How to make great injera

This weekend our family had the fun of attending an Ethiopian Christmas celebration attended by many adoptive families and also quite a few Ethiopian refugee families in our area. We chose to make injera as our contribution to the feast, something I would not have been brave enough to do a few years ago.
Injera is the traditional sourdough Ethiopian flat bread, and it is not the easiest thing in the world to make.   I had many failures in my first attempts at injera.   I didn’t really get it figured out well until my oldest Ethiopian daughter came home (at age 11) already knowing some of the tricks of injera.  Her knowledge combined with the expertise of Belaynesh (above, pouring coffee) who had adapted Ethiopian techniques to our climate, finally got us reliable success. I know that lots of other folks have had injera flops, so I thought I’d share what we’ve learned here.

Injera is made with a grain called teff, available here and at ethnic markets in different areas in the US.  If you are interested in a gluten free diet, you might already know that teff is gluten free.  Injera can be made with all teff, but I’ve had better luck making it half teff, half wheat. Well-made injera should have lots of ‘bubbles’, as seen in the picture to the left.  Problem is, those bubbles are not the easiest things to produce.  The dough is a sourdough, and the flavor gets better as the ‘starter’ matures.  The recipe below doesn’t require a starter, and if you want, you can make it this way each time you make the recipe.  But the flavor will be most authentic if you save a cup or so of this batter in a quart jar in the fridge for next time.

Another thing that you’ll most likely want to buy if you’re serious about injera is a Heritage Grill.  It is a big round griddle that is just the right size for injera.  The next best thing is one of those big pancake griddles, but you’ll also need a lid.  The injera needs to be cooked covered.

Makes: 8-10 injera, enough to serve 6-8 people generously

Preparation time: 3 days (only 1.5 hours actual working time)

DAY ONE

Ingredients

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • enough warm water to make a thin batter

Begin by combining the flour, baking powder and yeast in a large bowl.  Add enough water to make a batter the consistency of thin pancake batter.  Cover the bowl and set it aside.

DAY ONE, PART TWO:

  • 5 cups teff
  • enough water to make a very thick dough
  • 1/2 cup or more of injera ‘starter’ if you have it (optional)

In a second large bowl combine teff with enough water to make a very thick heavy dough.  Knead this dough for ten minutes or so on a floured counter.  Return the dough to the bowl, press it down into the bowl, and pour just enough water over the top of the dough ball to cover it with water. Cover and set aside. Let both bowls sit out on your kitchen for about two days.

DAY TWO

Continue to let batter rest, covered, at room temperature.  This allows the dough to become properly sour.

DAY THREE

In the morning on the third day, stir the contents of both bowls.  The flour mixture will be light colored and bubbly before stirring, a lot like pancake mix.  It may also be covered with a thin film of liquid.

The teff mixture will look craggy and puffed up, like the surface of the moon, and may have some dark liquid gathered at the edges.  When stirred it will look like melted chocolate ice cream, but will still be extremely thick.

Now it is time to combine the two mixtures. In a very large bowl (or a large pot) stir together the two mixtures as thoroughly as possible. It will become a thick batter.

Now bring 2 cups of water to boil in a small pot on the stove.  To the boiling water add one cup of the flour/teff mixture, whisking briskly as you pour it in.  Keep stirring.  As the mixture returns to a boil, the mixture will get so thick that it becomes hard to stir.  Remove it from the stove and pour it back into the big bowl containing the mixture of flour and teff.   Whisk it thoroughly to spread the heated mixture evenly through all the batter. This step is called “ob-seet” and will really rev up the bubbles for cooking the injera later in the day.

Once the ‘obseet’ has been thoroughly mixed into the batter, cover the bowl one last time and let it sit for 2-4 hours more.  The batter is ready to cook when it starts to develop small bubbles.

COOKING- AFTERNOON OF DAY THREE

When you’re ready to cook the injera, plug in your skillet or griddle and set it to 450 degrees.  It is best to use a non-stick skillet.   If your skillet is not non-stick, wipe a small amount of shortening all over the skillet with a paper towel, repeating between each injera.  Put the lid on and let it heat up.

Once the skillet is hot, give the batter a stir.  It should be about the consistence of pancake batter.  Using a measuring cup with a spout, pour some of the batter onto the skillet in a single swirling circle, beginning at the outer rim of the skillet and gradually moving inward until the whole skillet is covered.  If you miss a small spot here or there, rock the skillet back and forth a little so that the still-wet batter can fill any empty spaces in the pancake.

As quickly as possible after pouring, cover the skillet.  You’ll only cook the injera on one side  (no flipping it over) and the top of the injera gets cooked mostly by steaming inside the covered skillet.  Let the injera cook, undisturbed for 3 minutes or so.  Then lift up the lid a little and peek at it.   The top will still look shiny and sticky, but if the edges are starting to curl up and look dry, the injera is most likely done.  If the edges are not yet curling up, give the injera another minute or two to cook.

Using a couple of large non-stick spatulas or a wooden pizza ‘peel’, lift the injera gently off the skillet and set it on a wooden cutting board or a large flat basket to cool.  Pour the next injera onto the skillet and let it cook.   By the time it is done, the previous injera will be cool enough that you can lay the fresh one on top of it to cool.  Repeat until all the batter is cooked, remembering to set aside a cup of batter in a jar in the fridge to use as a starter for next time.

To serve, roll up each injera into a cylinder and cut diagonally into thirds or fourths.  At the meals folks will each take a piece or two, unroll them onto their plate, and top with various stews. I’m assuming that most people who care enough to try making their own injera have eaten Ethiopian food before and know what kinds of stews are served with the injera.  But here are a couple recipes to get you started.

Dinich Wat (Ethiopian Sloppy Joes)

Alecha (Sauteed Veggies)

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{ 11 Comments }

  1. Does the Heritage grill come with a lid? I couldn’t tell that it did on Amazon. If not, what do you use for a lid?

  2. Fabulous!!! I now have hope that I can create some injera that’s actually worth eating!! I ordered both the Heritage grill and the lid. Thanks so much! Lisa, mom to 2 bio kids, 2 Ethiopians and 1 Lesotho boy!

  3. So glad you posted this. I”ve almost got it…but cant’ get the teff/flour ratio right for the taste. So, now I can try this one! I’ve got the pan and I agree it is a huge help. MIght start a batch today, have a sourdough (white flour) starter already going. I’ve added white wheat flour to my last effort, and the white wheat was too, wheatie……not good. Tho the texture was fine. Thanks Mary!

  4. I have long feared making injera, but this seems doable! Thanks for sharing (mom to three homegrown, one Habesha)

  5. I have made injera the fast, “fake” way for several years, but with your tutorial perhaps I will try to make the real thing! The fast way uses flour only (white and wheat) and club soda to get the bubbles. Here is a link to a recipe: http://www.free-recipes.co.uk/injera-flat-bread.html.

    My good friend with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) started making injera after I showed her how, and has recently bought some teff, so I will be sending her this link. It is one of the few breads that she can eat.

  6. Thank you for this! We have made it in the past with fair results but need to get the grill I think to make it easier to cook.

  7. My 2 teens have been trying to make injera for years now (ever since they arrived from Ethiopia!) Thanks for passing this along!

  8. Okay, I’m making this tomorrow. When we reserve the starter for the next time how do we make the injera again?

    • You do it just the same as this recipe describes, but add the starter into the wheat flour mixture at the beginning of the recipe.

  9. Thanks for posting this. We made our first successful batch of injera last night! :)