Vegan Doro Wat

Vegan doro wat

My vegan version of the classic Ethiopian favorite Doro Wat is a labor of love unlike the more minimalist recipes I’ve shared recently. It took me upwards of two hours to put together which, to a speed-seeking cook like me, is an eternity and an indulgence.

But this is an indulgence I had long craved. There’s something about the very look of this ravishing, flaming-red dish that stokes my appetite. Doro Wat is often called Ethiopia’s national dish and just inhaling its spice-rich aroma reveals just why it’s so popular. Traditionally it’s made with chicken, but it’s not a hard dish to veganize because all those spices and flavors in there are perfect with “meaty” vegetables like mushrooms or eggplants.

 Vegan doro wat

Cooking Ethiopian food is always a pleasant revelation to me, both as a cook and as someone who primarily cooks Indian food. That’s because Ethiopian cuisine couldn’t be more similar to Indian cuisine in its use of spices, yet it couldn’t be more different in technique, and the end results are worlds apart. To put it more simply, an Indian curry contains a lot of the same spices and ingredients that a Doro Wat does, but because you cook them so differently they taste vastly different.

Doro Wat has two flavor building blocks: niter kibbeh, which is butter spiced with garlic, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, and berbere, a powdered mix of chillies and more spices (there are paste versions of this too). For the niter kibbeh, I swapped the butter with some heart-healthy olive oil. Don’t try to take a short cut and leave out either the niter kibbeh or the berbere because your Doro Wat will then taste like its missing something, which is never a kind thing to do to your tastebuds.

The most tedious part of this recipe was, to me, roasting a pile of onions to a rich brown color with the help of nothing but a little water– it took over an hour. I  toned down the heat in this dish because Desi, despite his Indian tastebuds, cannot tolerate too much chilli. If you are a heat-seeker, go ahead and use more red chillies.

Here’s the recipe, just in time for your weekend. Enjoy, all!

Vegan doro wat


Vegan Doro Wat
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Serves: 10 servings
  • For the Niter Kibbeh:
  • Combine in a saucepan:
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced onions
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 3 cloves of green cardamom
  • Place the saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, reduce heat and let the oil simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Pass through a sieve and reserve the oil.
  • For the Berbere:
  • Place in a blender or spice grinder:
  • ¼ cup of dry, red chillies
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1-inch stick cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger powder
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 berries of allspice
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • Process to a fine powder and set aside.
  • Other ingredients:
  • 1 8-oz package of tempeh, cubed and sprinkled with juice of half a lemon (The tempeh is optional. I just used this for extra protein and it was delicious, but just use veggies if you can't find this or don't want to use it)
  • 1½ pounds of crimini or portabella mushrooms, halved or quartered if large (eggplant and potatoes would also be great in this dish)
  • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 six-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  1. Heat a large saucepan. Add the onions and stir. When the onions start looking dry, add ¼ cup of water and cook until the mixture dries up. Keep adding a couple of tablespoons of water each time the onions dry and start to stick, stirring at frequent intervals, until the onions become golden-brown. Like I said earlier, this took me more than an hour on medium heat, but don't skip this step and hurry to add other ingredients because the roasted onions add a lot of flavor.
  2. Now add the tomato paste, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the Berbere, ½ cup of water, and the Niter Kibbeh. Stir to mix and bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Add the mushrooms and tempeh and stir well. Bring the sauce to a boil (add more water if the mixture is very dry), slap a lid on, lower the heat to simmer, and let the mixture cook about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add the white wine, if you're using it, and simmer for another 10 minutes. If you're not adding wine, skip this step.
  6. Serve hot over rice or with some crusty bread. Tip: This tastes even better when you've allowed it to stand for a few hours, or overnight, to let the flavors meld together.
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Get new recipes by email. Sign up below.


  1. says

    I love your recipes. Being from the UK I sometimes struggle with ingredient names as they often are called something different over here.

    When you say tomato paste do you mean passata, ie sieved tomatoes? Over here tomato paste usually means tomato concentrate but that would be an rather large amount of tomato concentrate. Forgive my ignorant questions!!

    I love the look of this dish and would love to try it.

  2. says

    Carol, Thank you, and your questions are not ignorant at all. I am not sure what passata is, but the paste is a kind of tomato concentrate that’s available in little cans here in the US. The amount in the recipe is six ounces– I just realized it looks like 16 ounces in the recipe because of the way the fonts run together, and I’ll change it. Tomato paste is like a thick version of ketchup, minus all the flavors added to it. If you can’t get your hands on that, just add a cup of tomato puree.

  3. says

    Oooh this one I’ve got to try. I’ve always enjoyed this dish and never got around to trying it at home. Portobello mushrooms will make a nice addition. Thanks, Vaish!

  4. says

    This looks so delicious. I totally agree with your comment about Ethiopian and Indian food. I was amazed when I first made Ethiopian food as it tasted so incredibly unique but the spices were so similar to Indian cuisine. It’s interesting to see that you have used oil instead of margarine for your nitter kibbeh. I will keep this in mind as a shortcut as nitter kibbeh prepared with margarine needs additional time to set.

    Like Carol, I am sometimes confused about differences between food names in various countries and have always wondered about tomato sauce in US recipes. Are these tins of tomato sauce simply pureed/sieved tomatoes? If so, then it sounds like they are what Carol and myself refer to as tomato passata.

  5. says

    Vaishali, thanks for clearing that up for me. I did think the recipe said 16oz which is why I thought it couldn’t be tomato paste (it’s generally called tomato puree over here in the UK)as that would be a lot of tomato paste!! :)

  6. says

    Your recipes always look so good, but for each recipe there are usually a few ingredients I can’t get living in a small town in Morocco. But I think I could actually make this! I even have some berbere a friend brought me from Ethiopia. Approximately how much of it should I use?

  7. says

    Skay, thanks!

    Janet, yes, the niter kibbeh is an essential flavor building block in this dish and it needs that amount of oil to extract the flavor from all the spices. This recipe really makes a lot of doro wat– I estimated the serving size at around 10 but 12 people could easily be satisfied by this amount without any additional side dishes– so it really doesn’t end up being a lot per person.

    Manasi, you might want to try green peppers– I think they’d be fabulous in here. Even carrots would be great.

    Tibik, thank you, and hope you try it. :)

    Mel, the tomato paste is very thick, so I would guess that it’s pureed and sieved tomatoes that are then concentrated by taking out the water in them. It’s a very thick paste–almost the consistency of creamy peanut butter.

    Kalyani, Richa, Thanks!

    Carol, glad that helped.

    Jabs, the amount of spices in your store-bought berbere could be different than the powder I made, so I’d suggest you add a tablespoon, taste, and then add more if needed. And in future if you ever wonder how to substitute an ingredient you don’t have, feel free to ask.

    Divya, thanks!

  8. says

    This looks delicious!!! I read the ingredients and it says 3 cloves. I’m assuming you mean garlic?

    I just recently found you blog and look forward to exploring more. :)

    Thanks, Laina :)

  9. says


    I love Ethopian food but I have not much since my disaster to make injra! This sure looks yummy, I wished I had quality time to make this some day. With my 2 year old, I tend to go with tried and quick food.


  10. Ellen L says

    This looks incredible! I will make it with naan—too scared to try to make injera.

    Can you make Korean food next? :)

  11. says

    I made this last night with homemade seitan substituting for the tempeh, and eggplant and starchy sweet potatoes (I’ve only seen them here in Morocco) as the vegetables. It was a big hit!

  12. says

    Miri, thanks.

    Zengirl, I see what you mean. I tend to go for quick dishes most nights too– this one’s good for one of those rare slow days.

    Prixie, Irene, Thanks.

    Ellen, I will definitely post a Korean recipe soon. Stay tuned.

    Jabs, thanks for the feedback– homemade seitan and sweet potatoes in the doro wat sound wonderful.

  13. Anonymous says

    This recipe looks very interesting! I plan to try it with a few modifications. Just wanted to point out that real Ethiopian doro wot does not contain tomato of any kind (fresh, paste, or otherwise). Although it is typical to find tomato in western recipes or restaurants whose patrons are mostly non-Ethiopian. The color comes from the berbere that is added.

    Thanks for posting this looks like a quick, vegan alternative to a great dish!

  14. says

    Thank you so much for posting a recipe like this! My boyfriend and I are not vegan but vegetarian and it is nice to see a veggie alternative to such a tasty dish. Really enjoyed it!

Leave a comment!