Spicy Berbere Roast Chicken

Guys, if we’re going to be friends, there’s something you need to know. A few things, probably, like my tendency to interrupt myself, but we’ll start with this: I’m a locavore, and I like to eat organic when I can.

I know, right? Ugh.

You can’t be all that surprised about the local part. This blog is called Made from PA. And the organic part…well, I’ve just read a little too much about the food industry.

But but BUT — I swear to you I’ll try not to be preachy about it. Or at least, I’ll try to tone down the preach to non-denominational levels. I’ll just judge you quietly instead.

Berbere roast chicken with Misr Wat, an Ethiopian lentil dish.

Berbere roast chicken with Misr Wat, an Ethiopian lentil dish

Given my local, organic tendencies, it was easy for me to decide what ingredient to feature first here at Made from PA. A whole roast chicken from my meat CSA, North Mountain Pastures. North Mountain is a perfect example of why I feel so lucky to live where I do, with easy access to one of the only meat CSAs that I’m aware of.

(A quick aside for my friends who aren’t familiar with the whole Community Supported Agriculture thing: check out the info at www.localharvest.org, then sign up for one before spring. If you live by me, sign up for Piney Mountain Orchard. You’ll love it, I promise.)

North Mountain Pastures is an 84-acre farm run by a couple, Brooks and Anna, just outside Newport, PA. I adore them. The chickens, cows, pigs and sheep they raise are grass-fed and have permanent access to pastures. I will keep my soap boxing short, but I really enjoy knowing that the majority of the meat cooked in my house is from animals that were raised in a way where they could act naturally, weren’t pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, and were killed humanely when it was time for slaughter.

Beautifully browned Berbere roast chicken, in the roasting pan

The Berbere rub leads to a nice dark skin on the roast chicken.

Even more than that, I love personally knowing the farmers that are raising the meat I eat. When I pick up my 12 pound mix of beef, chicken, pork and lamb once a month, it’s usually Anna handing it to me. I’ve even had Brooks occasionally apologize that our meat wasn’t frozen yet because it was just butchered that morning. I mean…really? How cool is that?! (Other than being kind of gross if I think about it too hard, so let’s not do that.)

Starting this blog with something from North Mountain was obvious. I’m pretty well smitten with them. (The fact that Brooks is totally cute has nothing to do with that, I swear.) Chicken was obvious, as well. We eat a variety of meats in my house, but I gotta be honest – we eat a LOT of chicken. Every month, we get at least one whole chicken from North Mountain, so there we go.

Doing Ethiopian Berbere roast chicken? Not much reason to that other than that I’d just picked up a new jar of Berbere spice from Penzeys, and figured it would be fun to roast a chicken with a rub including the Berbere. I was right. Spicy and tasty without hiding the good chicken flavor.

Ingredients for the rub for the Berbere roast chicken are Berbere seasoning, ginger, garlic and butter.

Berbere, ginger, garlic and butter go into the rub.

After I decided on Berbere, I went on a trip to my local farmer’s market where I scored some purple carrots, some ingredients to make Misr Wat, and I was all set. Misr Wat is an Ethiopian lentil dish, and I’ll have the recipe for that posted soon.

I picked up the purple carrots because they seemed pretty nifty, and I’d never cooked with them before. The joys of a local farmer’s market! Don’t worry, you can use regular carrots if you can’t find purple ones.

The chicken roasts with purple carrots, onion and lemon.

Purple carrots are fun, but using regular carrots will work fine too.

One final thing — Berbere is HOT. Particularly the Berbere seasoning I used from Pensey’s. If you don’t like heat, reduce the amount of Berbere in the rub.

Let’s get cooking!

Berbere Roast Chicken

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Not your average roast chicken! A spicy and exotic roast chicken using Berbere seasoning, an Ethiopian spice mixture containing cayenne, fenugreek, cardamom and more.


  • 1 small whole chicken (about 3 lbs.), rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1" piece of ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons Berbere seasoning*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 small onions, quartered
  • 2 large purple carrots, peeled and cut into 1" chunks (use 3 orange carrots if you can't find purple)
  • *Berbere is hot, so feel free to use less if you don't like a lot of heat


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, Berbere, salt and butter to form a paste.
  3. Use your fingers to gently separate the skin from the meat of the chicken (aim for breasts, legs, and thighs). Again using your fingers, rub seasoning paste under the skin, getting the meat good and covered. Rub any extra paste over the chicken skin or inside the cavity.
  4. Place the lemon quarters and the bunch of cilantro inside the chicken's cavity. Fold the chicken's wings up and over its shoulders, tucking the wing tips beneath the back, and tie the legs together at their ends. Or do whatever fancy truss technique you prefer.
  5. Place onion quarters and carrot pieces into the bottom of a roasting pan. Place chicken, breast-side up, over onion and carrot.
  6. Put your chicken in the oven and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 300 degrees and roast another 40-50 minutes until your chicken's skin is golden and the thigh meat has reached a temperature of 165 degrees.
  7. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

What is Made From PA?

Made From PA is a blog dedicated to exploring and experimenting with Pennsylvania ingredients. It's about sharing the awesomeness of my home state of Pennsylvania. It combines a passion for cooking and cocktails with an intense love for the commonwealth. Each recipe stars one (or more!) featured ingredient grown or made in PA.

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