Find out how to make labneh, also known as labne, from scratch and turn it into a beautiful Middle Eastern labneh yogurt dip topped with pistachios, za’atar, and pomegranate.
Maybe it’s the Greek in me, but I absolutely love Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. These types of recipes have been popular here with you too – some favorites have been our Falafel Recipe, Easy Falafel Wraps, Classic Hummus, Tahini Sauce, Chickpea Greek Salad, and Mediterranean Lentil Salad.
One of my favorite restaurants here in Santa Barbara is Zaytoon. My family almost always starts with their labneh (labne) yogurt dip appetizer covered with pistachios, pomegranate, zaatar, and mint. Though it’s enjoyed year-round, I’ve always thought it would be the perfect holiday party appetizer.
What is Labneh?
Labneh is basically an extra strained Greek yogurt. It’s tangy like plain yogurt, but thicker and creamier, like cream cheese. Some consider it a cheese and others a yogurt. Many store bought containers have “kefir cheese” printed on the packaging.
Popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, it can be used as a dip for pita bread and veggies, a spread for sandwiches and wraps, or as an alternative to sour cream or cream cheese.
You can buy prepared labneh at some Middle Eastern, Greek, and Mediterranean grocery stores. I found this one at Whole Foods in the cheese section right next to the Halloumi and Feta, also Mediterranean (Greek) cheeses.
How to Make Labneh from Scratch
Making labneh/labne from scratch is fairly simple. You’ll just need a few ingredients: Plain Greek (or plain coconut for vegan) yogurt, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and a teeeny pinch of salt.
Labneh Making Supplies
If you don’t make nut milks or cheeses regularly, there may be a few supplies you’ll need to pick up. You can find many of them in your local grocery/kitchen stores, or on Amazon. Just so you know, these are Amazon Affiliate links, which means I make a small commission when you shop through them (thanks).
Once the yogurt, lemon juice, and salt are stirred together, let the mixture thicken up in a cheesecloth lined mesh sieve. Fold the cheesecloth over the top of the yogurt and place the sieve over a bowl. Refrigerate the whole thing for 12-24 hours while it thickens up to your liking.
Vegan Labneh Substitutes
Labneh can be made the traditional way, but using plain dairy-free yogurt instead. It’s imperative you use the best tasting yogurt however. After testing several dairy-free plain yogurts, I found coconut based varieties tasted best.
Usually when making homemade dairy free cheeses, like our Ricotta and Cream Cheese, I prefer to use raw cashews or almonds for the best flavor. You could go that route here as well, blending a cup of soaked raw cashews, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and salt to taste. Add water as needed to thin. Or, simply use your favorite vegan cream cheese (like our recipe linked above or Kite Hill brand).
How to Serve Labneh Dip
Serve in a bowl or shallow dish with pita bread triangles for dipping, or on part of a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern party platter like this Hummus Mezze Platter. A batch of the creamiest Homemade Hummus would be wonderful to serve alongside as a dairy-free option.
Drizzle a splash of good olive oil on top and sprinkle with za’atar (a flavorful Middle Eastern spice mix). Or make a beautiful dip as we’ve done here with pomegranate arils, chopped pistachios, mint, and za’atar.
- 10 oz. plain Greek yogurt (plain coconut yogurt for vegan)
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- dash of sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon za'atar, for garnish
- 1/4 cup pomegranate arils, for garnish
- 1/4 cup chopped pistachios, for garnish
- 4 fresh mint leaves, chopped, for garnish
- 1 package Middle Eastern flatbread
- To make homemade labneh, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lemon juice, and salt.
- Line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth and fill with the yogurt mixture. Fold the cheesecloth back over the yogurt. Set the sieve with the cheesecloth and yogurt over a bowl. Refrigerate 12-24 hours, until the labne has reached your desired thickness.
- Transfer the labneh to a shallow serving dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with za'atar, pomegranate, pistachios, and mint.
- Warm the flatbread and cut into triangles. Serve immediately.
- Feel free to take a shortcut and use store-bought labneh/labne. You can find it in some Middle Eastern grocery stores, or next to the Halloumi and feta cheeses at Whole Foods.
- Vegan Labneh Substitute: You can use a good quality plain coconut-based yogurt to make labneh but the flavor won't be quite the same. You can also substitute homemade or store bought vegan cream cheese (Kite Hill recommended) and top as shown here with za'atar, evoo, etc.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147 Total Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 2mg Sodium: 173mg Carbohydrates: 13g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 3g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 8g