How to Make Labneh at Home, Right Now

We'll bring over the warm pita. Thank us later.

August 16, 2019

Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home. Today, FOOD52 all-star Rivka Friedman shares some labneh wisdom that she picked up while living in Jerusalem. Rivka is the blogger behind Not Derby Pie.

After college, I lived in Jerusalem for two years. Thursday afternoons, with class and work over for the week, I’d flee my office in the suburbs and hop on the 21 bus, which took me right smack into the heart of downtown. From there, I’d bound up the stairs of the Jaffa Gate, pass the first few vendors in the Shuk (market), and hook a left. Tucked across from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and just steps from the hustle of the market was Lena’s, home of the best hummus and labneh Jerusalem has to offer.

To Jerusalemites, those may be fighting words; countless stalls would lay claim to that title. But Lena’s truly is the best. Their hummus is served warm, with plenty of fresh tahini, a pile of just-cooked chickpeas , and a more-than-healthy swirl of really fragrant olive oil. And their labneh is equally perfect, dressed, too, with plenty of that olive oil and a big sprinkle of za’atar. (What is labneh? An ultra-creamy, slightly tart cheese made from straining yogurt. It's like sour cream, if it got magically thicker and more luscious.) 

My time in Jerusalem flew by. Before I knew it, I was back in the U.S., without either my fun non-profit job or my beloved Lena’s. The job I could replace, but the hummus and labneh I couldn’t live without. Within a week of moving to my apartment in D.C., I was testing recipes.

Hummus proved easy, in part because recipes abound. Over the years, I’ve settled on a formula very similar to the one Yotam Ottolenghi published in his last book, Plenty, with lots of garlic, an obscene amount of tahini, and the secret ingredient: baking soda.

But then there was the matter of a labneh recipe. My Israeli friends tried to intimidate me, saying the Jerusalem water makes the original formula not replicable. But I knew that was bunk, because a) since when is labneh akin to San Francisco sourdough? And b) Jerusalem water is not my favorite, taste-wise.

Shop the Story

As it happens, making good labneh is even easier than making good hummus. You absolutely need good extra virgin olive oil and good za’atar. Those are non-negotiables. But the method is simple:

1. Just stir a tiny bit of lemon juice and salt into Greek yogurt.

2. Set the mixture inside a cheesecloth-lined strainer, and let time do the work. (As in, 12 to 24 hours.) 

3. After a nice long wait, the salt will dissolve into the yogurt, which mellows slightly as it sits. Most importantly, the whey strains out, leaving you with thick, concentrated labneh.

From there, all you have to do is drown the labneh in good olive oil, sprinkle more than a few pinches of za’atar overtop, and have warm pita at the ready. Were you hoping for something more complicated? Sorry about that.

Homemade Labneh Recipe
Makes about a cup

12 oz. your favorite brand of Greek yogurt 
A pinch (as in 1/16 of a teaspoon) good salt
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil, preferably Mediterranean
1 tablespoon za’atar

Line a fine strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and set over a bowl.

In another bowl, combine yogurt, salt, and lemon juice. Stir to incorporate. Spoon yogurt mixture into the cheesecloth-lined strainer and fold layers of cheesecloth over the yogurt to cover completely.

Transfer yogurt (and strainer and bowl) to the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. After 12 hours, the yogurt mixture will have thickened into standard labneh; after 24 hours, it will have thickened further, into the extra-stiff labneh that you can buy in tubes at Jerusalem markets. When making it at home, I favor extra-thick labneh.

Remove strained labneh from the fridge, unfold cheesecloth, and transfer labneh to a serving bowl. Use the back of a spoon to make a swirly pattern in the top of the labneh. Drizzle the oil over the labneh and sprinkle with za’atar. Serve cold, with sliced vegetables and/or warm pita.

Save and print the recipe here.

This story originally ran in September 2012. 

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Deborah Thomas
    Deborah Thomas
  • Synthpapa
  • Jabneel Henry
    Jabneel Henry
  • miria
  • Melissa
I'm a healthcare consultant by day, food blogger by night, and I make a mean veggie chili. I'm eat a mostly-vegetarian diet, but have a soft spot for meat, especially braised short ribs. And this profile wouldn't be complete without an admission that I absolutely am addicted to cookies and chocolate. Finally, I love the idea of food52 and can't wait to share and read my and others' favorite recipes!


Deborah T. August 17, 2019
A Lebanese grandma taught me how to make by putting yogurt in flour sack towel and hanging overnight by a rubber band from kitchen faucet. I've made it for years. Perfect consistency every time!
Synthpapa January 14, 2019
Nothing to complicate here. I've used about every plain yogurt product out there to make labneh and it's always stunningly awesome. I think whole milk yo gives a better texture but you really can't go wrong with any variety. I use greek yogurt labneh place of quark now (of which I am a major fan) not only because it has a similar flavor profile and "lift" - don't know how else to describe the body - but because quark is a pain in the ass to find. Love my labneh best with olive oil, walnuts, those black briney turkish olives and a dusting of sumac!
Jabneel H. May 18, 2018
For someone who is allergic to cows milk would an alternative yogurt work?
Basil K. April 28, 2019
I haven't ever tried a goat yogurt labneh, but I wouldn't see why not. Since we do have goat milk yogurt, you could strain yogurt enough to get it to have that thick labneh consistency.
Valerie S. August 17, 2019
I make it with goat yogurt which also seems more authentic in flavor. I live in Brooklyn where luckily we still have some really amazing middle eastern run shops along Atlantic Ave. When I can't make it to Damascus Bakery I make it.
miria January 20, 2015
why do people associate labneh w israel? it's an appropriation of culture.... not saying jewish ppl can't enjoy it on the contrary but please give it its rightful claim!
Author Comment
Rivka January 20, 2015
Miria, worth reading the thread below, where we addressed this:
--> By calling it an Israeli classic, I didn't mean to suggest that Israel invented it - only that it's a staple on every table in Israel. Incidentally, Lena's is an Arab-owned restaurant in the Christian quarter of the Old City.
Rasha A. September 18, 2019
That would make sense in a different context. Like lets say pizza in New York. The context here is different because it involves the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from what is now called Israel and the continued occupation and control of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel. Here are some links that say it better than me

Melissa November 9, 2014
I LOVED your description of Jerusalem and the shuk! (I spent 5 seasons excavating in Israel)! It really brought back memories! & I absolutely agree..... it isn't the water! Jerusalem water IS disgusting (or at least it was in the late 90s)! Cant wait to try the recipe (I used to eat it all the time... my favorite was at a restaurant in Caesurae (we were closer to it than Jerusalem).
Brenda H. October 31, 2014
Oh. You bought the yogurt? Real Labneh is made from homemade yogurt. It uses a different culture. Fage doesn't have the 'tang' of real labneh. I make it weekly from scratch and save the starter from the fresh batch. Tip: you can keep the starter in your freezer til you need it. Just thaw and use. It will not keep the same texture but the enzyme is good and it will make a perfect fresh batch of Luban.
Jenny M. March 20, 2015
Brenda, I would love to know your homemade yogurt recipe!
yellowbird October 20, 2014
Lena's!!! Oh the memories! I can almost replicate the hummus but the fresh, puffy pitas still elude me.
CurioCook June 23, 2014
In NZ you can't get a proper greek yogurt anywhere (or I'm yet to find it). Would regular yogurt work, and just take a whole lot to get to the right texture or will it not work right? The beautiful thing about NZ yogurt is that plain yogurt never has sugar added!
katrina_yeaw June 23, 2014
Plain yogurt will work fine. Greek yogurt is basically plain yogurt that has some of the whey drained out. Labneh drains even more of the whey out until it reaches a more cheese like consistency. You may need to leave it a bit longer and use a large quantity of yogurt but otherwise it should work fine. I also favor tying the ends of the cheesecloth around a large wooden spoon and balancing on the lip of the bowl rather than using a strainer since I think it drains better. You can also experiment with goat yogurt for a slightly different flavor.
Avi R. May 23, 2014
i hang it on the faucet and not in the fridge, taste amazing also mix goat and cow yogurt with lemon and salt
MUriel April 14, 2014
I'd love your hummus recipe? Care to share?
Michele L. December 8, 2013
I just made this yesterday with plain nonfat greek yogurt and no lemon...I let it sit for 24 hours draining in the fridge and rolled half into little balls, stored in the fridge covered with olive oil. It is FABULOUS! The other 1/4 (well I ate some today!!) is going to be a dip for lunch tomorrow. Thank you for this easy and delicious recipe!
Author Comment
Rivka December 9, 2013
So glad to hear you enjoyed it!
nitya December 8, 2013

I have been reading your blog regularly, but I simply enjoyed reading this post and the comments. I hardly ever comment but call it hung curd/drained yogurt/Chakka/labneh was too alluring. In gujarat (India) where people follow vegetarianism, it is used in mousse and mayo in place of eggs and I use it in my cheesecakes and cakes too. Since it’s very hot the yogurt is left to drain in the fridge. We do not add salt to the yogurt as we use the drained yogurt for dessert and my favorite is “mango shrikhand”, add powdered or icing sugar and mango pulp or any other fruit pulp, whisk and voila your (fruit flavored) shrikhand is ready
The left over whey… it is very healthy, and we use it as buttermilk, add a dash of salt, roasted cumin powder, a few chopped leaves of mint and you have a summer cooler. We also use the whey to knead the dough for thepla (akin to paratha/flat bread) and kadhi(gujaratiyogurt soup).
Author Comment
Rivka December 9, 2013
Thanks for your comments, nitya. I also use a concoction similar to labneh when making Indian curries. When I have time, I make a proper raita - but even if I don't, I find that serving curries with plain yogurt helps cut their pungency.
Ismat I. July 30, 2013
Dear Rivka,

Such a delicious article I must say, and the creamy labneh in the photo looks amazing. I have a question I would be glad if you can answer, how much Labneh does every 1 kg of yogurt make?
Sa'ed July 30, 2013
I think 750 gm.
Author Comment
Rivka July 31, 2013
It all depends on how long you strain it. I aim to reduce the volume to about 3/4 of the original, per Sa'ed's comment, but you could let it strain for a few days and it would become firm enough to roll into balls and marinate in oil, mozzarella style. The timing on that can vary, so be patient.
Dima H. July 4, 2013
well i love my labaneh zaatar free :) however the pictures look amazing ...
adele93 February 3, 2013
is there an alternative for cheese cloth?
reddragon February 3, 2013
I use a very fine strainer, and it works beautifully. Just make sure you put the yogurt in gently.
reddragon February 3, 2013
Here's the link:
Superyalda February 3, 2013
I've used everything from a cotton table napkin to a clean cotton diaper (the single layer ones). You can use any clean smooth fabric I guess. Never did try the strainer, I'd be afraid to lose even a single drop of the labane :) you'd definitely need a very fine strainer. The nice thing about the fabric is that I tie it to a wooden spoon and dangle it in my tall pasta pot to drain.
Michael W. February 5, 2013
A Coffee filter is a good alternative of cotton cloth
Dima H. July 4, 2013
Just use a good quality kitchen paper towel, use to layers of towels and strain :) My mother has been using this method for ages.
CHeeb August 16, 2019
Adele,I strain my yogurt in a coffee filter set into a mug to catch the whey. It works like cheesecloth!
Chef C. October 4, 2012
There is also "quark" and "yogurt cheese". I believe quark is a German version of drained, thickened yogurt, although not very tangy--at least the product I have tried.
Chef C. October 4, 2012
There is also "quark" and "yogurt cheese". I believe quark is a German version of drained, thickened yogurt, although not very tangy--at least the product I have tried.
Author Comment
Rivka October 4, 2012
Pretty sure quark is made from soured milk, not regular milk, which would account for its different texture.
reddragon October 4, 2012
As Asuysal points out, Turkish suzme yogurt *is* labne. As a marketing gimmick, there are companies (e.g. Pinar) that sell packaged labne, as though it was something new. If you strain regular yogurt a bit, you get 'Greek yogurt'. You strain a bit more, you get labne. For some, there's no difference between 'Greek yogurt' and labne.

The sourness depends entirely on the sourness of the yogurt. And the sourness of the yogurt depends entirely on how long you let it incubate. I let mine incubate about 6-7 hours for a yogurt that's not very sour. The longer it sits, the sourer it gets.

Re creaminess, once you strain the yogurt, if you stir it vigorously with a spoon. or better yet, with a whisk, it becomes super smooth and shiny.
Author Comment
Rivka October 4, 2012
Thanks for the intel - very helpful.
Asaracoglu October 1, 2012
In Turkey, we have 'suzme yogurt' which is basically yogurt strained as described in your post, and also 'labne' which is more like a not-creamy cream cheese. I wonder what exactly the difference is. Is labne just strained yogurt everywhere other than Turkey?
Author Comment
Rivka October 3, 2012
Hmm. I was in Istanbul about five years ago, but I don't remember encountering labneh there, so I can't really speak to the differences between the two in Turkey. In general, I find labneh more downright sour than yogurt, and also creamier.
Superyalda October 1, 2012
I've been making yogurt at home for several months now with tremendous success. I've tried to make some into labane but with little luck. Any advice?
Author Comment
Rivka October 3, 2012
What's gone wrong? Does the labneh not thicken? Not taste right?
Author Comment
Rivka October 3, 2012
Hmm - what has gone wrong? Did the labneh not set? Was the flavor wrong?
Superyalda November 28, 2012
Hi, Rivka
Sorry it took so long to answer, internet problems.
It thickens up nicely. I pour the yogurt into a clean white gauze and hang it to drain at room temperature until the texture is right. It's the taste. It's somewhat tasteless and has a overly sour smell. I'm using a good organic, active yogurt as a starter, and as mentioned, the yogurt is fabulous. It's the labane which isn't tasting/smelling right. Could it be salt? I haven't been adding any. Should I?
BTW, I'm living in Israel for 13 years now since my aliyah from the States, so I know what "real" labane is supposed to taste like :)
Author Comment
Rivka December 7, 2012
Salt definitely could be the answer, since it acts as a preservative. As you see, I don't use much. I used to use none at all, but I've found that even a pinch of salt makes a difference in the flavor. That said, there really is something about the packaged stuff that is so, so delicious. When I was there a couple weeks ago, I talked to my favorite labneh maker, and he said what sets his apart is that it's made from goat's milk. There are countless variations here, and while I think this recipe comes pretty close for those of us who can't buy it in a tub, when I'm in Israel, I don't make labneh at home. :)
Superyalda December 7, 2012
Thanks, Rivka. I'll add the salt next time.
And true, it's easy to buy here but I love making things from scratch. :)