Labaneh Balls with Nigella Seeds

By / Food / June 4th, 2024 / Like

Excerpted with permission from Bethlehem by Fadi Kattan, published by ‎Hardie Grant Publishing, May 2024, RRP $40.00 Hardcover.


Essential to Palestinian breakfasts is labaneh (strained and seasoned yoghurt). There are many different kinds of labaneh but only two ways to enjoy it. Either you have it in its fresh form, which is acidic, creamy, rich, and fluffy, or you have it dried into balls. These balls are usually plain, but they can also be served coated with green zaatar or purple-red ground sumac or other spices. At Akub I serve them rolled in sumac, zaatar, and a mix of turmeric and crushed Aleppo pepper.

Some people add spices to the labaneh balls and serve them immediately or store them in olive oil. Others store them plain and add the spices at serving time. In both cases, place the balls in a glass jar, cover them with olive oil, and store at room temperature in the dark for up to 3 months.

I personally prefer making them plain and coating them with spices or nigella seeds just before serving.


  • 1 kg / 4 cups Greek yoghurt or goat milk yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons nigella seeds
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


  • Line a sieve with cheesecloth. Add the yoghurt and the salt and mix well. Tie the cheesecloth very tightly around the yoghurt over the sieve, put the sieve in a bowl, and refrigerate for 2 days until the liquid whey drains out.
  • Check the labaneh; it may need to be tied tighter and left for up to another 12 hours in the refrigerator to get firm.
  • To make the balls, spread a dry a cheesecloth on a baking sheet. Remove 15 to 20 grams or a spoonful of labaneh and roll it by hand into a small ball and place on the prepared tray. Repeat until all the labaneh has been rolled into balls. Cover the balls with another cloth and refrigerate for a day to firm up.
  • Place the nigella seeds in a bowl and toss the labaneh balls in the seeds until they are coated on all sides. Serve on a plate with the olive oil drizzled on top.

About Fadi Kattan:

Fadi Kattan is a Franco-Palestinian chef living in Bethlehem. He has two restaurants: Fawda, in Bethlehem, and Akub, in London, as well as a Youtube series profiling Palestinian grandmothers and their food knowledge and traditions.

Copyright © 2024 by Fadi Kattan

Location photography copyright © 2024 by Elias Halabi 

Styled food photography copyright © 2024 by Ashley Lima

Cover illustrations copyright © 2024 by Nourie Flayhan


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