Khaliat Al Nahl (Honeycomb Buns)


A traditional Yemeni pastry, khaliat al nahl are sweet, cloudlike balls of dough that are filled with cream cheese and drenched in cardamom-infused honey before they are topped with crunchy white sesame seeds and black nigella seeds. Pair these Yemeni honeycomb buns with a strong cup of Yemeni coffee for a sweet breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up.

Active Time:
30 mins
Stand Time:
7 days
Total Time:
7 days 1 hrs 50 mins


Cardamom-Infused Honey

  • cup clover honey

  • 5 green cardamom pods, smashed, or 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom


  • ¾ cup whole milk, warmed (about 110°F), divided

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (from 1 [1/4-oz.] envelope)

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (about 8 1/2 oz.)

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for work surface, hands, and bench scraper

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • .50 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • Unsalted butter, softened, for greasing baking pan

  • 6 ounces cream cheese (about 1/2 cup), chilled

  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

  • .50 teaspoon nigella seeds


Make the cardamom-infused honey:

  1. If using cardamom pods, stir together honey and smashed cardamom pods in a small bowl. Cover tightly, and let stand at room temperature until honey has a faint cardamom flavor, at least 7 days or up to 10 days. Remove and discard cardamom pods before using. Alternatively, stir together honey and ground cardamom in a small bowl. Set aside.

Make the buns:

  1. Stir together 1/4 cup warm milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

  2. Stir together flour, oil, baking powder, salt, and remaining 2 teaspoons sugar in a large bowl. Stir in yeast mixture until incorporated. Stir in 1/4 cup warm milk. Knead dough in bowl until a ball forms, about 30 seconds. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm milk, and knead dough in bowl until milk is incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Dough will be very sticky. Scrape down sides of bowl using a rubber spatula. Cover bowl with a clean towel, and let dough rest in a warm (75°F to 80°F) place until doubled in volume, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F during final 15 minutes of dough proofing time, and lightly grease an 8-inch square metal baking pan with butter.

  3. Divide and shape cream cheese evenly into 24 (1/4-ounce) balls (about 1 teaspoon each). Place cream cheese balls on a parchment paper–lined plate, and chill until ready to use.

  4. Turn dough out onto a well-oiled work surface. Using oiled hands and an oiled bench scraper, divide dough evenly into24 (about 5/8-ounce) pieces (about 2 tablespoons each). Working with 1 dough piece at a time, push 1 cream cheese ball into center of dough piece. Pull dough up and over to fully encase cream cheese. Using oiled hands, gently roll dough on a well-oiled surface to form a ball with cream cheese in center of ball. Place filled dough ball, seam side down, in prepared baking pan. Repeat process with remaining dough pieces and cream cheese balls, arranging filled dough balls side by side and just touching each other in baking pan.

  5. Bake in preheated oven until buns are light golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately drizzle buns with 1/4 cup warmed cardamom-infused honey. Sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds and nigella seeds. Let buns cool in baking pan 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzling with remaining cardamom-infused honey, if desired.

    Khaliat Al Nahl (Honeycomb Buns)
    Alex Lau


Find nigella seeds and whole cardamom pods at Middle Eastern markets or online at

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