Labneh – Once Upon a Chef

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Labneh is a tangy Middle Eastern dairy spread made by straining yogurt to a creamy, cheese-like consistency, often garnished with olive oil and herbs and served as part of a mezze.

labneh on plate with olive oil, tomatoes and olives on the side

Labneh (pronounced lab-nay), also known as lebnah, labne, labni, or labaneh, is a Middle Eastern dairy product made by straining yogurt to remove most of its whey. If you’ve tried Greek yogurt, another form of yogurt that undergoes a similar process, you’ll find labneh even thicker, akin to soft cream cheese in consistency, with a distinctive tang. In fact, it is often referred to as “yogurt cheese.” While labneh is versatile, it’s most commonly served as part of a mezze (appetizer) spread with bread and fresh vegetables, garnished with various toppings like olive oil, herbs, or spices, similar in presentation to hummus. In some variations, it’s further thickened and rolled into balls, then preserved in jars of olive oil.yogurt straining over sinkIn the Middle East, labneh is traditionally made by hanging yogurt in a cloth tied to the faucet over the kitchen sink, letting the whey slowly drip away and concentrating its flavors and texture. This method reflects age-old culinary traditions and techniques used for generations. The salt and acidity in the yogurt act as natural preservatives, but many also choose to strain it in the fridge to ensure freshness throughout the process. In such cases, the yogurt can simply be strained in a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a bowl. (If you don’t have cheesecloth, coffee filters or a few layers of thick paper towels can also be used.)

Common Uses For Labneh

  • Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with herbs (like za’atar or mint) and serve as a dip with pita bread or fresh vegetables.
  • Spread on toast or sandwiches, or accompany with olives, tomatoes, or cucumbers.
  • Savor alongside jams or honey for breakfast; pair with fresh fruits, nuts, granola, and a drizzle of honey.
  • Dollop onto salads for a creamy addition.

What You’ll Need To Make Labneh

yogurt and salt on marble counterStep-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prep

Decide if you’re going to hang the labneh or strain it in a colander over a bowl. For hanging, you have several options: over the sink faucet, tied to a wooden spoon set over a bowl (ensuring there’s a few inches of space underneath for the liquid to collect), or any suitable hook or handle where it can hang freely. If you’re opting for the bowl method, set up a medium mesh colander over a bowl.

Regardless of the chosen method, to prepare the labneh for straining, line a colander with cheesecloth. (If using the bowl method, if you don’t have cheesecloth, multiple layers of sturdy paper towels or coffee filters can also be used.)

Step 2: Mix

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt and salt until fully combined.whisking yogurt and salt in mixing bowl

Step 3: Strain

Pour the yogurt mixture onto the cheesecloth in the colander.
yogurt sitting in cheesecloth and colander

Gather up the edges of the cloth, ensuring you have enough material on two opposite ends to tie securely into a knot. If using the hanging method, hang the bundle using your chosen method from step 1, ensuring it’s placed above a bowl or directly over the sink. If you’re using the bowl method, simply let it strain over the colander into the bowl.

yogurt straining over sink

You can strain the yogurt at room temperature (i.e., over the sink) for a traditional approach, or in the refrigerator if you prefer. The draining process can range from 12 to 24 hours, depending on your desired labneh consistency. (The draining process removes whey from the yogurt, thickening its texture. The longer it drains, the thicker your labneh will be.)

labneh unwrapped sitting on cheesecloth

Step 4: Serve

Once the desired texture is achieved, transfer the labneh to a bowl and stir to smooth out.

stirring labneh in bowlSwirl the labneh onto a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with fresh herbs and spices, if you like.

How To Make Labneh Balls (Labneh Korat)

Labneh can also be formed into balls and preserved in olive oil for longer shelf life. These labneh balls, or “labneh korat,” are perfect for antipasto platters, salads, or as a spread on bread and crackers. They also pair well with fresh herbs, spices, and olives. If you’re considering this method, it’s best to strain the yogurt in the fridge for up to 48 hours so that it’s thick enough to shape. Alternatively, you could start with Greek yogurt as it results in a thicker consistency. However, regular whole milk yogurt is preferable due to its creamier texture and richer taste.

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Labneh

Labneh is a tangy Middle Eastern dairy spread made by straining yogurt to a creamy, cheese-like consistency, often garnished with olive oil and herbs and served as part of a mezze.

Ingredients

  • 1 (32-oz) container whole milk plain yogurt (4 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil, herbs, and spices, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prep: Decide if you’re going to hang the labneh or strain it in a colander over a bowl. For hanging, you have several options: over the sink faucet, tied to a wooden spoon set over a bowl (ensuring there’s a few inches of space underneath for the liquid to collect), or any suitable hook or handle where it can hang freely. If you’re opting for the bowl method, set up a medium mesh colander over a bowl. Regardless of the chosen method, to prepare the labneh for straining, line a colander with cheesecloth and set over a bowl. (If using the bowl method, if you don’t have cheesecloth, multiple layers of sturdy paper towels or coffee filters can also be used.)
  2. Mix: In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt and salt until fully combined.
  3. Strain: Pour the yogurt mixture onto the cheesecloth in the colander. Gather up the edges of the cloth, ensuring you have enough material on two opposite ends to tie securely into a knot. If using the hanging method, hang the bundle using your chosen method from step 1, ensuring it’s placed above a bowl or directly over the sink. If you’re using the bowl method, simply let it strain over the colander into the bowl. Allow the yogurt mixture to drain. This can be done at room temperature (i.e., over the sink) for a traditional approach, or in the refrigerator if you prefer. The draining process can range from 12 to 24 hours, depending on your desired labneh consistency. (The draining process removes whey from the yogurt, thickening its texture. The longer it drains, the thicker your labneh will be. The salt and acidity in the yogurt act as natural preservatives, making room temperature draining safe.)
  4. Serve: Once the desired texture is achieved, transfer the labneh to a bowl and stir to smooth out. Swirl the labneh onto a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with fresh herbs and spices, if you like.
  5. Make-Ahead Instructions: Labneh will keep for about 2 weeks stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. It can also be formed into balls and preserved in olive oil for longer shelf life (about 1 month). These labneh balls, or “labneh korat,” are perfect for antipasto platters, salads, or as a spread on bread and crackers. They also pair well with fresh herbs, spices, and olives. If you’re considering this method, it’s best to strain the yogurt for up to 48 hours so that it’s thick enough to shape. Alternatively, you could start with Greek yogurt as it results in a thicker consistency. However, for the standard labneh preparation, regular whole milk yogurt is preferable due to its creamier texture and richer taste.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you’re following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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