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Blog / Ethiopian Red Sauce

A Taste of Africa: Chicken in Spicy Red Sauce

Getting to know Africa includes experiencing the vastly different - and yummy - expressions of each culture through food.

Spicy Ethiopian Red Sauce has long been a favourite in our family. You can prepare the spice blend ahead and use it on all sorts of things. We use it to flavour salmon, chicken breasts or thighs, steaks or even on shrimp.

We guarantee you'll love this dish. Some recipes we've seen suggest a dollop of yogurt on top just before serving. It is delicious! We love sharing our family recipes with you but please remember you can search online and find lots of variations on this dish and other terrific African recipes. An online recipe site we use over and over again is The Congo Cookbook. My East Africa Journal is also a great source for recipes. As pretty much always, while most recipes specify chicken breasts, you can certainly substitute an equal amount of chicken thighs. Frankly, we find thighs more flavourful.


  • 2 pounds of boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 4 lemon wedges
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro (We don't like cilantro so we use broad leaf parsley instead)
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (We prefer sea salt)
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (Use something with a good strong flavour)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (We use a canola/olive oil blend)
  • 2 medium size onions, chopped (rough chop)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Berbere Spice Mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Remember, as with all our family recipes, these ingredients are approximate. Play to your taste by varying the spice amounts according to your family taste.


  1. Combine all the Berbere Spice Mix Ingredients in a bowl
  2. Put your chicken into a shallow baking dish and sprinkle it with lemon and half the salt.
  3. Marinate your chicken (covered) for at least an hour in the fridge.
  4. In a large deep frying pan, saute your onion and garlic in olive oil. Don't burn it!
  5. Take about 2 teaspoons of the Berbere Spice Mix and add to your onion and garlic along with the rest of the salt, butter, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg.
  6. Saute, blending the spices, onion and garlic. This only takes about a minute or two at most.
  7. Then add the tomato paste, wine and broth. Stir well to blend and bring up to just a boil.
  8. Now add the marinated chicken. (Take it out of fridge so it isn't super cold when you add it).
  9. Now put a lid on your pan and reduce the heat to a nice simmer.
  10. It should take about an hour to cook the chicken. Make sure you turn the pieces over a few times.
  11. When chicken is done, you can stir in the cilantro (or broad leaf parsley).
  12. Place a lemon wedge on the edge of each serving plate.

A little tip? This chicken is excellent cold as well. Not that there will be any left! There are lots of variations of Spicy Red Sauce. Search online for other ways to create this tasty concoction. Enjoy! And please let us know how you enjoy this recipe and any creative culinary modifications you make. 

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