Ethiopian
How to Cook with Turmeric Sauce

If you’ve ever wondered how to cook Ethiopian food at home, sauces are a good place to start. While cooking Ethiopian food may seem daunting, it isn’t. When you look at the variety of stews in Ethiopian restaurants, you know, the big plate with many dishes on top of the injera (flatbread), and if you think about making all those dishes it can seem overwhelming. The truth is, many of these stews are made with similar base sauces.

One of the most common Ethiopian sauces is Alicha Kulet, or turmeric sauce. Alicha means “delicate” and kulet is “sauce”. Unlike chili sauces made with the Ethiopian chili pepper known as berbere, turmeric sauce is not spicy, making it a great entry point into Ethiopian food.

It is so sweet and palatable that children like it. As a child in Ethiopia, when given the choice, I remember asking over the red pepper sauce: “I want bicha (yellow).” You can’t miss its bright yellow color when the plate of dishes is brought to you!

This sauce is a delicious staple of Ethiopian vegan cuisine. Alicha kulet is common on tables during the fasting season, Lent, and throughout the year on fasting days when we eat only vegan food. The flavorful sauce can be used as the base of a simmered stew or soup, as an extra burst of flavor in a stir-fry, or as a deep flavor in slow-cooked meals.

Made with a collection of common flavor ingredients, turmeric dip is an easy way to add excitement and character to any protein base. My favorite recipe to share with new cooks to Ethiopian cuisine is Kik Alicha, or yellow split pea stew made with turmeric sauce. It’s also a great recipe because it’s easy to swap out different proteins (ground beef is a common choice for people who eat meat) and serve with different sides, like potatoes.

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