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Labaneh or Kefir Cheese Recipe

Labaneh cheese balls drenched in extra virgin olive oil and crushed mint leaves

This is another Middle Eastern cuisine recipe. While it takes 2 days to make, it’s really simple. All you need to do is drain the liquid out of plain yogurt, and the result is the cheese called “labaneh,” or “labneh.”

While this cheese is available in Middle Eastern ethnic grocers, it is usually made with full-fat milk. In this recipe, I used low-fat plain yogurt, and extra virgin olive oil makes up for the “lost” dairy fats.

For a rough run down on specific nutrients, each cheese ball has about 37 calories, 0.8 gram of fat, and 0.5 gram of saturated fat. Since the water that was drained contains the protein (whey), I can’t make a good estimate of how much protein there is in the cheese.

This is definitely a recipe that will impress. All it needs is a little planning ahead.

Ingredients:

  • 1 container low-fat, plain yogurt (2 lbs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c dried mint leaves

Directions

Stir the salt in the yogurt in its container (no need to get a bowl dirty). Place a strainer in a slightly larger bowl and one layer of paper towel in the strainer. Carefully pour the yogurt on top of the paper towel and allow to drain. Leave in a cool area in the kitchen for three days. (alternatively, you can use a cheese cloth and hang it on top of a bowl but I find this way to be easier)

To dry the mint, wash the leaves and allow to air-dry in room temperature on a clean towel, about 2-3 days.

After three days, the water should be all drained out and labaneh cheese is set. With your palms, roll the cheese into small balls. Place a layer in a glass canning jar (about 1-pound), crush some mint leaves on top of the cheese. Continue to layer alternating the cheese and mint.

Labaneh cheese rolled into balls. This recipe yielded 15 of them

Pour the olive oil until all the labaneh balls are covered. Store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

If rolling the cheese into balls is too much work, place it in a jar and cover with two tablespoons of olive oil. When ready to serve for a dip, mix in dried mint and olive oil, then sprinkle a little of both on top for garnish. Or spread as is on a piece of bread and drizzle some oil and mint on top.

Serving options

  • Labaneh is a staple in a Middle Eastern breakfast. Spread on a piece of bread with slices of tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Serve as an appetizer with pita bread or pita chips, crackers, or any type of Italian or French breads. Green olives on the side make a great compliment
  • Serve as a dip for veggies. Carrots, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber sticks work the best
  • Spread, instead of mayonnaise, on your sandwich bread. It pairs well with deli turkey

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • farah January 19, 2010, 9:26 am

    thats exactly how i make homemade labneh too! Thanks for the lebanese ‘labneh’ shout out! šŸ˜€

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD January 19, 2010, 12:31 pm

      You are welcome!

  • Nagla January 19, 2010, 12:28 pm

    I never knew that it was so easy to make! Can’t wait to try this!

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD January 19, 2010, 12:32 pm

      It is really that easy! And feels like gourmet šŸ™‚

  • yasmin January 19, 2010, 12:34 pm

    what Nagla said- i didn’t know it was that easy! i’m sooo trying this.

  • Sherin January 19, 2010, 6:53 pm

    Yum! Loving your posts! Keep up the good work. šŸ™‚

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD January 19, 2010, 8:04 pm

      Thank you! Appreciate the support!

  • shayma August 10, 2010, 4:44 pm

    This is beautiful, Nour. I am going to make some tomorrow night. x shayma

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD August 19, 2010, 10:51 am

      I hope you enjoy your labaneh Shayma šŸ™‚

  • Angie Lamberson December 27, 2010, 1:44 pm

    Hi Nour. My husband and I are gearing up for a Lebanese feast for our family on New Year’s Eve. I am starting the Labneh today. It sounds so easy and I can’t wait to try it!
    -Angie

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