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17 Delicious Ethiopian Dishes All Kinds Of Eaters Can Enjoy

Behold, eager eaters, the culinary magic that is Ethiopian cooking.

Posted on June 19, 2014, at 10:01 a.m. ET

Ethiopian cooking can be heavy on meat — but the east African country’s cuisine is also full of delicious and super-satisfying dishes that are perfect for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten and lactose-free eaters.

Ethiopian food is probably best known for the spongy sourdough flatbread called injera, which serves as the “spoon” for lentil, bean, meat, and vegetable sauces piled on top.

Via Flickr: bdnegin

Within Ethiopia — population 90 million — the names and ingredients of dishes may vary among the country's diverse regions and ethnic groups.

Part of what makes Ethiopian food perfect for so many diets is that there's always a "fasting" (or animal-free) option: Many Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians and traditionally eat vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as other special days.

Via Flickr: travel_aficionado

Ethiopia’s cuisine is very similar to the food of its neighbor and rival Eritrea (which until 1991 was part of Ethiopia). Some of the country's culinary style also reflects the influences of neighbors like Sudan (where the sour bread is called kesra), and the lasting impact of Italy's partial colonial rule in the mid-1900's.

So next time you eat out, order the bayenetu, a collection of meat-free dishes. And in the meantime, try a few of these delicious options:

1. Injera

Via Flickr: naotoj

Injera is a sour and spongy round bread, made of teff flour, that's naturally vegan and gluten-free. Sauces and dishes are commonly poured on top of the injera, which is then used as a vehicle to get the deliciousness from table to mouth.

Via Flickr: rkilpatrick21

The bread comes in a darker and lighter version, depending on the teff variety. Injera has a very strong taste and texture — so when you like it, you love it, and it's hard to put down.

2. Shiro

Shiro is a delicious chickpea powder-based dish (sometimes also including lentils and broad beans), slow-cooked with Ethiopia's popular — and spicy — red berbere sauce. There are several kinds of shiro to enjoy, from the soupy thin shiro wot to the thick and glob-like (but still delectable) shiro tegamino. Try it out with this recipe.

3. Atkilt Wot

Flickr: sweetonveg

Atkilt wot is a delicious vegetable combo of cabbage, carrots, and potatoes simmered in a light sauce. Recipe here.

4. Azifa

Via Flickr: crystalflickr

Azifa is a green lentil salad that's perfect on its own or mixed with injera. Recipe here.

5. Gomen

Gomen is made of collard greens and spices cooked to tasty perfection. Recipe here.

6. Inguday Tibs

Miriam Berger for BuzzFeed

Inguday tibs are mushrooms sautéed with onions. In Ethiopian cooking, tibs dishes usally consist of meat, but make it with mushroom and vegan here.

7. Mesir Wot

Mesir wot is a delicious (and beautifully colored) combination of split red lentils simmered in spicy berbere sauce. (Depending on the ingredients, it may be look darker.) Recipe here.

8. Fasolia

Via Flickr: garrettziegler

Fasolia are string beans, often sautéed with carrots and caramelized onions. Recipe here.

9. Kik Alicha

Flickr: jaundicedferret

Kik alicha is a split pea stew-ish dish often cooked with a light turmeric sauce. There are different kinds of alicha dishes (and ways to spell it in English), depending on the exact spices and consistency of the lentils and sauce. Go for some here:

10. Beet Salad

Flickr: garrettziegler

Ethiopian beet salad is a tangy and delicious combination of marinated beets, spice, and sometimes potatoes and carrots. Recipe here.

11. Buticha

Buticha (front and center) is a chickpea dip mixed with lemon juice, good on its own and with injera. Recipe here.

12. Chechebsa

Chechebsa, also called kita firfir (also called kita fitfit), is typically eaten for breakfast and is one of the rare Ethiopian dishes eaten with a spoon. Chechebsa is made of lightly fried injera or other bread cooked in berbere sauce and often served with honey. On the right it's pictured with eggs, which can be substituted out to make it vegan. Vegetarian recipe here:

13. Shiro Firfir

Miriam Berger for BuzzFeed

Still got leftover injera? Mix it with a spicy berbere sauce for shiro firfir. Recipe here.

14. Sambusa

Via Flickr: 40295335@N00

Sambusa is Ethiopia's fried dough pastry; it can come filled with meat, but for a healthier alternative, go for the lentil filling. Recipe here:

15. Timatim Salata

Ethiopia's tomato salad is a refreshing mix of vegetables and berbere or jalapeño pepper sauce. Recipe here:

For a twist on the tomato salad, toss it with injera to make timatim firfir, as pictured here.

16. Ethiopian Pastries

Miriam Berger for BuzzFeed
Miriam Berger for BuzzFeed

Dessert is not a mainstay of Ethiopian cooking, though many Italian dishes like tiramisu and chocolate mousse have become incorporated into the cuisine. Instead, Ethiopians make cake-ish pastries that are not too sweet and range from doughy to dense. They are often fasting-approved, or dairy and meat free — so stay worry free!

17. Fasting Macchiato

Miriam Berger for BuzzFeed

Coffee is a huge part of Ethiopia's culture and economy, and due to the Italian influence, macchiatos are also now a mainstay. Luckily for the vegan or lactose-free macchiato drinker, you can find a fasting version made with Ethiopia's non-dairy sunflower milk (or sometimes soy milk) to get your caffeine fix.

Miriam Berger is reporting from Ethiopia as a fellow with the International Reporting Project (IRP).

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.