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Ethiopian Passion Berry Pepper (Ruta Chalepensis)

How to use Ethiopian passion berry? Click here to find out what it is, what it tastes like and also how to use it in Ethiopian recipes!

Ethiopian passion berry pepper piled in a little bowl
clsoe up shot of the Ethiopian passion berry

Ethiopian passionfruit berry pepper piled in a little bowl
Ethiopian passion berry

Ethiopian Passion Berry is an interesting little spice with lemony and slightly bitter flavours.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

What is Ethiopian Passion Berry?

Ethiopian passion berry is the fruit of Ruta Chalepensis, a plant that is native to North Africa and certain parts of the Mediterranean. But it has long been considered a local in many parts of the world, including Ethiopia.

A member of the citrus family, the passion berry plant is a small bush, not growing taller nor wider than a metre (just over 3 feet). It’s a very pretty looking plant though, with bright clusters of flowers on each stem.

These passion berry flowers are bright yellow, with 4 fringed petals on each flower. In Ethiopia, the whole plant is consumed, from the stems to the petals to the fruit.

But for the purposes of today’s post, it is the fruit that we are talking about. The 4 lobed thing in the middle you see? That’s the passion berry or passion pepper.

ethiopian passiofruit berry plant, ruta chalepensis with bright yellow flowers
Ethiopian passion berry plant, ruta chalepensis (source: WikiCommons)

Aroma and Flavour

These Ethiopian passion berries have a very strong aroma of passionfruit, hence their name. But to my nose, there is also a hint of floral tea, in the background.

As far as flavour goes, passion berries are lemony, a little sweet and fruity with a slightly bitter aftertaste. There is also a slightly similarity to Sichuan peppercorns in flavour, without the tingly sensation.

the passion berry fruit when fresh

How to use Ethiopian Passion Berries?

Ethiopian passion berries are a traditional ingredient in the Ethiopian kitchen. It is an important part of Berbere, that fiery Ethiopian spice mix used in so many recipes.

You can also think outside the box for this little berry pepper.

Its lemony flavour makes it a great spice for seafood. Crush it with a pestle and mortar and use it in a marinade, in a sauce or even just sprinkle it over your finished fish, prawns or any other seafood.

They also make a great ingredient in salad dressings and sauces.

I think these Ethiopian passion berries are also wonderful in desserts for just that little bit of exotic flavouring. Think pears poached in white wine, the plain old ice cream and cheesecakes!

the dry passion berry

Where to buy Ruta Chalepensis?

Here in the UK, and I would say the same goes for the US and Australia, your best bet is to go online. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have an Ethiopian store nearby!

Do a Google search for Ethiopian Passion Berry or Ruta Chalepensis, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the number of suppliers! Unfortunately, this time, I don’t have an Amazon affiliate link for it!

How to store?

The same way you would any of your spices. In an airtight container in a pantry, cupboard or spice cabinet. The flavour and aroma will decrease over time, as with any spice you have.

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading this. Let me know if you manage to get hold of it, and how you use it.

Ethiopian passion berry pepper piled in a little bowl
  • 1 pestle and mortar

  • 1 OR spice mill

  • 1 Tbsp Ethiopian passion berry

As a Garnish

  • To use a s a garnish, it’s best to grind your passion berries to a fine state. A spice mill would be great for this but pestle and mortar will work too.Then sprinkle over your dessert, salad or whatever you may want to finish off.

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