Labneh Recipe

Labneh Recipe

Labneh Recipe

For much of December I found myself being entertained rather than entertaining. It was a nice, relaxing way to spend two weeks but I find myself – even now that we’re well into the New Year – looking for a way to make someone else feel special and cared for.  After some recipe rummaging, I had my answer: Labneh.

Soup might comfort, jelly might wibble-wobble, but Labneh delights. This Middle Eastern thickened yogurt appetizer seems oh so fancy but is really a set-it-and-forget-it kind of affair – exactly what I need to pay it forward during a busy time of year. It’s mild and tangy – but if you use full fat yogurt, very creamy and indulgent in a… healthy way (it’s made with yogurt, after all).

Does your mind ever wander when you cook? Mine does.

  • As the yogurt strained in the cool, dark refrigerator I considered the people who came in my life for no more than a season – perhaps a brilliant season, perhaps a painful one. I reminded myself that letting them go is a gift. Ahhhh, what a gift for my heart.
  • As I spooned the thick yogurt into a shallow bowl, forming ridges and valleys with my spatula, I thought of my oldest brother who gave my family a tour of the small beach town during our visit to Cape Charles, VA – the landscape undulating in its own way. I sent him a smile – thanking him for opening his world to us during Christmas.
  • As I drizzled on the olive oil, I thought of my sister who took time to sketch with me over the holidays. We’d giggled at the kitchen table, pencils in hand as we sketched fluidly. What a memory. I sent her a hug.
  • As I released a fluttering of parsley and spice over the bowl, I thought of our cousin’s New Year’s Eve wedding and the sparklers that guarded her procession through the darkness to her love. I sent her warm well-wishes.



Now… if I could just travel back to where they are and share this labneh with our whole family!

Vacation went by way too fast (doesn’t it always?).

Three ways to share labneh:

1. Set a shallow bowl of labneh out and serve with flatbread and vegetable sticks.

2. Cover your palms with olive oil and roll the labneh into balls. The oil will help prevent sticking. Store in olive oil. And/or finish them off by rolling in chopped herbs, za’atar or ground sumac. Spread on toast or flatbread.

3. If you can’t use it all up here’s another idea – cook it!

Yogurt strained through muslin is a traditional food in the Levant, Eastern Mediterranean, Near East, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, where it is often used in cooking (as it is high enough in fat content to avoid curdling at higher temperatures). (Wikipedia)

Who knew!?

As far as easy entertaining and impressive edible gifts go, labneh ranks up there among the a) most impressive b) simplest c) best edible gifts.

Just be sure to set some yogurt to strain a day or two before you need it (things will go quicker if you start with Greek yogurt, as I have done).

Makes about 3 cups labneh


1 quart Greek yogurt, preferably whole
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Toppings (use as desired):

up to 3 Tbsp ground sumac or za’atar
handful fresh parsley and/or tarragon, torn
olive oil for drizzling

For Rolling:

Handful minced chives
up to 1/4 cup ground sumac
1 -2 cups olive oil, for storing
small glass jars (for gifts)


We’re going to the Middle East.

There may be camels.

Camel Crossing. Photo by josefstuefer.

Camel Crossing. Photo by josefstuefer.

Set a strainer over a bowl and line with cheesecloth. Spoon in the yogurt and let drain 1-2 days, depending on desired thickness.

How to strain labneh

Meanwhile, take a stroll through the countryside.

Looking down into a wadi on the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. A tree of an unidentified species of Acacia (possibly Acacia tortilis) grows even in this arid environment. Photo by Florian Prischl.

Looking down into a wadi on the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. Photo by Florian Prischl.

Stir thickened yogurt together with salt and lemon juice to taste.

Labneh Recipe

To serve:

a) Spoon into shallow bowl and top with fresh herbs.

b) Roll into balls with oiled hands. Store in olive oil or roll balls in fresh herbs, sumac, or za’atar. Keep refrigerated.

TIP: If you place the herbs in a small cup or bowl, you can just shake them around. They’ll get coated and become rounder in the process.

Labneh Recipe

Labneh Recipe

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It's mild and tangy - but if you use full fat yogurt, very creamy and indulgent.Labneh
Yogurt ingredients
Toppings (as desired)
For rolling
  1. Set a strainer over a bowl and line with cheesecloth. Spoon in the yogurt and let drain 1-2 days, depending on desired thickness.
To serve
  1. Spoon into shallow bowl and top with fresh herbs.
  2. Roll into balls with oiled hands.
  3. Store in olive oil or roll balls in fresh herbs, sumac, or za'atar.
Recipe Notes

If you place the herbs in a small cup or bowl, you can just shake them around. They'll get coated and become rounder in the process.


Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.


  1. Labneh has been on my five-mile-long list of stuff to try forever!

    I won’t say I will be making this right away because I know myself too well, but…. it will come the time

    beautiful post!


    • Sasha Martin says

      Happy New Year, Sally! It’s comically easy – you’re going to love it!

  2. Antje Russell says

    Hello Sasha,
    I’m gonna make Labneh for sure! Sounds yummy.
    Can you please post a picture of the straining, what that setup with the cheesecloth looks like. I have never done that and am curious!
    Thanks, Antje.

  3. Pam the Goatherd says

    I’ve been making homemade yogurt and lebnah for as long as I’ve had goats – about 18 years now. It’s soooo easy and very yummy!
    My question is about the sumac. Can I use the red sumac that grows in my back yard the same way as the ground sumac from the Middle East? When my aunt was alive she would use the red “brushes” of the sumac to make a sweet-sour drink similar to lemonade. The description of sumac that I’m finding in the cooking dictionaries says that it is a berry. But the stuff that grows wild in my back yard is more of a brush-like flower. Are they the same thing? Or at least in the same family?

    • Sasha Martin says

      Oh my goodness- I’d be too scared to give you advice about the plants growing in your yard (I’d hate to get you sick!). Does anyone else in your family know more about what your aunt used? I will say that ground sumac has a lemony flavor – so the tea thing makes sense. Good luck – wish I could be of more help!

      • Pam the Goatherd says

        No worries, Sasha! I know that the red sumac growing in my backyard is the same as what my aunt used for the drink. My husband and I are fairly well-versed in harvesting wild foods. We’ve been eating off the land for decades now. There is a white sumac that is poisonous, though, so I don’t recommend that people just willy-nilly go eating plants from their back yard!
        I’ll file the idea for rolling lebnah balls in sumac for future use this summer when the sumac are in full bloom and try to remember to get back to you on how it works.

  4. Nance says

    Perfect timing! Have to use up some full-fat yogurt I bought on markdown. Sounds great – thanks!

  5. elisa says

    Hey you! This blog post feels right under my nose! LOL….I do wish you/we made this dip on vacation… looks sooooo good…perfect snack during a game of Pictionary or maybe even Risk……and your winning pencil drawing has divulged those creative wings of yours…yay!!!! do more!! <3

  6. Hi there!

    This is an unusual way of making labneh… my family is from Lebanon and we´ve been making it since long, from scratch…

    Try it this way:

    Boil milk and let it cool to about 40 C
    Add whole yogurt or any live culture starter to milk
    Put the lid on and cover the pan with a duvet or whatever thick cloth, put it in a dark, dry warm place overnight
    Next morning it s all curdled, you can have it as it is, season it savory or sweet or strain through a cheesecloth and make it thicker as yours

    flat bread, raddishes, pickled onions and raw kibeh make it a wholesome meal, great for this hung over time of the year!

    • Sasha Martin says

      Love this “from scratch” method – sounds fantastic, Eduardo – thank you!

  7. Pingback: Dipping into Mezze for Lunch | Global Table Adventure

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