Atakilt Wat (Vegetable Stew)

Atakilt Wat (Vegetable Stew)

Atakilt Wat is a stew or curry with cabbages, potatoes and carrots from Ethiopia, located in the eastern part of Africa. The word ‘Atakilt’ in Amharic means vegetable, and ‘Wat’ means stew. There are many kinds of Wat dishes with beef (sega), chicken (doro), fish (asa), mutton / lamb (beg), split peas (kek) and lentils (misr).

Ethiopians were introduced to exotic spices by travelling traders between Europe and the Far East. Traditionally, Ethiopian cuisine consists of many kinds of stews, that are usually on the spicy side. To balance it out, Atakilt Wat works as a nice side dish. Ethiopians eat with their hands from a large sourdough flatbread base made of teff flour called injera, and different stew dish on top. They also eat a white cheese called lab as a side. Ethiopian cuisine does not use pork or shellfish, as they are forbidden among their Orthodox Christian, Islamic and Jewish populations. Atakilt Wat is halal and is also suitable for vegans.

Berbere is an Ethiopian spice powder or paste, that is used to flavour and preserve food. Ethiopians must often preserve food, since refrigeration is rare. Culturally, the woman who makes the best Berbere are best destined to marry a good husband.

Niter Kibbeh is a spiced clarified butter, which is used in multitudes of Ethiopian, Eritrean, and other East African recipes. It is also known as ‘tesmi’ in Tigrinya. It is a clear golden liquid, like ghee, that is strongly aromatic and flavourful. In addition to the mentioned spices, besobela (Ethiopian sacred basil), korarima (Ethiopian cardamom) and koseret (African oregano) are also used. Since these ingredients may be difficult to find, basil, cardamom and oregano can be used instead.

Making Niter Kibbeh and Berbere in advance on a previous day is advised, and the remaining amounts can be used for other dishes. Although, a wide variety of spices are required to make the Niter Kibbeh and Berbere, the actual recipe for Atakilt Wat only has limited ingredients. You can use the spices in any form such as ground, seeds or paste. Berbere is the backbone of all Ethiopian dishes, which are traditionally preferred spicy. Since this is meant to be a less spicy dish, Berbere may be skipped, used in less quantity, or more if you like it spicy. My mentioned recipe for the Berbere already uses small quantity of chillies, and the overall dish is not spicy at all. You can use cauliflower instead of potatoes, that gives the stew a different flavour and adds fiber, while avoiding the carbohydrates. You can also use red cabbage instead of green cabbage, which makes it more colourful. Atakilt Wat is a very quick, easy and nutritious dish.


  • 2 Tbsp. Niter Kibbeh or ghee or butter
  • 2 Tbsp. Berbere or Garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. ginger, grated, powder or paste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cabbage, chopped into thin pieces
  • 10 carrots, cut into small rounds
  • 3 potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • ½ cup water

For Niter Kibbeh

For Berbere


  1. (Optional) Make Niter Kibbeh, Ethiopian spiced clarified butter. Simmer the butter/ghee with all the ingredients at low heat for an hour. While heating, separate and discard the milk foam that gathers on top of the liquid. Strain the liquid and discard the solid bits. The golden liquid can be stored in the fridge for several months.
  2. (Optional) Make Berbere spice paste. Grind the allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fenugreek seeds, ginger and nutmeg into a fine powder (or, use ground spices) and then, toast them in a frying pan in medium heat for a couple of minutes, while stirring constantly. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes and then, put the spices, garlic, onions, salt and vinegar in a blender or food processor to form a spice paste. Separately, toast the black pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes and paprika in a frying pan, while stirring constantly. Add water slowly into pan and then, vegetable oil. Add the blended spice paste into pan and cook for 15 minutes, while stirring constantly. If you desire to keep the spice blend dry, skip the water and oil, although this risks the spices being burnt. The spice blend can be stored in an airtight container for several months. Alternatively, Berbere spice powder can also be store bought.
  3. In a large pot, heat the Niter Kibbeh and oil. Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger for 5 minutes at high heat. Keep a watchful eye to ensure that the solids do not stick to the pot and get burnt. When the onions are brown, reduce to medium heat, add Berbere and stir.
  4. Add the cabbage, carrots and potatoes slowly, while stirring them thoroughly. Add salt, turmeric, cumin and black pepper. Pour in water and stir well for a couple of minutes.
  5. Cover and cook for 40 minutes at medium-high heat. The potatoes and carrots should be fork tender. Check the taste and if desired, add further tablespoons of Berbere.
  6. Serve with rice or flatbread.

Make it more Traditional

  • Use besobela, korarima and koseret to make the Niter Kibbeh, as well.
  • Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste or 2 cups of chopped tomatoes during cooking.
  • Serve with injera, Ethiopian sour fermented flatbread with a spongy texture, made from teff flour.

Make it Vegan

  • Already a vegetarian dish, only replace ghee with vegan butter.
Nitter Kibbeh Ingredients
Nitter Kibbeh Ingredients

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