Labneh is more a cheese, and less of a yogurt, but still a lovely culinary experience.
More akin to cream cheese in consistency with a somewhat tart and tangy flavor; like Greek yogurt on steroids.
It is a favorite served at breakfast, and lovely as a sandwich with olives and mint, fresh or dried.
Labneh is also always a welcome component of a good mezze course.
A homemade labneh recipe in warm pita bread with fresh herbs, and za’atar is a heavenly treat.
What is Labneh?
Labneh is made from yogurt, and its flavor is very much influenced by the cultures in the yogurt.
Some of these cultures produce a sweet tasting yogurt and some produce a tangy, more sour taste.
It comes down to a personal preference as to the type people will enjoy more.
There are a couple of different versions of labneh, one being creamy and soft, like a spread, and the other a harder version.
The softer version being eaten as is, whereas the harder version is made into balls and stored in good olive oil.
Putting the strained Middle Eastern yogurt in oil allows you to keep it fresh for a minimum of three months.
How to Make Labneh
Cow, sheep or goat’s milk yogurt are all used in making this thick, creamy and delicious cheese.
Place a cheesecloth lined strainer over a large bowl for straining the yogurt.
Layers of cheesecloth will work best to allow the runoff of the whey without losing more of the yogurt.
Allow your full fat yogurt to reach room temperature then pour it into the lined strainer.
Cover the strainer and bowl and place them in the fridge for 24 hours.
The whey will collect in the bottom of the bowl leaving the strained labneh in the cheesecloth lined strainer or colander.
At this stage you will have a creamy version of labneh.
However, if you leave it for two, or even three days you will have a firmer version.
Place the labneh in a bowl and serve with a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
How to Use
With a consistency very much like cream cheese, labneh can be used the same way.
Spread on toast, bagels or crackers, labneh is very versatile, and can also be used as a dip with vegetables.
The rolled harder version of labneh can also be spread on toast, as well as thrown into salad as you would use mozzarella.
Because labneh does not curdle at high temperatures it is especially good to add to pasta sauces.
I like making cheesecake with labneh instead of cream cheese for a lighter but still delicious dessert.
Another substitute is labneh in place of sour cream for a tasty difference.
Honey, or molasses stirred into labneh makes for a lovely snack when spread on crackers.
How to Best Store Labneh
Store labneh is an airtight container in the fridge for a week to ten days.
Labneh rolled into bite sized balls can be stored in olive oil for at least three months.
You can also store the labneh in spread form with a ¼ inch layer of olive oil covering it with an airtight cover.
It can also be effectively stored in the freezer, tightly sealed in an airtight container for up to six months.
Thaw slowly in the fridge to keep the labneh from separating, giving it an unpleasant consistency.
Ancient folklore has it that an Arab trader set out on one of his usual trips by packing food for the journey.
He poured his milk into his sheep stomach pouch he used for transporting his liquids along with his food.
As he set out on his journey the weather was turning warmer.
The hot sun necessitated that he stopped more often to offer his donkey water.
Late into the night, he eventually reached his destination and unloaded his inventory of spices for sale.
Removing his pouch of milk, it felt warm to the touch, still sloshing a bit even as his donkey had stopped walking.
Normally he’d have a drink of milk upon arrival, but because it was so warm he opted for a nice cool glass of water at the inn.
The next morning when he went for a glass of milk from his pouch he found that it was separated into curds and whey.
The leftover rennet in the animal stomach reacting with the milk, along with the warm temperature and movement had created cheese.
True or not I’m not sure, but the area of the Fertile Crescent has been shown to be one of the first with evidence of fermenting and curdling milk.
- 2 cups Plain Yogurt
- Line a seive with cheesecloth, and place over a bowl.
- Pour in the yogurt, then cover the bowl.
- Place in the fridge for 12 hours to drain.
- Remove from the fridge, plate up, and enjoy.