This easy labneh dip recipe can be made in two ways: using homemade yogurt (starting from milk) or using store-bought yogurt. If you like Greek yogurt or cream cheese, you are going to love labneh! This labneh recipe walks you through making labneh from scratch using milk and a starter yogurt culture. If you are short on time and want to simplify things, this labneh dip recipe can also be made using store-bought yogurt (instructions below).
Labneh dip is strained yogurt that has a cream cheese sort of texture. I grew up on homemade labneh, baba ganoush, and tabbouleh; pretty much every Lebanese kid does. And after so many years of eating labneh (and labneh sandwiches), I finally asked my father how to make our family's homemade labneh recipe. It's simple and doesn't need any fancy equipment. This is how my Tayta Lily used to make it.
What I Love About This Dip
Yes, you can buy labneh from the grocery store, but it doesn't taste the same as the homemade version. I really love that this recipe uses very few ingredients (milk and yogurt). Not only do I know exactly what I put into my labneh, but I use higher quality ingredients, like using organic milk and organic yogurt.
Another thing that I love about this labneh dip recipe is there's a shortcut for making it using organic store-bought plain yogurt. It's a big time-saver for busy weeknights, and it makes this recipe literally one step (straining the yogurt).
Labneh dip is the perfect snack, breakfast, and appetizer. It can be dressed up with some za'atar and olive oil or eaten with some sliced cucumbers, olives, fresh mint, and ripe tomatoes. My favorite way to eat labneh is in a labneh pita sandwich.
The best-tasting labneh from scratch uses full-fat milk and full-fat yogurt. The "starter yogurt" is just plain unsweetened yogurt that you can buy from the grocery store. I have not tried using Greek yogurt as a starter yogurt, but if you do, please drop a comment at the bottom of the post and let us know how it went.
How to Make Labneh From Milk
Homemade yogurt is really easy, but it takes a day to make. If you are short on time or want to simplify this recipe, you can use plain store-bought yogurt. If using store-bought yogurt, jump to the section below "How to Make Labneh With Store-Bought Yogurt". Also, make sure to buy a large tub of yogurt because it will reduce in size. I recommend buying 2 quarts of store-bought yogurt if not making the yogurt from scratch.
Step 1: Make Homemade Yogurt
- Put the milk in a large pot. Set heat to high until the milk just starts to boil. Immediately remove from heat. This is important! You have to watch the milk, otherwise, you will run the risk of the milk boiling over and making a mess. The reason why we boil the milk is to kill competing bacteria so that the yogurt cultures can grow.
- Let the milk cool down to a temperature that you can stick your finger in for 10 seconds. If the milk is too hot, then come back until you can keep your finger in the milk for 10 full seconds. Back in the day, they didn't have fancy kitchen gadgets to read temperatures.
- Add the starter yogurt to the milk. The ratio is 1 cup of yogurt to a half gallon of milk. Mix for a few seconds.
- Cover the pot and wrap it with a towel. Let the yogurt sit at room temperature for a full 24 hours.
Step 2: Prepare The Strainer
Place a thick paper towel (add 2 layers of the paper towel) in a strainer. Place the strainer on top of a bowl. Add the yogurt on top of the paper towel or cotton cloth fabric.
Step 3: Strain the Yogurt to Make Labneh
Strain at room temperature for around 6 to 8 hours. Liquid whey will accumulate in the bowl below. It has a yellowish color which is perfectly normal.
The labneh is ready once it sort of sticks together. Labneh has more moisture than cream cheese, yet less moisture than sour cream.
How To Make Labneh With Store-Bought Yogurt
A big time-saver in making labneh dip from scratch is using store-bought yogurt. I recommend full-fat unsweetened plain organic yogurt like the one below. Two quarts of yogurt will yield a little more than a quart of labneh.
Add a strainer on top of a second bowl (to catch the drippings of the yogurt while straining). Place two layers of a strong paper towel or alternatively use a thin cotton cloth. Pour the yogurt on top of the paper towels.
Strain the yogurt for 6 hours at room temperature or in the fridge. Once the labneh has reached the desired consistency, remove and drain the bottom bowl of whey liquid. Pour the labneh into a container. Add some salt to taste.
Tips and Tricks
- Use a thick paper towel or cotton cloth. If you have access to a thick paper towel, which is most of the paper towels in the US, you can use paper towels to strain the yogurt. If you have thin paper towels where you live, use a thin cotton fabric like a large cotton napkin greater than 20" (51 cm) in diameter.
- Use full-fat milk and yogurt. Labneh will not taste the same with reduced-fat milk and yogurt! If you want to make labneh lower in fat, don't make the yogurt from scratch. Just buy a tub of fat-free yogurt from Costco and strain it at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.
- Add the starter yogurt at the right temperature. This is the key to making homemade yogurt successfully. The milk cannot be too hot or too cold.
- Boil the milk attended. Do not boil the milk unattended. It will boil over and burn.
How To Eat Labneh Dip
Eat labneh in a variety of ways: as a dip or in a sandwich, with vegetables, pita chips, or pita bread. Labneh is versatile and delicious!
If you are a garlic lover, labneh is excellent with some mashed garlic. Garlic labneh is can be made with a mortar and pestle or garlic press. Mash 1 to 2 cloves of garlic with a pinch of salt for every 1 cup of labneh. Mix the mashed garlic and labneh well together.
Another way of eating labneh is with za'atar, olive oil, and salt flakes. This is my favorite way to eat labneh. You can eat za'atar labneh with fried pita chips or regular pita bread.
Best Sides for Labneh
Fresh mint, sliced cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, and olives go really well with za'atar labneh, garlic labneh, and plain labneh. And, don't forget the pita bread or pita chips!
How To Store Labneh
Store the labneh dip in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Labneh cannot be frozen.
Labneh dip and Greek yogurt are similar in texture but differ in taste. Both are strained yogurts, however, Greek yogurt was traditionally made with goat's milk whereas labneh was traditionally made with cow's milk. Another difference is the process for straining the different yogurt. Labneh yogurt has a tangy flavor because it is made and strained at room temperature.=
Labneh is made from cow's milk yogurt.
Labneh is strained yogurt. If making homemade yogurt from scratch, use full-fat milk and full-fat yogurt. Strain the yogurt at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.
Labneh is similar to cream cheese. It's easier to spread and lighter in calories and fat. It doesn't contain any additives like store-bought cream cheese-like carrageenan.
Labneh can be purchased in Middle Eastern grocery stores or in some WholeFoods and Central Market supermarkets. If you can't find labneh, it's easy to make at home.
If making labneh from scratch using milk, the homemade yogurt will be sourer than store-bought yogurt.