What is Labneh?
Labneh is a staple in our home. It’s a creamy strained yogurt cheese originating from the Levant and is commonly found in Middle Eastern dishes. Marco and I were introduced to it by our Lebanese friend, Haifa. It was love at first taste, and we both wondered, “how on earth have we never encountered this tangy yogurt cheese magic?!” Well guess what? It couldn’t be easier. There are just two main ingredients: whole milk yogurt and salt. That’s it!
How to make labneh
To make labneh, combine the yogurt and salt in a bowl. Place a fine mesh strainer over a larger bowl and line it with a cheesecloth. You may need to double the cheesecloth depending on the size of the holes. Pour the yogurt and salt combo into the lined strainer, twist cheesecloth to close it, and seal with a rubber band or tie. Place in the fridge for 24-48 hours. With a little time and gravity, the whey will separate from the yogurt, and you’ll be left with labneh.
How to use labneh
Put it in a small serving bowl, give it a healthy drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle with spices. Spread it on your sandwich or a toasted bagel. Scoop it up with pita bread or use it as a dip for raw veggies. Dollop it onto a salad or crumble like a soft goat cheese. Or, make make labneh balls – see below!
How to make labneh balls
Labneh doesn’t last that long around here, but sometimes I have more yogurt on hand than we can consume before its expiration. In that case, I make labneh balls. The process is exactly the same, but with the added steps of forming the labneh into balls and submerging them EVOO. Using this method of preservation, it will last for months. With oiled hands, form the labneh in your palm. Place them on a plate and put in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up, then transfer them to a jar which is large enough to hold them all and keep them completely covered in oil.
When you are ready to serve, remove the jar from the fridge and let it come to room temperature, for the oil to unset. Take one at a time from the jar, allowing excess oil to drip off, and roll in any variety of spices, fresh herbs, or chopped nuts. I like to use sumac, za’taar, nigella seeds, poppy seeds, pistachios, and fresh chives. Chili lime or Everything But the Bagel seasoning would also be great. These make a colorful appetizer that is bound to impress your friends at the next dinner party. Well, that and the bottle of Olivando you’re bringing as a hostess gift, wink wink.
Now that you know how to make labneh (and how easy it is!) you might never buy cream cheese again. And why would you? This alternative is more flavorful, less processed, and full of probiotics. Once you go labneh, you never go back.
2 cups whole milk yogurt
1/2 tsp sea salt
Olive oil for drizzling or submerging
Combine yogurt and sea salt in a bowl. Stir.
Place a fine mesh strainer over a larger bowl and line with a cheesecloth. You may need to double the cheesecloth depending on the size of the holes..
Add yogurt and salt mixture to the strainer. Twist cheesecloth to close and secure with rubber band.
Leave yogurt mixture in fridge for 24-48 hours, allowing whey to separate and drain from the yogurt
Remove from cheesecloth and place in a small serving bowl. Top with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of your favorite seasoning (za’atar, sumac, everything but the bagel seasoning, etc.) or form into balls and submerge in olive oil.