12 April 2008

How To Make Labne

Labne (also labneh or lebni) is simply very thick strained yogurt. A staple across the Middle East, I've yet to find a version in the U.S. that compares to the labne I bought regularly over there, but luckily it's super-easy to make at home. All you do is strain your yogurt in a cheesecloth for about 24 hours until it's very thick. Of course, the better your yogurt the better your labne, so it's worth it to seek out a good local dairy, but I've made it with everything from homemade yogurt to store-bought Dannon.

There is a bit of confusion about labne consistency- it is somewhat thicker than the Greek yogurt sold in groceries, you should be able to spread labne on a piece of pita bread, but not as solid as cream cheese. There is also a version of labne which is strained so that it is thick enough to roll into balls, you might see these little yogurt cheese balls packed in jars of olive oil. However, if you were to walk into your average dairy or grocery and ask for labne, they'd hand you this wonderful spreadable stuff. It's pleasantly tart and tangy and prefect for drizzling with honey or jam, using in a sandwich, or using as a base for a cucumber and mint dip. I usually make a big batch of labne every other week, if I want a looser runnier yogurt for mixing with granola in the morning I simply thin the labne by gently stirring in a touch of water.

Make sure to use good plain yogurt with no additives and no stabilizers like gelatin (this will inhibit straining). You can use anything from fat free to full fat yogurt, the labne will be more or less rich as a result.

1. Start with 24 ounces plain yogurt. Stir the yogurt until completely smooth. Set a mesh colander over a bowl and line with cheesecloth or heavy-duty paper towels. Place yogurt in colander and leave to drain in the fridge for 24 hours, stirring occasionally to encourage even draining. The yogurt should be thick and spreadable, transfer to a covered container for storage.

Labne and Mint Sandwiches
1 sheet marquq bread (Lebanese mountain bread), or savory crepe or other very thin bread
olive oil
fresh mint leaves
pitted black olives

1. Preheat a griddle. Spread a thick layer of labne over half the bread. Drizzle with olive oil, scatter mint leaves and olives over top. Fold bottom half of bread up over filling, then fold in half to form a triangle. Place sandwich on the griddle just to briefly toast each side. Slice sandwich in half into two smaller triangles, eat immediately.


Ellen said...

Mm--the labne & mint sandwich sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful to see you writing about Labne (or yogurt cheese as it is called in the West). We like it so much we wrote a cookbook and guide for it. Yogurt cheese (or YoChee as we call it) is a wonderful versatile ingredient. We expanded its uses - I hope you will take a look at ” Eat Well the YoChee Way” our guide and cookbook to this important food. It really expands the use of yogurt cheese to desserts, main courses and much more. Nutritional content included. Our website YoChee.com contains a free yogurt cheese how - to slide show, nutrition information and free recipes.

Anonymous said...

Mercedes, this is fantastic! Alice Medrich has a Labne tart in 'Pure Dessert' that I've been dying to make, but I haven't been able to find any locally. It totally slipped my mind that I could make it myself!

Alexander Santillanes said...

Mmm... I once stayed with a friend's family in rural Lebanon, and his mother made the most delicious labne. I've never had it as good as that. -X

Meriem said...

A lot of lebanese people use labne in their foods. I think labne is also used in mansef, which I've been yearning to learn to make.

Antonio Tahhan said...

I LOVE labne! I had it pretty much everyday for breakfast while I was visiting the Middle East.
I add salt to mine and let it strain out of the fridge (in a cool room) so that it develops a nice tangy bite. I even missed the goat milk labne I had in the ME so much that I made goat yogurt from scratch just for labne.
great post!

Mercedes said...

melissa- yes, I spied that recipe too, though I have to admit I was a tad skeptical about it. I'd be really curious to know how it turns out. And you can definitely make yr own labne! I'd probably use full fat yogurt, and you can even tie up the corners of the cheesecloth and suspend it over the sink to make sure it drains thoroughly.

Mimi- yes, Lebanese use labne a lot in their cooking (like little labne turnovers) though they use regular yogurt, Laban, as well. Mansaf is actually made using jameed, a dried yogurt ball, which is reconstituted to make the sauce for mansaf.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that your post is featured on BlogHer today! ~ AK

Anonymous said...

I love Labne! Sometimes, I add a little bit of honey to it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful tutorial! Looks great.

Marianna said...

hehe what a funny coincidence! I recently posted on making Labneh balls (http://swirlandscramble.blogspot.com/2008/04/home-made-labneh-balls.html). Long live labneh! :-) I love that stuff! And mint is a must!

Avory said...

I had some labne with mint to dip eggplant slices in for Passover. I'll try the stirring technique next time because it didn't strain fully. Also I think I need to get a colander with smaller holes.

Anonymous said...

Labne is even better if you can get it made from goat's milk. Here in Detroit we have plenty of ME stores, but my favorite no longer has the goat's milk labne that's formed into balls and soaked in olive oil. It has a much stronger tanginess than cow's milk. I recommend it with a fresh-grilled or pan-fried steak, and some sliced green tomatoes (no batter!!) cooked on the same grill or in the same pan. My favorite meal ever. Even with cow's milk labne, nothing beats it with fresh-picked herbs spread on good bread or crackers or pita.

Sara Leana said...

I LOVE lebneh. I have a post about how to make lebneh too! In fact, there is a recipe from lottieanddoof.com for, get this, lebneh tart. Check out the recipe here: