A tub of yogurt is one of our weekly grocery essentials — and for good reason. Its velvety texture alone makes it perfect to enjoy by the spoonful or served alongside fruit, granola and honey. Oh, and we can’t forget that plain yogurt is versatile enough to use in sweet and savory recipes. Clearly, we could sing the praises of yogurt all day, but there’s one type that’s currently got our taste buds: labneh. This strained yogurt is widely used in Middle Eastern cuisine and is adored for its rich and intensely tangy flavor. Another reason we love labneh is because it can be used in hot or cold dishes while maintaining its luscious creaminess. Want to learn about this tart and tasty yogurt? Keep reading for the full scoop on labneh and ways to enjoy it for any meal.
What is labneh?
Labneh is made from prepared yogurt that’s further thickened and then salted. “This luscious dairy creation is made by straining yogurt to remove whey, resulting in a thick and spreadable consistency,” says chef Daniel P. Craig, founder at Kitchen Deets. “To craft this culinary wonder, one needs only three ingredients: yogurt, salt and time.”
The difference between labneh and Greek yogurt
Although labneh closely resembles Greek yogurt, it’s in a league of its own for the three reasons.
- Density: Craig notes that labneh and Greek yogurt each have their own unique consistency. “Both are strained, resulting in thicker textures, but labneh undergoes a more extended straining process, rendering it even denser,” he says.
- Types: Unlike Greek yogurt, labneh comes in varying textures, according to Cristina Topham, chef and owner of Spread Kitchen. “It can be spreadable (thicker, almost cream cheese texture — and can be used as a substitute for cream cheese in many recipes), or if you continue to press it, you can make it pretty firm,” she says. Topham loves using firm labneh as it’s easy to roll into little cheese balls to toss in spices and marinate in olive oil for an appetizer or snack.
- Fat content: Compared to Greek yogurt, labneh has a higher fat content, giving it a “luxurious mouthfeel” as Craig describes. This also makes it richer to consume, so a little bit goes a long way.
The health benefits of labneh
Labneh is not only a yummy dairy option, it’s also extra nourishing. A ½-cup serving contains just 92 calories and nearly 7 grams of protein. Also, labneh is full of probiotics, or gut-friendly bacteria, that help support healthy digestion and keep “bad” illness-causing bacteria at bay. This strained yogurt is a great source of calcium as well, a necessity for regulating bone health and blood flow.
All in all, the health benefits of labneh give you a taste of what it has to offer — but the real test comes with trying it for yourself. Luckily, this yogurt is easy to find and incorporate into your daily meals.
Where to buy labneh
Labneh is can be found at the dairy aisle of your local grocery store and at specialty Middle Eastern grocers. On the packaging, some brands may be spelled as “labne” or “lebneh” and/or referred to as “yogurt cheese” — but just know that it’s all the same thing. With a container of labneh, you can make a range of dishes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
How to enjoy labneh
Similar to Greek yogurt, labneh can be enjoyed plain or in parfaits, savory dips and spreads. This yogurt cheese is also delicious to dollop over spicy chili, stew or even fried eggs for a creamy and tangy flavor. Basically, you can swap labneh in anyplace you would reach for Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Plus, you can bake with labneh because it works well as a binding agent and doesn’t separate as much as other yogurts when exposed to heat. Looking for the ultimate dessert to use labneh for? Try Topham’s recipe for Labneh Apple Pie with Baharat Streusel, which gives the classic dessert a sharp and aromatic flavor twist with help of labneh and a Lebanese spice blend known as 7-Spice, or Baharat. Yum!
Labneh Apple Pie with Baharat Streusel
1 (9-inch) prepared pie crust, homemade or store-bought
- 1½ cups soft, spreadable labneh
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. salt
- 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch slices
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tbs. Baharat (Buy from Amazon, $9.89)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
Yield: 1 pie (around 6 to 8 slices)
- Partially bake pie crust according to instructions from package or desired recipe. (Click through for a pie crust baking guide to ensure flaky results every time.)
- Let cool while making filling.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Add labneh, sugar, flour, egg and vanilla in bowl; mix until combined. Add apples and toss until evenly coated.
- Scoop filling into crust. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.
- In medium bowl, combine pecans, flour, sugars, Baharat and salt; mix well. Cut in butter and combine until mixture is crumbly.
- Spread topping over pie and bake 15 minutes longer, until pie is fully browned.
- Remove pie from oven and cool at least 30 minutes before serving. Top with whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy!
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