Homemade Labneh is rich, tangy and creamy and can be served with breakfast as a spread, a healthy dip or as part of an appetiser platter. It has a light texture very similar to whipped cream cheese and can be used as a substitute in sandwiches.
I love it on this gluten free and low carb Almond Coconut bread with sliced strawberries and a drizzle of honey or swirled with harissa paste for a spicy Harissa Labneh dip.
What is Labneh?
Labneh is a thick, tangy strained Middle Eastern soft creamy cheese made from yogurt. While it is more readily available in stores outside the Middle East and Levant, there is really no need to buy it. Home made labneh is without a doubt the easiest soft cheese recipe you will ever be able to make at home.
I can hear you asking ‘is Greek yogurt and Labneh the same?’. There is no salt added to regular yogurt before it is strained to make Greek yogurt, while it is an essential part of making labneh thick enough to spread.
One of the main labneh health benefits for me, is that it is lower in lactose having most of the whey removed by the overnight straining.
How to make Labneh at home
I slightly adapted Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for Labneh from the one in my Jerusalem cookbook when I made this Shakshuka (poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce) recipe for our cookbook club recipe challenge.
In Cape Town I always wondered where to buy labneh because it’s not in all the supermarkets. It is so easy to make from scratch, with no additives, fillers or preservatives that I will never buy it again.
When I made it the first time my biggest concern was how to make Labneh without cheesecloth. The only difficulty I had was finding cheesecloth to strain the yogurt overnight, and ended up using a double layer of coffee filters instead. If you decide to use coffee filters always remember to rinse them first under running water to remove any fibers and any weird bitter flavors.
I still have not found cheesecloth but did find muslin squares for jam making at a Lakeland store, and this seems to work well. Any cloth with a fine weave should work too.
For this small batch Labneh recipe I followed the cookbook author’s advice and used half goat’s milk yogurt and half cow’s milk yogurt. My quantities were adjusted to the goat milk yogurt size that was available to me (125 gram or 450 gram tubs). The goat’s milk has a different flavor and is very smooth and silky. You could use any unflavored plain cows milk, sheep milk or goats milk yogurt. I have not tried it with soy milk or coconut yogurt.
Add a pinch of salt, let it strain for 24-36 hours and enjoy. Regular homemade labneh can last for 1 week in the refrigerator.
If you leave it to strain for longer (48-72 hrs) it will be firm enough to make homemade labneh balls that can be preserved in olive oil and kept for longer than the softer spreadable labneh.
How to eat Labneh
My introduction to labneh was about 8 months after I moved to Dubai. The hotel apartment I was staying at served it sprinkled with nigella seeds for breakfast every morning. I spread it on hot buttered toast and doused it liberally with wildflower honey. It was pure magic!
- Labneh is versatile as a sandwich ingredient on bagels with smoked salmon or on buttered toast with fresh fruit or honey.
- Labneh is the perfect base for a healthy dip with crispy fresh vegetables. My favorite labneh dip recipe includes spicy harissa paste and I serve it with Cheesy Zucchini fritters during Ramadhan.
- It can be served plain or drizzled with olive oil or honey. Spread some labneh on a plate and sprinkle with nigella seeds or chopped fresh herbs and serve with olives, sliced cucumber and fresh or toasted bread.
- There are so many recipes with labneh that can also be used in place of mascarpone cheese in cheesecake or dessert recipes. It will be a bit more tangy.
- Alternately one can allow the labneh to strain for a few hours more and make labneh balls. For this add fresh chopped or dried herbs or zaatar spice and roll it into balls that are preserved in olive oil. This can be served with fresh or grilled pita wedges as a mezze (appetiser) or in salads.
Homemade Labneh (strained yogurt cheese)
- 250 grams goats milk yogurt, full fat approximately 250 ml
- 250 grams cows milk yogurt, full fat approximately 250 ml
- 1.25 ml salt approximately 1/4 teaspoon
- Place a few layers of muslin over a fine mesh strainer or rice colander placed over a bowl. Ensure that there is sufficient space between the strainer and the bottom of the bowl where the whey collects.
- Pour one cup of yogurt into the muslin lined strainer and add the salt.
- Pour over the other cup of yogurt.
- Mix thoroughly with a small whisk or spoon.
- Fold the ends together and twist the cloth into a knot or just fold over to cover the surface.
- Place the yogurt in the refrigerator and leave to drain out the whey for 24 - 36 hours.
- Check the consistency after 24 hours, and if it is thick enough, remove the container with strained yogurt from the refrigerator and squeeze out any excess moisture.
- Unwrap the labneh from the cheesecloth and spoon into a sterilised container then serve immediately or refrigerate.
- If you don't have clean muslin squares you may use cheesecloth or unused clean coffee filters. Rinse the coffee filters under hot running water to remove any fibres and flavors.
- The labneh will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days if stored in a sterilised container.
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