Ayib-Inspired Farmer Cheese With Ethiopian Berbere Recipe

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If you're always up for trying something new, and you haven't experimented with Ethiopian cuisine yet, then this Ayib-inspired farmer cheese recipe with a spicy Ethiopian berbere powder is a good place to start. Not only is it quick and easy to make (yes, this homemade cheese is both quick and easy), but the cheese itself is mild, while the berbere spice blend adds a kick of heat that's hard to beat. 

That said, if you're a little wary to make something you're completely unfamiliar with, you may be surprised how similar the flavors are to foods you already know and love. "[This is] a soft cheese with a mild flavor, similar to a ricotta or cottage cheese," explains recipe developer Kara Barrett. Likewise, the berbere isn't all that different from spices common to North American or Asian cooking. "[It's] a traditional Ethiopian spice that is hot and peppery. Think of it like cayenne or a spicy curry," Barrett says. 

Together, you end up with a nice, mild cheese made more interesting with the berbere spice, and you can add as much or as little as you like to give it the heat you desire. The fact that the whole thing can be ready in just 25 minutes means you can whip up a delicious snack to enjoy with your post-work glass of wine in almost no time at all. 

Gather the ingredients for Ayib-inspired farmer cheese with Ethiopian berebere

This recipe requires just three ingredients — whole milk, white vinegar, and berbere seasoning. Then, to garnish and serve, you have the option of adding flaky salt, olive oil, and crackers or bread. 

One thing Barrett points out is that the type of milk is important for this recipe. "It's important to use low [temperature] pasteurized milk in order to help with the curdling," she says. "A better quality milk will yield a tastier result. My best batch came from a low-temp, organic, grass-fed milk." 

If you're having a hard time locating berbere seasoning at your local grocery store, there are a few options. First, you can buy it online through retailers like Amazon, or you make it yourself using spices and seasonings that are readily available at most grocery stores. 

Heat the milk

Add the milk to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Wait for the milk to heat up, stirring it occasionally. 

Add vinegar to heated milk

When the milk starts to froth slightly (don't let it boil!), add the white vinegar to the pan, stirring well to distribute it equally through the milk. Lower the stove's temperature to medium-low and continue heating the milk for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. When the 5 minutes is up, remove the saucepan from the burner and set it aside, covered, for 10 minutes. 

Strain the cheese curds

Thanks to the vinegar and heat, your milk should have curdled. Use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to gently strain the curds. Just be careful not to strain too much or to squeeze out too much moisture, which could leave you with overly-dry cheese. 

Add berbere powder and shape the cheese, if desired

Transfer the strained cheese curds into a small bowl or ramekin and add the berbere powder. Start with ½ teaspoon, mix well, and give it a taste. Depending on how spicy you want your cheese to be, feel free to add more berbere powder, as desired. When you're happy with the flavor of your cheese, pack it gently into a bowl or ramekin to give it some shape. 

Chill the cheese before serving

Transfer the cheese to the fridge and wait for it to chill, ideally for at least an hour. When the cheese has chilled, tap it loose onto a serving dish and garnish it with more berbere powder, flaky salt, and olive oil, if desired. It's now ready to serve alongside bread or crackers. 

Barrett suggests enjoying it as an appetizer or as a side dish with a larger meal, pairing it with red or white wine, as desired. And if you don't finish it all in one sitting, don't worry, it keeps. "[Store it] in an airtight container for three or four days," says Barrett. 

Ayib-Inspired Farmer Cheese With Ethiopian Berbere Recipe
5 from 28 ratings
This Ayib-inspired farmer cheese with Ethiopian berbere features from-scratch, mild cheese with a kick of spice.
Prep Time
Cook Time
ayib-inspired farmer cheese
Total time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon berbere seasoning, divided
Optional Ingredients
  • Flaky salt, for garnish
  • Olive oil, for garnish
  • Crackers and bread, for serving
  1. Gently heat 4 cups of whole milk on medium heat for 15 minutes in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the milk is heated and frothing slightly (but not boiling), add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and stir. Reduce the heat to medium-low for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover for 10 minutes.
  4. Using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, gently strain the curds. Be careful not to overstrain and remove too much moisture.
  5. Mix the strained curds with ½ teaspoon of berbere powder. Taste for seasoning and add more, as desired.
  6. Mold your cheese in a bowl or small ramekin by packing it gently and tapping it loose before serving. You can also serve your cheese as loose curds.
  7. Cover and allow the cheese to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Garnish with reserved berbere powder, flaky salt, and olive oil, if desired. Serve with crackers or bread.
Calories per Serving 301
Total Fat 15.9 g
Saturated Fat 9.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 48.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 23.9 g
Dietary Fiber 0.1 g
Total Sugars 24.7 g
Sodium 210.2 mg
Protein 15.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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