Doro Wat (Spicy Ethiopian Chicken Stew)

Doro Wat Ethiopian

There is a reason why Doro Wat is the national dish of Ethiopia and one of the most famous of all African dishes – it’s fabulous!

Authentic Ethiopian Doro Wat Spicy Chicken Stew Recipe

Doro Wat is one of the most famous of all African dishes.  You will find it in every Ethiopian restaurant and virtually anyone who is familiar with African cuisine will have heard of it.  Another version, though not as commonly known here, is Sik Sik Wat, made with beef.  You can directly substitute beef for chicken and follow the same cooking instructions.

Doro Wat is traditionally made very spicy.  Super spicy.  Like I-don’t-know-how-Ethiopians-have-any-taste-buds-left spicy.  Western adaptations are still spicy, but quite tame compared to the real deal.

Traditionally Doro Wat is served with an Ethiopian flatbread called injera.  It’s kind of a spongy pancake made with teff flour (a grain indigenous to the area), and the batter is left to ferment for up to 4 days before its used.  The injera is used in place of an eating utensil and is used to scoop up the chicken stew.  I didn’t have time to make the injera for this recipe because of it’s long fermentation process, but a recipe will follow in the future.

This recipe for Doro Wat comes by way of request from Jared (Make a Request!).  He said he has been trying for several years to find a good recipe.  Jared, this recipe is both authentic and delicious – I think you’ll be very happy with it!

The key to authentic, great-tasting Doro Wat is good quality, flavorful berbere, and a very long cooking process.  It can take several hours for an Ethiopian to make Doro Wat.  You can cut back on the cooking time and your Doro Wat will still taste good, but it won’t taste like it’s supposed to.  The magic is in the slow-cooked onions.  And it takes time for the magic to happen.

Speaking of magic, come take a look at Ethiopia’s beautiful landscapes.

All pictures courtesy of the Development Planning Unit, University College London

Ethiopia 1 Ethiopia 2 Ethiopia 3 Ethiopia 4 Ethiopia 5   Ethiopia 7   Ethiopia 9 Ethiopia 6


Back to Doro Wat.  A central ingredient of Doro Wat is Berbere, a fiery, bright red and flavorful Ethiopian spice blend.  It is best made fresh using whole spices that are toasted and ground for maximum flavor.  A combination of whole and ground spices are used as seen in the picture below.

Doro Wat prep 6

The whole spices are toasted and ground up with the already ground spices to make a beautiful, aromatic, flavorful and spicy seasoning blend.

Ethiopian Berbere recipe

Purchasing these spices will serve you well as each of them are commonly used in a large variety of other cuisines.  Stored in airtight glass jars in a dark place, they will keep a very long time.  If you’d rather purchase berbere, you can find it online.  You need 1/4-1/3 cup for this recipe alone, so forget the tiny 2-3 oz jars of it you usually find for sale.  The best deal I’ve found for bulk berbere (and it also happens to be organic and a reputable brand) can be found HERE.  

Berbere makes a great rub for meat, poultry, and fish, as well as a seasoning for stews, soups, and vegetables.  It’s a great all-purpose spice, so you’ll be able to make good use of this bulk package if you decide to buy versus make your own.

So now that you’re equipped with Ethiopian berbere you’re ready to make Doro Wat!

Let’s get started!

Use a food processor to very finely mince the onion – you want an almost chunky puree.

Doro Wat prep 1

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven (I use and love Lodge) and saute the onion, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add more butter or oil if it gets too dry.

Doro Wat prep 2

In the meantime, finely mince the garlic and ginger.

Doro Wat prep 3

Add the garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon of butter.  Continue to saute, covered, over low heat for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Doro Wat prep 22

Add 4 tablespoons of berbere and 2 teaspoons salt and stir to combine.

Doro Wat prep 12

Add 2 tablespoons of butter, cover, and simmer over low heat for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Doro Wat prep 13

After 30 minutes you’ll have a rich and luscious sauce that’s ready for the chicken!

Doro Wat prep 14

Traditionally, bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces are used.  You can either use chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch chunks, or use boneless chicken breast.  I used breast this time.  Cut the breast into small, 1/2 inch chunks.  Place the chunks in a dish with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and let sit at least 15 minutes.

Doro Wat prep 15

Add the chicken to the sauce.

Doro Wat prep 16

Traditionally, Tej is used, an Ethiopian honey wine.  As a substitute we’re going to use white wine with a teaspoon of honey.

Doro Wat prep 18

Add the chicken stock and honey wine to the mixture.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Doro Wat prep 17

In the meantime, boil the eggs.  Once the eggs have cooled enough to handle, peel and pierce them all over with a fork, about 1/4 inch deep, to allow the sauce to penetrate.

Doro Wat prep 19

After 45 minutes you’ll have a rich, luscious spicy chicken stew ready for the eggs!

Doro Wat prep 20

Add the eggs and continue to simmer, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Adjust the seasonings according to taste.  Add more berbere according to heat preference.

Doro Wat prep 21 Doro Wat 2 sm Ethiopian Doro Wat authentic recipe berbere

Doro Wat (Ethiopian Spiced Chicken)
Serves: 4
  • 2 ½ to 3 lbs chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces, or 3 chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons niter kibbeh, if you have it (ethiopian spiced butter), or regular butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions finely minced to a chunky puree in food processor
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
  • ¼ cup berbere (see recipe here) (or you can buy it HERE)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup white wine mixed with 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, pierced all over with fork about ¼ inch deep
  1. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and pour lemon juice over. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the niter kibbeh or butter along with the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the onions and saute, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon butter and continue to saute, covered, for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the berbere and the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and saute, covered, over low heat for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the chicken, broth, and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Adjust the seasonings, adding more berbere according to heat preference. Add the boiled eggs and simmer on low heat, covered, for another 15 minutes.
  7. Serve hot with injera bread or rice.