Genfo – Ethiopian barley porridge

During my recent trip to Ethiopia (well, not so recent, back in April…), my friend Amy set up a few cooking lessons for me – she knows me well!

Here is one of the recipes that I learned to make. I have to admit that I will probably not make this one at home, because it was very rich and heavy to my stomach. However, it is an interesting cultural tradition and process, so I wanted to share it with you.


Genfo is a dish served when you go to visit families who have just had a baby born in the household. From my understanding it is served for the first month or 40 days after the baby is born. Here in the U.S., we usually bring food for the family, so this was a different practice of hospitality for me. In fact, in watching the video you will see that the new mother actually helped make the food for us! These are hearty habesha (Ethiopian) women!

Watch this short video to see the basic process.  The porridge is made from 3/4 barley (lightly toasted) flour and 1/4 wheat flour, and water.  It is cooked over high heat coals, and stirred until smooth. Then genfo is spooned into a bowl coated with spiced butter and tossed to make a round sphere.

I asked if I could help toss the last one, and it was definitely an amateur effort. You can see that they were laughing at my attempt, but at least the genfo did not end up on the floor :)


A well is created and filled with spiced butter (kibbeh) and then topped with some type of spicy pepper powder or paste. The options that I saw were mitmita (spicy mixed seasoning), berbere (red pepper), and karya (jalapeno).

As you eat, your hostess will refill the butter as needed – no REALLY, it’s NOT needed, please STOP!  Between the richness of the butter, the spicyness, and the very thick and heavy paste of the genfo, it was very, very filling.  It was tasty, but I recommend small doses. However, that’s tricky when there are only two of you as guests and they made a big pot just for you….!  Here’s a good closeup of grandmother, hard at work stirring the thick paste.


Oh, and here’s Amy with the baby, I think this is the main reason she wanted to visit :)



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