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Does Ethiopian Food Have Peanuts?

I love Ethiopian food. It reminds me of the flavors of Indian food, but lighter and healthier. But I’m not as familiar with it as I wish I was, so I was curious, does Ethiopian food have peanuts?

No. Most Ethiopian food does not have peanuts, sometimes called groundnuts. However, there are a few dishes that use them like Kolo, Ethiopian peanut tea, and some soups, stews, and sauces. So while peanut oil is not so commonly used in cooking in Ethiopian food, you must always ask if a dish contains peanuts. 

But apart from this, you must also be aware of other common nuts in Ethiopian food.

Also, do you know whether the Ethiopian peanut tea made with peanut butter? I will give you all the details. I will also list some traditional Ethiopian dishes that are safe for your consumption.

Just keep reading to know all the details.

How common are tree nuts in Ethiopian food?

Nuts aren’t a staple ingredient in Ethiopian cuisine. That doesn’t mean they are never used, though; they just aren’t as frequently used. Stews and soups tend to use them most often, but you’ll often find a peanut-based snack called kolo available where beer is served.

Ethiopian cuisine is known for its rich vegetable and meat dishes, as well as their distinctive injera bread made from teff flour.

Much of their food’s flavor profile comes from the influence of Middle Eastern, Asian, and Mediterranean influences due to the country’s location and history. Palm oil is the oil most frequently used for cooking and baking.

Traditional Ethiopian dishes that may contain peanuts include:

  • Kolo – roasted barley with berbere, salt, and peanuts. Often served as a bar snack with beer
  • Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup – As the name implies (and obviously the American version of the name) a soup that blends sweet potato, tomatoes, peanut butter, bell pepper, and spices to form a delicious soup
  • Chickpea Peanut Stew – Garbonazo beans and peanut butter come together with tomato paste, coconut milk and spices

If you are visiting Ethiopia, consider bringing a card with you that says “I am allergic to nuts” written in the local language of Amharic (not the only language used, but the most often seen):

Here is the translation for you to cut and paste:

ለውዝ አለርጂ ነኝ

Does Ethiopian Kolo have nuts?

Yes. Kolo is made of a mix of grains that have been slowly roasted in a large pan. The basic recipe includes about 75% barley with chickpeas and sunflower seeds, making up the rest of the mix. Each ingredient is roasted separately, bringing out each grain’s unique nuttiness. And often, peanuts are added to this.

Much of the Ethiopian cuisine is grain-based, including the popular snack, Kolo. It is typically enjoyed between meals either with a traditional cup of coffee or a home-brewed Ethiopian beer.

Most households will have a small bowl set out for the family to snack on throughout the day. Or they may even put out a plate for esteemed guests.

Occasionally, you will find some slight variations on this combination.

Sometimes there may be changes to the preparation; other times, it may be a change in ingredients. This is where you need to be cautious if you have nut allergies.

Some variations include peanuts mixed in with the grains.

Others have a sweeter flavor due to added honey and crushed Nig (or Niger Seed). The mix may be cooked with oil as well, though peanut oil isn’t as commonly used as other cooking oils.

Is peanut oil common in Ethiopian food?

No. Peanut oil is not commonly used in Ethiopia or in Ethiopian restaurants, mostly due to price. Soybean oil is used most often in US-based Ethjiopean restaurants while palm oil is most commonly found in Ethiopia. But it is used sometimes, so it’s always good to ask.

But, if you have a peanut allergy, you still need to ask if there is anything cooked in peanut oil.

While most Ethiopian food is cooked in some sort of vegetable oil – the primary choice being soybean oil – peanut oil is the second most commonly used cooking oil.

For those with a peanut allergy, you must remember to ask what type of oil the food was cooked in.

You also need to keep in mind that peanuts are often referred to as groundnuts in Ethiopian cuisine. They may only use the term “groundnut” and not “peanut.”

Does Eritrean food have peanuts?

Peanuts in Eritrea, just like in Ethiopia, are commonly produced. However, they aren’t prominently used in their cuisine. Peanuts and peanut oil are much more common in West African cuisine. They also are an important part of many Ugandan stews and sauces.

With Eritrea being bordered by Ethiopia and borrowing its inspiration for the country’s cuisine, it would be a good idea to ask if Eritrean food has peanuts too if you’re visiting there or eating at an Eritrean restaurant.

Common dishes found in Eritrean cuisine include:

  • Tsebhi – spicy stew with lamb, mutton, or beef and berbere
  • Dorho – spicy stew with berbere and a whole chicken
  • Qulwa – sauteed meat and onions
  • Alicha – a non-berbere dish with vegetables and turmeric
  • Shiro – stew with ground chickpea flour, onions, and tomatoes
  • Birsen – lentils
  • Hamli – sauteed spinach, garlic, and onions

Injera is also commonly found in Eritrean cuisine, just the same as Ethiopian.

Is Ethiopian peanut tea made with peanut butter?

Yes. Also known as Ocholonishai, Ethiopian peanut “tea” is made by mixing peanut butter with hot water. What Ethiopians call “tea” is really a hot drink that isn’t coffee and not typically made with tea leaves. If you have a peanut allergy, you need to stay far away from Ethiopian peanut tea.

As we’ve already established, there aren’t a lot of dishes that predominantly feature peanuts in Ethiopian cuisine.

And while peanut tea is quite delicious and heartwarming, it’s not worth risking a potential reaction if you have a peanut allergy.

Final Thoughts

Tree nuts are very common allergenic foods in people worldwide.

Peanuts are especially risky since they have the highest number of allergens (no less than 17) amongst all tree nuts.

In addition, even though most nuts lose their allergen potency with roasting, peanuts only become more potent. Considering most nuts are roasted before they hit the store shelves, this is particularly bad news.

So I hope this answers all of your questions about Ethiopian cuisine and their use of peanuts.

Peanuts, or groundnuts, are easy to come by in Ethiopia, but they don’t play a predominant role in their everyday cuisine.

You just need to know what to ask for. Stay away from the peanut tea and Kolo that has added peanuts. And be sure always to ask what type of oil was used for cooking their main dishes.

So while I have given you the rundown of Ethiopian food here, check out my recent article to know if Vietnamese cuisine has peanuts.

You can also know whether Mexican cuisine has peanuts in another recent article I wrote. Just click on the link to read them on my website.

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Jeff Campbell