A simple DIY for how to make homemade labneh and labneh balls – a delicious, extra thick and tangy strained Middle Eastern yogurt cheese.
Homemade labneh (also known as labnah/labne) is honestly part of my childhood and still a favourite in my apartment. This Middle Eastern yogurt cheese is just one of the nicest, yet simplest things for a meal – thick, tangy, spreadable and delicious. Plus, learning how to make labneh is ridiculously simple as it just takes one ingredient and a couple of steps for this labneh recipe.
For people that have never had labneh before, I like to describe it almost like a super thick yogurt/cheese spread. I’ve always loved greek yogurt for how thick it is, and that is a ‘slightly strained’ yogurt. Well, this labneh recipe puts that to shame and raises it x10, for a super-thick creamy spread that is to-die-for.
The process of making labneh helps to separate the yogurt from the liquid whey, leaving you with a super thick leftover labneh cheese. The straining process also helps lower the lactose levels.
It can then be served as a dip, or spread for toast or warm pita, within Lebanese sandwiches and anywhere you’d use cream cheese too.
How to make labneh:
There are two different methods for making homemade labneh:
- Make it entirely from scratch. This means first preparing your homemade natural yogurt and then starting this labneh recipe.
- The second is as simple as picking up a store-bought full-fat plain yogurt.
Once you’ve chosen the yogurt method you’d like to use, then it’s time to learn how to make this creamy labneh. And there’s no way I couldn’t even try to oversell how simple the process for making labneh is – it’s probably one of the simplest DIY’s I’ve ever shared on this blog.
This labneh recipe is just milk yogurt that has been strained over a long period, to remove the excess liquid whey.
You can do this by placing your yogurt into a muslin cloth or within a nut milk bag. Some people also use layers of cheesecloth – but I’ve found that the nut milk bag is my preferred low-mess option.
Note* You can add a little bit of salt to this mixture. I usually add a pinch of salt and leave any additional ingredients/flavorings to when I’m using the homemade labneh. Some people add lemon juice to assist in the fermenting process and in creating acid whey. However, I find that I like my results without it.
This yogurt then needs to be hung above a deep bowl, to allow the liquid to strain into it. If you don’t have a big jar like in the photo above, you can also hang it from a doorknob on a kitchen cabinet. You could also attach it to the kitchen faucet to drain directly into the sink. This depends on if you want to make use of the leftover whey or not.
Then leave the yogurt to drain
Let it be for a few hours, and you’ll see the liquid slowly but surely straining. The homemade labneh will get thicker and sourer (which is what distinguishes labneh balls), the longer you leave it so you can test it after a few hours to see what you think. It can also be left to strain overnight and anywhere from 12 hours up to 24 hours.
I once left it for around 46 hours and, at that point, you get very thick labneh that you can physically mold it into shape. It’s still perfectly edible this way though and can even be formed into balls and stored in olive oil in glass jars for months. I usually don’t feel the need to do this though, as I go through labneh so quickly.
What you’ll end up with is a large bowl of the whey from the yogurt and a bag full of thick, spreadable Middle Eastern yogurt cheese. i.e. labneh
This recipe yielded around 3 cups of homemade labneh so you can adjust the amount of starting yogurt, depending on how much labneh you’d like.
Store your homemade labneh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Or, form into balls and store in olive oil in glass jars for months.
How to preserve Labneh in Olive oil:
First, roll the labneh into balls. It’s best to make them pretty much the same size. You could use a measuring spoon to help you scoop the same amount each time.
Place the balls in a jar that can be closed tightly. Then fill up with extra virgin olive oil.
As long as the balls stay completely submerged in the olive oil, their good quality is preserved. Store in a dark place (I store mine in the cupboard) for up to 6 months (my mom keeps this for up to a year). When you want to use the labneh, you can scoop out just one or as many balls as needed, spread it on toast and sprinkle with some herbs.
Note that if you keep the jar in the fridge, the olive oil will solidify.
What to do with the leftover whey?
There are a few ways to use the leftover whey from the yogurt – but if you’re reading this section and don’t even really know what whey is, then have no fear.
Whey is the yellow, cloudy liquid left from curdled milk, or in this case, yogurt. It’s packed with protein though as well as various vitamins and minerals.
If you’re someone that uses a lot of protein powders, whey is a popular choice of protein.
- One of the ways I use it most often is to drink it. I’ll add it to my smoothies and juices – although it can be drunk as-is.
- It can also be used for baking bread or even things like muffins and tortillas you can use whey in place of water.
- It can be added to homemade soup recipes, used in place of some homemade vegetable stock.
- You can add it to hummus recipes, to thin out the mixture.
As well as that it can also be used for a variety of non-food related uses. This includes as a skin toner, for your hair, to water plants, etc.
For a longer list of ideas on how to use the leftover whey then check out this blog post.
Ways to serve your homemade labneh Recipe
I touched on this at the beginning of my post – I love to serve my homemade labneh recipe as a dip with olive oil and a good sprinkling of za’atar. You could also add some salt or pepper, or some lemon zest. I also use it as a spread within my Lebanese sandwiches or for a delicious breakfast toast.
It’s also basically a great option to replace cream cheese in most cases.
One of my current absolute favorite ways of eating it, though, is as a breakfast toast/healthy snack. Spread over toast, then add thinly sliced cucumbers, a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. Possibly even some fresh herbs or zaatar, if you feel like it.
It is a great healthy snack that is super simple to throw together, whenever you’re getting hunger pangs.
If you give this DIY a try then I’d appreciate a recipe rating, and feel free to tag me in your re-creations @AlphaFoodie.
Homemade Labneh and Labneh balls
- 8 cups natural yogurt this can be homemade or store-bought
- pinch of salt - optional
- Olive oil in case you're making the Labneh balls. This is needed to submerge them in it so they are preserved for several months.
- Place your yogurt into a muslin cloth or within a nut milk bag. Some people also use layers of cheesecloth - but I've found that the nut milk bag is my preferred low-mess option. *
- This yogurt then needs to be hung above a deep bowl, to allow the liquid to strain into it. I like to hang mine from a doorknob on a kitchen cabinet. You could also attach it to the kitchen faucet to drain directly into the sink. This depends on if you want to make use of the leftover whey or not.
- Leave it be for a few hours, and you'll see the liquid slowly but surely straining. The homemade labneh will get thicker, the longer you leave it so you can test it after a few hours to see what you think. It can also be left to strain overnight and anywhere up to 24 hours.** See the video.
- It yields about 3 cups of strained labneh.Store your homemade labneh in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Or form in balls, place in a jar, and cover with olive oil. This way you can keep it for up to 6 months.
- You can either make this recipe from homemade natural yogurt or use store-bought full-fat yogurt.
- For a list of how to use the leftover whey, then read the full blog post.
- * You can add a little bit of salt and lemon juice to this mixture. I usually add a pinch of salt and leave any additional ingredients/flavorings to when I'm using the homemade labneh. Lemon juice will assist in the fermenting process and in creating acid whey. However, I find that I like my results without it.
- ** I once left it for around 46 hours and, at that point, you can physically mold it into shape. It's still perfectly edible this way though.