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Adventurous Eating – Kitfo


I wasn’t sure what to do about kitfo when I arrived in Ethiopia. The guidebooks were split – some said eat away, others cautioned against this traditional meal. Why such divergent opinions? It’s more or less raw beef.

Kitfo consists of raw minced meat, which has been marinated in butter and spices. It is typically served fully raw or warmed (leb leb). The dish is rooted in Ethiopian culture and the kitfo bet (restaurant) is an important meeting place for many Ethiopians. It only took me a few weeks to work up the courage to try kitfo and I have not regretted doing so.

Kitfo with mitmita

When at a kitfo bet, be sure to order the “special kitfo.” The meat will be accompanied by aib, a cheese spread, and gomen, cooked greens. The dish is also served with kocho, a flatbread made from the false banana tree. To add more spice to the meat, mitmita is provided on the side – this bright orange mixture is much more potent than the usual berbere. The combination of spiced raw meat and aib on a piece of kocho is a wonderful mix of textures and tastes.

Special kitfo side


The Gurage ethnic group is renowned for its kitfo. If you decide to try it, be sure to search out a Gurage restaurant, such as Sami Kitfo in Addis Ababa. At these kitfo bets, the butcher is attached to the restaurant, so you know the meat is fresh and expertly prepared. I order it “leb leb,” but even cooked kitfo – “betam leb leb” – is flavorful and worth the experience.

Sami Kitfo

Kitfo up close

Would you give kitfo a try? If you don’t eat meat, would you sample the spreads and kocho?

{ 61 comments… add one }
  • Manouk April 25, 2014, 2:59 pm

    It looks like a delicious combo with the flatbread. I’d def give it a try :)! At the moment I’m trying to think of other ‘raw minced meat’ dished, but can’t really think of any. Is the ‘raw meat’ thing something typically Ethiopian? I don’t remember they served it in Kenya or Uganda!

    • Dave April 25, 2014, 3:30 pm

      That’s the spirit, Manouk! This is a very Ethiopian dish – have not experienced anything like it before. Thanks for stopping by :)

  • Sue Sharpe (@suesharpe1) April 25, 2014, 3:11 pm

    Oh my! That looks divine – I’d try it without hesitation!

    • Dave April 25, 2014, 3:31 pm

      You’d love it, Sue! Thanks for stopping by and saying hi :)

  • Travelling Buzz April 25, 2014, 4:21 pm

    Looks interesting. I would definitely try kitfo even though I am not a foodie! Nice pictures :)

    • Dave April 26, 2014, 12:36 pm

      I have gotten one friend to try it when he was visiting, but I don’t think he entirely understood what he was getting into. Glad to see that you are adventurous :)

  • Emily April 25, 2014, 4:29 pm

    This looks really good! Trying the local food is always a must for me, and a great way to immerse yourself in the culture.

    • Dave April 26, 2014, 12:37 pm

      Agreed – locals really appreciate it when they find out you have gone past tourist food to sample the dishes that makes their home unique. Thanks for stopping by, Emily :)

  • Oh God, they all look amazing! Kitfo it is then! when I go to Ethiopia..
    One thing I´ve learnt travelling is “Always try the local food”. Luckily I´ve got a very strong stomach and nothing affects it so basically I eat and drink everything that is offered in the coutry :)

    • Dave April 26, 2014, 12:42 pm

      I’m blessed similarly, but definitely try to ensure I’m eating someplace clean. You’re more likely to get sick from touristy food made in an unsanitary kitchen than raw meat prepared correctly.

  • Brianna April 25, 2014, 10:52 pm

    Since I’ve eaten carpaccio I’d have no problem trying kifto. I’m intrigued by the spices, what are they like?

    • Dave April 26, 2014, 12:46 pm

      They are similar to paprika, but with a little more kick. Made from ground red peppers. Delicious as a topping!

  • Aditya April 26, 2014, 7:38 am

    Raw meat, have never tried before but this sounds interesting.

    • Dave April 26, 2014, 12:51 pm

      After marinating in butter and spices it’s pretty spectacular. Great photography on your blog, Aditya.

  • Margherita @The Crowded Planet April 26, 2014, 1:01 pm

    I would definitely have a go! In Turkey I tried cig kofte, which are meatballs made with a mixture of bulghur wheat and raw meat. I loved them! I was a bit afraid of the hygiene situation, but I survived! Thanks for sharing!

    • Dave April 27, 2014, 12:59 am

      Cig kofte sounds delicious – I will definitely try that when I have a chance!

  • Bronwyn Joy April 27, 2014, 3:20 am

    I’ll eat nearly anything (one day I’ll pay for this) so I would probably do it. The real question is whether I’d serve it to my children :) . I’d have to think twice, being raw meat. The accompaniments look delicious, though – in fact the whole thing looks appetising. Maybe for now we’ll just eat with our eyes.

    • Dave April 27, 2014, 10:43 am

      The sides really make it a flavorful meal. Hope you get to try it sometime soon!

  • frankaboutcroatia April 27, 2014, 8:31 am

    I am not a big meat eater, but from what I’ve seen in your post, I would nibble on aib, gomen, and kocho all day long.

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 9:45 am

      Will do what I can to have some airmailed to Croatia – not going to guarantee freshness.

  • Emma April 27, 2014, 8:32 am

    That looks really interesting! I have eaten raw beef French style and Korean style, both of which I liked, so I think I would probably like this too! 😀

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 9:47 am

      You’ve braved raw beef on two continents already, so sounds like you are ready for the African variety.

  • Tom @ Waegook Tom April 27, 2014, 12:39 pm

    Agh, this looks soooo good! I’m contemplating going to Ethiopia early next year, and one of the main reasons is the food, which I tried (and loved) for the first time in Berlin. Raw meat isn’t an issue for me (I adore beef tartare), so I’d definitely chomp down on this one – and the spicier, the better!

    • Dave April 27, 2014, 8:15 pm

      You’d love it here, Tom. No cuisine like this in sub-Saharan Africa and I’ve found a lot of great spots around Addis. Let me know if you end up booking the trip and I’ll be happy to supply some recommendations.

  • Anna | slightly astray April 27, 2014, 1:42 pm

    The pictures look really good! I’ve had other raw beef before (sliced) so it’s not the rawness that weirds me out… It’s more the texture. I feel like raw minced beef will be slimey? In any case, I would try it because trying the local foods is my favorite thing about travel!

    • Dave April 27, 2014, 8:22 pm

      Hi Anna, it’s not slimy at all – I think you would like it! The spices really enhance the flavor and make it quite unique.

  • Beth April 27, 2014, 3:28 pm

    I love trying local food, so I’d give this a go for sure!

    • Dave April 27, 2014, 8:28 pm

      Great! Like most any special dish, always best to go to the places that prepare it nicely.

  • Caitlyn April 27, 2014, 5:16 pm

    I think it sounds delicious! I tried steak tartare when I was in the Czech Republic, after some pressure from my local friend. I was hesitant at first but it was delicious! I think I’ll try most raw foods, save for chicken 😛

    • Dave April 28, 2014, 9:24 pm

      I will not argue with you on chicken, don’t see much benefit/taste to that :) I’d really like the chance to try steak tartare in the Czech Republic, I bet they do it expertly.

  • JR April 28, 2014, 5:04 pm

    I would give it a try, based on your tips, of course. What types of safety concerns have you heard of for reasons to be wary of eating uncooked meat in Ethiopia, if any? Also, I am interested to know what “false banana tree” means. Thanks.

    • Dave April 28, 2014, 9:36 pm

      Hi JR, the false banana tree looks exactly like a banana tree (especially the foliage) but bears no such fruit. It’s called “enset,” and the food made from various parts of it are very important sources of nutritional subsistence in many parts of Ethiopia. There is no lack of concern among expats and visitors with respect to uncooked meat in Ethiopia; in fact, most of my friends in Addis have not tried kitfo. However, I have found it is a matter of selecting restaurants that specialize in this area, as sanitary and expert preparation are key. Much like not ordering “fresh” fish when several hours inland, I would’t dream of ordering kitfo at a hotel or a restaurant that had it as a toss-in item on the menu. Thanks for your questions and your comment!

  • Jess April 29, 2014, 2:20 am

    I’m not wild about the idea of raw beef – but I think it’s a shame to miss out on a local specialty when you get the chance to experience it. I’d definitely give it a try!

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 9:49 am

      Anyone I know who has tried kitfo swears by it. Glad you’re adventurous, Jess!

  • Rachel M April 29, 2014, 5:24 am

    We have many Ethiopian restuarants in Nairobi, I will make a point of visiting and order me a kitfo.

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 9:53 am

      Jambo, Rachel! I’ve heard Habesha Restaurant in Gigiri is supposed to be good, so you may want to start there.

  • Adelina | PackMeTo April 29, 2014, 4:36 pm

    Sounds interesting. I’m not sure if I could eat the whole plate, but I’d be up for trying it. I’ve had raw meat on a couple of occasions and it’s never really something I like. I’m always willing to give it a 2nd, 3rd & 4th chance though! It does look surprisingly tasty.

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 9:58 am

      Kitfo has a bit more flavor than the beef tartare I’ve tried. Certainly a different experience and glad to see you are up for the challenge.

  • Jen April 29, 2014, 5:13 pm

    Oh boy, I’m not that adventurous of an eater but sure appreciate your thoughtful post.

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 10:00 am

      Thanks, Jen. I did not grow up eating a huge variety of foods – definitely started with southern European food and worked my way out from there.

  • Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy April 29, 2014, 5:25 pm

    I’d definitely give it a try…I eat my beef pretty rare anyway. I’m weird about textures and I think that would be the only thing turning me off to it :) Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 10:06 am

      It takes some adjustment, but I know one bite will hook you, Ashley :) Thanks for stopping by again!

  • Tam @ Travelling Book Junkie April 30, 2014, 8:12 pm

    Just showing your picture to my other half and he agrees he would give it a go, myself being a vegetarian on the other hand I will have to pass – although give me a plate full of the sides and I think I will be happy. :)

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 9:40 am

      Glad to hear he’s up for it! You can definitely get a nice meal of the kocho flatbread with the spreads on top. Thanks for stopping by, Tam :)

  • SJ @ Chasing the Donkey May 1, 2014, 2:37 pm

    I would FOR SURE do the spreads, but for the meat.. hmmmm I am not too sure. Although Mr CtD would jump at the chance. Biggest thanks for joining us for #SundayTraveler again this week.

    • Dave May 1, 2014, 3:02 pm

      Sounds like you and Mr. CtD compliment each other nicely! Thanks for stopping by, SJ.

  • Calli May 2, 2014, 6:02 pm

    It looks delicious in the picture, although the thought of eating raw meat doesn’t really appeal to me. I love trying new things so I’m sure I’d be able to work up the courage to try a bite or two and with the information you’ve included here I’ve got everything I need to order the next time I find myself in Ethiopia :)

    • Dave May 7, 2014, 10:34 am

      Thanks, Calli! Glad to see that you are a courageous eater. Maybe you can find a local Ethiopian restaurant to give it a try :)

  • noel May 2, 2014, 6:42 pm

    I’m sure I’ve tried this before either in SF or DC, it is delicious and the flavors are amazing!

    • Dave May 7, 2014, 10:40 am

      Agreed, Noel – like nothing I’ve tasted before.

  • Elaine May 4, 2014, 10:33 pm

    Looks very interesting! Happy eating adventures!

  • The Guy May 6, 2014, 3:57 pm

    This looks very interesting Dave. My only experience of Ethiopian food was during a trip to Washington DC. We might have eaten something similar to this and I remember it being very enjoyable.

    I’ll try most things at least once so I think I’m game to give this a taste.

    • Dave May 7, 2014, 10:43 am

      Great to see that you’re willing to confront kitfo – many have shied away! Also very nice to discover your site and looking forward to following you.

  • Sarah@Travelcake May 6, 2014, 6:59 pm

    I would def give it a try! Seems like the adventurous thing to do! :) These pictures actually have me craving some! Looks very well spiced!

    • Dave May 7, 2014, 10:44 am

      You have the right attitude and you won’t regret trying kitfo. Marinating the beef in spices provides an excellent depth of flavor. Hope you get to try it soon!

  • Megan May 16, 2014, 2:02 am

    I’ve heard mixed reviews about Ethiopian food. It actually looks pretty good. They eat raw meat in Thailand, too. I haven’t build up the courage to try though. Would you eat kitfo again?

    • Dave May 18, 2014, 5:42 pm

      I have eaten kitfo since I posted this – such a fun and tasty meal. Whenever I make it to Thailand, I’ll definitely have to try the raw meat!

  • Mindi May 18, 2014, 5:21 pm

    Looks delicious! I’d eat it kitfo without hesitation.

    • Dave May 18, 2014, 5:42 pm

      That’s what I like to hear! The sides are a meal in themselves. Thanks for stopping by :)

  • Stefania @The Italian Backpacker May 22, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Basically it’a a tartare with spices! I’d like to try that.

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