Samna - Yemenite Butter

At my parents house there was always a jar of Samna in the fridge. My aunts used to make it for us. As I moved to the US, something that I took for granted at home, was nowhere to be found here. I had a remote memory as a kid, watching my aunt Rivka making it, so I decided to recreate Samna, making it from this childhood memory. My homemade Samna turned out perfectly, just as I remembered from home, and I was surprised to find how easy it was to make it. In my mind authentic ethnic food seemed to be hard and complicated to make, but not in this case.

To make Samna, you would need butter and Fenugreek seeds. Today you can find fenugreek in every natural food stores. Fenugreek has several health attributes, the most known is its ability to increase nursing mother’s milk flow. There is also the belief that it decreases blood cholesterol level, maybe that is why Yemenites cook their butter with fenugreek. In any case, I love the flavor and smell the seeds give the butter. 

Fenugreek has a very strong smell. When I make Samna, my house smells like roasted fenugreek seeds for a week. My husband says it smells like maple syrup. Since Samna can last for months in the fridge (assuming you don’t consume it like ice-cream), I prefer to make a big batch of it at one time,  so my house doesn't smell year round like a maple factory.


2 ¼ quart pot or bigger
Coffee/spice grinder
4-quart glass bowl
2 X 1 quart/ 32 oz. glass jar, 3” opening with a metal lid
Dry branch of a fruit tree - optional
A gas cook top, or other source of fire - optional


¼ cup fenugreek seeds
4 lb unsalted butter

On a medium high heat, roast the fenugreek seeds for about five minutes, stirring constantly, until they brown. 

Let cool and grind the seed in a coffee grinder. Put the grounded fenugreek seeds back in the pot and add the butter.  Cook on a medium high heat until the butter is all melted, there is white foam on top of it, and it starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Next, let the butter cool in the pot for about half an hour. Place a strainer in a big glass bowl and strain the butter from the fenugreek seeds. Discard the seeds.

By now you have clear butter that is rich in flavor and aroma. The butter is ready to use.

To give the butter another layer of flavor – you can smoke it:

Light a few inches of a branch on fire and let it burn for a few seconds.

Blow out the fire, and immediately place the smoky branch in the glass jar intended for the butter. Hold the jar upside down blocking the opening with your hand that is holding the smoky branch. I found that the best way to hold the branch is by placing it between two fingers, while letting the smoke fill the jar for a few seconds.

 Repeat the process a few times. When you repeat the branch burning, make sure to block the jar opening with your hand so the smoke stays there. 

When you are done with the smoking process, pour the strained butter into the two jars, close the lids and let it cool and absorb the smoke. 

When the butter becomes opaque it can be stored in the fridge for months.

Honeyed Samna:

Before I place the jar in the fridge, I love to mix some of it with honey. I use 2 tbsp of honey for one cup of butter. It’s a delicious spread for the morning toast.


  1. To make the honeyed samna, would you start with the smoked version, or just the plain one?

    Thanks for your detailed descriptions. I've been looking at your Kubana recipe after seeing this article in the New York Times:

    It describes a slightly different techique: flattening the dough to very thing, then sprinkling with seeds (eush as nigella), then rolling it up and coiling. I love the softness of this dough ... and I look forward to trying your recipe, including the samna.

    1. You can use either. If you are not used to the smoked butter flavor or aroma, start with plain butter.

      Thank you for the link of the article, I enjoyed reading it.

      There are many techniques used to make Kubana (or Kubaneh)it's just a matter of personal style or preference. I think I've mentioned that before in this blog, in the Yemeni Cuisine there is no right or wrong. There is a lot of room for self expression. I come from a big family, and each person has their own style and version. It's really fun to try them all and compare - but when they ask you to decide whose Kubana is better you are in trouble;)

    2. Thanks! I look forward to trying your variations and Samna, too.

  2. Wow! I make Yemeni samn like you but without the fengreek, will defo try with the fengreek, looks amazing.

  3. Wow! I make Yemeni samn like you but without the fengreek, will defo try with the fengreek, looks amazing.


Post a Comment