This is the easiest and most delicious way of making a tart and creamy vegan cheese
Have you tried making your own labneh? You only need a few ingredients and a little time to make the best vegan cream cheese/ strained yoghurt. Rolling it in herbs and spices takes it to the next level!
I’ve been meaning to post my vegan labneh recipe for ages, some of you have tried it at our events and vegan holidays. I love this one and use it often! It’s so versatile, inexpensive and fun to make.
Labneh (or labna, labni, lebni…) is a strained yoghurt from the Middle East region, something like cream cheese. It can also be called Greek Yoghurt, Skyr (in Iceland), Chakka (Central Asia), Sheelanch (Balochistan) or even Sack Yoghurt. In many cultures, strained yoghurt is a staple, enjoyed from Albania to Iran, Denmark to India. I reckon this vegan version is good and creamy, a staple for a new way of living!
We use unsweetened soya yoghurt here and only add a little sea salt, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. The balance of tart, tanginess comes from both the lemon juice and vinegar. I find they work in tandem to make a more authentic flavour.
The yoghurt must contain the cultures, meaning it will ferment and flavours will develop as we’re straining the yoghurt. I normally strain the yoghurt for 2-3 days. Things will get more tangy the longer you leave it. Making your own strained yoghurt at home means that it has no weird extra thickeners added into mass produced versions.
Once the yoghurt is strained, you can enjoy the labneh as it is, or roll it into balls, coated in any herbs, spices, seeds, citrus zest, chilli flakes, whatever takes your fancy. Sometime labneh is dried in the sun, a traditional way of preserving it used by bedouins, but I haven’t tried that. Not enough sun in Wales you see!!
It’s a nice idea to store your labneh balls in olive oil. Labneh in oil or Labaneh bil zayit can be stored for more than a year, the flavour will mature the longer it’s stored, but I’ve never tried it for more than a couple of weeks. They never hang around long enough! This flavoured oil can then be used for salads, dipping or dressings. No waste.
I wrote more about this special Palestinian Za’atar in the last post:
I used my homemade labneh in that bake and those who’ve made it have mentioned that the labneh really stands out. Labneh tends not to curdle when cooked due to its higher fat content and adds some creaminess to a spicy tomato and chickpea stew.
Sumac is something we love adding to dishes. It has a zesty flavour and comes from a deep red berry, which is dried and ground. A condiment that really brings a pleasant tangy flavour, it looks vibrant and stores well. Not to mention that it’s full of sparkling nutrition. Sumac and Za’atar go together brilliantly, but a combination like mint/thyme and lemon zest would also work well.
We like labneh served simply with bread, salads, olives, pickles, in a sandwich with fresh herbs and green leaves, as a colourful mezze/ tapas. Labneh is also delicious for breakfast, with warm flatbreads, olives, chopped vegetables like tomato and cucumber and a nice tea. Spread it out on a plate and serve it as you would hummus, topped with olive oil, herbs, olives, spices.
We eat yoghurt most days over here, not only is it delicious, but it’s a top source of friendly bacterias that are great for our digestion and wellbeing in general.
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I’d recommend doubling this quantity if you’re serious about your labneh. As I mentioned, they don’t hang around long (too tasty) and it’s nice to taste the labneh developing with a little age.
You may like to flavour the oil with fresh herbs. This is a lovely way of adding more dimensions of flavour. Thyme, oregano and rosemary are especially good.
If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar will work well.
I just made a batch with added fermented garlic, they’re knockout! Labneh is an awesome base for flavour adventures.
Homemade Vegan Labneh Balls rolled in Za’atar and Sumac
The Bits – For 8-10 balls
500g unsweetened soya yoghurt (with cultures)
1/2-2/3 teas sea salt
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 teas apple cider vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Line a sturdy sieve or colander with muslin/ cheese cloth. Place this over a bowl, which supports the edges of the sieve, raising it above the base of the bowl.
Pour your yoghurt into the seive, gathering the edges of the muslin together to cover the yoghurt. Now place something nice and heavy on top. This will press the yoghurt, helping to drain excess liquid.
Leave the yoghurt for 1-3 days. Draining the bowl of liquid every now and again.
You can now flavour your yoghurt. Scrape it out into a bowl and add the lemon juice, vinegar and salt. Taste and find the balance that works best for you. Go easy on the flavouring, you don’t want it to be overpowering and remember, the flavours will develop more when stored.
You may roll into balls now, but I’d recommend popping it into a fridge for a few hours to chill and firm up even more.
To roll, lightly oil your hands and form small balls, the size of fat olives.
Add a flavourful crust by scattering herb or spices into a small bowl and toss the labneh balls in the bowl, covering them completely.
Place your labneh balls snugly into a sterilised/ very clean jar or sealable container. Jars look cooler. Cover with olive oil, until all labneh balls are fully immersed.
They will keep well for a few weeks at room temperature. Any longer is unknown territory for us. If they last that long, without you eating them first, you deserve some kind of medal!
All soya yoghurts will vary, but generally they’re a good source of protein, calcium, and minerals like iron and magnesium. Many soya yoghurts are fortified with other vitamins and minerals too.