Labneh is simply yogurt that has been drained over a cheesecloth draped colander. What you are left with after the whey is drained off is a dense and creamy yogurt that has a similar consistency to softened cream cheese. Here I serve it with just good honey and extra virgin olive oil. You don’t need to dress it up too much or it will lose the lush clean flavour. I often eat it as is but you may choose to serve it as part of a meze and have freshly baked bread on hand.

Labneh can be used in either sweet or savoury dishes. It is very much like a slightly sour, lighter version of cream cheese or a cross between creme fraiche and a light sour cream. This recipe is one in a list of recipes that falls under my series on, Meze, A Selection of Wonderful Little Bites. With the festive season approaching, I thought it would be useful to post recipes on pre-dinner bites that could be used at one of your year-end parties. A few easy, do ahead hors d’oeuvres is always a good thing to serve during the festive period when you usually have more elaborate menus and even more guests to cater to.

Preparing some pre-dinner bites will preserve your sanity. And, instead of bending over the stove looking disheveled and beading with sweat, you will look positively poised and relaxed as you mingle with your guests. After all, half the work is already done. Your guests’ tummies will be comfortably filled with your tasty pre-made meze. Then, at your leisure, you can saunter into the kitchen to get the rest of the meal ready. That’s pretty stress free entertaining. This is a picture taken at my recent meze party – Meze, A Selection of Wonderful Little Bites. With such an array of tasty morsels to choose from, no one cared for a main course or had room for it!

Scroll down the bottom of the page to find out the names of the meze that I had prepared. 

Labneh, Thick Creamy Yogurt Cheese

Prep: 5 minutes 
Cook:
Inactive: 6 – 24 hours
Level: Easy
Makes: ~3 cups
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Up to a week refrigerated

Ingredients

4 cups (1 litre) unsweetened, unflavoured full fat yogurt*
1 teaspoon salt
* Use Greek yogurt if possible as it is much thicker in consistency

Method

1. If you use Greek or Greek-style yogurt, you will get ~ 3 cups(750ml) of labneh. If you use regular yogurt, as it will be less thick, more whey will strain away and you will get ~ 2 and 1/2 cups (625ml) of labneh.
2. Line a colander with cheesecloth, handkerchief or draining filters as I did. Have the colander sit over a bowl to catch the whey. Open the carton of yogurt. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Transfer into the colander. Cover it and let it drain in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours but ideally 24 hours. I forgot about it once and let it drained for 48 hours. No problem.

3. Remember to pour off the whey that has collected at the end of the day so that it does not come back into contact with the bottom of the draining yogurt. When the  yogurt has drained off, transfer it into a clean vessel, cover and refrigerate.

4. Don’t waste the whey, use it to make bread. I have a recipe, Hamburger Buns, Savoury Buns.  Replace the milk called for in that recipe with whey. The bread will be soft and taste a little like a sour dough bread. You might want to reduce the salt called for in the bread recipe as the whey has salt in it.

5. Scroll down to ‘Tips’ on the many ways to use labneh.

Tips

To have it served as a sweet. Just 2 of many ways…

(1) See my honey bear? It comes in handy when I serve the labneh with just honey. Doesn’t the labneh look wonderfully creamy?

(2) Divide the labneh into little 1/4 sized cups similar to the ones featured in image above. Sprinkle with soft dark brown sugar to cover completely. My favourite is raw organic coconut sugar. Cover and let the sugar soak into the labneh overnight and up to three days. It turns into like a treacle soaked pudding. Yum.

To have it served as a savoury. Just 2 of many ways…

(1) Here it is served with a sprinkling of zaatar (a spice mix that has dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, etc.) and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. All you need is some warm, home baked bread to go with it. I do have a recipe for a Moroccan Round Loaf. You can see the loaf that I baked on the meze table pictured above.


(2) Roll them into ping pong size balls using oiled hands. (You can only roll them into balls when the whey has completed drained off ~24 hours). Pour extra virgin olive oil to cover. Add dried herbs of your choice, pepper and salt. Cover to seal. Refrigerate for a few days to let the flavours develop. Serve as part of a meze with bread, spread over bread…

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

Greek inspired Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta! After eating several clean tasting vegetables based meze, a savoury protein based dish is always welcome! I use frozen raw shrimp that have been cleaned and shelled so it saves me a lot of work! Any short cuts that won’t take any flavour away from my food or add any unnecessary preservative is always welcome!

To recap, this post is part of my series on Meze, A Selection of Wonderful Little Bites. Links to recipes below.

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