Homemade Labneh with Za’atar

This homemade labneh with za’atar is a soft, spreadable cheese that’s made from strained yogurt and za’atar seasoning. You’re going to want to spread it on everything.

A bowl of homemade labneh with za'atar drizzled with olive oil on a platter with crackers.

This refreshingly smooth and creamy cheese offsets the zesty spice blend and makes an optimal spread for bread or crackers. Notes of hearty herbs such as oregano and thyme provide intense aromas, while toasted sesame seeds add nuttiness and crunch. A possible side effect includes ingesting leftovers by the spoonful for a midnight snack. It’s made from yogurt, so no shame is necessary, right? The labneh can be spread on toast for breakfast, served with crackers as an appetizer, or with warm pita bread on a mezze platter.Mihaela Metaxa-Albu

What is labneh?

Labneh is made by straining excess liquid from full-fat yogurt, resulting in a thick, ultra-creamy spreadable cheese. Fresh cheeses such as labneh are tangy and extra creamy, similar to crème fraîche. The clean, fresh flavors make them the perfect vessel for your favorite flavorings. Labneh can also be made without the za’atar, making it an excellent replacement for any recipe that uses cream cheese or ricotta.

Homemade Labneh with Za’atar

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 18 H, 10 M
  • Makes 16 ounces (454 g)
Print RecipeBuy the I Heart Cheese cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Special Equipment: Middle Eastern Cheesecloth

Ingredients

  • For the labneh
  • For the za'atar seasoning

Directions

Make the labneh

Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth, covering all sides. Place the strainer on a large bowl for draining.

Pour the yogurt into the strainer. Bring together the sides of the cheesecloth and twist them tightly around the yogurt. Place a small plate on top of the bundle and weigh it down using a heavy can or similar object.

Tester tip: Use a twist tie to secure the cheesecloth in order to keep it nice and tight.

Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, checking the bowl and draining the whey occasionally so that the strainer isn’t resting in any liquid. The longer you let it drain, the thicker the cheese will become. After draining, the labneh will be thick and spreadable, like a soft cream cheese.

When the draining is complete, give the cheesecloth one last squeeze to remove any lingering whey, then remove the labneh from the cheese-cloth and discard the whey left in the bowl.

In a medium bowl, add the labneh and use a spatula to stir to remove the cloth markings and to make it nice and creamy. 

Make the za’atar seasoning

In a small bowl, combine all za’atar ingredients and mix well.

Serve the labneh with za’atar

Drizzle the labneh with the olive oil and sprinkle with the za’atar to taste. 

Print RecipeBuy the I Heart Cheese cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

I adore labneh on everything - sumac chicken, bagels, in salads and as a dip. Unfortunately, it's hard to find here and I was thrilled to find this recipe. It's SO easy to make and turned out perfectly.

I used my favorite brand of whole milk yogurt and after straining for 24 hours, most of the whey had been forced out. I used a triple thickness of cheesecloth, twisted and bound the loose ends tightly, then placed under a weight. I gave it one last squeeze before emptying the cheesecloth and that seemed to purge the last of the whey.

At this point, it was the right texture. I added the oil and za'atar, stirring to combine. I prefer this to just sprinkling the herbs on top; I find that the moisture of the cheese makes the flavors stand out even more. After sitting in the fridge for a few hours, I served it with grilled chicken, pitas and cucumbers. And I still had more than enough for the next morning's bagels.

When the most difficult component of a recipe is owning cheesecloth, there's no reason not to try it. Having made the other labneh recipe from the site, I had high hopes for this one and I was not disappointed. Your patience is rewarded with a lusciously smooth cheese with no preservatives, stabilizers, or off-tastes and you can season it any which way you choose.

Depending on the size of the gap between the bottom of your bowl and your strainer, you may need to dump the liquid out once or twice to make sure it doesn't sit in its own liquid. The included za'atar recipe is quite good, with a nice lemony tartness from the sumac, and I used 3 tablespoons worth to season my cheese, with extra for sprinkling on top. For my own personal tastes, I would add a little ground chile on top (like Aleppo pepper or Urfa biber) when serving to round out the flavor. No complaints, and for how much better it tastes than anything I buy at the market, I'm going to be making this (in some form) every week.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Can someone comment on using Chobani whole milk greek yogurt vs Fage whole milk greek yogurt. Their consistency is so different to start am wondering if those of you with good results used either of these brands to start. Thank you.

    1. Denise, I don’t think any of our testers used these brands, but we’d love to hear from any readers that did.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish