Labneh is a rich and creamy yogurt cheese from the Middle East. This easy recipe results in a tangy spread that you can top with extra virgin olive oil and serve with warm pita.
Mezzes and delicious can be found on every Middle Eastern and Mediterranean table. A mezze platter is always overflowing with deliciousness: from hummus and mutabal to baba ganoush, fried halloumi and muhammara, all are tasty! Labneh is a great addition to your mezze platters. Delightfully blending the flavors of yogurt and cheese, it's so simple and easy to make. After you make it once, you’ll be hooked!
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What is labneh?
Labneh (also called labna or labni) is a Middle Eastern cheese from the Levant. It’s traditionally made from yogurt that has been strained for long enough to remove most of its whey. It has the tart and sour taste of yogurt but is spreadable and creamy.
In addition to serving it fresh with olive oil and zaatar, it’s also common to let this yogurt-based cheese dry and then roll it into balls. These balls are often stored in a jar filled with olive oil and herbs. Today I'm going to show you how to make this easy spreadable yogurt cheese at home, with less than 15 minutes of hand-on time.
Patience is key!
This yogurt-based cheese is very simple and easy to make, though it does require a little bit of patience. I encourage you to let the yogurt release all its whey for at least 24 hours. Then, check and see if the it is thick enough. You can let it strain for an addition 24 hours for even thicker consistency.
What kind of yogurt to use
You only need one ingredient to make labneh: plain yogurt. It’s best to use whole milk yogurt for this recipe and it can be either cow, sheep or goat milk yogurt. If you're a big fan of homemade foods, you can even make your own homemade yogurt using your instant pot. Using whole milk yogurt gives the final results a nice creamy texture that makes it spreadable.
How to make labneh
In addition to yogurt, you will need salt and a cheesecloth or muslin. Mix yogurt and salt in a bowl. Place a sieve over a large bowl and line it with 2-3 layers of cheesecloth.
Transfer the yogurt mixture into the cheesecloth and bring the edges to cover the yogurt on the top. Place the bowl and sieve in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours.
After this time, the bowl will be filled with whey and the cheese in the cheesecloth will be thick and spreadable.
The traditional way to serve labneh is to spread it in a shallow bowl, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle some zaatar on top. It can be served as part of a mezze platter alongside other dips such as roasted red pepper hummus, tzatziki, pickled turnips and some warm pita bread, pita chips or lavash. You can also serve it as a spread for sandwiches or toast.
This is a healthier alternative to cream cheese and can be served for breakfast with some bread, cucumber, tomatoes and walnuts. You can also use it instead of feta to make delicious cucumber sandwich that you can enjoy as a midday snack.
A common way to store labneh is to roll it into small balls and preserve them in olive oil which is similar to marinated feta. To do so, once the labneh is ready, roll it into one inch balls. Place the balls on a large plate lined with a paper towel and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Then place the balls in a glass jar and pour enough olive oil into the jar to cover the balls completely. You can add herbs such as fresh oregano or thyme if you like. Keep this jar in the fridge for up to two weeks and use the balls as you please. You can use the leftover olive oil to make homemade salad dressing.
If not placing balls in a jar with olive oil as described above, keep leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use almond milk yogurt and just a few drops of lemon juice and salt to make vegan labneh. The process is the same as dairy based version.
No, they are two different dairy products. Greek yogurt is smoother but labneh is thicker since the whey has been strained out. But you can turn whole milk yogurt into labneh using this recipe.
Labneh has a tangier flavor compared to sour cream. Depending on the dish, you can use them interchangeably in some recipes.
Make sure you’re using whole milk yogurt for this recipe and not low-fat or non-fat yogurt.
More dips and spreads
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Easy Homemade Labneh Recipe
- 24 oz whole milk yogurt
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pita bread
- Olive oil extra virgin
- In a large bowl, mix the yogurt with salt.
- Line a strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth and place it on top of a large bowl.
- Transfer the yogurt into the cheesecloth and bring the edges together to cover the yogurt. Gently press down a little.
- Put this in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours.
- After 24 hours, the whey has strained from the yogurt into the bowl and you will have thick labneh in the strainer. Discard the whey (or save to use later).
- Spread this thick labneh in a shallow bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with zaatar. Serve with warm pita bread.
- Labneh balls: A common way to store labneh is to roll it into small balls and preserve them in olive oil. To do so, once the labneh is ready, roll it into 1 inch balls. Place the balls on a large plate lined with a paper towel and refrigerate for 24 hours. Then place the labneh balls in a glass jar and pour enough olive oil to cover the balls completely. You can add herbs such as fresh oregano or thyme if you like. Keep this jar in the fridge for up to two weeks and use labneh balls as you please. You can use the leftover olive oil to make homemade salad dressing.
- Make sure you’re using whole milk yogurt for this recipe and not low-fat or non-fat yogurt.
- Store the labneh leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.
- Labneh is a healthier alternative to cream cheese and can be served for breakfast with some bread, cucumber, tomatoes and walnuts.