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How to Make Kneaded Incense Pellets

Step-by-Step Instructions

Kneaded incense pellets are one of our favorite types of incense to make because the whole world of natural aromatics opens up and can now be used in making your incense.

Kneaded incense is also known as moist incense, awasekē, nerikoh, and bakhoor.

Soft gummy resins like elemi, galbanum, labdanum, etc., which are difficult or impossible to use when making sticks or cones are now ideal for making incense pellets. You can also use honey, liquid balsams, essential oils, wines, dried fruits, etc.

To make kneaded incense pellets you first begin with a granular incense mixture called “loose or non-combustible incense.” You don’t want it powdered all the way, a coarse granular form like sea salt is preferred. Click here to create loose incense.

We classify kneaded incense pellets into three categories because they each have their own way of being made. Methods can also be combined. This is not incense law, just our own general guidelines.

Click on titles for step-by-step guides on each:

It’s important to know that incense pellets should not be “burned” using direct heat. Indirect heat is the preferred and ideal method to release the fragrances within kneaded incense pellets. Honey and other ingredients will give off poor aromas if burned instead of gently heated. For more on this, click on “How to Heat Incense Pellets”

Making Kneaded Incense With Honey

Step-by-Step

1. Grind

Grind each of your recipe’s dry incense ingredients into coarse granules like sea salt and combine in a bowl (performed while making loose incense).

2. Drizzle Honey

Slowly drizzle in tiny amounts of honey until the mixture can be kneaded together as one, mix well by kneading some more.

You can also add essential oils & balsams during this stage if you like.

3. Form Pellets

Pinch off small pieces and roll into a pea-sized pellets.

4. Dry

Place pellets on a firm board covered with wax paper to dry.

Enclose the whole board inside a large paper bag, close the end of the bag.

Turn pellets twice daily to help dry evenly.

5. Seal

Once pellets are dry enough to be handled, place them in one or more sealed unglazed ceramic or glass jars but in one layer only, for at least 48 hours.

Important: do not stack honey pellets on top of each other or they will stick together and merge into a single mass, use a single layer

The longer you age the mix, the more it will develop and refine itself, the better it will be

In Japan, they make a kneaded incense called Nerikoh, which uses dried plums and honey as the binder and they age the mix in an unglazed ceramic pot buried near a stream… sometimes for years

Alcohol can be used to clean your tools.

6. Gently Heat & Enjoy!

Your kneaded incense pellets are ready for enjoyment!

We recommend using an incense stove, or cerating one to gently heat kneaded incense pellets.

Make Kneaded Incense Using

Dried Fruit & Honey Method

Step-by-Step

1. Grind

Grind each of your dry incense ingredients into coarse granules, like sea salt (performed while making loose incense).

2. Measure Fruit

Measure roughly one part dried fruit to one part incense and place in a large enough bowl by itself.

A "part" is any unit of measurement you wish to use, provided it's consistent throughout the entire recipe. We often use the conversion of 1 part = 1, 2, or 3 grams for small batches. If you prefer, you can use volume measurements with teaspoons, tablespoons and/or cups. Always measure after grinding & powdering.

3. Soak Fruit In Aromatic Liquid

Cover dried fruit with wine (we like red wines).

The liquid should be at least one inch over the level of fruit to allow for absorption.

You can experiment with wines, liqueurs, hydrosols, essential oils, etc.

Let soak overnight.

4. Drain

The next day, use a strainer to drain liquid from fruit.

Hand-press out excess liquid out of fruit.

*May want to use latex or rubber gloves.

5. Combine

Combine drained fruit with prepared loose incense mixture and knead thoroughly.

6. Knead More

Knead, knead, knead… knead is all you need.

The fruit should shred apart and mix thoroughly with the incense blend.

Can use a mortar and pestle, a bowl and your hands, or a food processor or blender to mix (see incense tools).

7. Drizzle In Honey

Slowly drizzle in enough honey to bind the incense together into a dough that sticks together well.

The honey acts as both an additional binder and as a preservative.

8. Knead More

Knead, knead, knead…

9. Form Pellets

Pinch off a small piece and roll it in your hands to make a pea-sized pellet. Repeat for the entire mixture.

10. Dry

Enclose the whole board inside a large paper bag to dry for a couple of days.

Turn pellets twice daily to help dry evenly.

11. Jar & Age

Once the pellets are dry enough to be handled, place them in a sealed unglazed ceramic or glass jar but in one layer only, for at least 48 hours.

The longer you age the mix, the more it will develop and refine itself, the better it will be.

In Japan they make a kneaded incense called Nerikoh which uses dried plums and honey as the binder and they age the mix in an unglazed ceramic pot.

Folklore says they used to bury the pot near a stream… sometimes for years.

Alcohol can be used to clean your tools.

12. Gently Heat & Enjoy

Your incense pellets are ready for enjoyment!

Make Kneaded Incense Using

Soft Resins Method

Step-by-Step

1. Grind

Grind each of your dry incense ingredients into coarse granules, like sea salt (performed while making loose incense).

2. Add Gummy Resins

Important: wear vinyl or rubber gloves or else your hands will be very difficult to clean.

a) soft gummy ingredients like elemi need to be spread out in a large bowl or on a cutting board covered securely with wax paper.

Create a thin flat layer with the gummy resin of your choice as if you were icing a cake, evenly sprinkle the loose incense mixture over the entire flattened soft ingredient.

b) sticky resins like labdanum or galbanum are best frozen overnight and then quickly ground by mortar and pestle.

They soften quickly so you have to be fast and then repeat the freeze and grind until the consistency desired is achieved.

The granular or powdered ingredient can then be added like a dry ingredient to the rest of your already prepared mixture. Depending on the percent of sticky resins in your recipe it will either form gummy pellets or a dry mix.

Soft resins like soft galbanum are easiest to use when warmed – heat in a hot water bath – place sealed jar of galbanum into bowl of hot water, about half-way up the galbanum jar until pourable.

c) liquid balsams and resins like Copaiba and Peru Balsams can be poured over your incense and kneaded into it.

Spread out your prepared loose incense mixture in the bottom of a bowl and drizzle the liquid balsam resin all over it.

Remember to wear gloves for each of these mthods or you will regret not doing so.

3. Add Other Ingredients

You can experiment with adding honey, balsams, essential oils, hydrosols, and other liquid aromatics.

Important: Remember to wear vinyl or rubber gloves

Mix thoroughly… then knead, knead, knead…

4. Knead Pellets

Pinch off a small piece and roll it in your hands to make a pea-sized pellet.

Again, remember to wear vinyl and rubber gloves.

Depending upon the recipe and fruit used, you may not be able to bind the mix together, in which case it can either be left alone and stored as a loose incense mix or… you can add a sticky binder like honey or a balsam to help it knead and form into pellets.

5. Dry

Place pellets or the loose mix on a board covered with wax paper to dry.

Enclose the whole board inside a large paper bag, then close the end of the bag and let dry for one or more days.

Turn pellets or mix twice daily to help dry evenly.

6. Knead Pellets

Once the pellets are dry enough to be handled, place them in a sealed unglazed ceramic or glass jar but in one layer only, for at least 48 hours.

The longer you age the mix, the more it will develop and refine itself, the better it will be

In Japan, they make a kneaded incense called Nerikoh which uses dried plums and honey as the binder and they age the mix in an unglazed ceramic pot. Folklore says they sometimes bury the pot near a stream… sometimes for years.

Alcohol can be used to clean your tools

7. Gently Heat & Enjoy

Your incense pellets are ready for enjoyment!

We recommend gently heating them in an incense stove, or making an incense stove to do so.

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