Labneh is a traditional Levantine dish made of strained yogurt. This Lebanese yogurt cheese is made with whole milk yogurt that is strained until thick and can either be served as is, made into a dip or spread, or preserved as labneh balls in oil. Throughout this post, you will see that this is a very easy labneh recipe with only 2 ingredients.Jump to Recipe
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When talking about the traditional food of Lebanon, you can't go without mentioning Lebanese Labneh (aka lebnah, labne, labaneh and lebni). Labneh cheese is actually made out of yogurt that is strained and has a texture similar to a cream cheese.
Labneh cheese is so common in Lebanese food traditions that it would be very rare not to find it served at any meal. It is commonly served with a Lebanese breakfast of eggs and Za'atar Bread. It is also served alongside the Lebanese national dish of baked or fried kibbeh and other traditional Lebanese foods.
And let's not forget that it would be nearly a sin to leave it off of the mezze platter at family gatherings and other events!
So what does labneh taste like?
Labneh is slightly salty and quite tangy in nature. It is a salted strained yogurt and is easily spreadable onto warm pita bread. Labneh is similar to a thick creamy version of yogurt, but even more like a soft cheese. It is best when served with other toppings or mix-ins, or alongside of a flavorful meat dish like kafta, shawarma, or kibbeh.
Just to clarify, this recipe for labneh will NOT be explaining how to make labneh from milk. We are starting out with store bought (or already made) yogurt and going from there. Feel free to use homemade yogurt, as long as it was made with whole milk.
There are 2 simple ingredients for homemade labneh:
- whole milk yogurt
So I think my Sittie would say that the only way to make this labneh Lebanese, would be to strain the yogurt by tying it to the kitchen faucet and letting it drain there. However I like to do it in a deep bowl for several reasons...
- Food Safety- yogurt is a dairy product so it should be kept refrigerated in order to ensure that you don't get any unwanted bacterial growth on there and that you don't get food poisoning (and kitchen sinks can be gross)
- No more waste- Straining the yogurt into a bowl allows you to save the whey to use in other recipes
For this Lebanese labneh recipe, the only equipment you need is some cheese cloth, or even better, a thin muslin kitchen towel. I personally think cheese cloth is too thin to use and in my experience, making labneh is easier with a muslin or thin cotton dish towel like this one from Amazon...
Go ahead and take a large bowl and place your cotton cloth or cheese cloth in it. Mix the salt into the yogurt and pour the yogurt into the middle of the cloth. Place a wooden spoon across the top of the bowl and tie the cloth with the yogurt up onto the wooden spoon so that the yogurt is suspended and not touching the bottom of the bowl.
Place the bowl into the fridge and allow it to drain for 12-24 hours.
After that time, remove it from the fridge, place the cloth in a different bowl, open it up and scoop out all of that smooth labneh, placing it in a serving bowl.
If you want, save the liquid whey to use it in another recipe. This is a small batch of labneh, just so you know. It yields about 1 cup of labneh when it is all said and done. It can easily be increased by doubling or tripling the recipe.
Labneh can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.
🥗 Serving suggestions
There are several ways for how to eat labneh. Some labneh recipes call for toppings like fresh herbs and spices. Once you add the toppings you can serve it with fresh hot pita bread. You can traditionally serve labneh with olive oil and za'atar on the top, or even better serve it on my Za'atar bread.
How to preserve Labneh balls in olive oil:
If you would like to preserve this Lebanese yogurt recipe I would suggest doubling or tripling this recipe. After it is made, form them into small labneh balls, about the size of a ping pong ball or smaller. Place them in a mason jar and cover it with extra virgin olive oil. You can even make it garlic labneh by adding dried minced garlic if you wish.
Really you can make any sort of spiced labneh you want. Add some za'atar, crushed red or Aleppo peppers, mint or whatever you wish!
Once the labneh balls are completely submerged, place the lid on the jar and you can store it at room temperature for up to 4 months in the pantry in a dark place.
*If you decide to refrigerate the labneh in olive oil, the oil will solidify.
What kind of yogurt to use?
Some recipes for labneh call for using Greek yogurt, however I beg to differ! I completely prefer to use whole milk yogurt in this homemade labneh recipe.
Is labneh and Greek yogurt the same?
Let's talk about Greek yogurt vs labneh. While they have similarities, and Greek yogurt is a good substitute for Labneh when you are in a pinch, they are quite different. Greek yogurt is strained, but not strained as much as Lebanese labneh yogurt is.
Labneh is much more spreadable than Greek yogurt and the flavor is much tangier and even more sour. Labneh, in general, is not meant to be eaten with sweet things or fruit. On the other hand, Greek yogurt can be served sweet.
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- Baklawa - The Best Lebanese Baklava Recipe
Where to buy Labneh?
Labneh should easily be found at your local Mediterranean store.
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- 2 cups whole milk yogurt *see notes
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Place cheesecloth or a thin cotton kitchen cloth into a deep bowl
- Mix salt and yogurt together and pour it into the middle of the straining cloth
- Tie the cloth up and onto a wooden spoon and place the wooden spoon over the top of the bowl so that the yogurt is suspended off of the bottom of the bowl
- Place the bowl and straining yogurt into the fridge for 12-24 hours (up to 36 hours) and let it drain
- Remove the strained yogurt (now "Labneh") from the cloth and serve or place into an airtight container and into the fridge
- Labneh can be preserved at room temperature if made into balls and submerged in extra virgin olive oil *see post for more detailed instructions