Recipe: Injera (Flatbread from Northeast Africa)

Do you dream of cleaning out your cluttered silverware drawer? Are you totally tired of your dishes? Try a happy bite of Injera, the gorgeous Teff flatbread adored in Eritrea, Ethopia, and other East African countries. Sour and funky… Injera is almost as thin as a crepe, but spongy like a pancake … and is traditionally used both as a platter for spicy stews and to replace silverware.

Three tips for foolproof Injera making:

1. Consistency

Make sure the batter is almost the consistency of crêpe batter (between crêpes and pancakes) . Any thinner and the bubbles won’t form. Much thicker and it won’t look like traditional Injera. Practice makes perfect.

2. The Pan

If you don’t have the traditional mitad (I didn’t), you can use a large, short sided pan. You’ll have the best luck with a nonstick pan or a really well seasoned crêpe pan. Cover loosely with aluminum foil if it doesn’t have a lid.

3. Play it cool

Absolutely cool the Injera before stacking or attempting to move it around much. They are super sticky when warm, but become easy to handle once they reach room temperature. Once cool you can stack or roll the injera into tubes.

Let’s Make Injera!

Serves about 6

(Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups teff flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2  tsp Instant dry yeast
4 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt

1 cup water for boiling
Plus extra water for thinning to desired consistency

Method:

DAY 1

Add Teff flour to a large mixing bowl. You’ll find it at health food stores.

Stir in some all purpose flour.

Then sprinkle in a sprinkling of yeast.

Fun fact: Purists actually make injera without yeast. Instead they patiently wait for the batter to capture wild yeast from the air. I’m way too controlling to subject myself to the whims of wild yeast.

Are you?

Add some salt, for flavor.

Another Fun Fact: Purists don’t add salt. Instead they rub the special giant injera pan with salt, which thereby infuses the pancake and renders the pan nonstick. Pretty cool.

Hey, that’s my sister’s hand! Hi Sister! :)

Next, splash on the water – enough to make it almost runny, somewhat closer to crêpe batter than pancake batter. I used 4 1/2 cups. Whisk together and let sit, covered, until bubbly and sour smelling – a day or two.

DAY 2 or 3

Mmm, bubbly and sour smelling… Next, pour off the blackish liquid that floated to the top of the mixture. Bleck.

Whisk the remaining batter smooth again. Smooth is good. Sigh with joy.

Next, boil a cup of water.

Ladle in a half cup of the batter and whisk continually…

…until thick and the mixture resembles toffee pudding.

Let cool until lukewarm and then whisk vigorously into the Teff batter.

This cooked mixture gives the teff batter the structure needed for the air pockets to form in the finished pancake.

Again, make sure the mixture is almost runny, between the consistency of crêpe batter and pancake batter. Add water if needed.

Let the resulting mixture rest for about 30 minutes. Wait for the bubbles to form.

Hello bubbles!

Preheat the largest nonstick pan you have over medium heat (you may need to adjust this for your stove).

Ladle the batter into the pan. Traditional Injera will be a foot and a half round! My pan was square and that looked pretty cool too.

Swirl the batter around to completely coat the pan with a thin layer.

Cover loosely with a large piece of foil, or a lid – but leave the lid cracked so steam can escape. The traditional mitad pan actually has a steam vent built in. As for me? I used foil and it worked perfectly. I just shook off the built up steam every few injera.

Cook until the surface of the injera dries out and is full of little holes. Also, when ready, the edges will curl.

Carefully Injera transfer to a towel to cool (it will stick to a plate when hot). How to transfer this widemouthed flatbread: some people use large round woven discs. Others use thin wooden peels. You can even use a combination of spatulas and flipping. Take your time and enlist help if you need to.

Once cooled, you can stack the injera as needed.

Mmm, injera!

NOTE: If your injera doesn’t produce enough holes, boil some more batter with water – to help thicken it up. Wisk it in as shown above. I’ll be tweaking this recipe when we get to Ethiopia.

Ladle with thick, spicy stews..

and tear off pieces of the injera to scoop up the stew.

Take a moment to congratulate yourself on another great voyage via stovetop travel!
Then laugh like a child as you, dish-less and silverware-less, eat with your fingers
yum…
..
..
Photos: Injera preparation photo by monaxle
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Comments

  1. Am I missing something?… Where does “Teff” flour come from?
    Also, when was “yeast ” introduced into that society…it would seem to me they would have used a more “sourdough” process sans commercial yeast….??????????????? Is’nt “yeast” redundant to the aging/sour?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Lots of questions. Ok, so as far as the fermentation – I mentioned in my post that wild yeast is caught from the air by purists – I am using commercial yeast because I don’t have time to capture wild yeast. That and the fact that I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma with a toddler climbing my leg. Simplify, simplify.

      As for Teff – it is grown in the area, as well as Ethiopia, India, South Africa etc.

      • Is it a grain? or is it a vegatable ground into flour? If a vegatable, root? or what? Perhaps a “nut” as in almond flour?

      • Teff is an ancient and intriguing grain, tiny in size yet packed with nutrition. It is simple to prepare and similar to millet or quinoa in cooking. .

        Teff is native to Ethiopia where it accounts for one quarter of the total cereal production. Not a newcomer, it is believed that teff originated in Ethiopia between 4000 BC and 1000 BC. Although it has been used in Northeast Africa for centuries, teff only became known in other parts of the world in the late 20th century when farmers began to cultivate it in Australia and the Central United States.

        There are a few different varieties of teff that vary in color from light to dark. White teff has a chestnut-like flavor while darker varieties are more earthy in flavor with a slight hazelnut taste. Historically, white teff has been the most popular (and least widely available) variety. Perhaps due to its relative scarcity, historically white teff was regarded as a status symbol. More common is red teff. Red teff is higher in iron and has been rising in popularity in recent years.

        Health Benefits of Teff:

        Teff is packed with nutrition. It is higher in protein than wheat and has a high concentration of a wide variety of nutrients, including calcium, thiamin and iron. The iron from teff is easily absorbed by the body.

        Since the grains are so small, the bulk of the grain is germ and brand. It is very high in fiber and is thought to benefit people with diabetes as it helps control blood sugar levels. Teff contains no gluten which makes it a suitable grain for celiacs or people with wheat sensitivities. Due to its nutritional content and energy enhancing properties, it has also gained favor with athletes.

        A cup of cooked teff contains 387 mg of calcium which is 40% of the U.S. recommended daily allowance (USRDA).

        Teff has twice as much iron as both wheat and barley.

        The teff grain is ground into flour and can be used as a substitute in most baking for all or part of the wheat flour.

        Teff would not work well on its own in baking that depends on gluten for its structure (such as yeast-risen bread).

        In Ethiopia, teff is fermented and used to make injera, a traditional sourdough-type flatbread.

        How to cook with Teff Flour: The properties are somewhat different than wheat flour (no gluten) so start off start off by substituting about 25% of the wheat flour in a recipe with teff flour.

        Teff Grain:

        Uncooked teff grains can be used in cooking and baking in place of other types of small grains, nuts or seeds.

        Because of its small size, make sure to use a smaller amount of teff when substituting. For example, use 1/2 cup of teff grain for 1 cup of sesame seeds.

        Teff can also be used as a thickener in soups, gravies and stews.

        Teff is often cooked as a porridge and when cooked, its stickiness allows it to easily be formed into cakes (polenta-like).

        How io cook with Teff Grains: Place 1/2 cup teff grains, 2 cups water, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove it from the heat and let it stand for about five minutes. Season with butter, salt and herbs or a sweetener such as maple syrup.

  2. Jessica Bennett says:

    I never thought about this part of your alphabetical journey. You’ll be making similar things close together (which means you’ll have fresh berbere spice for Ethiopia).

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’m excited about that too :) Trying to decide what sort of stew or main course to make with it. Perhaps something that uses the seasoned butter…

      • Jessica Bennett says:

        I almost always have it with lentils but since you did that for this week, clearly you’ll want to try something different. Looking forward to reading about whatever it is.

  3. elisa waller says:

    phew! This was amazing! I think you (we) developed a sort-of spiritual relationship with that Injera! I loved the idea of ripping pieces to grab the spiced up stew…just delicious! Next time we can make it even spicer….yum!

  4. Great post, Sasha! I’ve never heard of Teff flour before – will look out for it! Thanks..

  5. I tried to make injera a few months ago. It was really fun and interesting. Yours looks much better than mine though. I love the idea of using it to scoop food with and eating in a communal setting like they do in that part of Africa.

  6. Mmmm… Injera… Will definitely have to try this recipe!

  7. habeshen girl says:

    One suggestion…let the batter sit for atleast 24 hours. (That’s the secret!)

  8. I followed your recipe, but since it’s my first time making injera, I wasn’t sure when it smells “sour”, can it ferment too long? I waited until 3rd day. It tastes right, it has nice spongy bubbles, and the texture seems right, but there’s a white powder on top instead of being uniform brown. The edges just barely look like the brown it’s supposed to be, but the rest is covered in a white powder while the inside is still brown and normal looking. Any suggestions on cleaning up my presentation? Product of fermenting too long? Not long enough? Salt content?

    • Hi Shanda – just saw your comment. I’m not sure what the white powder is.. My instinct is that it maybe needed a little longer to ferment since you didn’t see much of the brown liquid (everything I’ve read is that that should be there to be poured off). BUT the key is for it to taste good, and if you liked it, then that’s way more than half the battle :)

      • I should have clarified, I meant the finished bread had a white powder-looking top to it (bottom side was normal brown). I poured a blackish layer of liquid off post-fermentation just as described in the recipe directions.

  9. First time I had this I described the consistency as in what those peel off (latex) masks they had on the original Mission Impossible television show!

  10. Was checking out some injera recipes when I got pointed to your website. You saved my live. I will definitely make that injera recipe of yours, just got to get my hands on some teff flours. አመሰግናለሁ :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Pancake (Injera) [Recipes] A thin sour pancake pocked with little holes and used as a plate and to scoop up thick stewed [...]

  2. [...] also used Berberé [Recipe] in the Tibs and served the meal with Injera [Recipe] … both recipes I made a couple of weeks ago for neighboring [...]

  3. [...] wat (stew) made from lamb [Recipe], chicken, lentils, or beans. Be sure to enjoy Wat with Injera [Recipe], teff pancakes that are used to scoop up the food instead of [...]

  4. [...] teff flour you most likely already know how to make injera, however if you are curious, have a look here for a method. There is a less traditional recipe for it also on ‘Good to the grain’ [...]

  5. [...] Our recipe is adapted from Laura Kelley of Silk Road Gourmet, a most wonderful author and world traveler. Serve with Injera. [...]

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