Make Ahead

A trio of Labneh

June 25, 2011
0 Ratings
  • Makes 10 - 12 balls
Author Notes

I love the transformation a simple ingredient can make, even without the application of heat. Take labneh - a cream cheese made from hung yogurt. Simple but amazing. And versatile. Stir some sugar in for a sweet alternative to cream cheese, roll into balls and finish with a crust of herbs or nuts for another. I've even made a smoked version, lined small spice bowls with vine leaves, filled them with labneh and then smoked gently over a combination of jasmine tea leaves, brown rice and sugar.

Kitchen Butterfly

What You'll Need
  • 350 g Turkish or Greek (set) yogurt
  • Salt, to taste
  • Greek herb mix – a dried blend of oregano, basil, thyme, mint and parsley
  • Nut mix – like Dukkah, Za'atar or crushed nuts like (flaked almonds) with chopped fresh mint, coriander
  • Suya mix – ground peanuts with a mixture of paprika, chilli, ginger powder, onion powder, garlic powder and salt
  • To serve, pita chips, acacia honey (great with the nutty version), mugs of mint tea
  1. PREPARE THE YOGURT: stir the yogurt well and season with salt. The salt helps draw out the whey (think of cucumbers& aubergines where the salt drains them of their natural liquids). If you want to use this in a ‘sweet’ recipe, temper how much salt you add.
  2. BAG AND HANG: place the yogurt in the centre of a muslin/cheesecloth folded 4 times (or line a sieve with coffee filters). Gather up the ends of the cloth and tie up tight, gently gathering up the yogurt to form a ball. You’ll notice the whey begin to drip as soon as you begin. (Keep the whey in the fridge stir into your breakfast cereal, or back into yogurt, in pancake mixes...or find out a myriad other ways to use it – it is rich in protein, and remember Little Miss Muffet?)
  3. Moving on, pass a skewer through the tie/knot and hang over a deep bowl. Some people leave it to hang at room temperature but for hygiene issues, I place my yogurt over a bowl, in the fridge overnight. The next morning, much of the whey will have drained out, leaving a creamy residue - firm on the outside andsoft and creamy on the inside.
  4. If you like, you can serve it now, gently stirred together and topped with anything from olives and tomatoes to herbs and spice mixes.
  5. MAKE LABNEH BALLS: put your spice mixes in bowls. The amount you need will vary according to preferences. Pinch off chunks of cheese, dunk them in the spices, then gently roll them to form balls. This will reduce the amount of cheese that sticks to your fingers, though note that a bowl of water close by is very handy.
  6. For the Almond mix, gently mix some chopped fresh mint in the labneh, using the tips of your fingers and minimising the stickiness and loss associated with wet foods. Pinch off cheese chunks and roll them in the crushed almonds or dukkah mix.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • msmely
  • Droplet
  • chaoscookie
I love food and I'm interested in making space for little-heard voices, as well as celebrating Nigerian cuisine in its entirety.

3 Reviews

msmely June 16, 2013
If you hang it at room temperature, the lactobacillus in the yogurt will produce lactic acid at a faster rate, so you will end up with a more sour labneh. If you like your labneh less tangy, the fridge is the way to go.
chaoscookie June 25, 2011
Oh I definitely want to try this out. I love Greek yogurt, spices, tea, honey, and making a snack out of any combination of those. Thank you for the tip about using a sieve and coffee filters... I never have cheesecloth around the house but have plenty of the other. :)

P.S. your photos are gorgeous! Can't wait to look through your other recipes and see how you've shot those.
Droplet June 25, 2011
I really like your idea. And a beautiful presentation.