Also known as labne, lebnah, and lebneh, this soft rindless cheese has been a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. In some recipes, this ingredient can make for a fun and interesting substitution in place of items such as cream cheese, mascarpone, or sour cream.  Labneh is traditionally made by using a cheesecloth to strain the whey from yogurt made with animal’s milk, although non-dairy milk options such as soy and coconut can also be used. Look in gourmet grocery stores or specialty shops when picking up some labneh to try at home.

Flavor and Texture

Labneh makes a great addition to spicy meals as it brings a cool creaminess to the dish helping to even out heat. The flavor is mild and milky but can vary based on the type of animal’s milk used during production with options including cow, sheep, camel, or even water buffalo. Depending on how long the labneh was strained, the texture can be loose and spreadable like greek yogurt or more dense and able to be shaped like cream cheese.  

Storage and Usage

To maximize freshness, store unused labneh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, cover the labneh with a layer of fat such as olive oil to keep bacteria out. This multipurpose ingredient can be eaten as is or used in all kinds of recipes.  Due to the high fat content, labneh is less likely to curdle in high heat situations making it a great choice for creamy sauces or soups. Try spreading some on bread with olive oil and sliced olives or layer in a dessert trifle with citrus and mint. When using a thicker labneh, shape the cheese into balls and roll them in spices or marinate them in olive oil. 

Feature Image: Flickr user cityfoodsters (CC BY 2.0)

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