This post is part of my Palestinian cooking series (which includes regional cuisines) following my trip to Nazareth.
Labneh is a popular mezze dish that is typically eaten with breakfast. Labneh was part of our daily breakfast in Nazareth and this recipe follows my post on making Greek yogurt at home. Both are simple, and fun!
Mezze (or meze, pronounced mez-eh) is a selection of small dishes served as an appetizer, light snack, or multi-course meal. It’s a defining feature of the cuisine in Palestine and the surrounding region. Mezze could be a single dish or an elaborate spread with a variety of dips (hummous, tahini, baba ghanoush), salads (tabbouleh, fattoush), meat dishes (kibbeh), vegetarian dishes (falafel), pickles, cheeses and olives.
When we visited family recently in Nazareth, labneh was served each morning with pools of olive oil, breads, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a variety of simple breakfast dishes. It was filling and delicious. Labneh is typically eaten with Arabic bread (khubz in Arabic), a common type of pita bread, and scooped in dollops along with olive oil. Very similar to Greek yogurt–both are essentially strained yogurt–labneh is saltier and thicker in consistency. The thickness can be adjusted during the straining process, allowing for different styles of labneh– from the most common dip or spread-style preparation, to dried labneh balls that can be marinated and even pickled.
I’ve highlighted before that yogurt is a very versatile ingredient for dips, spreads, drinks, and cooking. Labneh can be quite versatile in its own right. Aside from being served with khubz and olive oil, labneh is excellent when spread liberally on bagels and slices of bread, alongside eggs, avocado, potatoes or vegetables. Well-strained labneh is a healthier substitute for spreadable cream cheese. Along with Greek yogurt, labneh has become a breakfast staple in our home thanks to its spreadability and creamy taste.
Yield: ~2 cups or 450g
~4 cups Greek or regular yogurt, homemade or store-bought
¾ scant tsp salt, or to taste
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
Make ~4 cups of homemade yogurt– follow instructions in the previous Greek yogurt post. Alternatively, use your favourite store-bought Greek yogurt or regular yogurt.
Strain the yogurt in the fridge using your preferred method (see Straining yogurt section in the Greek yogurt post). Labneh is typically strained longer than Greek yogurt. After straining for ~24 hours in the fridge, sprinkle ¾ tsp (scant) salt onto the yogurt and stir gently.
Check the amount of liquid whey that has accumulated below the colander and discard. If draining correctly, the amount could be substantial (especially if straining homemade yogurt). Strain for an additional ~24 hours in the fridge. Again, check consistency of the labneh and amount of liquid whey that has accumulated. The labneh should be thick and spreadable and the liquid whey accumulated should be significantly less than after the first 24 hours.
The labneh is likely complete at this point. But, if desired, you can strain for an additional ~24 hours and/or place a weight on top of the yogurt to strain and dry the labneh even further.
Once you’ve reached your desired consistency, remove labneh from the colander and store in containers in the fridge. Depending on the yogurt used, the labneh should last at least 2 weeks in the fridge.
Serve in a bowl for sharing and top liberally with extra virgin olive oil. Serve alongside other breakfast foods and scoop up with khubz, pita or your preferred bread.