegetables and grains like rice, barley, millet, and sorghum. Along with globalization, the food scene also continues to evolve and be influenced by countries in the region today. If you are a vegetarian, there is actually a good amount of options within Eritrean foods.

In the heart of Eritrea, every meal is considered an event in itself, where food is not merely eaten, but celebrated with joy and shared in good company. Traditional dishes are centered around a sourdough-risen flatbread called injera, made from teff flour, which acts as both plate and utensil for a plethora of delicious stews (tsebhis), salads, and accompaniments.

Most Famous Food In Eritrea

Zigini (Beef Stew)

Zigini is an original Eritrean stew that is full of flavor. This Eritrean food is not your regular stew as it has a special secret ingredient. The zigini stew is prepared with berbere spices (a local combination of distinct Eritrean spices). As such, it is often considered the national dish of Eritrea. 

Major ingredients of this stew include oil, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, and cubed meat (lamb or beef). Zigini stew is typically enjoyed with flatbread, which is used to soak up all that delicious sauce.

Eritrea Food – Main Dishes

Injera (Flatbread)

Injera is a staple food in Eritrean dishes. This sour, flat pancake-like Eritrean bread is enjoyed not just in Eritrea, but also popular amongst neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Sudan. 

The sourdough flatbread has a spongy texture and is made of teff flour. While it is common in almost every meal and can fill the stomach, injera is more of a complementary to another main dish. Usually, you don’t eat injera alone; but rather pair it with stew or fava beans.

Genfo (Flour And Water porridge)

Genfo is a special Eritrean dish you can describe as a work of art. This Eritrean cuisine is made of flour and water and shaped like a volcano. 

The hole at the center of the porridge is made to contain sauce or soup that is used to flavor the dish. Usually, it is made with barley flour, but wheat or corn flour are suitable alternatives as well.

Regardless, the flour should be very dry; you can add clarified butter to form the volcano shape well. While you can use a spoon or fork, locals sometimes enjoy genfo with their hands. Try that to live the full African culinary experience. 

Shahan Ful (Fava Bean Dish)

This is one of the most popular foods in Eritrea. It’s a special dish in Eritrean cuisine with a rival origin. Some claim it originated from Sudan, while others believe that it comes from Eritrea. 

Whatever the case, good food knows no boundaries; and this is one of the well enjoyed food in Eritrea. Shahan ful is like a simmered bean stew. The fava bean is cooked tender, then mashed and mixed with onions, pepper, and yogurt. Although based on preference, there can be more additional ingredients. 

The shahan ful is usually enjoyed with flat unleavened bread. It is a dish synonymous with the country’s fasting periods (Ramadan and Lent). However, you can try this food anytime in Eritrea as it is a rather common fare.

Eritrea Food- Stews And Soups 

Shiro (Ground Chickpeas Stew)

Stews (tesbhi) are a major part of Eritrean cuisine, and Shiro is one of the many vegetarian Eritrean dishes. This soup is made from grounded fava beans (board beans) or chickpeas. 

This is a delicious and nutritious stew that offers natural protein. You can enjoy this meal any time of the year in Eritrea. It is not strictly vegetarian, as you can order it with meat as well. While there are different versions of the Shiro, the base ingredients (chickpea and board beans) remain the same.

Tesbhi Derho (Spicy Chicken Stew)

An ever-green Eritrean food, this is one of the most flavorful stews in the country. As with most Eritrean stews, tsebhi derecho is cooked with berbere (local spices) to improve the flavor and taste of the dish.

The stew is often enjoyed with injera (sour flatbread). The tasbih derecho is a replica of the famous Ethiopian food Doro Wat. If you’re a chicken lover, this is definitely one dish to try in Eritrea.

Eritrea Food- Light Dishes, Snacks, And Street Food

Fata (Bread Salad)

Another delicious food in Eritrea, Fata is enjoyed as a snack rather than a main dish. Although you will find that it’s a staple dish in Eritrean breakfast. 

Fata is delicious and easy to make, which makes it a favorite among both the old and young. It’s essentially tomato sauce on bread pieces. 

First, you make your stew or sauce for the fata; this is quite customizable based on your taste; but pepper, tomato, and onion are common ingredients, along with spices.

When the stew is done, mix it with your bread and mash it with a spoon. Ingredients like yogurt and eggs can also be added to enhance the taste and texture.

Kitcha Fit-fit (Eritrean Spiced Cakes)

This is one of many Eritrean foods that has a shared heritage with their neighbors, Ethiopians. Because of their long history, many Ethiopian foods are also staples in Eritrean cuisine.

Kitcha fit-fit is a dessert made by breaking unleavened bread and mixing it with clarified butter and special berbere spices. Typically Kitcha bread is used, but injera flatbread is also a common alternative due to its prominence in the food scene. 

Then you simply cook it till it’s done. The flavor and taste are beyond imagination as the bread soaks in the buttery flavor enriched by spices.

Dabo Kolo (Corn Bread)

This is a cherished snack of the Eritrean cuisine. Although the origin is controversial, as many claim it originated from DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), there is no denying it’s a dish worth trying in Eritrea.

Dabo means bread, and kolo means corn or roasted barley. The snack is made of small pieces of baked bread, similar to chin-chin (a flour dough deep-fried snack in Nigeria). They can be enjoyed with Siwa or mies. 

Other main ingredients of this snack food include milk, corn flour, or barely. You can get this snack on the streets and in kiosks nationwide. 

Hamli (Sauteed Collard Green)

Another simple and traditional food of Eritrea, Hamli is a sauteed collard green dish. 

The collard green is steamed until tender; then, it is mixed with other ingredients like garlic, parsley, tomatoes, and onions. This is another go-to vegetarian Eritrean food. You can eat hamli alone or enjoy it with injera (sour flatbread).

Eritrea Food- Sweets, Desserts, And Pastries

Makleel (Eritrean Doughnuts With Honey)

This is similar to the special Greek dessert “Loukoumades”. Makleel is made with all-purpose flour, with the main ingredients being sugar and honey.

This is an ever-present dessert in Eritrean ceremonies, and rightly so, as it soothes the palette with its sweet taste. Makleel is a popular favorite among both locals and tourists since it’s convenient and easy to eat. This sweet dumpling can be your go-to snack if you ever go to Eritrea. 

Panettone (Sweet Bread)

This is an Eritrean dessert influenced by their Italian colonist, but it has become a root part of the local food culture. An interesting fact about Eritrea is that it is sometimes called Africa’s little Rome.

Panettone is considered a special dish for festive occasions like Christmas and New Year. It is a bread with a cupcake-like shape, albeit a little bigger, featuring a speckled mix of raisins, almonds, and citrus. 

This dessert is also popular in countries like Italy and Australia. The dough is made and refrigerated for at least 10 hours, then mixed with soaked fruit before it’s baked. It’s a tasty dessert you should try on your vacation in Eritrea.

Silsi (Eritrean Tomato Sauce)

Silsi is well-loved Eritrean food across the country. This special spicy tomato sauce is nutritiously fortified with carrots and onions, and seasoned with berbere spices. 

The origin of this delicacy is not known, but many believe it was influenced by Italian cuisine, due to the country’s intertwined history with Italy.

Silsi is rather versatile with its signature berbere-infused taste. You can enjoy the sauce with a bunch of dishes such as pasta, injera (flatbread), or rice. It makes for a great side as well.

Iconic Drinks In Eritrean Cuisine

Adulis Mies (Fermented Honey Drink)

This is the poster boy of Eritrean beverages. In Eritrea, mies is considered the drink of drinks. It is a specially brewed fermented honey beverage. 

Mies is a traditional Eritrean fare that has influenced neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Somalia. It is made by smoking a wood barrel thoroughly using gesso (hops). Honey is then poured into it and allowed to ferment for a couple of days. 

It produces a warm, aromatic herb and spices-infused wine that is good for the soul. You can even get a bottle of mies in Eritrea to take home.

Siwa (Eritrean Beer)

This is a common beverage of Eritrean people. Although many cultural groups have their traditional special beverage, one that is generally available is siwa. This is a common beverage of Eritrean people, and is sometimes seen as the national drink.

Siwa is made with water, yeast, dried gesso (shiny-leaf buckthorn), and bread. The bread is mostly made from grains like barley and millet or sorghum. 

FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD

This brew is left to ferment for a couple of days, after which it can be served. You sometimes even see tiny bread pieces floating in the drink. 

Discovering Traditional Eritrean Food In Eritrea

Eritrean cuisine is a hidden gem of East Africa, shining brightly with a fusion of vibrant flavors, rich history, and diverse cultural influences. 

Each bite takes you on a journey of intricate flavors, ranging from the heat of berbere spice to the subtle notes of cardamom, fenugreek, and the nuttiness of sesame. Eritreans love to explore grains, which is evident in all their foods.

To eat in Eritrea is to immerse oneself in a rich cultural tapestry where each dish tells a story of the country’s resilient past and vibrant present. Eritrean foods promise a beautiful journey with healthy and satisfying meals that can amaze food explorers.

 


PIN THESE ERITREAN FOOD IN ERITREA FOR LATER!

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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