Ethiopian Zigni with a Twist

Traditionally, zigni is made with just a few ingredients: tomatoes, lamb, onion, garlic, and berbere spice served over rice. This version lightens the recipe up with zucchini spirals and pomegranate seeds. It is a great dish to serve when the nights are still chilly, but the days are warming up, and winter turns to spring.

The berbere spice makes this recipe. It is deliciously spicy but a little tough to find. Look to specialty or online markets. If you prefer a vegetarian version of this dish, you can substitute black lentils for the lamb.

By / Photography By Corey Lynn Tucker | March 01, 2017


Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil and 4 chopped garlic cloves, then roast mixture in oven at 400° until browned (about 45 min.). When cool, puree in a blender or food processor.

Sauté chopped onion in a stew pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When onions are soft, add tomato puree and the berbere spice. (The berbere is spicy, so start with a small amount. You can add more later.) If this mixture is too thick, it can be thinned by adding a small amount of water.

Add lamb and simmer until meat is tender (about 90 min.). Sample for spiciness and add more berbere, to taste. Add in roasted squash pieces and peas. Mix well.

When ready to serve, lightly sauté zucchini spirals with remaining 4 chopped garlic cloves. Serve the stew on top of zucchini and garnish with pomegranate seeds.


  • 4 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons berbere spice
  • 4 cups roasted butternut squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups green peas
  • 4 zucchinis, cut into spiral “noodles”
  • Olive oil
  • Sprinkle of pomegranate seeds for garnish
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