Making it Right: Cooking Legit Ethiopian Ch'chebsa

Awhile back I wrote about how to make one of our favorite Ethiopian treats, ch'chebsa. A part of the post spoke to the power this amazing, addictive food has on my kids. They crave it, they love it, they feel very close to Ethiopia while it is being made, the smell, the process, the colossal amount of time it takes. All of that is still truer than ever. But, things have changed.

See, we've had the gift of having another Ethiopian living with us besides the three adopted children. Our friend, Mama B has been here since January and she has thankfully shown me the wild errors of how I used to make ch'chebsa and the new, correct version is slightly less time consuming (still a few hours start to finish when making it for a crowd, though with many hands it goes faster) and clearly tastes just right. 

Ch'chebsa is almost like eating tiny, spicy little donuts. It does not have much nutritional value. It is definitely a snack food or yummy appetizer and is impossible to stop eating. Please, if you want to make it, don't do it like the old post tells you. Do it this way. I hope the videos are helpful. Enjoy the noise and chaos in the background, this is what it sounds like when two of the children are napping.

Important to note:
1) we were making this for about fourteen people, so you do NOT need to make this much, unless you want leftovers. You can make a lot with some for leftovers, it is great for 48 hours kept sealed in a plastic container of some kind.

2) Don't measure. Just pour some flour in a bowl. Two-eight cups ish. It really depends on how much you want to make. It's the Ethiopian way, just feel it by hand. We used all-purpose flour, but you can make it with t'eff or a combo of t'eff and all purpose. If you try to use whole wheat, it will affect the taste and density of the kit'a (almost like a homemade pita bread that is used for the ch'chebsa) but if you're hard core you can try it. My kids might rise up in mutiny if I made it "healthily."

3) In the video, you hear Mimi say that the three ingredients you need for the kit'a dough are flour, water (wuha) and ch'ao, or salt. She gave brilliant advice: add salt to the water before you add it to the dough, so the salt is evenly distributed into the dough. As you can see us knead it into smooth round pizza-dough looking stuff, add water as necessary. It's all by feel.

Here is part way through kneading. A bit sticky but after working it, it started smoothing out.


Here is the dough, getting closer to being smooth enough to start working into disks. We kneaded a little more after this.

After all the kneading and it looks soft, tear off a piece to make a ball a little smaller than a tennis ball. I was  cooking the kit'a in a large 12 inch pan, if you have only a small pan, you will need to start with a smaller ball because you will be flattening the ball into very thin disks that need to fit in your pan.

Forming the dough ball

More process to form the disks for the kit'a

Once you have a large 10+ inch flat disk of dough, transfer it to a non-stick medium-high heated pan. If you want to use a little oil you can, my scan pan does not need any oil at all, so we didn't really use much. Avoiding burns as much as possible, the Ethiopian method is to continue using hands to rotate the dough and spread it out as much as possible.

Letting it get super crispy with nice brown/black sear marks. This next video shows a done disk.

This one was flipped a little too early by eager hands, we will flip it again to get it a little more crispy and the brown spots darker.

Once all the dough has been made into flat disks and cooked nicely, as many hands as possible need to break them into tiny miniscule pieces.

Fikir was really helpful and holy moly listen to how cute she is. Her voice is like a little squeaky mouse, I can't stand it she's so sweet. See the transfer of dough to pan in this next one.

Once it was all broken up, we decided we wanted these even crispier so we transferred back to a heated pan and dried them out a little more, about five minutes.


While it is toasting more, in a large mixing bowl you want to pour oil, for this much ch'chebsa we started with 3/4 cup and ended up adding a little more. Stir in 2 tbsp berbere, an Ethiopian red chili spice, and incorporate the berbere and the oil really well. Dump in the kit'a pieces and once again, mix by hand until all of them are red, oily and delicious. The best part is once it is served on someone's individual plate, drizzle some honey over it. This is when it really becomes truly food of the Gods because is spicy and sweet and you simply cannot walk away from it without taking handfuls.


Please, do me a tinish favor? Let me know if you try it, if it works, or if you have any questions. Enjoy and don't forget to share with friends.


Sha Zam- said...

I love that picture of the two of them. It also warms my heart that ergo is still getting use! I SOOOO want to eat this. Not sure if I'm ready to cook it yet though. This is a great tutorial. thanks for sharing.

Deborah said...

I've been making it based on your past instructions, and it is so delicious!! I am looking forward to trying it correctly now - I'd been making the dough much thinner, so this will be more work, but I'll know I'm doing it right.

Julie said...

My kiddos will be attempting this asap- with their dad. Thanks!

Lisa-Marie said...

It looks SO good!!!! I am so going to have to convince my sister we should make this next time I go to her house.. (then there would be people to help make and eat it!) YUM