How to turn Greek yogurt into a delightful soft cheese? It’s quite easy and so simple! Labneh is strained yogurt and found in Middle Eastern cuisines. Serve it with a drizzle of olive oil and top with za’atar or do what I did by rolling into balls and place in a jar with olive oil. Most recipes call for full fat yogurt and the Greek yogurt I had was zero percent fat so I was not sure it would work, and happy to report it did! I started off by using one cup of yogurt but most instructions call for 2 cups.
Labenah gets thicker the longer you strain it. Wonder what it tastes like? Think goat cheese and if you buy full fat yogurt, and let it stain for a couple of days, you’ll end up with something that resembles cream cheese. But what I really like, beside being able to brag I made cheese, is it’s versatility. One day in the fridge and it’s soft enough to dip veggies or pita bread into, or use as you would for sour cream. However, let it stay a few days in the fridge and the texture becomes firmer.
1 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
cheesecloth and string
za’atar (to sprinkle on top)
Add salt to yogurt and stir. Line a bowl with cheesecloth (2 to 3 layers) and add yogurt. Gather edges of cheesecloth and tie with string. Tie other end of string to a cupboard handle allowing cheesecloth to hang over bowl. This allows any liquid from the yogurt to fall into the bowl. Let stand two to three hours then move to the refrigerator. Find an area in the fridge to allow the yogurt to continue to strain. I used the split in the shelving to secure the yogurt.
How long does it need to be strained? Well, that depends on the desired texture. I had intended to remove the yogurt after 48 hours but I procrastinated and took it out 72 hours later and I am glad I did. It allowed my zero percent fat yogurt to firm up enough for me to roll into balls. I think If I had removed sooner, the outcome wouldn’t haven been as successful. Other websites I viewed say 8 to 14 hours will result in a soft strained yogurt, 24 to 48 hours gives you a firmer, thicker cream-cheese-like labneh. If you use it within 14 hours, spread out on a serving dish and add a good splash of extra-virgin olive oil topped with a generous pinch of za’atar.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: Storing labneh balls in a jar with olive oil will last up to a month in the fridge. Enjoy!