Addis Red Sea: Gluten Free Ethiopian Food

For my birthday Jeremy took me to Addis Red Sea in the South End. Offering authentic Ethiopian fare, Addis Red Sea specializes in delicious cuisine that “actually reflects true Ethiopian culture.”Â

Stepping into the dimly lit dining room, we felt like we had entered another world. Colorful tapestries and rugs were scattered throughout the room, and displays of traditional Ethiopian décor and photographs lined the walls.

We sat on wooden stools around a low wicker table called a mesob. Whatever you order – the spicy vegetable and chicken wats (stews), chopped salads, the sautéed tibs of lamb and beef – is served on one family-style platter with injera; a traditional Ethiopian bread. While each guests ordered his or her own entrée, the meals are collectively served on one communal platter.  You won’t find any silverware or plates here, as the injera is your untensil. Injera is the hallmark of Ethiopian food. Everything is served on this bread; from the appetizers and salads, to the main dishes. Injera is made from teff flour, an iron-rich, gluten free grain that grows in Ethiopia. At Addis Red Sea, you can request the gluten free injera for extra $5. This is the true injera; dark in color, and made from 100% fermented teff flour. The lighter version you will see many of the other diners eating is a combination of wheat and barely (because it is cheaper to do it this way).

Tip: Call ahead, especially on busy nights, to make sure that the gluten free injera is available.

To eat, you leisurely tear small pieces of injera, and use the porous bread to pinch bite-size servings of your meal. The best part is scooping up and devouring the sauce-soaked injera that also serves as your plate. Injera has a sour, nutty taste and spongy texture.

Addis Red Sea’s diverse menu offers many types of dishes, including chicken, beef, lamb and fish, as well as many vegetarian and vegan meals. Most importantly, many of the menu options are gluten free. With the expectation of a few appetizers, gluten is not present in many of the dishes.

Our meal began with a hot cloth so we could wash our hands and two glasses of Ethiopian red wine. We tried the Gouder, a medium bodied slight dry red. I enjoyed the wine and it was similar to merlot—not as exotic or different tasting as I was expecting! We shared two appetizers. First we tried Ye-Miser Salata; a warm lentil salad with onions, green peppers and herbs. It had such rich flavor and a hearty texture.

Next we tried Dibulbul Tips; stir-fried marinated ground beef mixed with onions, green peppers, and herbs. The description was misleading, it was not a stir-fry, it was actually a beef patty. The patties were small, dry and not very flavorful. I would not recommend ordering this one. For our entrees we shared the Atakilt, made with mixed vegetables—green beans, potatoes, carrots and onions – and sautéed in a blend of exotic herbs. The assortment of herbs and spices in this dish were subtle and mild, but nonetheless incredibly flavorful. For our second entrée we ordered Yegeb Alcha; lamb simmered in a mild sauce of butter, onion, ginger, and tumeric. The meat was incredibly tender and savory. This dish was on the spicer side, but was absolutely delicious.

The food here is simple, but not bland, and there is nothing pretentious about Addis Red Sea. It’s a great place to go and share a meal with friends or family.  Right now, there is a Groupon Deal, half off dinner for two or four including one appetizer and one entrée per person. Get it before it’s gone!

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Jessica I've been on a gluten free diet since January 2009. It's been an adventure, and a challenge at times. I love to go to new restaurants and try new foods, and being gluten free can make eating out difficult at times. But I will not let my dietary restrictions get in my way of finding new restaurants and products. These are my stories of being a young women in a big city, eating out and trying new foods, all while NOT eating gluten. Like I said, it's an adventure and you are welcome to come along... Please note that as I try to eat gluten free 100% of the time, my intolerance is not as severe as others so please use caution when dining at restaurants that are not certified gluten free.

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