Authentic Nitir Kibbeh

Authentic Nitir Kibbeh

If you’re looking to take your homemade Ethiopian dishes to the next level, here is my grandmas authentic Nitir Kibbeh recipe made easy. I make a lot of it, and it keeps for a year.

Doro wot

Discover the Delicate and Unique Flavor of smoked, Aged and clarified Butter | Nitir kibbeh, Ethiopian Tradition

Nitir kibbeh is an essential component of Ethiopian cooking, and it adds an incredible depth of flavor to any dish. This unique delicacy has a rich and savory taste that is unlike any other. The secret behind its distinct flavor lies in the smoking, culturing, aging and clarifying. It has a smokey, nutty and slightly intense taste as compared to regular butter. Clarified butter is a form of butter that is free from milk solids and water, making it ideal for cooking at high temperatures without burning.

Nitir kibbeh recipe

The clear golden liquid that remains is then strained and used for cooking. The benefits of using clarified butter in your cooking are numerous. It has a higher smoke point than regular butter. This makes it perfect for frying and sautéing. Additionally, because it is free from milk solids, it has a longer shelf life than regular butter. One of the best things about clarified butter is that it can be easily infused with herbs and spices to create a delicious and aromatic concoction. Whether you’re making steak, fish, or vegetables, adding a dollop of aged butter infused with herbs and spices can take your cooking to the next level. So why not give it a try? It’s easy to make at home and can add a whole new dimension to your cooking repertoire.

Scroll down for easy step by step recipe

Nitir kibbeh recipe Samra Cooks

Why store-bought Kibbeh is not the same as homemade.

Butter is a staple ingredient in most households and a must-have in any kitchen. However, if you have ever tried to age store-bought butter, you may have noticed that it doesn’t seem to work the same way as homemade butter. This prompted me to do some research on why store-bought butter won’t work even if it goes through the same aging process.

Nitir kibbeh recipe Samra Cook

Nutrients and culturing

First, I discovered that the key factor is the need for nutrients and culturing. Cultured butter is made by allowing bacteria to ferment the cream before churning it into butter. This process helps to develop a unique flavor and texture that cannot be replicated by simply churning pasteurized cream. Interestingly, in Ethiopia, butter is made from yogurt instead of cream.

While it is possible to find cultured butter in stores in the US, I found that it still didn’t come out right when I tried aging it. The reason for this could be the length of time that the butter was cultured. The longer the culturing process, the more complex and distinct the flavor becomes. However, store-bought butter is usually not aged for an extended period, resulting in a different flavor profile, which could explain why it doesn’t work in the same way as homemade butter. Overall, making your own butter at home may be the best way to achieve the desired results when aging butter.

Nitir kibbeh recipe Samra Cook

The flavor of the milk.

Second, the farmers in Ethiopia feed Tosign (Ethiopian thyme) to their cows that are used for milking. Why? Well, it turns out that the thyme actually enhances the flavor of the milk. Who would have thought?

One thing to keep in mind when infusing butter with Tosign is the amount of thyme you use. You don’t want to use too much, or the flavor will become overpowering. A small handful of leaves should do the trick.

Overall, I highly recommend trying out this unique flavor combination. Infusing butter with Tosign thyme is a fun and easy way to add some Ethiopian flair to your cooking. Who knows, it may just become your new favorite ingredient!

Ethiopian thyme Tosign
Please note: US thyme is not same as Ethiopian.
Tosign can be found at my Amazon store. In addition to making kibbeh you can use it for delicious tea which is great for cold and flu. Tosign is also known for its antivirus properties.

Quality of the Cream

Third, when it comes to making Nitir Kibbeh (aged and clarified butter), using quality cream is of utmost importance. Trust me, you will be able to taste the difference. The type of cream you use can make or break the taste and texture of your butter. So, where can you find good quality cream? Well, I suggest looking for local, organic, homogenized whipping cream from a store nearby. This type of cream works wonderfully and is readily available in most grocery stores.

Nitir kibbeh recipe Samra Cook

However, there is one type of cream that I wouldn’t recommend for making butter – ultra-pasteurized cream. This type of cream undergoes high heat treatment which destroys its flavor. The end result will be a bland-tasting butter that lacks the rich, creamy flavor that we all love. So, avoid using ultra-pasteurized cream if you can.

If you want to take your butter-making game to the next level, consider using raw cream. Raw cream is cream that has not been pasteurized or homogenized and is therefore richer in flavor and nutrients. However, raw cream can be hard to come by and may be more expensive than regular cream.

But if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Using quality cream is essential for making delicious Kibbeh. Whether you opt for local, organic, homogenized whipping cream or raw cream, just make sure to avoid ultra-pasteurized cream as it will not yield the best results. Trust me, with good quality cream and a little bit of patience and effort. You can make your own homemade kibbeh that will impress even the toughest food critics.

Olive wood smoking

last but not least, if you want to take your kibbeh to the next level, smoke your containers with Woira (African olive) (Olea Europia subspecies Africana). Woira has been a crucial component of delectable and savory smoked meals for millennia. Woira smoking is part of a long-standing practice in Ethiopia that gives butter, milk, yogurt, Tella (homemade beer), drinking water and other foods a distinctive, smokey flavor. In addition, woira is used as medicine to treat malaria, high blood pressure and sore throat.

woira or woyra (African olive wood)
woira or woyra (African olive wood)

Woira is the best smoking wood because it burns slowly and evenly and adds a delicate flavor that improves the flavor of the dish. It doesn’t overshadow the natural flavor of the meal but rather enhances it with a gentle, sweet aroma and a moderate flavor. Additionally, because the smoke is low in creosote, it won’t impart any bitter qualities to the dish. It is also a sustainable resource because it is renewable.

My grandmother claims that, in addition to its lovely perfume, a spice can help improve the flavor of food. Additionally, olive wood smoke contains natural preservation qualities that help food retain flavor and stay fresher for longer. In comparison to conventional preservatives, which can contain hazardous additives and chemicals, olive wood smoke is a considerably healthier option. Olive wood smoke is a natural preservative that also aids in halting the development of germs and other microbes that can ruin food and cause food poisoning. As a result, it’s a fantastic option for preserving food that will be kept for a long time.

Visit this link to get your woira (woyra), This is the only online store that has it, but if you have Ethiopian store near you, I recommend checking the store first.

Click here to read research on smoking wood as preservative.

Traditional Ethiopian butter aging technique

Aging butter with the infusion of herbs and spices is a traditional Ethiopian technique that has stood the test of time. This process involves sealing the butter in a clay pot and storing it in a cool, dark place for several months. Although this method was initially intended to preserve butter in hot climates, the benefits of aging have turned it into a culinary delicacy. Aged butter boasts numerous advantages that cannot be achieved through any other means. The process imparts a distinct aroma and flavor profile to the butter, making it unparalleled in taste and quality.

Nitir kibbeh recipe Samra cooks

Clarifying by melting it, removes the milk solids and water, leaving a clear golden liquid.

This process is relatively simple: you melt the butter with water then, let it cool in the fridge for until butter solidify, and then pour off the milk.

One of the biggest benefits of using clarified butter is its high smoke point. When you remove milk solids and water from butter, it becomes a pure fat that is less likely to burn compared to regular butter. This makes it ideal for high-heat cooking methods like searing and frying. It also has a longer shelf life than regular butter since the milk solids have been removed, which can spoil more quickly.

Clarified butter is also great for people who are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy. Since the milk solids have been removed, there’s very little lactose left in the final product. However, clarified butter is not 100% dairy-free, so if you have a severe allergy, it’s best to avoid it altogether.

nitir Kibbeh samra cooks recipe

The Clarified butter is then re-melted over low heat and seasoned with spices.

Kosseret (Lippa Abyssinica) and Korerima (black Cardamom)

After straining the clarified butter, the next step is to melt it again over low heat and add a blend of spices. Personally, I prefer to use black cardamom and my all-time favorite kosseret as they provide a strong and fragrant taste. However, the type and quantity of spices may vary based on the region of Ethiopia where the kibbeh is being made. Dried onion, garlic, fenugreek, besobilla (Ethiopian basil), and more are all popular additions to kibbeh, each adding their own unique flavor to the dish.

The sandy texture tells you that your nitir kibbeh is just right and success.

Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or just looking to try something new and delicious, Nitie kibbeh is definitely worth adding to your list of must-try. With its rich and flavorful aromatic spices, it’s sure to leave your taste buds singing with delight. So why not give it a try today and experience the magic of Ethiopian cuisine for yourself?

Spices and kitchen gadgets can be found at my store

Let’s move on to the recipe. Don’t hesitate to drop a comment if you have any queries and refer to the notes.

Nitir Kibbeh

Samrawit Asfaw
Cultured, Aged and clarified with herbs and spices
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Aging 60 days
Course butter, spice
Cuisine Eritrean, Ethiopian


  • 4 pint Pasteurized organic heavy cream not ultra pasteurized
  • 1 cup Cultured butter milk
  • 1 tbsp Ethiopian thyme (tosign)
  • 1/4 cup Kosseret dried leafs (lippa abysinica) hard to find but look at notes
  • 1 tbsp Cardamom ground ( Ethiopian black cardamom) can be Indian black cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric (optional) for color
  • 8-12 cups Cold water



  • clean, smoke your container, and cover overnight if possible.
  • Mix cream and butter milk (I used my stand mixer bowl) clay pot or glass would work too, avoid using plastic containers.
  • Let it sit covered at room temp for 72 hrs, until it is as thick and test like yogurt

Making butter

  • Whisk using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or butter churner until the butter is separated from the buttermilk.
  • Strain the butter milk (may use it for bread, make cottege cheese (ayibe) or drink as is)
  • Add 4 cups of very cold water in the bowl with the butter then rinse out the buttermilk from the butter until the water runs clear. (Stir it to get as much buttermilk out as possible from the butter) repeat as needed.


  • To prepare the butter, pour it into a container with a lid. It's best to use a container that has been pre-smoked with woira ( African olive tree wood) to enhance the flavor. Press the butter with a spoon to ensure there are no gaps and sprinkle tosign (thyme) on top. Keep the container in the coldest part of your house, preferably a dark place, for a week. After a week, stir the butter, remove any water at the bottom, and continue to stir every week to two weeks for a total of up to 2 months to prevent mold.

Pre clarifying (manegor)

  • After aging is completed, pour the butter into a pot and add 6-8 cups of water, boil for about a minute, let it cook and keep it in the fridge over night.
  • The next day the butter will solidify on top, punch a whole with wooden spoon around the edge of the pot (whole on the butter) and get rid of the water (it is going to look like thin milk)


  • Grind your spices using mortar or a coffee grinder.
  • Add Turmeric, Kosseret and Korerima into the pot with butter, then start clarifying
  • Start with medium temp. for the first 7-10 minutes, then reduce to medium low once you see the bubbles start to reduce, stir often and make sure the spices are not burnt. Clarify until all the bubbles are gone and you are left with clear butter with the herbs in bottom.
  • Let it cool, then using a cheesecloth or a strainer, strain the butter into your desired smoked container. Enjoy!


  • Can be stored at room temp for 3-5 months and in the fridge/freezer for up to a year.
  • When you make your next nitir kibbeh you may mix it with the old to expedite the aging process (to about a month) for 4 pint of fresh butter use 1/4 cup of old butter as a starter.
  • Smoking your contain with woira will give it that classic smoked flavor
  • Visit my amazon store for all the ingredients.
Keyword Eritreanfood, ethiopiannitirkibbeh, nitirkibbeh

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