Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

How to Make Labneh | Simple Provisions

I often breezily suggest I’ll bring “nibbles” when I offer to bring a plate to a group gathering. Promptly, any notion I formerly had of what makes a good plate of appetisers leaves my mind and I am left in a mild panic, not able to think of anything remotely nibbly.

Appetisers can be a very fussy course. Regular food is shrunk into tiny portions, often featuring small bits of toast begging to be topped with dainty dollops of tasty morsels, or one food gently wrapped in another and prodded with a toothpick. I haven’t got the patience for fussy food, so finding an appetiser that I can prepare simply that tastes great and looks impressive is what my blank mind attempts to remember when the party is the next day.

Labneh is a fresh cheese popular in the Middle East. It is made by straining yoghurt to remove the whey, leaving behind a versatile ingredient with the consistency of cream cheese and the tang of yoghurt. It can be bought in good grocery stores, but it is also super easy to make at home. And, it makes a fantastic, fancy looking dip, perfect for a group of friends in need of something little to whet their appetite for lunch.

How to Make Labneh | Simple Provisions

Making labneh at home requires little fuss, but it does need some forward planning. It takes about 24 hours for the whey to separate from the yoghurt, so wrapping your yoghurt in cheesecloth and setting it in a sieve over a bowl in the fridge needs to happen the day before. But that’s the extent of it. In 24 hours you’ll be left with a beautifully silky, fresh cheese that is extremely versatile.

It is worth making more than you immediately need so you can spread it thick on all types of bread: toast topped with avocado and a poached egg, a bagel with jam, rye bread with sliced cucumber. Add a dollop to the top of a gently spiced pilaf, or use it as a mayonnaise replacement in tuna or potato salad. Or simply cut up some fresh figs and serve with a generous helping of labneh and a drizzle of honey – a simple summer pleasure.

I used cow’s milk yoghurt, but according to my Twitter friends Melissa’s Kitchen and Shuki and Louisa, using sheep’s milk yoghurt is also great, especially because removing the whey also takes away that vaguely lamb-like flavour sheep’s milk yoghurt tends to carry.

How to Make Labneh | Simple Provisions

For my appetiser I topped a bowl of labneh with middle eastern inspired flavours and a generous drizzle of olive oil and served it with home made pita chips, crunchy carrots and cucumber and small bowls of baby tomatoes and olives. This mini middle eastern spread was a feast on the eyes as well as a healthy, not-too-filling start to a wonderful lunch with good friends.

How to Make Labneh | Simple Provisions

How to Make Labneh

Start 24 hours before you need the labneh.

My 1kg tub of yoghurt made 500g labneh.

Ingredients

  • 1kg  (or a 1 quart tub)  greek yoghurt
  • Good pinch of salt

Equipment

  • Cheesecloth
  • Kitchen string
  • Large sieve
  • Large bowl

Method

Place sieve over a large bowl and line it with cheesecloth in a cross formation (so you have two layers of cheesecloth lining the bottom of the sieve).

Add a pinch of salt to yoghurt and stir through. Scoop yoghurt into the cheesecloth-lined sieve. Gather the edges of the cloth and tie with kitchen string to form a parcel.

With the sieve resting over a large bowl, place in the fridge and let drain for around 24 hours. The longer the yoghurt drains, the thicker the labneh consistency will be, so if you don’t mind it a little softer, overnight will do.

Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and remove labneh from cheesecloth. It should have the consistency of cream cheese.

Labneh with Pistachios, Parsley, Lemon and Sumac Dip

Toast a tablespoon or so of pistachios in a pan then chop into small pieces. Finely chop a few sprigs of parsley. Zest half a lemon.

Fill a small serving dish with labneh.

Sprinkle pistachios, parsley, zest and a pinch of sumac over the labneh. Drizzle some good quality olive oil over everything.

Serve with pita chips and crudités.

Spiced Pita Chips

Ingredients

  • Wholemeal pita bread (as many slices as you need to feed your friends)
  • Spices, enough for a decent sprinkle on each pita (see spice combination ideas below, anything in your spice rack that takes your fancy will do)
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil

Method

Preheat oven to 220C/400F.

Using a pastry brush, paint a coat of olive oil onto one side of a pita. Sprinkle with spices and salt. Place in oven for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly browned. (Watch it like a hawk, they can burn easily!).

While pita is still warm, cut into triangles. Store in an air-tight container. They’ll keep for a couple of days.

Spice ideas:

  • Paprika and oregano
  • Za’atar
  • Cumin
  • Pepper, garlic salt and dried basil
  • Any middle eastern inspired spice mixes. I had a packet of “Marrakech Magic” from Screaming Seeds in my spice draw which was perfect. It’s a mix of: Cumin Seeds, Coriander Seeds, Garlic, Cayenne Pepper, Cardamon Seeds, Cassia, Tumeric, Sea salt

57 thoughts on “How to Make Labneh

  1. LFFL says:

    Never heard of it but it looks great.

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks! It tastes great too :)

  2. Pamelia Angove says:

    Looks delicious and healthy, cannot wait to try this.

    1. Amelia says:

      I hope you enjoy it Pamelia.

  3. That looks beautiful! I also tend to get caught in the “nibbles” trap. It seems so easy until the time comes to actually make something. Next time, I’ll give this a whirl!

    1. Amelia says:

      It’s a winner Jessamine!

  4. Another beautiful must try dish. I often strain yoghurt to make a thick tzatziki. I have recently also rediscovered the joys of homemade ricotta and yoghurt. So this definitely is on my radar.

    1. Amelia says:

      I haven’t tried making my own yoghurt yet, but would love to. Do you have a go-to recipe for it?

      1. I posted a very easy recipe not too long ago for a pot set yoghurt at http://thepaddingtonfoodie.com/2013/07/16/the-5-2-challenge-cooking-from-scratch-home-made-yoghurt-in-a-jar/. So easy it hardly qualifies as a recipe.

      2. Amelia says:

        Looks great! Will put it on my “to try” list. Thanks!

  5. Linda Makiej says:

    Reblogged this on My Healthy Plate and commented:
    One of my very favorite appetizers….

  6. Saskia (1=2) says:

    I’ve never made my own labneh Amelia. I must rectify that – it looks so creamy and beautiful. I’d be more than happy to tuck straight into it with a spoon.

    1. Amelia says:

      Labneh is my “soft cheese” indulgence for the next 20 or so weeks :)

      1. Saskia (1=2) says:

        Ah, excellent idea! Looks like a very satisfying replacement. I still remember my post-birth soft cheese gorge-fest. It wasn’t a pretty sight!

  7. Kumu says:

    This looks heavenly.

  8. The pictures are beautiful and it looks just so tasty! I am so hungry right now!

  9. ritavegas says:

    I like the combination of flavors! The procedure is familiar with the cheese..! At least that’s how many women in Greece make a “quick” cheese! Great post :)

  10. JuliaRad says:

    I love Labneh, this looks so yummy, I love to little toppings you added!

  11. Love, love, love this! Especially the sumac. I need to make this very soon! :)

  12. I do love Middle Eastern foods, they are all so interesting! Beautiful bowl of labneh.

  13. Jennie says:

    I love lebnah! Would this recipe work with low fat yogurt?

    1. Amelia says:

      Hi Jennie. Yes. Because you’re straining away the whey, you will still be left with a creamy labneh even if the yoghurt is low fat. It just may not be as creamy as a whole fat yoghurt.

  14. Keryneryn says:

    I’ve made this for Wazza tonight! Mine is kind of spreadable, is that ok? It’s been straining for about 23 hours. Kez x

    1. Amelia says:

      Yes, spreadable is great! It should resemble Philly cream cheese. Slather it on everything, and say hi to Waz :)

  15. Simon Harris says:

    Having tasted it first-hand I can attest to its deliciousness!

    1. Amelia says:

      You were an excellent recipe tester :)

  16. erika says:

    I laughed out loud when I read this because that is exactly what happens to me–I always have a million ideas of what I want to make and as soon as it comes time to actually make something, I totally run out of ideas. Thank you for posting a recipe that will almost certainly save me sometime in the future! This looks easy, beautiful, and completely delicious. Not to mention healthy!

    1. Amelia says:

      You’re welcome Erika. I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only one this happens to!

  17. Helefran says:

    So enjoyed the taste sensation….who would have thought yoghurt could taste so different!! Thank you. Spot on with the images – nice work.

  18. Deena Kakaya says:

    This looks beautiful, flatbread doesn’t taste as satisfying without this dish x

  19. Making labneh is on my to do list. I really like how you presented it. featured it on my Friday Five – Middle Eastern addition over @Feed Your Soul Too – http://www.feedyoursoul2.com/2013/12/friday-five-middle-eastern-addition-2.html

  20. I just made this today, crushed some garlic in salt and adding some honey to the labneh and it was a lovely accompaniment to home made vineleaves. A big hit with everyone. Just discovered your blog and really enjoying it. Beautiful pics and food.

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