Saturday, March 28, 2015


Last Year's Post: Lentil Salad with Bacon and Walnuts
Two Years Ago:  Asian Roast Pork with Broccoli Slaw and Pasta

I have to thank my friend Rita as the inspiration for this particular post.  She brought some appetizers to our house a while back that used Greek yogurt cream cheese, which I hadn't heard of previously.  It was very good and I liked the idea of the product (healthier than cream cheese) so I looked for it in the store.  There are at least two different brands out there and both seem to be a blend of Greek yogurt with cream cheese.  They have the texture of cream cheese but not quite the richness, plus an added tang from the yogurt.

OK, fast forward a few weeks when I stumbled across an article on ways to use yogurt, including making labneh.  Labneh?  Labneh is a cheese made from straining the liquid out of yogurt, popular in the Middle East and Central Asia.  It sounded like the yogurt cream cheese except even better because it doesn't contain cream cheese, so of course I had to try it.

We all know how healthy yogurt is, but what I didn't know is that strained yogurt has a higher protein content and lower sugar/carbohydrate content than regular yogurt. In addition to Labneh, Greek yogurt is also a strained yogurt  unless the label reads "Greek-style" in which case it may be thickened with thickening agents rather than by straining.

The process for making Labneh couldn't be simpler - combine yogurt with a tiny bit of salt, enclose in cheesecloth, and suspend over a bowl in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the liquid to drip out and the cheese to thicken.  How thick you want it is entirely up to you - the longer it sits, the thicker it gets.  (If you have a fine mesh strain that hooks over a bowl, you could line it with cheesecloth and use it instead of the wooden spoon trick to suspend the yogurt.)

The result is wonderful - a cream cheese substitute that's actually good for you and delicious at the same time - a total win/win in my book. If you put it in cute little glass jars it makes a great hostess gift.  Here are some ideas for how to use Labneh that you could print on a card to go with the jar:

  • Open-faced sandwich with thin toasted bread, labneh, sliced radishes, sea salt.
  • Add a bit of brown sugar and some chopped walnuts to labneh, and use to fill pitted dates.
  • Stuff peppadews or hollowed-out cherry tomatoes with labneh, garnish with small basil leaf. 
  • Place labneh in a shallow bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar seasoning, serve with toasted pita wedges.
  • Serve a dollop on top of quiche or frittata.
  • Bagels!
  • Slice of rye toast, layer of labneh, layer of fig jam.
  • Spoon a dollop on stew, chili or lentil soup.
  • Breakfast granola bowl with labneh, granola, fruit, a drizzle of honey.

printable recipe
Makes about 2 cups

Note:  Full-fat yogurt really is better to give the cheese richness.  Don’t substitute low-fat or non-fat.
32 ounces plain full-fat yogurt
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

 Line a deep bowl with a triple layer of cheesecloth.  Stir the salt into the yogurt and spoon into the cheesecloth.  Gather the top of the cloth together and tie with a string.  Tie the neck of the bundle to a wooden spoon that’s long enough to set across the top of the bowl. Use the spoon to hang the bundle over the bowl making sure the bottom of the cheesecloth is suspended a couple of inches above the bottom of the bowl.  Cover the whole thing with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Check to see if you like the consistency of the cheese – if you want it even thicker you can refrigerate it longer,  it’s all a matter of preference.

Remove the cheese from the cloth and store in glass or plastic containers in the refrigerator.

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