This super easy vegan stew, Atakilt Wat, is an Ethiopian staple that is packed with flavour. Cabbage, carrots and potatoes are coated with a fragrant berbere spice mix and cooked with aromatics until tender. The stew is best served hot with injera flatbread and a selection of other dishes.
Country Number 59: Ethiopia
Of all the African cuisines, Ethiopian is the one I have heard people raving about the most. It got to the point where I had heard so many good things about the cuisine that I was determined to visit an Ethiopian restaurant myself. The only problem was, I never came across one in Auckland. Auckland boasts an impressed number of Asian, European and Middle Eastern eateries, however it has always lacked in South American and African cuisine (which makes sense, given the patterns of immigration).
Anyway, would you believe that the first Ethiopian restaurant I stumbled across was not in the culinary metropolis of Auckland, but in a sleepy beach town in Australia called Coffs Harbour? This is the town that I lived in for six months when I volunteered with an organisation called YWAM. Let’s just say it was the opposite of a culinary hotspot. In fact, I think it had about 20 restaurants in its vicinity. Yet one of them happened to be an Ethiopian restaurant, and it also happened to be the highest-rated restaurant in town. When my mum came to visit, we took the opportunity to try out Ethiopian food for the first time, and we were not disappointed. The food was rich with colour, flavour and texture, and was unlike anything I had tried before.
History of Ethiopian Cuisine
Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent nation. Unlike many African nations that were shaped by long periods of colonisation, Ethiopia has remained a symbol of independence. As a result, it has a unique cultural heritage and history. Sadly, the country has experienced long periods of drought and famine, which has led to a lot of poverty and political instability.
One thing that has remained constant in Ethiopia is its distinctive and delicious cuisine. Injera, a spongey flatbread, forms the basis for most Ethiopian meals. In fact, this iconic flatbread acts as a tablecloth, cutlery and crockery. On top of the injera is generally a colourful assortment of stews and curries, which is scooped up with pieces of bread. Out of all the African nations, Ethiopia offers some of the best options for vegetarians and vegans. This is due to the fact that almost half of the Ethiopian population follow the Orient Orthodox tradition, where a vegan diet is adhered to by most people during “fasting days”.
Popular Ethiopian Vegetarian Dishes
- Injera- A sour pancake-like flatbread that is made with teff flour
- Bayenetu– A colourful smorgasbord of vegetarian dishes that are arranged on top of injera
- Wat– Spicy stew that is either made with meat, vegetables or pulses such as chickpeas and lentils, flavoured with berbere
- Ye’abasha Gomen- Braised collard greens that are seasoned with aromatics
- Shiro– Originally a peasant dish and now one of the most popular dishes in the country, this legume stew consists of ground split peas and chickpeas with spiced clarified butter
Vegetarian rating of Ethiopian Cuisine:
Making Vegan Ethiopian Stew (Atakilt Wat)
On researching recipes for Ethiopian and Eritrea, we noticed that the countries did not just share a border, but also shared a lot of dishes. We figured we could kill two birds with one stone by making the recipes for both countries at the same time. For our Eritrean recipe, we made injera. This sour flatbread is served with almost every meal in both countries. It was tough deciding which Ethiopian recipe to go for as there were so many good vegan/ vegetarian options to choose from. We settled on this dry vegan stew, atakilt wat, which is filled with vegetables and flavoured with a traditional Ethiopian spice blend called berbere.
We couldn’t resist turning the meal into a proper Ethiopian feast by making a selection of four dishes to go on top of the injera. This resulted in us spending far longer than planned in the kitchen preparing everything. Thankfully, the time and toil was worth it. We had a few friends come over for dinner, and everyone walked away raving about the meal!
How to make Vegan Ethiopian Stew (Atakilt Wat)
This dish requires just one pan and is super simple to make. It will take about 40 minutes all up to prepare, with most of that being cooking time. This is fortunate, as if you want to serve this vegan stew the traditional way, your time will be taken up preparing all the other components for an Ethiopian feast!
- Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a frying pan (with a lid) over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, chilli and onion and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant. Next, add berbere spice mix, coating everything in the pan, and cook for a few more minutes.
- Finally, add carrots, potato, cabbage and salt. Mix well, then cover pan and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and again.
- Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan, mix everything around then cover and cook for another 15 minutes (or until all vegetables are tender). Serve hot.
Ingredient notes for Vegan Ethiopian Stew
- Berbere spice mix- Berbere is a hot Ethiopian spice mix made up of red chillies and a range of different spices. You can buy premade berbere spice mix from speciality stores. Alternatively, if you have a plethora of spices in your kitchen you can make it yourself like we did using this recipe.
- Potato/ sweet potato- You can use either normal potato, sweet potato or a mix of both for this recipe. Just be aware cooking times might slightly vary depending on which you use, so adjust accordingly to ensure all vegetables are cooked till tender.
- Cabbage- Green or white cabbage works best for this recipe.
Serving suggestions for Atakilt Wat
We’d highly recommend serving this vegan Ethiopian stew on top of injera, alongside a selection of different Ethiopian dishes. Below are links to the other dishes we had with our Atakilt Wat.
- Sourdough injera flatbread
- Shiro (ground chickpea stew)
- Gomen (collard greens)
- Coconut, cucumber, lime salsa
- 2 tsp olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cm ginger, minced
- 1 green chili, chopped
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 2 tbsp berbere spice mix
- 3 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 medium sweet or white potatoes, cubed
- 1/2 head of cabbage, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a frying pan (with a lid) over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, chilli and onion and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant.
- Add berbere spice mix, coating everything in the pan, and cook for a few more minutes.
- Add carrots, potato, cabbage and salt. Mix well, then cover pan and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and again.
- Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan, mix everything around then cover and cook for another 15 minutes (or until all vegetables are tender).
- Serve hot with injera flat bread.
Recipe inspired by Vegan Richa
For more recipes from Africa:
- Cocada Amarela Recipe (Spiced Coconut Porridge)
- Mahjouba Recipe – Savoury Algerian Crepes
- Beninese Caramelised Banana Porridge