Labneh is a wondrous thing. It’s possibly the easiest recipe on the planet and yet, creates a most delectable accompaniment to so many meals. You can spread it on bread, scoop it onto fresh pita, dip veggies into it or use it to make Turkish Haydari (a creamy, lightly herbed yogurt dip we just happen to have a recipe for here).
Making labneh is as easy as pouring yogurt into some cheesecloth, allowing it to strain for several hours and then spooning it into your eagerly awaiting mouth. For a very special treat, allow yogurt to strain for the full 24 hours. Labneh will turn into a rich, cream cheese-like texture with exquisite yogurt taste.
Making labneh magic
Rest a large, fine strainer (or fine mesh sieve) over a large bowl. Be sure there is space between the strainer and the bottom of the bowl for liquid to drain out of the yogurt.
Line the strainer with 2 – 3 layers of cheesecloth (see note).
In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt and salt until smoothly blended. Transfer yogurt mixture into a cheesecloth lined bowl.
Fold edges of cheesecloth over yogurt and refrigerate while allowing moisture to drain anywhere from 12 – 24 hours, according to your desired consistency.
Straining yogurt for 12 hours creates a creamy, soft labneh commonly served in Lebanese restaurants. For a firmer, cream cheese-like consistency, allow to strain full 24 hours.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Using a spoon, create a crater in the middle of the yogurt and pour olive oil into the center. Sprinkle the top with za’atar.
Optionally, garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Serve with pita or vegetables.
Note: if you cannot find cheesecloth, you can also use fresh medical gauze, muslin towel or sturdy paper towels. These methods may take more or less time than cheesecloth, so keep checking on your labneh while straining to ensure it drains to your desired consistency.