All you need is yogurt and a pinch of salt to whip up this thick and creamy Middle Eastern cheese. Labneh has the perfect tang and a rich, smooth texture like soft goat cheese. It's also just delicious!
I make labneh all the time - I love having it on hand to use as a dip, a spread, and in so many other ways. Labneh making is a great skill to have and easy to master!
What Is Labneh?
Labneh (also spelled labne) is a lusciously creamy and tangy Middle Eastern cheese made from the simple process of straining yogurt to remove some of its liquid.
You might wonder, as I did, what the difference is between labneh and Greek yogurt. Essentially, both are strained yogurts, but labneh is the result of continuing the straining process beyond the point of Greek yogurt, until its texture and flavor is like thick, creamy tangy goat cheese.
Labneh is a beloved, essential ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. It's often served as a dip alongside its famous cousins, hummus and baba ganoush. But in addition to being a key component of a traditional mezze platter, there are endless other ways to enjoy it.
There are many different ways to make labneh but yogurt and salt are always the main ingredients. The variables are the type of yogurt used, the kind of strainer, the length of the straining time and whether or not the yogurt drains in the fridge or at room temperature.
I’ve tried many (many) labneh recipes before landing on my favorite tried-and true-method that always comes out just the way I love it - rich, creamy and deliciously tangy.
Here's what you'll need to make this
You don't need much: yogurt, salt and some equipment to strain the yogurt.
- Quality Whole Milk Yogurt: You can make Labneh with virtually any full-fat, plain yogurt but I recommend using Greek or Bulgarian yogurt. The better the yogurt, the better the labneh. Use fresh, full-fat yogurt for the best flavor and texture.
- Salt: A bit of salt is essential for seasoning
- Cheesecloth: to wrap up the yogurt into a bundle. I recommend you buy cheesecloth online to get the most square footage for your buck.
- Kitchen twine: To tie the cheesecloth bundle.
- Skewer: used as a kind-of curtain rod to hang the bundle of yogurt over a bowl so it can drain. A chopstick or wooden spoon will work too.
- A pot: Or bowl - something deep enough to hang the yogurt over so it doesn't touch the bottom.
How To Make Labneh
- Mix yogurt and salt: Mix them together in a bowl. Then cover another bowl with two plies of cheesecloth, making sure the cloth hangs over the edges so there is enough surplus to tie up the yogurt into a bundle. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth lined bowl.
- Tie yogurt into a bundle: Gather the corners of the cheesecloth around the yogurt and tie with kitchen twine, making a tight knot.
- Hang yogurt to drain: Stick a skewer through the cheesecloth, right under the knot, and hang over a pot or bowl to drain at room temperature for 10 hours.
NOTE: Yogurt's acidity keeps it safe at room temperature. (If you prefer you can drain it in the fridge for 24 hours)
- Harvest your labneh!: Place your bundle of fresh, thickened labneh on a plate and untie the knot. Open the cheesecloth to reveal a beautiful ball of cheese.
- The labneh is ready to enjoy or you can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks in a sealed container.
Experiment to find your favorite way to make it
While labneh is traditionally only two ingredients there are ways to have control over its flavor and thickness. Some rules of thumb are:
- More drain time means thicker labneh
- More layers of cheesecloth leads to a creamier texture
- Draining at room temperature is faster than in the fridge
What Can You Do With Labneh?
Labneh is a kitchen superstar – seriously, I toss it into so many dishes and it's magical every time. Here’s are some of my go-to favorites.
Make a dip: The easiest and my favorite way to serve labneh is to pour some good olive oil over it, sprinkle with a generous amount of za’atar and have a basket of warm pita ready for dipping. Crudités are always good for dipping, too.
- Try something different: Another great combo is to top it with pickled jalapeños, za'atar and honey!
- On toast: Slather a thick layer of labneh on crispy toasted bread then pile on the toppings. My favorites are: honey and sea salt; olive oil, radishes and diced bell pepper; pesto, sliced avocado and chili flakes; and smoked salmon with za’atar.
- On a bagel: Once you try homemade creamy, tangy labneh on a toasted bagel with smoked salmon, there’s no going back to cream cheese.
- In Tea Sandwiches: Especially cucumber sandwiches!
And That's Not All...
- On pizza with smoked salmon and za'atar: Layer pizza crust with smoked salmon, add a little olive oil and big dollops of labneh. Then sprinkle on a liberal amount of za'atar and bake - a winning combination!
- Spread onto crackers with smoked salmon and za'atar: This one explains itself. My favorite homemade crackers are Eddie's seeded crackers but when I don't have a batch handy, store-bought Top Seedz crackers are amazing too!
- Make labneh balls: Coat your hands with a little olive oil, roll labneh into balls and then coat with spices or herbs. Serve as an appetizer with toothpicks or enjoy as a snack.
- Serve with grilled meats or vegetables: Labneh is a perfect complement to anything grilled. You can put a big smear on a plate and top with grilled fish or shrimp. It also goes great with red meat, especially lamb (and mint!). I also love to put a dipping big pile of it next to grilled or roasted vegetables.
- Dollop on salads and appetizers: When I have homemade labneh on hand I'll toss it onto my Shirazi Salad, Mediterranean Chickpea Salad, or this Figs and prosciutto appetizer (instead of burrata). It's also a great addition to a beet, arugula and walnut salad in place of more traditional goat cheese.
I’d love to know if you have any special ways of using labneh. And if you try this recipe, I'd love to know what you think. I hope you'll leave a comment with all the details!Print