Using a hanging apparatus to make labneh. Photo by Ellen Silverman.
Makes 1 3/4 to 2 cups
Here are two methods for turning yogurt into the thick, creamy, spreadable Mediterranean and Middle Eastern “yogurt cheese” called labneh. If you think of Greek-style yogurt as strained yogurt, think of labneh as ultrastrained yogurt. Labneh is strained either under weight (or compression) or by hanging. I provide both methods below. While labneh is traditionally strained at room temperature, I’m more comfortable straining it refrigerated.
- 4 cups plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Set a colander in a large, deep bowl. Line it generously with cheesecloth (with plenty of overhang), a nut milk bag, or two large crisscrossed paper towels that cover all the holes in the colander and hang generously over the sides.
- Mix the yogurt with the salt and scrape it into the colander.
- Cover gently with the overhang (or pull the bag’s drawstring closed).
- To compress, set a pot lid slightly smaller than the colander’s diameter on top of the cloth-covered yogurt. Cast iron is ideal because it’s naturally heavy, but you can use a stainless-steel lid with a few cans on top.
- Cover the top of this apparatus with plastic wrap.
Labneh photo from Adobe Stock
- You may also create a hanging apparatus. (This is far easier with a nut milk bag than with cheesecloth and impossible with paper towels.)
- After filling the bag with the salted yogurt, tie the drawstring to the center of a wooden spoon’s handle, so that the top of the bag is close to the handle.
- Balance the spoon over a deep bowl or jug.
- The yogurt-filled bag must hang clear of the bottom by several inches so the whey has someplace to accumulate.
FOR BOTH METHODS
- Refrigerate for 36 to 48 hours, until 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups whey have drained away and you’re left with thick, spreadable yogurt cheese.
- When your labneh is ready, transfer it to a covered container and refrigerate until needed. Labneh will keep for 10 days to 2 weeks.
Yo! If you’re straining yogurt with any frequency, consider investing in a $10 fine-mesh nut milk bag with a drawstring. It’s less messy and cumber-some than using cheese-cloth.
Yo! If your labneh is lumpy, whisk in a touch of cold water to smooth it out.
Labneh wrap photo by Adobe Stock
More from Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World's Creamiest, Healthiest Food:
- A Natural Versatility: Mongolian Yogurt Culture
- The Balance of Sour: Persian Yogurt Culture
- Pomegranate Doogh (Yogurt Soda) Recipe
- Orange-Clove Lassi Recipe
Excerpted from Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World's Creamiest, Healthiest Food. © 2015 by Cheryl Sternman Rule. Photography © 2015 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.