Berbere is an Ethiopian spice rub that is made from whole, toasted spices and can be used to season a variety of meats and dishes beyond this recipe. The spices in this rub include ground fenugreek, chiles, paprika, ginger, onion powder, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, garlic cloves, and cinnamon. Each one of these ingredients are functional foods, the list below dives into their specific properties.
Fenugreek: Ingesting 1 tsp per day is associated with stimulating insulin production and activity, effectively lowering blood sugar.
Ginger: Ginger powder taken for 12 weeks; at 2 grams a day has been shown to promote healthy cholesterol levels and keep healthy glucose levels.
Paprika: Paprika has antibacterial properties and is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammator. These properties help paprika curb the overgrowth of bacteria like E. coli. and salmonella. The capsaicin in paprika, which gives it the kick we all know, has been shown to help regulate glucose and inhibit certain enzymes in the body that break down sugar.
Cinnamon: Research has found that 1 gram per day of cinnamon over a 90-day time period effectively and significantly decreased glucose levels. Some of the other bioactive components of cinnamon are still not understood yet.
Cloves: Cloves have been found to suppress microbial growth, improve diabetes symptoms, and improve neurological problems.
Cardamom: Cardamom is a great source of manganese, which is typically low in people who have diabetes, so enjoying some cardamom can be tasty but also can help provide you with a boost of manganese.
Coriander: There has been studies shown that coriander can enhance two biological processes in your body, glycolysis and glycogenesis. Glycolysis is the breakdown of glucose and glycogenesis is one of the body’s way of storing glucose in the body for future use. Coriander also suppresses glycogenolysis, which is the breakdown of stored glucose, and gluconeogenesis which is the creation of new glucose molecules. Overall, these processes act to regulate glucose levels in the body by using the glucose in the body and slowing the production of new glucose.
Nutmeg: Nutmeg serves to help stimulate a pathway in the body called an AMPK pathway. This pathway helps the body reduce fat stores, lowers blood sugar, reduce triglyceride levels, and slow down the aging process.
Garlic: Garlic has been found to help reduce insulin resistance, through the presence of volatile sulfur compounds.
How to make your own berbere.
Ingredients – 18 servings
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 whole allspice berries
Seeds of 4 green cardamom pods
5 dried red chilies, seeds and membranes removed and broken into small pieces (see Note)
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
In a heavy skillet over high heat, toast the whole spices (seeds) and chilies, shaking the pan regularly to prevent scorching, until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely. Grind the cooled spices in a spice or coffee grinder. Add all remaining ground spices and salt and grind everything together. Store in an airtight container in a dark place.
Note: If you want the rub to be even spicier leave some of the seeds in when cutting the chilies but be cautious because the rub will still be spicy without the seeds.
The recipe below is a great example of a meal to use berbere in. Chopped chicken burgers with berbere and goat cheese, is an easy and delicious meal that can be thrown on the grill on a hot summer day and is sure to be a fan favorite. Not only is it delicious but it also has all these functional components so you’re not only your taste buds are thanking you, but your body is thanking you too.
Chopped chicken burgers with berbere and goat cheese
Ingredients – 4 servings
1 large egg
½ tsp of garlic powder
2 tsp of berbere (homemade or found in the spice aisle)
½ tsp ground black pepper
Pinch kosher salt
1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
2 oz. prosciutto
4 hamburger buns
4oz, log chevre (soft goat cheese)
Side garnish: red grapes (about 12 each)
Heat a grill to medium. Oil the grates or coat them with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, garlic powder, berbere, black pepper and salt. Set aside. In a food processor, combine the chicken and prosciutto. Pulse until the meat is well chopped but still chunky, about 10 sec. total. Scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse again if any large pieces remain unchopped.
Transfer the meat to the bowl with the egg mixture, then mix well. Form the meat into 4 loose patties. They will be moist and not hold together well. Use a spatula to carefully place the burgers on the grill and cook, covered, for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the burgers -- they should be firm enough to move easily now -- and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees F at the center of the burgers.
Top each burger with a quarter of the cheese, then serve on a bun.