Top | New American Table

Spiced Butter

(recipe, Marcus Samuelsson)


If there’s one thing that Americans can take away from the cooking of my native Ethiopia, it’s nit’ir qibe, the clarified spiced butter that serves as the basis of most Ethiopian food. I keep a supply in the freezer to add instant flavor and aroma to roasted vegetables, fish, or meat. Because the solids are removed from clarified butter, it won’t burn as easily as regular butter, so you can cook with it over really high heat.


  1. 1 lb. unsalted butter
  2. 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
  3. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  4. One 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  5. 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  6. 1 tsp. ground cumin
  7. 1 tsp. cardamom seeds
  8. 1 tsp. dried oregano
  9. ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  10. 4 thyme sprigs


  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. As foam rises to the top, skim it off and discard it. Continue cooking, without letting the butter brown, until no more foam appears. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, fenugreek seeds, cumin, cardamom seeds, oregano, turmeric, and thyme, and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from the heat and let stand until the spices settle, about 40 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve before using.


Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.