Ethiopian Sambussa -- Healthy Baked Cousins Of Samosas With Phyllo Dough!

Foodista Cookbook Entry

Category: Cocktails & Appetizers | Blog URL:

This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.


1 phyllo dough sheet per sambussa (frozen, thawed for a few hours) - I made 4
olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped onions
1 teaspoon berbere spice mix (see recipe below)
juice of 1lime
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger (or fresh grated)
To make berbere spice mix:
1/4 cup dried red chilis - de-seeded for hot chilis
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all-spice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppers
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried sacred basil powder (optional)


Berbere spice mix: Grind all the ingredients together in a coffee or spice grinder.
To make sambussa:
Step by step photo instruction on my blog entry)
Prepare the filling:
Cook lentils per package direction. After they are cooked, mash them slightly with a fork. Add onions, berbere, ginger powder, lime juice and salt. Mix well. Adjust the spices per taste. Set aside.
Prepare the phyllo dough:
Spread out one phyllo dough sheet on your kitchen countertop. Brush the insides with olive oil using a kitchen brush or your fingers.
Carefully fold the sheet in one third. Phyllo is very flaky and tears easily so be very careful when pressing it into thirds. Brush the one-third side facing you with a bit of olive oil (particularly the edges).
Add 2 spoonful of filing an inch away from the edges.
Fold the phyllo in triangles until you reach the end of the sheet.
Continue folding until you reach the end of the sheet. If the filling starts to ooze out a bit, try to tuck it in and fill less the next time. When you reach towards the end, brush a bit of olive oil to the last fold and tuck the ends in.
Spread the sambussas on a baking sheet.
Bake in a pre-heated 375F oven on upper third rack for 35mins or so until the tops are golden brown.
Serving suggestion:
I served these with a simple tamarind chutney (tamarind concentrate + water + sugar + salt + chili powder). You can also serve with a green chutney.




Helen Pitlick's picture

Wow- sambussas look amazing! I have a box of phyllo dough in my freezer that has just been waiting for a worthy use. Thanks for sharing the deliciousness!

ChefPriyanka's picture

yummy! so Indian-like!


Don't you find it very interesting how two objects in two vastly different cultures still have such similar names! Origin of the words or its etymology as its called has always fascinated me. Particularly for words that were derived centuries ago when the means of sharing/communication about cuisines, spices and techniques was so limited (not like today where one can post a new ingredient and the rest of the world gets to know about it right then and there, thanks to the ever-spreading world-wide web!)

So when I visited a local Ethiopian restaurant a year or so ago and saw an appetizer named 'Sambussa' with the description of 'thin dough shell stuffed with lentils and spices" I was pretty sure that this was a variation of Indian samosas. A quick peek at wiki told me that the name samosa derives from the Persian name 'sanbosag' (having to do something with the crescent shape apparently) and from their many cultures have their own variation of a stuffed fried dough filled with spicy vegetables/meats with similar names such as sanbusak in Arab, samsa in Turkic nations, samosas in south-east asia and sambussa in Ethiopian/Somali regions.

Sambussa is an Ethiopian/Somali appetizer cousin of our samosas. Thin flaky dough crust is stuffed with lentils, onions, ginger and Ethiopian spices and then fried till golden brown. What I have here is a healthy take on it where I have used phyllo dough as the wrapper and baked it instead of frying it. You know I am liking phyllo dough (that of baklava, spanakopita fame!) more and more as I cook with it!

The filling was cooked lentils with the berbere spice mix that I had prepared earlier here. The sambussas were then baked till golden brown instead of deep fried. The results: absolutely did not miss the fried part! I'll surely be making more samosas (and sambussa) with baked phylo dough from now on!

You can tune the spices and the filling to your liking.. make it like regular samosas with potatoes, peas, cumin, coriander, chili powder or use the traditional lentil filling but instead of berbere use a mixture of garam masala, cumin, coriander, chili, paprika powder.. in essence go wild with whatever suits your fancy for the day!


4 sambussas


Friday, February 26, 2010 - 9:49pm


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