Friday , 19 January 2018

Berbere Spiced Turkey Sausage and Rice

How refreshing – I didn’t have to come running home to throw something together so I could dive into studying as quickly as possible – yay!

I think in a direct response to the lack of pressure I ended up making a meal that takes about an hour and a half from start to finish (although only about 20 minutes of that is actual active cooking time, so don’t freak out just yet).

In my fridge: smoked turkey sausage, spinach, and black eyed peas.  Hmm…a take on gumbo maybe?

But wait – I’ve got a huge bag of Berbere spice that I need to use up.  According to Wikipedia, Berbere is “is a spice mixture whose ingredients usually include chile peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, korarima, rue, white and black pepper, and fenugreek. It is a key ingredient in the cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”  I bought in when I had a mini obsession with cooking Ethiopian food.  My lentil dish was a fail, but I did manage a tasty Doro Wat.  My injera…eh not so good.  The texture was sort of right, but it wasn’t what it should have been (we made a special dinner trip to Emanu just so I could eat authentic injera and see what it’s supposed to be).

I bought my Berbere online and I’ve been trying to use it in unexpected ways, like on roasted potatoes (tasty), in chili (add a nice little dimension) and savory muffins (still working on that one), but I still have around 2 oz of the original 4 oz I started with.  If you don’t want to buy it there’s a variety of recipes out there.  This site, The Congo Cookbook, lists a recipe where you can control the heat of your mix (I’d recommend going more cayenne vs. paprika, maybe as much as a 2 to 1 ratio and for a fun twist use smoked paprika, my current obsession).  There’s also another recipe listed here at (make the dry spice mix, not the paste) but be aware it uses spices that you may not have sitting in your cabinet.

I think the original reason I just bought the spice ready made was because I didn’t have any fenugreek or cardamom.  If you’re in Cincinnati, I’m pretty sure Colonel De at Findlay Market also offers Berbere, but I’m not 100% on that.

So I basically wanted to use the ingredients I already had and make a twist on Jolloff Rice/Gumbo which if you trace the food history back are definitely related (I’ll let you do that on your own because it would be a bit long to get into) although Berbere is not used in Jolloff Rice.  Jolloff has West African origins while Berbere is a hallmark of Ethiopian/Eritrean cuisine (which is East African) – see what I mean about the long story?

Here’s my disclaimer: this dish is in no way authentic or traditional to West African, East African or Louisiana standards, but a mash-up of them all.  What it is: healthy, tasty and a one dish meal.

Berbere Spiced Turkey and Rice

Servings: 6 (or 5 really generous ones, be aware that if you only make 5 servings the calories go up to around 400 and fat increases to 11g per serving)

Time: Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes (will depend on the type of rice you use)


  • 1 package smoked turkey sausage
  • ½ tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 ½ cups onion, diced (I used 3 small ones from my CSA)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (I left the seeds in)
  • 1 cup of brown rice (you could use white, I just always use brown)
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons of Berbere (could increase this if you wanted)
  • 2 teaspoons of thyme
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz black eyed peas, thawed if frozen
  • 1 ¾ cups of chicken stock (this will vary depending on what kind of rice you use.  For example, my rice calls for 1 cup of rice to 2 ½ cups of liquid, I used ¾ cup less than what was called for in order to make up for some of the liquid being released from the vegetables, hot sauce, etc.)
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce (I used Red Hot since it’s a bit milder, but use whatever you like or omit entirely)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes
  • 10 oz of spinach
  • Garnish: Green Onions or Parsley
  • Gumbo File: Completely optional since I didn’t do it, but if you happened to have it on hand, it might be worth it to sprinkle a little after everything has been added in and cooked (after the sausage and spinach) to add an extra layer of flavor.  Darnit – wish I would have thought of that when I was cooking it last night.  You could also just offer it at the table for people to sprinkle on their own portions if they want.

Dice the sausage.  I cut half of it into half moon shapes, and the other half into quarter moon shapes.

Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven over medium high heat.  Sauté sausage for 3 – 4 minutes or until lightly browned and some of the “juice” from the sausage has released.  Remove sausage from pot and place in a bowl, and then put bowl in the fridge for later.

Add onion, garlic, and ginger to the oil and drippings in pot, sauté for 1 minute stirring constantly until the onion has just slightly softened.  Add in bell pepper and jalapeno, cook for an additional 3 – 4 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Into pot with vegetables, put brown rice, tomato paste, Berbere, thyme and pepper.  Stir until ingredients are well combined (the spices should “coat” everything) and cook for about 2 minutes, lightly toasting the rice.

Add in black eyed peas, chicken stock, hot sauce, bay leaves, and undrained tomatoes.  Stir, scraping the bottom of the pot and mix everything together well.  Bring pot to a boil, then cover tightly and reduce heat to low.  Cook, stirring every 15 minutes, making sure to recover the pot when done.  My rice said to cook for 45 minutes so I followed those directions.  If your rice cooks in 20 or 30, follow the directions on the package.

When rice is cooked, give the pot another stir, taste and adjust seasonings (more hot sauce? a dash of vinegar? I didn’t use salt because my Berbere mixture already had it).  Remove bay leaves, and discard.  Increase heat to medium, place sausage and spinach in pot.  Keep tossing until spinach is slightly wilted and incorporated.  Cook, uncovered for another 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone (this is a rice dish, not a stew), the spinach is wilted in, and the sausage has heated through.

Note: it will look like more liquid than it actually is because most of the liquid will rise to the top.  Don’t worry, once you give it a good stir you’ll see it’s less than you thought.

Divide up between 6 plates and garnish with either minced green onions or parsley (I used parsley because that’s what I had on hand – I would have preferred green onions).

Image close up of Berbere Spiced Turkey Sausage and Rice

We ended up putting more hot sauce on it at the table but we’re spicy food fanatics.  It was a really filling meal between the rice, peas, and vegetables and I enjoyed the fact that it was a one dish.  Even though the cooking time was long, I was basically sitting at my computer in between stirring so it was a low effort meal.

If you had to serve something on the side I’d recommend cornbread, injera, or a type of crusty bread but I don’t think its completely necessary.  Or even better – have some grapes or mango afterwards for dessert.

This is a good 6 portion recipe, if you wanted to have really generous servings you could turn it into 4 or 5 servings (I had originally intended this to be 4 servings but it made a lot), but be aware of the rise in calories and fat for the bigger portion sizes (5 servings goes up to around 400 calories and 11g of fat)

Image of Nutritional Info Berbere Spiced Turkey Sausage and Rice

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  1. I can smell the aroma from here! That thing looks awesome
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