Genfo - Porridge

Recipe - Collected from: ( (See below)

Story - Ethiopian Postpartum Practices - Collected from: ( (See below.)

Video - Ethiopian Mothers Are Supported for 40 Days - Collected from BBC 10/7/2018 (



2 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp of Kibe (clarified butter) or 1/4 cup oil

1 tsp berbere

1 tsp salt

3 cups water


1. Pour 3 cups of water in a pot and add a teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil on medium heat. 

2. Slowly stir in flour to boiling water.  Mixture will start to thicken significantly.

3. Continue to stir vigorously and to add small amount of water to the side of the pot to prevent sticking and burning.

4. Continue to add water and to stir for another 4-5 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

5. Remove the Genfo or Ethiopian porridge from the heat.

6. Add oil or melted butter into a serving bowl and scoop the hot genfo into the bowl.

7. Swerve bowl side to side to allow the genfo to form into a round ball.

8. Make a well at the center of the genfo with the back of a spoon.

9. Add clarified butter or oil into the central well, then mix in berbere well while the genfo is still hot.

10. Serve the genfo immediately.

nutritionist’s comments

Contributor: Irene Lee

 Nutritional value & potential benefits:

Warm and fragrant, this dish will help a mother gain back her strength and recover quickly.

1.     Flour - makes up the bulk of this recipe, and provides lots of carbohydrates for energy.

2.     Clarified butter or oil - provide fats, which are important for storing energy and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. 

3.     Berbere - is a blend of various spices with multiple nutritious compounds. For example, chili peppers are rich in vitamins A and C, and fenugreek is rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin), iron, and copper (1).

 Mindful Modifications

1.     Instead of regular white flour, feel free to substitute or mix with barley flour or whole wheat flour. For gluten-free options, use teff flour or cornmeal. 

2.     When choosing what oils to use in cooking, keep in mind that certain oils are deemed more heart-healthy. These include corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oil (2). 

3.     This is an energy-packed dish to provide much-needed calories for recovery. If weight gain is a concern, enjoy in moderation. 




Ethiopian mother in white.jpeg

Ethiopian Postpartum Practices in U.S.

Collected from: (



The mother rests in the house for 40 days after the birth. She is usually separated from her husband and is sexually inactive during this period. The husband, family, friends and neighbors are in charge of making sure that there is sufficient food and comfort for the mother during this time. In the U.S. this period devoted to the mother's rest usually cannot be observed due to work and lack of community and family support.

In some regions, mothers are encouraged to take cold showers after giving birth, as it is believed to help strengthen the body and aid the healing process.


After birth, a thick, hot porridge called genfo is eaten by the new mother. It is believed to help her gain back strength and heal quickly. Friends and family make the genfo. It is made with barley, whole wheat flour, and spiced ghee (clarified butter). A drink made with flax seed, oats, and honey is also given to the mother. This drink is believed to produce breast milk quickly and help with constipation resulting from pregnancy.


On either the seventh or the twelfth day, depending on the region, the mother and child go outside to be in the sun. This is done for the baby's health. Neighbors come on this day to clean the house. In preparation for this day, the mother is pampered. She is given beautiful clothes, is decorated with henna, is fed special food, and is seated in a special chair. Her husband may bring her gifts.

A son is also circumcised on either the seventh day or the twelfth day, depending on the region. If the family is Christian, a priest blesses the child with holy water. If the child is a boy, he is christened at 40 days. If the child is a girl, she is christened at 80 days.

At one time, circumcision for boys and girls was mandatory for health, religious, and cultural reasons. Female circumcision is phasing out as people become educated about its negative health effects. Circumcision for males is available in U.S. hospitals. Ethiopian families understand that in the U.S., only boys get circumcised (with parental consent), but not girls.


The child sleeps either in a crib by the mother's side or in bed with her, but the child is always in the same room during the 40-day resting period. During this period, new mothers are never left alone. They are watched carefully to protect them from the “evil eye.”

New mothers are taught how to care for their babies by their mothers and the elder ladies.

Breastfeeding is much more common than bottle feeding, especially in rural areas. Almost all rural mothers breastfeed, and special attention is given to the mother's diet as it is understood that a malnourished mother may not produce enough milk. Most women breastfeed until they are ready to have another child or until the child is two to three years old.

In urban areas, there has been a gradual preference for bottle feeding because most women are working mothers. It is rumored that formula may be healthier for the baby. In rural areas, some babies are given the herb, fenugreek, and in the cities, some are given chamomile tea to cleanse their stomachs because it is believed that when a baby cries, he or she may be having stomach problems. Babies are introduced to solid food about six months of age.

In the U.S., breastfeeding in public with the breast covered is an accepted practice. Often women cannot breastfeed as long as they would like due to changes in lifestyle (e.g., a mother who works outside the home may be apart more often from her baby). Formula supplementation is common when mothers continue to breastfeed for the first year of life and transition to the cup in the second year.

In Ethiopia, the baby's body is massaged with lotion, baby oil, or butter (rural areas). In rural areas, babies are normally carried on their mothers' backs in a leather or cotton wrap.