Recipe: Labneh

Labneh (also spelled Labne or Labna) is a middle eastern strained yogurt. It’s like greek yogurt, I guess technically it is greek yogurt, but even a little thicker. Also known as yogurt cheese. Depending on how long you strain it it can be like sour cream or like a soft cream cheese. It’s tart and delicious and packed with protein. For you health nuts, the protein in labneh, or in greek yogurt, is casein. It’s a complete protein and makes up about 80% of the protein in cow’s milk. So when you strain the milk, you are concentrating the casein and therefore the milk protein. This is also lactose intolerant friendly, so Yay!

I’ve been kind of obsessed with it lately. I’m putting it on pretty much anything savory – soups, salads, sandwiches… You really could use it in place of sour cream on a taco or cream cheese on a bagel (if we had bagels here). It’s so healthy but gives things a rich, creamy, comforting taste and texture. I was thinking it would probably also be good with a little honey drizzled on and some nuts, or some cinnamon and syrup and raisins. The possibilities are endless! Greek yogurt is virtually non existent here. Oh they say they have it, but its not even as thick as normal yogurt back home. Also, incidentally, I was reading that a lot of greek yogurts you get in stores in the States have artificial thickeners in them. A bit unnecessary I think, but I’m sure they have their reasons. This is so easy to make, so healthy, and so versatile I thought I would share.

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You will need: A fine sieve strainer. A large bowl (not pictured). A medium bowl (something the strainer can easily rest on top). Plain yogurt (I have the non-fat variety and it works great.). Sea salt. and…

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Cheese cloth. Unfortunately, for the life of me, I cannot find this here. I can’t imagine why not. It’s so ubiquitous in the states. When I was last in Boston I bought 5 packages of this for $4 each at the grocery store. . I’ve gotten at least 2.5 uses out of each package. I’m coming to the end of my cheese cloth, but we’re also coming to the end of our time here, so it may work out perfectly.

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I start out by pouring the yogurt into a bowl with the salt and making sure to get all the lumps out. Just a pinch or two of the salt will do.

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Line the strainer with a couple layers of cheese cloth. You don’t need too many, about 3-4 layers. Just make sure it drapes over the edges so that it doesn’t get lost when you pour in the yogurt. I’m being pretty conservative with it because of the lack of cheese cloth down here. Carefully pour the yogurt over the cloth and voilá! You’re virtually done. Just cover it loosely with a paper towel or more cheese cloth, making sure not to touch the yogurt, and place in the refrigerator.

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As it is resting, the liquid whey will slowly separate from the curds. I usually let it sit for… 15 hours. BUT the yogurt down here is really liquidy and I like it really thick. The more time you let it sit, obviously the thicker it will be. So you may not need so long. Some people say 5-8 hours is fine. So just keep checking on it until you like the consistency. I should say, though this is kind of common sense, that the edges will lose their liquid first. When you mix it up it will be the average between the center consistency and the edges. So just keep that in mind.

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It reduces a lot. Out of 2 liters of yogurt I got about 3-4 cups of labneh. This is it mixed up. YUM!!

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This is what is left over. The whey. It actually also has some great proteins in it. Think Whey Protein Powder that people use in protein shakes. There are actually a lot of other things you can do with the whey liquid. It has a very tart, acidic flavor, so you can’t drink it on its own. But ideas I’ve read about (never actually done myself) are: use it for pickling jalepeños or anything really, put it in a protein shake, add a little to your pancakes to pump up the protein.

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One idea for a yummy and healthy snack or appetizer, stolen from the Syrian restaurant we went to a while back. Spread the labneh on a plate, drizzle a little olive oil on top, then sprinkle some spices. I used a little salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne. But, again, you could put anything on it like oregano and thyme and eat with italian loaf or something sweet like honey and lavendar and walnuts with some cinnamon crackers or apples or just eat it straight as a dip with some raw veggies.

Hope you enjoy!

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