Ethiopian Red Chicken Stew (Doro Wat) – Hab Shifa

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Ethiopian Red Chicken Stew (Doro Wat)


  • 3 kg onions, finely chopped (see Note)
  • 1 large chicken, preferably free-range
  • 100 ml white vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 3 tbsp nit’r kibbeh (see Note)
  • 6 tbsp berbere (see Note)
  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled


Mixed spices

  • 2 tbsp cardamom seeds
  • 2 tbsp nigella seeds
  • 2 tbsp ajwain or fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried African basil leaf (optional)
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp salt


Place the onion in a large, heavy-based saucepan, cover with a lid and cook over low–medium heat, stirring occasionally. Do not add any oil or liquid. Cook for about 1 hour or until the onion has reduced by two-thirds.

While the onion is cooking, remove the skin from the chicken and cut into portions, trimming off any fat. (Traditionally in Ethiopia, we cut it into 21 portions.) Mix the vinegar and lemon juice together and sit the chicken pieces in the liquid for 10–15 minutes, then drain.

Grind the mixed spices together to a powder using a mortar and pestle.

When the onion has reduced, add the oil, nit’r kibbeh and berbere and stir well.

Add the chicken and its liquid, bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Stir the mixed spice powder into the stew.

Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally, making sure the onion does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Skim off the oil from the surface, as necessary.

Make incisions in the eggs to ensure the flavour seeps in. When the stew is ready, add the eggs and remove from the heat.

The doro wat can be served immediately with injera but is even better the following day when the spices have worked their magic.


Cook’s notes

  • I find it easier to chop such a large quantity of onions using a food processor.
  • Nit’r kibbeh is a spiced ghee (clarified butter) used in Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. Here’s a recipe to make your own.
  • Berbere is an Ethiopian chilli-spice blend, available online and from African grocers and specialty stores. If 6 tablespoons of berbere its too much heat for you to handle, reduce the amount – you can always make it hotter next time.
  • Dried African basil leaf is available online or from African grocers.
  • Injera is an unleavened bread (like a pancake), made from teff flour, eaten with curries and stir-fries in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Here’s a recipe to make your own.