Ethiopian Beef Stew Key Wat

Ethiopian Beef Stew Key Wat, is one of our favorites dishes to eat at an Ethiopian restaurant. Key Wat is a signature dishe in most Ethiopian restaurants.  ‘Wat’ or ‘Wot‘ is an Ethiopian style stew or curry, that you can prepare it with chicken, beef, lamb, and a variety of vegetables.  It is typically cooked in clarified butter, Ghee, and uses a spice blend called ‘Berbere‘.  Berbere is a mix of nutmeg, cloves, cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom and more. .Ethiopian Beef Stew Key Wat

Ethiopian Spice Blend: Berbere

Key Wat is traditionally made with a spice blend called Berbere Seasoning, which is a combination of warm whole spices like cumin, cardamom, coriander, and fenugreek, garlic, cloves, turmeric, grated ginger root, black pepper, salt, paprika, cinnamon, and dried red chiles, that are toasted and ground together.

If using the berbere spice blend, add 1-1.5 tablespoons​ (depending on how spicy you like it).  I find the pre-made spice blend to be on the spicier side.  So, I boost that flavor by adding 2 teaspoons of coriander powder, plus salt to taste.​  This combination works great for my family’s taste.

Substitute for Berbere Blend: (using Garam Masala)

Berbere spice blend provides a distinctive tangy flavor to the lentils, stews and curries.  I wasn’t too keen on buying a speciality spice blend that I wouldn’t use “that” often, so I looked up the composition of the Berbere and realized that this spice combination is very similar to the Garam Masala blend, which I always have on hand.  So I used that, with a few additional spices to replicate the flavor of a berbere blend. The result was super successful.

In this recipe, I also add an additional, but optional, ingredient- fried onions.  I like how just a tablespoon of fried onions adds a deep color and slow-cooked taste to this stew, that you typically get from fried-browned onions.

Ethiopian Beef Stew Key WatServing Suggestion for Ethiopian Beef Stew- Key Wat:

In an Ethiopian restaurant, Key Wat is served family style over a spongy flatbread called Injera.  Injere is a fermented flatbread that pairs very well with the stew flavors.  But, just like pizza dough, it takes some planning and time to get the right consistency. I personally like the flavors of couscous with this stew.

I pair Key Wat with a Red lentil stew called Misir Wot and ‘butter couscous’ along with a garden salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette.  My kids like the fall-off tender texture of the beef, so I cook it for 30 minutes.  For a more firm texture, reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes.

You can make this recipe with lamb or chicken as well.  If using Lamb pieces, adjust cooking time to 15 minutes.  With boneless skinless chicken cubes, reduce the cooking time to 5 minutes.  You can also make this dish more hearty by adding some root vegetables like carrots, potatoes or parsnips.

Popular pairing: Red Lentil Stew- Misir Wot:

Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew- Misir Wot

Stove-Top Instructions:

I usually make this recipe in my electric pressure cooker, the instant pot.  But you can also make Key Wat in a traditional stove-top pressure cooker.  Simply follow your cooker’s meat cooking times and follow this recipe.  You can also make this dish on the stove-top, using a sauce pot or dutch oven.  Use a heavy bottom pan, since that can evenly distribute the heat and withstand a longer cooking time.

Simply follow all the instructions.  Cook the meat on medium heat for 35-45 minutes.  Remember to stir every 5-7 minutes or so, till the meat is fork tender.

Ethiopian Beef Stew- Key Wat

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 30 minutes + NPR


  • 1.5 lbs. beef stew meat
  • 3 tablespoons Ghee or Butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic crushed (1/2 inch ginger + 2 cloves garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder + 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon fried onions (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt (if using Berbere blend, check for salt in ingredients)
  • You can substitute the following spices with 1- 1.5 tablespoons of Berbere Seasoning +2 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon Garam Masala
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup water



Prep: Using a mini food processor, pulse together onion chunks and ginger-garlic, 8-10 times. Alternatively, finely chop them.


Turn the instant pot on Sauté mode. Wait 30 seconds till the inner pot is hot and add ghee or butter. Add chopped onion, ginger-garlic, turmeric and salt and cook till slightly caramelized, about a minute.


Add all dry spices, tomato paste and 1/4 cup water, stir well and cook for a minute. Add the remaining water and beef cubes in the pot. Press "cancel", close the lid and set valve to 'Sealing' position. Press Meat/Stew, 30 minutes. Wait for Natural release of pressure.


Open the Instant pot lid and check for seasoning. Add sugar. This is optional, but highly recommended. The pinch of sugar brings together all the warm spices in the stew. Serve with couscous with a garden salad dressed with fresh lemon vinaigrette, or, the traditional sourdough flatbread, Injera.

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