What Is Labneh? What to Know About This Secret Mediterranean Spread

If you're a fan of Greek yogurt, just wait until you try its cool (and creamy) cousin.

Plain yogurt is a staple in many kitchens. It makes a great breakfast with berries and granola, a veggie dip, or even a healthy substitute for sour cream on taco night. Most people usually opt for a thick yogurt, but it might be time to try labneh (pronounced like leb-nay). Like Greek-style yogurt, it's creamy and tangy but much thicker. Here, you'll learn what labneh is and how to use it in your favorite recipes. Prepare to meet your new yogurt obsession.

What Is Labneh Cheese?

overhead of Labneh in a bowl with olives and herbs
Drizzle labneh with olive oil, herbs, and spices to make an easy dip for snacking. NatashaBreen/Getty Images

Labneh, frequently used in Mediterranean cuisine, is made from fermented milk (plain yogurt) strained for several hours to remove all the moisture. Its consistency is similar to whipped cream cheese. Labneh can be consumed raw or cooked into dishes. It's also packed with protein and gut-healthy probiotics.

How to Make Labneh

Many grocery stores now carry labneh in the dairy section, but it's simple to make at home. You only need whole-milk yogurt (cow's milk is more traditional, but goat's milk is another option) and a little salt. No need to use Greek yogurt here; plain, unsweetened whole-milk yogurt will do the trick.

  1. Stir together ¼ tsp. salt for every 1 cup of yogurt you use and place in a colander lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.
  2. Cover it with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge to let the whey (the yellowish, watery liquid that will be leftover in your bowl) strain for 24 hours.
  3. The next day, remove the whey and use your labneh however you like (more on that below).

That's it! For more detailed instructions, here's a labneh recipe from our sister site, Cooking Light.

Labneh Origin

The word labneh is derived from "laban," which means white or milk. The birthplace of labneh isn't entirely clear. Labneh cheese (aka labneh for short) became most well-known in Levant (a region that includes modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Israel). It's been a fundamental ingredient in this region's cuisine for thousands of years.

Historically, countries with hot climates, such as Egypt, didn't have the means to preserve fresh milk, making it curdle into yogurt and forming a soft cheese.

Substitutes for Labneh

Labneh has the texture of cream cheese, and you can use labneh instead of this familiar favorite. Smear it on your morning bagel, or mix it with your cheesecake recipe for a tangy twist. Similarly to how you could substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream, you could also substitute labneh.

Our Favorite Recipes Using Labneh

According to a post by Suzy Karadsheh on The Mediterranean Dish, "good labneh is as non-negotiable as good hummus" in Middle Eastern homes. The traditional way to enjoy labneh is by simply spreading it on a plate with a drizzle of quality olive oil ($16, World Market) and a sprinkle of Za'atar spice (a traditional Middle Eastern savory spice blend). Serve with veggies and pita chips for an easy snack. You can also use labneh as a topping for your favorite grilled meats, add it to your charcuterie board, or try it in our delicious vegetarian lasagna recipe. The options are virtually endless.

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