People. Ethiopian food is delicious. Like, crazy good. And I’ve only come to realize that in the last couple of months. Do you know what’s so silly about that? In my Portland neighborhood, we had tons of Ethiopian restaurants. But no, Fiance and I always opted for the burgers at Pause (also delicious) or pizza from Old Town (ditto) rather than venture out a bit.

Instead, I had to go all the way to Africa to actually find that out for myself. Admittedly, I’m still quite far from Ethiopia, but you get the point.

When our friends from home were visiting us last month, we went to the Ethiopian restaurant Addis in Cape on Long Street here in Cape Town (I’ll be sharing that dinner with you tomorrow for SA Sunday!). The entire meal was incredible, but Fiance and I’s favorite thing was the spicy stewed beef they served. I needed to have it in my own kitchen.

Many Ethiopian recipes, like this one, call for a very spicy spice blend called berbere. If you’re lucky enough to live by a spice shop like Penzeys, you can pick it up pre-blended. If not, you can make it at home! It consists of lots of red pepper flakes, chili powder, paprika, fenugreek, cumin, nutmeg, black pepper, turmeric, dried ginger, onion powder, garlic powder, allspice, cardamom, cloves, coriander, and cinnamon. You’ll likely have most of these in your spice cupboard, but if you can’t find the more obscure fenugreek, you can leave it out. I got mine during Fiance and I’s adventure to Bo-Kaap. It’s definitely a lot of ingredients, but so worth it! It’ll make enough to last awhile and I’ve already used it to make a delicious stewed chicken, too.

The beef gets stewed with this seasoning, caramelized onions, garlic, beef stock, a little sugar, and tomato paste. Super simple and chock full of flavor.

This dish is traditionally served with an Ethiopian flat bread that’s similar to a crepe called injera. It’s an absolute crime that I wasn’t able to do so, but I couldn’t find the essential ingredient: ground teff. I will find it eventually, and I WILL make delicious, spongey injera. And I will be happy. In the meantime, couscous is a great side to key wat.

You could absolutely make this in your crock pot. The only reason I did it stove top is because I don’t have one in Cape Town. It’d be a super easy meal for weeknights: throw all the ingredients in the crock pot and the couscous takes just another 10 minutes. Steam some broccoli and bam, you’ve got yourself a well-rounded meal!

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Spicy Ethiopian Stewed Beef (Key Wat)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yield: 4 -6 Servings


Berbere seasoning:

  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 4 tbsp hot pepper flakes, Yes, tablespoons! Not a typo!
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Stewed Beef:

  • 1 lb stew beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, separated
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp berbere, less if you’re sensitive to spice
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups beef stock, or 2 cups water and a beef bullion


  • To make the berbere spice, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.
  • For the stewed beef, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the beef with the salt and pepper. Brown the beef in batches in the dutch oven, removing to a plate to catch its juices.
  • Without cleaning the dutch oven, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the onions and cook until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the tomato paste, berbere seasoning, and sugar to the onions and garlic. Cook until a thick paste forms, about 3 minutes. Add the beef stock and beef and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer.
  • Simmer the beef for at least an hour, up to two. Remove the beef from the cooking liquid and shred it by pulling the chunks apart with two forks. Add the beef back to the stock mixture and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  • Serve with injera or couscous.


If you’d like to cook this in your crock pot, follow the instructions until you’ve caramelized the onions. Add all remaining ingredients, caramelized onions, and beef to the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Before serving, shred the beef by pulling the chunks apart with two forks and return to the crock pot and cook on high for 15 minutes.
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Course: Dinner
Author: Chelsea Cole
Did you make this recipe?Mention @aducksoven on Instagram or tag #aducksoven.