Making Labneh (yoghurt cheese balls) with Nadia

| Fermenting, Food, Food & Fermentation, Preserving | 17 comments | Author :

Labneh is a very easy to make and tasty cheese made of strained yoghurt, that can be stored in a jar of olive oil on the shelf. Cheese meets yoghurt meets olive oil meets extends shelf life (without refrigeration). And darn yummy. I’m in!

Recently I’ve been up north visiting my folks, so I took the opportunity to go visit a couple of permaculture farms in northern NSW. My first stop was Zaytuna Farm, where I got to catch up with my friend Nadia. I happily arrived on labneh making afternoon. Great timing.

Previous to these images, Nadia had made a batch of yoghurt from fresh raw cows milk (but you can use shop bought milk, or even shop bought yoghurt, to make this). She had poured said yoghurt into a muslin cloth, bagged it up and left it hanging, to strain and drip for a day or so.

After draining, the yoghurt turns into a thick, workable paste. It’s ready to turn into labneh balls, with the help of olive oil, fresh herbs and sterilized jars.

Nadia Lawton, master labneh maker (amongst many, many other things)
Salah, 1st assistant labneh maker (amongst many other things)

Labneh, all done and ready to store (if you can hold off eating it all straight away)

Apart from its creamy, comfort-food texture and yummy tangy taste, labneh is exciting because it’s a ferment of sorts that you can add to your ‘doesn’t need to live in the fridge’ list, which I appreciate greatly.

A cool shelf in the pantry is apparently fine for storage (though it’s too tasty to last long, i suspect).

Labneh and its permutations across the middle east is commonly eaten for breakfast with bread, olive oil and olives. It is creamy and mild with a bite of yoghurt, and is delicious anytime of day. Here’s a good home-made labneh recipe I found, which corroborates the above.

More about labneh, in all its forms

Big thanks to Nadia and Latifa Lawton for welcoming me into their home for the night and stuffing me full of milky goodness…

>> More posts about food preservation + drying at here

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  • Vikki

    How long would a jar of this last for on a cool shelf in the pantry?

    • Apparently quite some time… tho no-one i’ve asked seems to know really cause they all eat it quickly – Nadia brought me a jar to Milkwood once and it was fine say 4 weeks later when we opened it?

      • Vikki

        Do you think this would work as well using clarified butter instead of olive oil?

  • Nothing is better for breakfast than home made labneh on fresh home made bread. Absolute heaven!

  • Gonna do that!!!We can get our fresh milk here easily as we make our own feta and butter and yoghurt! Olive oil is expensive but so worth the cost!!!

  • That’s really interesting. Made some minted labneh a few months ago and was very surprised at how easy it is to make. The fact you can store it in olive oil makes it even better.

  • Hwayougn Jeon

    Hello from a milkwood fan from Korea. Thank you for the exciting recipe. This is very new to me. I just wonder if I need to add abit of salt to yogurt before hanging?? Also once I eat the balls, what can I do with the olive oil in the jar? And does it has to be olive oil? Does sunflower seed oil work? Thanks. cheers!

    • Heya, yes I should have added that you add salt to the yoghurt before hanging (i’ll add that in)

      Afterwards, I’d be using the olive oil for cooking… it works well in the place of butter/marge in plenty of cakes or savory scones etc? And I assume sunflower oil could work – please try it and report back!

  • Also, is yogurt left outside without refrigeration while draining? Safe?

    • It would depend on your ambient temperature – you could do it in the fridge if you prefer, i’m sure?

  • Waddah Hammad

    Usually Labneh can be stored at room temperature also for long time say few weeks.You can also make several tastes of Labneh, with pepper if you like the hot pepper labneh, with mint or any extra flavour you want.If you like the garlic then you can add some garlic to it when you want to eat it

  • My mum has used fennel seeds with her labneh. Very yummy 🙂

  • Thanks for this article! It’s helpful to see pictures.

    Darsih – if the yoghurt is still live, there is no risk to letting it drain outside the refrigerator. Yoghurt is made by culturing in a warm environment – put it back in the warm, and it will carry on culturing, getting thicker and sharper. The live yoghurt cultures are so strong that other bacteria and moulds just can’t get in. Just make sure the yoghurt is live (“bio”, “probiotic” or “active culture”) and that it’s fresh – if it’s been lurking in your fridge for a week, the cultures could be weakened, as they run out of sugars to eat.

    I have just made my first labneh, draining in the fridge, and it is lovely but a little soft. Next time I will leave it out, to let it culture and thicken as it drains. I will probably put a cloth over everything to keep dust and flies off.

  • jackie kliamovich

    Is this about the same as mozzarella?