Yogurt Cream Cheese or Labneh

Store-bought or homemade yogurt will both work.

While some may not consider this an honest-to-goodness cheese, entire countries would disagree and so do I. Labneh (or similar spellings), as I have seen it labeled at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern markets, is a quite delicious and very versatile cheese. Not only that, if making cheese intimidates you, this is a good starting point. There is no messing this up and it familiarizes you with the draining of whey/use of salt and their powers, which is a huge part of making cheese. Delicious baby steps…enjoy!


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 quart plain yogurt (if you want to make your own yogurt, try our kit! It also makes feta)
  • 2 tsp pure flake salt (or more if you like this cheese as salty as feta, experiment)
  • colander or hanging mechanism
  • butter muslin or similarly tight cheesecloth- even a new or boiled tea towel/pillowcase will work

SUPPLIES

  • Cheesecloth
  • Large bowl
  • Colander or hook
  • Teaspoon
  • Stirring spoon
  • A place to hang your cheese for 12-24 hours.

NOTE:  If you omit the salt and drain for just 4-8 hours, you can use it as you would plain cream cheese for a rich tasting but lower fat cheesecake or veggie dip.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • STEP 1 – Line your colander with cheesecloth and place the colander in the bowl.
  • STEP 2 – Stir the salt into the yogurt and dump it all into the cheesecloth-lined colander.

    My favorite method of draining uses a “Banana Tree”.

  • STEP 3 – Drain at room temperature (ideally) for at least 12 hours but I have found that 24-48 hours gives me a thicker, more complex cheese. You can leave it in the colander (cover with more cloth so keep out dust etc.) or what I prefer, by gathering the ends of the cheesecloth and tying them in a knot, hanging them on a hook or cupboard handle, suspended above a bowl to catch the moisture draining from your cheese.The idea is to drain the whey and be left with a thick cream cheese.  My favorite way to release whey is by hanging bundles from a “Banana Tree”. Most people hang the bag of yogurt from a cupboard handle with a bowl beneath it. If you have cats/flying bugs or other reasons why you don’t want it out in the open, you can hang the wet bundle from a rack in your fridge with a bowl beneath it.NOTE:  Refrigerated draining takes longer and produced a less complex flavor but if you just can’t leave it out, let it drain in the fridge until you like the results.

Beware, it starts smelling a bit fermented and cheesy but this is good! When it’s done, you will have a thick, tart, delicious little ball of yogurt cheese. Don’t worry about spoilage because the bacteria and salt both protect against it. If you are in a very hot climate or reduce the salt, keep a close eye on it because these conditions can allow for mold. Do not eat moldy batches.

I like to pat it dry with paper towels or dry cheesecloth.

Store it like cream cheese with or without herbs. See below for more.

What to do with your Labneh or Yogurt Cream Cheese

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  • Mix or top with Mediterranean herbs like thyme and some fresh cracked pepper then use as a dip or spread for flat bread and crisp veggies. Drizzle with plenty of good olive oil!
  • Roll into little balls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with zattar (thyme, zumac and sesame seed herb mix) or other herbs and eat with pita.

    Optionally, shape into round bites and air-dry for a couple of hours before covering with olive oil in a glass jar. Amazing appetizer or gift!

  • Use it liberally and drop a ball into chili, tacos, salads etc. YUM!

I’m lucky to have a good friend who brought me real Labneh from the West Bank. The little balls were clearly air-dried a bit so that the flavor was even more mouth-watering and intense. It’s amazing that something so simple can end up with a flavor as intense as goat cheese or feta!

Tasting the real thing (and asking her to to interview grandmas on their methods) has improved my version of this cheese drastically! I hope you try this and love it as much as I do. It’s honestly my favorite cheese.

The photos below show you my inspiration. Thank you Stephanie 🙂