Ethiopian Spiced Black Beans

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

While Beta Jews, or Jews originally from Ethiopia, make up only 1% of Israel's population, they have impacted Israeli cuisine. The following is a recipe I have adapted from Chef Marcus Samuelson, to the delight of my guests. I use the slightly sweeter, less earthy black beans for this dish rather than the black-eyed peas the original recipe calls for.

12 ounces (approximately 2 cups) dried black beans, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup coconut oil, dairy-free margarine or unsalted butter
1 medium-large red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons peeled ginger, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 habanero or serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons berbere seasoning, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup canned coconut milk, stirred in can to combine coconut solids with liquid
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 scallions, finely sliced crosswise
3 cups cooked rice, optional (see Tidbit below)
  1. Place rinsed beans in a 3-quart saucepan and cover with water. Bring pot to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until firm but tender (this is total time with no need to soak overnight). When beans are done, add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Drain before using in the recipe.
  2. Heat a large, 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven for 20 seconds over high heat. Add the coconut oil or other fat and heat for another 10 seconds. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and pepper to the pot and sauté over medium high heat until softened and lightly golden.This should take about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the berbere or spices and the turmeric to the mixture and sauté until the mixture is fragrant - about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often until the tomatoes melt into the mixture.
  5. Add the coconut milk and broth of choice and bring to a simmer. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the sauce has slightly thickened.
  6. Add the drained black beans and cook for another 10 minutes or until mixture is well combined. At this point, the mixture can be refrigerated and reheated before serving. 
  7. When ready to serve, reheat and then gently stir in the chopped scallions and cilantro.
  8. Serve alone or with cooked rice.

Tina Wasserman is the author of Entrée to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora and Entrée to Judaism for Families and is a visiting lecturer and scholar-in-residence throughout the country. She serves on the boards of ARZA and URJ Camp Newman, and is a member of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, TX. Her recipes can be found at Cooking and More and throughout, where she serves as food editor. Tina can be reached for congregational and organizational events through her website.

Additional Notes
  • Although rice is not normally an accompaniment, since this mixture is typically spicy, the rice will help cleanse the palate.
  • Like all good stews, the flavors meld better the longer they are combined.
  • 2,500 years ago, Ethiopian Jews traditionally served black eyed peas for Rosh Hashanah to symbolize the “eye of God” watching over them.