Sourdough Injera Flatbread Recipe from Eritrea & Ethiopia

Sourdough injera is a spongy flatbread, texturally something between a crepe and a pancake. It has a sour tang, which cuts through the savoury stews it is usually served alongside. Injera is found in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and is utilised not just as an accompaniment, but as a utensil itself!

Sourdough Injera | Eritrean Cuisine

Country Number 56: Eritrea

Eritrea is one of the countries located in the Horn of Africa, the easternmost tip of Africa by the Red Sea. Its coastal location has played a huge part in its history, with various powers attempting to establish trade routes through it by establishing ports in Eritrea over the past few millennia. Powers such as Turkey, Egypt and Italy intended to insinuate themselves into the Red Sea region by creating ports in this region, which would provide access to gold, coffee, and slaves (man, human priorities are whack). In 1991, after nearly half a century of conflict with the neighbouring Ethiopia, Eritrea finally freed itself from Ethiopian rule at the conclusion of the succession of wars between the Ethiopian government and Eritrean freedom fighters known as the Eritrean War of Independence. The small window of peace closed in 1998 with the Eritrean-Ethiopian War in 1998, and relations between the two states were hostile until the current Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, reached a peace agreement with the country in 2018. The alliance between the two countries is such that Eritrean troops have assisted Ethiopian troops in the ongoing and brutal Tigray Conflict. 

With regard to its terrain, Eritrea consists of coastal plains, the northern section of the Ethiopian Plateau, hilly highlands, and a depression known as the Kobar Sink. The vegetation is mostly savanna, and off the coast is the Dahlak Archipelago. Eritrea’s capital city is Asmara, located at the northern tip of the Ethiopian plateau.

Eritrea is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country, with nine ethnic groups and nine spoken languages. The most widely spoken language is Tigrinya, and Arabic and English also serve as working languages. Nearly half of the population are adherents of Christianity, and nearly half of Islam, with a small minority adhering to traditional faiths.

History of Eritrean Cuisine

With such a diverse population, it should come as no surprise that Eritrea has a wide range of influences on its cuisine. The typical Eritrean dish is injera with a spicy stew, similar to that found in Ethiopia. However, due to their coastal proximity, Eritrea features more seafood than Ethiopia, and are as such often ‘lighter’ than their Ethiopian counterparts, with less seasoned butter and spices, and more tomatoes, for example, in tsebhi dorho. Eritrean cuisine also features more Italian influences in its cooking than Ethiopia. Pasta is relatively common, as is curry powder and cumin. Dishes such as pasta al sugo e berbere (pasta with tomato sauce and berbere spice) come from the Italian colonisation period. In addition to coffee, common beverages include the alcoholic sowa (fermented barley drink) and mies, a fermented honey wine. 

Popular Eritrean Vegetarian Dishes

  • Shahan ful– Breakfast dish consisting of fava beans pureed with onions, lemon juice, berbere spices, chili peppers, and tomatoes. This dish is sometimes served with yogurt and a bread roll, and is popular during Lent and Ramadan.
  • Hamli – sautéed greens with garlic, coriander, parsley, onions, and tomatoes. Generally served alongside injera.
  • Injera – fermented flatbread consisting of teff, a small “superfood” cereal grain. Injera is considered the staple of Eritrean cooking, and is served alongside various accompaniments.
  • Fata – a salad consisting of a spicy tomato stew soaking up crusty bread, served with yoghurt.

Vegetarian rating of Eritrean Cuisine:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Sourdough Injera | Eritrean Cuisine

Making sourdough injera flatbread

Make sure to measure by weight than volume: if you have one, use a scale rather than using other forms of measurement. This is particularly key with the sourdough starter, which may grow in volume when you take it out of the fridge.

That’s another thing: you’ll need to have a sourdough starter to create this recipe, as the sour flavour provided by the sourdough starter removes the need to ferment the batter for the injera for long periods of time (as is the traditional method). If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can get one started (and create a whole slew of various recipes from nurturing this little creature) by following these instructions.

One quick tip: if you accidentally fold the injera in on itself while transferring it to a plate, allow it to cool a bit before straightening it, as this will prevent it from tearing.

How to make sourdough injera

This sourdough method for injera takes away a lot of the waiting time to create a reasonable rendition of the Eritrean/Ethiopian staple. To create your injera, perform the following steps:

  1.  Blend water and teff or buckwheat flour in a blender until the batter is smooth and no longer grainy. Add all-purpose flour and blend until combined. Blend in sourdough starter, then add in baking powder and corn starch and blend for 30 more seconds. Once all ingredients are blended, let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan with a lid. Pour ½ to ¾ cup of batter into the pan and tilt until it covers the bottom of the pan. Cook on high heat for 15 seconds until bubbles appear and batter begins to firm up. Cover with lid and continue until the edges begin to curl. This should take between 1 ½ and 3 minutes.
  3. Slide onto a clean cloth. Proceed with the rest of the mixture until all are cooked. Do not stack the injera directly on top of each other until completely cooled (although you can place a tea-towel between them).
  4. The recipe should provide for between eight and ten wide injera, depending on how thick you make them. Use one as a plate, and roll the rest into cigars to serve on the side. Use these to scoop up the stew and accompaniments, and enjoy!
Sourdough Injera | Eritrean Cuisine

Ingredient notes for sourdough injera

  • Teff flour- depending on where you live, you might, like us, not have access to teff flour, the tiny nutritious African grain. This is a bit of an issue given that it is the key ingredient of injera. We were still really keen to make it, so we substituted the teff flour for buckwheat flour to try and replicate some of the same nuttiness that teff provides. It worked out reasonably well: obviously we are not claiming this holds a candle to the original, but if you have no access to teff, then it’s not a bad substitute.
  • Sourdough starter – this recipe is a sourdough-based recipe designed for users who already have a sourdough starter. If you don’t have a starter and want to get one brewing, here’s some instructions.
Sourdough Injera | Eritrean Cuisine

Serving suggestions for injera

Serve one Injera as a plate and roll the others into cigars to serve alongside. Serve with dishes such as our Atakilt Wat (our vegan Ethiopian stew), hamli (sautéed greens) and shiro wat (chickpea stew).

Sourdough Injera | Eritrean Cuisine

Sourdough Injera Flatbread

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Resting Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Injera, a spongy flatbread found in Etritrea and Ethiopia, is texturally something between a crepe and a pancake. It has a sour tang, which cuts through the savoury stews it is usually served alongside. In this version, we use buckwheat flour and sourdough starter in place of traditional teff flour.

Ingredients

  • 160 g buckwheat flour
  • 230 g all-purpose flour
  • 250 g sourdough starter
  • 945 ml water
  • 12 g baking powder
  • 12 g corn starch

Instructions

  1. Blend the water and the teff or buckwheat flour in a blender until the batter is smooth and no longer grainy. Add all-purpose flour and blend until combined. Blend in the sourdough starter, then add in baking powder and corn starch and blend for 30 more seconds. Once all ingredients are blended, let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan with a lid. Pour ½ to ¾ cup of batter into the pan and tilt until it covers the bottom of the pan. Cook on high heat for 15 seconds until bubbles appear and batter begins to firm up. Cover with lid and continue until the edges begin to curl. This should take between 1 ½ and 3 minutes.
  3. Slide onto a clean cloth. Proceed with the rest of the mixture until all are cooked. Do not stack the injera directly on top of each other until completely cooled (although you can place a tea-towel between them and stack them in that way).
  4. The recipe should provide for between eight and ten wide injera, depending on how thick you make them. Use one as a plate, and roll the rest into cigars to serve on the side. Use these to scoop up stew (such as our Atakilt Wat) and accompaniments, and enjoy!

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