Shiro wat is a staple vegetarian dish (actually it’s vegetarian and gluten-free!) in Ethiopian cuisine. It’s a stew or curry made from ground dried chickpeas and various spices.
This richly spiced and thick soup is amazingly delicious. It is also incredibly easy to make using whatever spices you have in your pantry.
What Is Shiro Wat?
Shiro Wat, also known as Shuro or Shiro Wot, is a staple in any Ethiopian vegetarian platter – a thick, chickpea stew simmered and served over their traditional sour flatbread, injera, with a host of other vegetarian dishes.
The chickpeas give the stew a beautiful texture and nutty flavor. It’s very smooth and spreadable, almost the consistency of a thickened pureed soup. Just mix and stir!
Origin Of Shiro Wot
Shiro wot (in Amharic – ሽሮ ወጥ) is a culinary specialty originating in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Wat, wot, or tsebhi is a general term for a type of stew made with meat, vegetables, or legumes.
In Ethiopian culture, where Orthodox Christianity and Islam are the two dominant religions, Shiro wat holds a special place. This vegetarian dish is first of all a basic dish, nutritious, and very economical since it does not contain meat.
But it is especially very popular on fasting days when the consumption of animal products such as meat, eggs, or dairy products is prohibited. It is usually eaten on Wednesdays and Fridays, but also during the 8 weeks of Tsom (or Great Lent) and Ramadan.
Shiro Wat Recipe
Shiro wot is simple to make, which explains its widespread popularity in Ethiopian households. In the traditional method, onion puree, garlic, tomato puree, and spices are browned in a Dutch oven for several minutes before adding chickpea flour and vegetable broth and whisking everything together until smooth. Niter kibbeh is served last, with a pinch of sugar added to sweeten the flavor.
Alternatively, Ethiopians also often use Shiro powder, which can be found quite easily in Western shops. It’s a ready-to-use blend of chickpea flour, spices, and seasoning, to which water is added. Shiro powder comes in two kinds, mitten shiro (red) and netch shiro (white).
- Shiro wot may be prepared differently depending on the location. When it’s more liquid than usual and served over injera with chili peppers on the side, it’s called Shiro fessess (fessess meaning “runny”).
- Shiro tegamino is a thicker version that’s cooked in a small earthenware pot until the stew is bubbling and the bottom starts to caramelize.
- Shiro can also be found in the form of a fit-fit, an Ethiopian breakfast dish. Fit-fit, also known as fir-fir, is made by shredding injera or kitcha, a type of wheat flour flatbread, and mixing it with niter kibbeh sauce or stew and berbere. The dish is known as Shiro fit-fit when Shiro is used.
What Can I Use Instead of Berbere?
Berbere typically contains garlic, red pepper, cardamom, coriander, and a few other warm spices. For every tablespoon of berbere, I suggest using a teaspoon of paprika, red chili powder, and coriander powder as a substitute.
Serving and Storage Suggestions
Shiro can be stored in the fridge for four to five days, but it’s best eaten fresh. It’s typically served over injera with a side salad. If you plan to make ahead and reheat, I suggest using a stovetop method versus the microwave. This helps preserve flavor better!
If you try this recipe, please consider leaving a comment and a star rating. Enjoy!
Ethiopian Shiro Wat
- 2 medium onions
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1/2 cup shiro powder
- water (1-1/2 to 2 cups)
- lots of berbere
- Start by pureeing the onions in the blender. Dump the onion mush into a hot dry skillet (I love my cast iron skillet for this!) Stir frequently until the water evaporates and the onions start to get just a tiny bit of light brown color.
- Once the onions begin to color a bit, add 1/2 cup oil and some berbere. My girls use at least 1/4 cup of berbere for this recipe. If you like your food milder, you can start with less, them taste and see how it seems to you. Let the onion and the berbere cook in the oil for a minute or two.
- Puree one tomato. Add pureed tomato to the skillet and cook for a minute or two. Be careful as you add the tomato, as the oil will spit at you. Before you add the shiro powder, make sure that you have a couple of cups of water close by.
- Add your shiro powder gradually, stirring briskly with a wooden spoon or a wire whisk. It will pretty quickly get very thick and 'pop'. Once the shiro seems pretty well mixed into the oil, add a couple cups of water. Stir well.
- The mixture will thicken as it cooks. You can turn your heat down to medium at this point. My girls always add more oil at this point as well. But if you have the heat low enough, you can probably get by without adding more oil. And it is totally up to you if you want to add more berbere. (If you would like to make your shiro mild, you can skip the bebere and instead add a little turmeric and salt for color and flavor.)
- Once the shiro has cooked for 5 minutes or so, it is about done. The mixture will be about the consistency of a thick-ish gravy. If you like your shiro thinner, add more water. If you like it thicker, you can add a dab more shiro powder.
- Shiro is a frequently served everyday food in Ethiopia. It is good with injera, rice, rolls, or regular bread.