I've spent a huge part of my life working in Sub-Saharan Africa and have come to really appreciate the vast flavor palette of the continent. This Ethiopian cabbage recipe is from my time in Addis - it is easy to make, and tastes absolutely delicious and hearty.
The post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you're successful in your first attempt. But if you're in a rush, please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end!
💭 Why this recipe works
- Vegan and gluten-free - this recipe is vegan and gluten-free and is a wholesome, hearty meal to share with your family
- No special spices - the key is all about infusing the oil with basic spices, and using a cast iron pan to spread the heat and spices through the dish
- Great for make-ahead - this recipe is great if you need to make a large batch ahead of time and freeze or keep in the fridge!
⭐ Origin Story
You might have seen vegetarian "combos" at Ethiopian restaurants referring to yetsom beyanetu, i.e. "a fasting of every kind". There is a high prevalence of Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia (and Eritrea). Therefore, a vast majority of the country fasts (without meat and animal products) for a good chunk of the year. Result? Delicious vegetarian dishes, rich in protein and legumes!
📋 Traditional Atkilt Wot Ingredients
Ingredient Notes & Tips
- I've found that green cabbage (i.e. the one you normally find in a grocery store) works best for this recipe. However, I have seen this made with Napa cabbage before too!
- Cast iron tends to distribute the heat more evenly, and works great for cooking hearty vegetables like carrots and potatoes. I've found it also helps infuse the broth better without burning the spices. Let me know if you decide to use a different pan.
- If you want to make it a bit spicier, you can add in a habanero pepper and/or jalapeno pepper, but this is not traditionally done.
♨️ How to make Atkilt Wot
First, add the fat and once it's hot enough, add the spices to infuse oil with the spices
The traditional recipe uses something called Nit’ir Qibe (pronounced Nitter Kibbeh) - which is essentially spiced, clarified butter. However, this takes quite some time to make (similar to my confit garlic). So, in the interest of making this a quick recipe, I've used a shortcut instead by infusing olive oil. You can also use a fattier vegan oil like avocado oil! Bonus: taking this shortcut makes this Ethiopian cabbage recipe vegan!
Then, sauté the vegetables and bring them together, one step at a time.
First, add the onions to the fat and sauté until it turns translucent (or brown, depending on the type of onion you use). Then, you want to add the root vegetables first because it takes a while for them to cook down, whereas overcooking the cabbage will result in a mushy texture. So, I typically try to add the root vegetables (i.e. potatoes and carrots) first, followed at the very end by the cabbage.
👩🏽🍳 FAQs and Tips
No, not inherently. If you prefer your stew-like dishes to be spicy, you can add a habanero pepper like I usually do. Or if you prefer them to be hearty with a kick, but not terribly spicy, just leave them out!
You could. But the recipe as written only takes 30 minutes, so in some ways, it's simpler to make this on stovetop than in an Instant Pot. But if you want to use an Instant Pot, infuse the oil first using the sauté function, then add the root vegetables followed by the broth and pressure cook for 2 minutes. Release the pressure, add cabbage and sauté for another minute. You're all set. Serve and enjoy deliciousness.
🍴 Serving & Storage Suggestions
Traditionally, Atakilt Wat is eaten with injera (a sour crepe made of a grain called teff). Working on a recipe for that - coming soon! However, in the meantime, you can eat this Ethiopian cabbage recipe with any flat bread (like a solid homemade naan) or even a nice cumin-infused rice (I know, I'm Indian, can you tell?) But my favorite way of eating it? Just ladle it in a bowl and dig in. No carbs needed!
Storage, freezing and reheating - you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for about 4 to 5 days. Or, alternatively, you can also portion into smaller airtight containers and freeze for up to 3 months! All the vegetables used here are quite hearty. Just make sure to thaw for 30 minutes before reheating on the stove.
If you enjoyed this recipe, try these other hearty African / Indian recipes:
For Infused Oil
- 2 tbsp olive oil can substitute avocado oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 2 tsp turmeric powder divided
- 1 tsp cumin powder
For Ethiopian Cabbage Stew:
- ½ red onion diced (medium size)
- 3 carrots diced (medium size)
- 1 potato diced (medium size)
- 1 cup water or vegetable broth - see note for color differences
- ½ cabbage medium head (chopped finely)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper freshly ground
- In a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium flame
- After about 30 seconds, add minced garlic, ginger paste, 1 tsp of turmeric, and cumin powder - be careful to add before the oil gets too hot, otherwise it will splatter!
- Saute for 30 seconds to infuse the oil - when done, it should look dark throughout
- Now, add the chopped onion and saute for about 1 minute until the onion gets brown
- Then, add carrots, potatoes, water and turmeric and mix well to infuse with spices
- Cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium flame. Then, open and check if the carrots and potatoes are cooked by piercing them with a fork. If not, cook for a few more minutes until they're soft.
- Then, stir in the cabbage, add salt and pepper (to taste) and cook covered again until the cabbage is properly cooked, but not too long that it becomes mushy (I've found this takes roughly 5 minutes)
- Serve hot with rice or flatbread!
- Cabbage tastes delicious even when it's cooked minimally - cooking for 5 minutes softens the cabbage but still leaves a bit of the crunch
- Using vegetable stock or broth instead of water will result in a deeper color than a bright yellow (than if you just use water and turmeric) - both are totally okay
- If going the more traditional route, instead of olive oil, use a clarified butter like ghee, and add spices to it. Then, use 2-3 tbsp of infused clarified fat instead. This is a vegan recipe, so I've used olive oil - using a clarified fat like ghee will make the recipe vegetarian but not vegan.
Note: This recipe was originally published on February 3, 2020 and updated on September 19, 2020 with FAQs and more tips.