Ethiopian Ful Medames – Fava Beans with Berbere and Tasty Garnishes – Recipe

Ethiopian Ful Mudammas
Ethiopian Ful Medames

Ful medames (pronounced fool mehdahmez) is one of my favorite foods. A big bowl of fava beans with lots of olive oil and garlic, it is eaten throughout the Middle East, mopping up with fresh pita. Filling, inexpensive, and nutritious. So imagine my joy a few years ago when I found out that one of our local Ethiopian restaurants (Cafe Selam, 2715 Cherry St., Seattle) was serving their national version of this dish, which is eaten for breakfast or an early lunch.

I set out to make my own ful because it is such a simple and tasty dish that it makes a great weeknight supper for our family. If you use canned favas (or cook them yourself in advance), you can have it on the table in 20 minutes.

The main differences between Ethiopian and other ful medames is that the beans are fully mashed, a little berbere is added to flavor the mix, and it is served with big rolls of white bread (not pita or injera). The rolls are crusty on the outside and fluffy and warm on the inside. You don't want a real artisan baguette here. Something with a softer texture that lets you soak up the sauce is ideal. This is the only utensil you will have – no forks, spoons or knives are ever used with Ethiopian food.

A lot of the love in this ful comes from the garnish of olive oil, green onions, feta cheese, diced tomato, jalapeno and hard boiled egg slices. You can customize each bite for a new experience.

Berbere is the best known spice mixture from Ethiopia. If you live in Seattle, it is readily available from any of the markets in the Central District, or you can find it on Amazon (Berbere 4.0 oz by Zamouri Spices). It typically contains chilis, ginger, cardamom, cloves, coriander, allspice, fenugreek, rue and ajwain, and is quite hot. In this dish, it provides just a subtle background flavor, but if you make other Ethiopian stews it can play a starring role.

The beans themselves are a type of fava, but they aren't the ones that look like giant lima beans. They are more round, like a chickpea but a lot darker. Any Middle Eastern or Ethiopian store will carry them, usually both canned and dry. Just ask for ful. The canned ones work just fine in this dish, just be sure to drain and rinse well before using.

Ethiopian Ful Medames
Vegetarian / vegan if you omit the feta & egg / gluten free if you choose a different bread
Serves 4
20 minutes if you have pre-cooked beans

  • 4-6 big crusty rolls
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more for garnish
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup minced white onion
  • 1 teaspoon berbere
  • 6 cups cooked ful (round fava beans)
  • salt
  • 6 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
  • 6 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely diced tomato
  • 1 finely diced jalapeno
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, cut into 1/8" slices
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  1. Put the rolls to lightly toast in your oven or toaster oven.
  2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and fry the garlic and onion for 2 minutes. Add the berbere and cook for 1 more minute. Add the ful and 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer.
  3. Remove from the heat, mash the ful, adding water if needed to reach the texture of refried beans. Salt to taste. Return to the heat briefly.
  4. To serve, divide the mashed beans between four shallow bowls and garnish rather heavily with more olive oil, green onions, feta cheese, tomato and jalapeno. Top with the egg slices and sprinkle them with a little cumin powder. Serve immediately, with the rolls on the side.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, August 23rd, 2010 in Breakfast, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Main Courses, Recipes, Seattle.

11 Responses to “Ethiopian Ful Medames – Fava Beans with Berbere and Tasty Garnishes – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    August 23, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    I’d love learn more about Ethiopian food starting here. This looks great! I’m going to have to see if I can find ful and berbere locally.

  2. Reply
    August 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    Love those foul (of ful) beans! I’ve never had them served this way, but looks like a must try!!

  3. Reply
    August 23, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    ful really is soul food. friend’s always made this for me in college (though not this ethiopian version.) makes me think I should make some soon.

  4. Reply
    August 25, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    Ful medames is one of my favorite foods, as well. I just can’t pass up fava beans and garlic. I love ethiopian food, too, so I’ll definitely have to try this version. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  5. Reply
    abesha wannabe
    August 29, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    FYI – this is very very different than the ethiopian ful I’ve eaten that has been cooked by various ethiopians in DC (largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia). One essential ingredient that is missing is nit’r kibe, the spiced clarified butter characteristic of many Ethiopian dishes. also, berbere is usually added in substantial quantities! And yes, sometimes Ethiopians do use spoons to help eat this dish. Otherwise you end up eating mostly bread, which BTW is usually a good baguette or ciabatta, or sometimes pita. Feta, eggs…these ingredients sound more like the way Israelis or Lebanese, or maybe Egyptians eat ful. I’d be careful taking one chef’s version of ful and claiming it is “Ethiopian” style just because the chef is Ethiopian (or is she Eritrean? Eritreans have more arabic influence in their cooking).

  6. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    August 31, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    Thanks for all of the info! You are quite right that I've only been exposed to one chef's way of making and serving this. Although we have a large Ethiopian and Eritrean population in Seattle, I think only one restaurant serves ful. (If anyone knows another besides Cafe Selam, please let me know, I'm so there to try it!). And I'm actually not sure if she is Ethiopian or Eritrean – actually doing a little web research, I think you are right that she's Eritrean. I did not know that Eritrea has more Arabic influence.

    No one at this restaurant ever uses a spoon, only the bread. As with anything food related, there are infinite variations. I believe she does use nit'r kibe, but I left it out of my version because most American cooks won't have it, though I should do a separate post on that. Her version is quite mild, so I think the berbere must be in small quantities.

    Anyhow, I appreciate the information you've added and I really look forward to trying more versions if I'm ever in DC.

  7. Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Did you forget to list the cumin? I am Eritrean and cumin is what gives ful its distinct lovely taste.

    • Reply
      March 22, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      I’ve got cumin dusted on at the end, but I can sure see that more of it in the beans would be good! I just wish I had a bowl of ful right now.

  8. Reply
    September 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Planning on making this, and our Berbere does not contain korarima, rue, ajwain, or nigella. I found Rue and Ajwain seeds seperately, but wanted to ask how much of the Rue and Ajwain should we add? Should we grind or do anything to them before putting them in?

    Thanks Michael!

    • Reply
      September 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      I’ve only ever bought berbere, never made it… so I’m not sure I can offer any really helpful advice there. I’d guess enough of each to be maybe 5% of the total amount of berbere, but that is just a ballpark guess. You could also just use the berbere you have, if you like how it tastes.

  9. Reply
    November 5, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Hey I love just looking at this picture! Im making this for my husband and I tomorrow! I see some people know a lot about ethiopian vs eritrean ful, well i think every chef is different. And its ok to spice it up.

    Im actually half Ethiopian and the other half Eritrean. So I have had every version of ful growing up! Which was i have to learn how to make it myself!

    And whenever you are in the DC area, please go visit this hole in the wall ful restaurant owned by cute eritrean couple.

    Im no where near dc now, so your recipe is exactly what i needed!

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