Labneh is both quick & easy to make at home from a pot of yogurt and will rapidly become a staple in your fridge. Serve this delicious strained yogurt cheese on warmed bread or as a dip for crudités. It is naturally gluten free and Keto friendly due to its low carb count.
What is labneh?
Labneh is yogurt that has been salted and strained to make a soft, fresh cheese. The resulting yoghurt cheese is dense and similar to cream cheese, but with a mildly tart yogurt flavour. It’s a great base for both savoury and sweet dips, and can be used as an ingredient in cooking too.
Labneh is an Arabic name but strained yogurt cheese is used right across the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond. It is the base for the Greek dip tzatziki (with added herbs and cucumber) and the Turkish cacik (with herbs) and many others. It can be served with a well for a little olive oil and za’atar mix or with honey and toasted pine nuts.
Labneh lasts for several days when fresh, but if you make it quite dense, you can roll it into balls and preserve it for much longer in olive oil.
Why make strained yogurt?
Although you can buy labneh in supermarkets and Middle Eastern grocers, it’s extremely easy and satisfying to make it yourself. Not everyone is fortunate to have a handy corner shop that sells it and it is inexpensive to make.
I was lucky enough to have the chance to learn how to make this on a little farm during a visit to Greece, and was completely converted to making my own. All you need to do is to salt and strain some Greek yogurt, and let the whey drain out.
It is a lovely, versatile ingredient to have in the kitchen and an essential part of any mezze spread.
Ingredients for labneh
Greek yogurt – The yogurt sold as Greek or Greek style yogurt in the UK is strained yogurt, so you are already part of the way there. I prefer to use goat’s milk yogurt.
Salt – I like nice sea salt crystals.
How to make labneh – step by step
Before you start, read my step-by-step instructions, with photos, hints and tips so you can to make this perfectly every time.
Scroll down for the recipe card with quantities and more tips at the bottom of the page.
Step 1 – Add a good pinch of salt to 500 g of Greek style yogurt, and stir it in.
Step 2 – Spoon the mixture into a cloth jelly bag, or onto a large square of muslin or cheesecloth and clip the corners together. Hang the bag over a bowl to let the liquid drain out.
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
Line the sieve (over a deep bowl) with the cloth. Then add add the salted yoghurt yogurt. Gather up the corners. Lay a wooden spoon across the top of the bowl and tie the ends of the cloth to the spoon. Lift it up and remove the sieve, then set the spoon across the top of the bowl so the yogurt can strain into the bowl.
You need quite a deep bowl so the bottom of the cloth doesn’t sit in the whey. If you don’t have a deep enough bowl, you can suspend the cloth from something like a cupboard handle as shown in the photo.
You can strain at room temperature. On an extremely hot day I might put it in the fridge, but in the UK I’ve never had any need to.
Step 3 – Let it drain. The longer you leave it, the thicker the labneh will be. A softer version is great for dips and sauces. Make it thicker if you want to make cheese balls in olive oil. We leave it overnight at minimum.
Step 4 – Turn the labneh out of the cloth; simple as that, it’s ready. Don’t throw the whey away. There are are sorts of uses for it!
What do I do with labneh?
There are all sorts of ways to use it:
- The classic: sprinkle on some za’atar herb and spice blend, drizzle with olive oil and enjoy with some freshly baked flatbread or warmed pitta. Rip, dip and enjoy!
- Stir in some fresh herbs and serve with vegetable crudités. Add some lemon zest for hint of citrus kick.
- Roll into labneh balls, each about 2cm diameter. These can then be rolled in chili flakes, za’atar, dried fruit, herbs such as mint, or sesame or other small seeds.
- Use it as a topping for a spicy dish, to add a hint of coolness in contrast to the rest of the dish.
- Substitute labneh instead of cream cheese. How about labneh and cucumber sandwiches? Or labneh and smoked salmon rolls, with a sprinkle of dill seeds.
- Drizzle on some honey for a sweet treat or serve with black cherries.
- Serve with my easy beet salad
Hints and Tips
I usually use a jelly bag to strain my labneh, as it is easy, but you can use a cheese cloth (a clean muslin cleanse and polish style of face cloth is ideal).
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
If you are using a jelly bag to strain the yogurt, turn it inside out so the seam is on the outside. This makes it much easier to remove the labneh once strained.
A nut milk bag does not work. I have tried it – don’t waste your time!
Can labneh be frozen?
Sadly not, because freezing ruins the texture. However, it’s so easy to make that there’s no real need.
How do I store labneh?
Keep it in the fridge for a few days. If you have made labneh balls, you can transfer them to a clean jar, prepared as for jam making. Cover with them with olive oil, seal and keep the jar somewhere cool and dark about a month.
You could add fresh herbs to the olive oil, in which case the labneh balls will only keep for a few days, or a week or so in the fridge.
Yields vary dramatically. If you use a good quality thick, full-fat Greek yogurt, a 500 g pot will result in about 350g labneh and about 150 ml whey, depending on how long you leave it to strain. If you use a thinner, lower fat yogurt the yield can be half that amount.
It depends! Strain it for less time and the labneh will be softer and more like yogurt or crème fraiche. Leave it for longer, and you have a denser result that’s more spreadable. We leave it between 12 and 24 hours, depending on the consistency we’re looking for. The solid block that is pictured was left for about 16 hours.
How can I use the leftover whey from cheesemaking?
Once you start making labneh, you will have lots of whey. You can use yogurt whey in so many ways. Freeze it until you are ready to use it.
- Use the whey to make bread in place of some or all of the water. The crumb will be beautifully soft. We like it in our slow rise no knead sourdough.
- Use it to thin classic daals like my zucchini daal.
- Add it to smoothies.
- Add leftover whey to soup.
- Use it to water your plants. The whey contains lots of nutrients and is a natural fertilizer.
- Give it to your pets! Herbert LOVES a bowl of whey to drink or frozen whey cubes on a hot day.
How to make dog treats from leftover whey
Simple freeze the whey in silicon mould. Then pop out the cubes and store in a plastic tub. Herbert adores crunching on these to cool down on a hot day.
How to Make Labneh
- 500 g Greek yogurt.
- 1 tsp Salt
- Add salt to yogurt, and stir it in.
- Transfer yogurt to a jelly bag or muslin cloth in a sieve or colander. Set it over a bowl for 12–24 hours, depending on how thick you want your labneh to be. Let the whey strain into the bowl and reserve this for later use.
- Peel the cloth from the finished labneh and store in a covered container.
- There is no need to refrigerate when straining unless the weather is excessively hot. My labneh has always been fine in the UK on the hottest of summer days.
- The yield will be around half to two thirds the amount of yogurt used if you use a good quality thick Greek yogurt. Other yogurts can have a far lower yield.
- This item is 2 Weight Watchers smart points per portion.
- Freeze the whey for use later. I add it to daal or use it instead of other liquid in breadmaking.
- For dog treats freeze the whey into small bite sized pieces.
This post is updated from 2007 in June 2018. My photography has improved quite a bit since then!