How to Make Authentic Injera

What is Injera? ጤፍ | Teff

Injera is a traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean flatbread made using the flour from Teff grain. Teff has a symbiotic relationship with yeast, which allows the flour to be used as a starter, or in Amharic “Ersho,” without yeast additives. Many renditions of this simple starter use yeast, baking powder, mineral water, or even beer to speed up the process or enhance the results. Below is the traditional method using just water and Maskal Teff® flour.

Teff Buddha Bowl

እርሾ | Ersho | Starter

The injera fermentation process is very similar to that of sourdough and requires a starter (ersho) to be created approximately three days before mixing the batter. This time frame is an average and may differ depending on location and ambient temperatures. We suggest using a clear container when making the injera starter for the first time to observe the daily changes. Use our guide below to determine your starter’s peak readiness to get your starter to the desired stage.

What You Will Need

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (47g) Maskal Teff® flour
  • 1 cup (237g) lukewarm or room-temperature water

Materials

  • Medium-sized, non-reactive container with lid – preferably clear and a wide opening for easy access
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cup or scale
  • Spoon

Directions

Day 1:

  1. Open the container. You should see a foam film on the top, as well as a layer of murky water above the settled flour.
  2. Discard the murky water layer and stir the starter, making sure it is thoroughly combined.
  3. Your starter is now ready to use!
  4. To store, add water (about 1/3 cup for this ratio) and store it in the refrigerator.

Approximately 3 Days Later:

  1. Combine 1/2 cup of Teff flour with 1 cup of room temperature water in a container. (see tips for increasing or decreasing quantity of starter.)  
  2. Whisk until there are no clumps of flour and ingredients are thoroughly combined. You should see a thin foam film develop on the top.
  3. Seal the container store in a dark, dry room at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer the room, the faster your starter will ferment. 
  4. Observe fermentation throughout the next three days, but do not touch or disturb the container.

When is the Injera Starter Ready?

እንጀራ | injera

Your starter is ready to use when:

  • The dough is at its highest level of activity. If you nudge your starter, little air pockets should shoot up to the top.
  • The water has separated, and foam has gathered on the very top.

Part 1: ሊጥ| Leet | Batter

What You Will Need

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (237g) starter
  • 3 cups (564g) Maskal Teff® flour
  • 4 cups (946g) lukewarm water

Materials

  • Large sealable container 
  • Measuring cup or scale 
  • Mixer (or use hands)

What You Will Need

  1. In a large sealable container (we suggest clear for the first time), mix the starter with the flour. You can also mix in a large bowl and then transfer to a sealable container. 
  2. Gradually pour water a cup at a time 1.5-2 cups of water while mixing either by hand or with a mixer. You may not need the full 4 cups as you want the dough to be a thick consistency.
  3. Knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes, until it is very thick but smooth. 
  4. Press the doughy batter into the bottom of the container. 
  5. Use the remaining cups of water to clean off the container’s sides and sit over the settled dough. There should be a thick layer of murky water.
  6. Put a tight lid on the container and store in a dry place at room temperature for 1-3 days based on desired sourness (one day being less sour and three days being very acidic).
Dough + Water

Past 2: አብሲት | Absit | Gelatinization

What is Absit?

Absit is the gelatinization process, and one of the many steps that create the right texture, characteristics, and bubble formation (eyes) in injera. In gelatinization, starches are hydrated to produce a gel-like texture. Some of the starches are also broken down by the heat to produce simple sugars, additional food for the microbes in the batter. 

After several days of fermentation, a small amount of batter is removed (or you may use raw flour) and cooked for several minutes in hot water. The mixture will thicken into a pudding-like consistency. Add it back to the main fermented batter after it cools and then make the injera in the next few hours or up to a day later.

What You Will Need

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (237g) water
  • 1/2 cup (227g) batter
  • 1-2 cups (237g-473g) of room temperature water

Materials

  • Saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cup or scale

Directions

  1. After 1-3 days, open the container with the batter and discard the water at the top. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Bring the water to a boil then turn the heat down to a medium-low. Add about 1 cup of batter to the water while whisking to avoid clumping. Then turn heat back to medium-high to bring mixture to a boil.
  3. Once it has bubbled, add the mixture into the batter and dilute with 1-2 additional cups of water until desired consistency is reached. The batter should be thick enough to lightly coat the spoon but not so thick that you cannot see the spoon.
  4. Ensure the batter is the right consistency as no pure water can be added after the final fermentation is complete.
  5. Seal with the lid and leave until small bubbles form towards the surface, anywhere from 1-4 hours. We have found 2 hours in the fridge works well. 

Past 3: አብሲት | Injera megager | Baking Injera

What You Will Need

Ingredients

  • Prepared injera batter

Materials

  • Mitad or flat frying pan (non-stick or add oil prior cooking and as needed).
  • Ladle
  • Measuring cup or anything you can pour from easily
  • Flat mat (Meshrefet) for lifting injera
  • A plastic or parchment paper covered placemat

Directions

  • Once the small bubbles develop, your batter is now ready to cook. Remove any water that has separated and set aside to add back if needed for desired consistency. Do not add pure water, as you will dilute the fermentation. (Don’t want to cook injera right away? Check out our tip)
  • Heat your non-stick cooking surface to medium-high. If using a 16″ Wass Mitad/Mogago, we have found 215°F work well. Some, however, prefer 350°F so just test your cooking surface until you find the right temperature for you.
  • For the first injera, use less batter to check the bubble formation aka “eyes”–about 500ml-600ml of the batter is equal to 1 large 16” injera.
  • Once about 80% of the eyes have formed, cover with a lid.
  • Remove lid once steam starts to develop. The edges of the injera should have started lifting off the cooking surface.
  • Slide a thin mat under the injera and use it to lift the injera from the grill.
  • We suggest using parchment paper or a plastic surface to help the injera cool. Wait for the injera to cool down entirely before stacking to avoid sticking.
  • Top with desired stews and enjoy!

25 Tips and Tricks to Make the Best Injera

Equipment and Ingredients advice:

The process of fermentation is heavily affected by the environment. Temperature, sun exposure and even atmospheric pressure can affect the rate of fermentation. An additional benefit of using clear containers is ability to observe the changes occurring during the process and adjust as needed for your specific environment.

It is best to use distilled, filtered, or purified water for the most consistent results. Different minerals like chlorine found in tap water can sometimes offset the fermentation process. If you do not have access to purified water, and your starter is not reacting properly you can leave a glass container filled with tap water on the counter for about 24 hours days to oxidize and try again. This helps to evaporate chlorine from the water.

Either is excellent, some use both.

Yes and no.  However, cling wrap secured with a rubber band works just fine. The more you contain the carbon dioxide byproduct, the more active your batter will be and will help create a porous injera. When using glass containers, we recommend using cling wrap or a large enough container to allow the dough to expand as you do not want the pressure to shatter your container.

Use a non-reactive storage container, like food safe plastic or glass container for best results. Metals such as aluminum, cast iron, and copper can cause reactions to occur during fermentation and make the process more difficult. It is also best to have a container with a wide enough opening for easy access for cleaning and replacing water, as necessary. Having it be clear, especially when making injera for the first time, is helpful. It needs to have a tight-fitting lid or the ability to be sealed to keep the bacteria and moisture contained.

A small glass or plastic jar with a lid work perfectly for storing your starter. Glass or food safe plastic are the best for decreasing the chance of unwanted reactions to occur. Having a clear container can also help you assess the health of your starter without too much manipulation.

Fermentation is a chemical process where microorganisms break down sugars, generate heat, and releases gas bubbles, giving injera the tangy flavor similar to sourdough. It is a byproduct of depriving cells of oxygen. Bacteria and yeast not only thrive but produce energy in this environment. The organisms feed on sugar (glucose) and turn it into energy. Thus, when you do not feed the batter, the bacteria run out of sugars to digest and start to die, or alter their metabolism, which can cause the starter to turn dark or develop unusual aromas.
Alcohol is one of the byproducts of the process. That is why starters often have a strong acidic smell. The alcohol created during this process evaporates when the food is cooked but still gives it a robust and tart flavor.
Another byproduct is carbon dioxide (C02), which helps the batter grow during fermentation and rise when baking traditional bread in the oven.
The fermentation process is tricky. The environment needs to be just right for growing cultures to perform a series of reactions, making it challenging to recreate consistently. A controlled environment helps guarantee the best results.

Starter:

This recipe can easily be adjusted to produce different starter amounts as long as the water to Teff flour ratio is 2:1.

Keep in mind the room temperature, which should be between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If the place you plan to store the starter tends to be colder, use warmer water (80-95 Fahrenheit). If the room tends to be hotter, use colder water (62-66 Fahrenheit).

On average an injera starter should be at it’s highest level of activity around 3 day after initially being mixed together. However, many factors can speed up or slow down the process. Therefore, we suggest a clear container so that you can observe without disturbing the process. You can use visual cue guide to better determine the perfect activity level of your starter.

Refrigeration slows down the microbes and lessens their need to be fed. However, do not neglect your starter. If you do not make injera frequently, be sure to add teff flour periodically to maintain a healthy culture.

Starter should be discarded if it was placed in direct heat/sunlight for a prolonged amount of time. The visual cues your starter needs to be thrown away are orange or pink growth, which signifies mold growth. If there is no activity and thick chunks are floating, that means you have overheated the starter and it is best to start over.

If the starter does not seem active enough it is most likely because it is past the optimal fermentation stage and the bacteria has started to run out of food. as needed to return to the appropriate consistency and mix well. Leave in room temperature for up to a day and proceed to use.

Dough:

After mixing and kneading the dough it should lift off the sides of the container with ease. You should also be able to press it down without getting too much residue on your hands. The thicker the dough the less chance there is of it absorbing too much water.

There is not an exact answer to this; however, you want it to be enough that you can discard the water to get rid of some of the sourness. The water should cover the entire surface of the dough and be at least an inch to three inches thick depending on the amount of injera dough.

You want to limit the amount of mold that grows in your container, for flavor, smell, and overall proper fermentation. Washing down the sides with water or placing the dough in a different container to store than the one used to mix can help decrease the amount of residue on the sides of the container.

There are a couple of ways to control how sour your injera gets while it is fermenting:

  • After mixing starter with teff flour, only wait 24 hours before continuing with the process. The less time it is sitting with the starter the less sour the batter will be and vice versa.
  • You can also discard the top water every day to help get rid of the acidity in the container.

Absit/Gelatinization:

After mixing and kneading the dough it should lift off the sides of the container with ease. You should also be able to press it down without getting too much residue on your hands. The thicker the dough the less chance there is of it absorbing too much water.

There is not an exact answer to this; however, you want it to be enough that you can discard the water to get rid of some of the sourness. The water should cover the entire surface of the dough and be at least an inch to three inches thick depending on the amount of injera dough.

Although we don’t suggest it, if you do not mind adding a few additional ingredients into your injera recipe you can easier mimic the results achieved with absit. Here ae a couple of alternatives:

  • Baking Soda – adding about 1-2 tbs of baking soda right before cooking the injera will help achieve a similar bubble formation on the injera. You will want to do this after diluting the dough into a batter with water and letting it ferment overnight. After adding the baking soda whisk well until batter gets foamy and proceed to make injera immediately. If you wait after adding the baking soda, the gas will dissipate and it will not work.
  • Mineral Water – After your dough has fermented, dilute to optimal consistency by adding mineral water instead of pure water. The bubbles will help the injera develop pores. Make immediately after mixing for best results, once the batter goes flat the pores will no longer develop.

Batter

A good way to measure consistency is by looking at the back of the ladle after taking it out of the batter. It should be thick enough to coat but thin enough that you can see the ladle. If you make it too thin, the edges of the injera are crispy, and if it is too thick the injera will be doughy. If you add too much water, you can place the batter in the fridge and increase the rate at which the batter and the water separate. This usually takes 2-4 hours. After you remove it from the fridge remove the all the water into a separate cup and set aside. Mix the batter and add the water back in as needed.

If you miscalculate the readiness of the batter it might not be active enough or it may be too strong. However, you do not need to throw away the batter. 

  • If the batter smells fermented but not too acidic, add 1-2tps of baking soda, mix well and cook normally
  • If the batter smells too acidic and sulfuric try adding 1-2 cups of teff flour and mix well. Add water as needed and let it ferment overnight.
  • If you are at the cooking stage but the batter is still too thick, add mineral water to dilute. This will not interfere with the activity of the batter. Then proceed to cook as you would normally.

Injera

Make sure you plan on making the injera 4-8 hours after you pour in the absit. If you do not think you will make injera right away, you can store in the fridge overnight. However, if the batter is not active when you are ready to make the injera you may need to add baking soda to reactivate your batter.

Injera cracking is often due to an absit issue. Since 100% teff injera is gluten free absit is needed to help the teff flour bind together and create a soft texture. If your absit to batter ratio is off, then the yeast will not have enough sugars to consume and the batter will not adhere properly when cooked. Take note of this and adjust as you continue to make new batches. You can always troubleshoot by adding baking soda or changing the temperature you cook the injera at. Make small test injeras in increments (every 50 degrees Fahrenheit) to learn how your heating surface performs.

Injera show visual cues of spoilage like most breads. If white spots start to appear it means the injera is no longer good for consumption. This can start to happen if kept uncovered for 1-2 days, especially in warmer environments. It is best to store any injera you do not plan on eating immediately in the fridge or freezer, depending on how long you want to keep it. Keeping injera in a Zip loc or large plastic bag can help keep the moisture and keep it from getting hard.

  • Sprinkling a pinch or two of salt on the mitad or non-stick cooking surface and wiping it in a circular motion with paper towel, can help distribute the heat evenly.
  • The bate may be too thin. Adding too much water to the batter will make it too wet and cause it to stick to the cooking surface.
  • Make sure the cooking surface is hot enough and you are cooking the injera until the edges have started to lift.
  • You might be taking off the cover too quickly There is not a specific time frame for this, but you should see a good amount of steam escaping from the sides of the cover before removing it.