Ayib- Fresh Ethiopian Cheese

I never would have thought my introduction to cheese-making would happen when I was cooking African cuisine.  Italy or France… maybe.  Ethiopia… not so much.  But almost all the spicy recipes call for a side of cottage cheese or yogurt to help temper the heat.  Turns out, that’s a just a Western substitution for ayib, a fresh cheese that’s something of a cottage cheese-ricotta hybrid.

I’d always heard making soft cheeses was easy and I’m happy to report that the rumors are true.  All you do is boil up some milk, add lemon juice and strain the mixture and let it sit overnight.  Season with salt and pepper and you’re dunzo.  Slather it on some injera, sprinkle it on top of a spicy stew, or just sneak a bite or two.  I won’t judge.


Ayib- Fresh Ethiopian Cheese

Yield: Approximately 1-1/2 cups


* 1/2 gallon milk (8 cups or 2 quarts)
* 2/3 cup lemon juice
* salt and pepper
* chopped chives or green onion for garnish (optional)


Bring the milk to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and pour in the lemon juice. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until curds begin to form. Remove from heat.

Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth (or use a very fine sieve). Spoon the curdled milk into the sieve or collander and rinse with cold, running water to remove any lingering lemon flavor from the curds. Place over a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate and let drain for 8 hours or overnight.

Discard the liquid. Place the cheese in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Top with chives or green onion, if desired.

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10 Responses to “Ayib- Fresh Ethiopian Cheese”

  1. #
    Anonymous — November 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I worked in an Ethiopian Restaurant for some time in college, and I am loving all of these recipes! Thanks so much for reminding me how wonderful the food was!


  2. #
    Anonymous — November 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Very interesting- Like that it's so simple- Going to try making some-


  3. #
    Michael @ Herbivoracious.com — November 22, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Oh, that looks great… I wonder if that is what is on top of the ful medamas I get at my favorite Ethio place. I had thought it was something like feta. Though I don't taste a lemony flavor. Does the ayib taste much of lemon or more plain dairy?


  4. #
    CATE — November 22, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Anon 1- I've actually never been to an Ethiopian restaurant before! There aren't any in Hawaii or where I grew up. Although I heard that there's a new pop-up restaurant in Honolulu.. I'll have to check it out!

    Anon 2- hope you like it :)

    Michael- it tastes of plain dairy. The lemon is just a curdling agent and when you rinse it after putting it in the sieve it gets rid of the lemon taste.


  5. #
    Julia — November 23, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Do you drain it overnight in the fridge or is it ok to hang out on the counter?


  6. #
    Anonymous — November 23, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    This cheese is found in many cultures, under many names. It's definitely the easiest, but once you start making other soft cheeses, you probably won't bother with it, unless you're in a hurry.


  7. #
    CATE — November 24, 2011 at 5:33 am

    Julia- oops forgot to mention that it should be put in the fridge… I'll make the edit now.

    Anon- if this is an inferior cheese than I can't wait to see what the other fresh, homemade soft cheeses taste like!


  8. #
    Shannon- — March 5, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Just found this – want an easier way and sooooo tasty way to make this? pour buttermilk in a pan. heat on low. let it all separate. filter/separate liquid from cheese. add a little salt if you want. eat. yum.


    • CATE — March 5th, 2012 @ 1:06 am

      Interesting… I actually just bought some buttermilk yesterday- I'll have to give it a try :)


  9. #
    Hewan A. — December 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    If you want the authentic test of Ethiopian Ayib you have to use 1/2 gallon butter milk with one cup whole milk and touch of Rue herb.


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