Soft White Cheese (Labna)

8 Mar

When B and I caught up in New York last year, we ate freshly baked Pão de Queijo walking along busy streets, making our way to Chelsea amidst the cars and beautifully dressed kids. Nice memories.

I thought an appropriate response to B’s cheesy balls, was a cheese, in a ball. I am logical like that.

If you are anything like me, you have always wondered how to make cheese. I love cheese, pretty much all cheese to be honest, but soft white cheeses especially. Here is a super simple way to make cheese from yoghurt. I believe it originates in the middle east. The name I know it by is Labna.

All you need is…

Yoghurt and some salt.

Then to store and flavour the cheese, some olive oil and garlic. I also used a little rosemary.

When I say simple… I really mean it.

All I did was…

mix some salt into some yoghurt.

Then I set up a sieve over a bowl, and you line it with either two layers of muslin, or as I have always done… just a piece of cotton fabric, into which you pour the salted yoghurt.

I then tied up the parcel.

The whey started to drip in to the bowl straight away. I put this in to the fridge for two days. I keep an eye on the whey and empty it out if it is starting to get close to the base of the sieve.

After two days… it was ready to go…

I took the cheese out of the sieve and gave it a gentle squeeze to get the last of the whey out.

Then opened it up and voila, a large ball of cheese.

I made walnut sized balls from the cheese, and put them in a container I had prepared with a layer of oil.

It is best stored in olive oil, in a shallow container, so it remains in one layer as the cheese is very soft.

I then crushed a few cloves garlic with the side of a knife…

And put them in to the oil around the labna balls. I had some fresh rosemary around, and added that too. The garlic adds flavour within minutes.

To store, keep it covered in the fridge… apparently it lasts for a week or so. Never managed to keep it for that long. I also love it on top of pan fried lamb cutlets and I did plan to show you how that looks, but… ahem, it didn’t last that long either. Let’s just say, this batch was enjoyed with friends, within hours.

I am curious where B is going to take this, I threw a bit of a curve ball. Tag!




600g (20 oz) plain yoghurt
1 1/2 tsp salt
I have always used pot set yoghurt, the kind of yoghurt that forms edges when you scoop it out. Brands like Yoplait contain starches and gelatine and that just doesn’t seem right to me. This time I used a low fat yoghurt because that was all that was available but I would normally use a whole milk version. Either works well.

Olive oil for storing the cheese
5 cloves garlic, smashed with the back of knife
You can also add whatever herbs you would like to use, I added some rosemary, chives would be great too. Apparently Armenians add chives, dill and Aleppo pepper.

Line a sieve generously with two layer of muslin, or a piece of pure cotton fabric, and rest the sieve over a bowl.
Mix the yoghurt and salt and then tip in to the fabric lined sieve. Tie up the fabric with a piece of string and leave to rest in the refrigerator for two days, keep an eye on the whey level and empty it if it is getting close to the sieve.

Open up your fabric parcel and make walnut sized balls, rolling the cheese in your hands. Place the balls in to a shallow container with enough oil to come close to covering the cheese. Add the crushed garlic and herbs. They are ready to eat. Cover and refrigerate to store.

10 Responses to “Soft White Cheese (Labna)”

  1. Mare 08/03/2012 at 8:26 pm #

    I just have to make this one Ms A, what a ripper!

    • Alice 09/03/2012 at 7:58 am #

      Please do Mare! I am home for a bit soon, maybe we can have a mezze night. x

  2. leah 08/03/2012 at 9:06 pm #

    looks amazing

    • Alice 09/03/2012 at 7:57 am #

      Thanks Leah, so tasty too.

  3. Mare 15/03/2012 at 5:39 pm #

    I made this one Ms NT and it was gorgeous and so easy. Keep ’em coming!

  4. Mare 15/03/2012 at 5:40 pm #

    oh and yes please a mezze night would be ace!

  5. Stacy 17/10/2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Would this work with Greek yogurt? I am not quite sure what pot set yogurt is but this is very interesting to me. I am a cheese and DIY fanatic so you just won my heart with this article.

    • Alice 18/10/2012 at 1:31 am #

      I might need to call B in on this one to answer.

      Aussie Greek yoghurt has cream in it, which I suspect would work fine, but I think your Greek yoghurt is different. Pot set yoghurt means it has been cultured in the pot… it has a nice firmness and when you spoon it out it forms an edge.

      Honestly I think that any unflavoured yoghurt would work!

      Ps, I love cheese and DIY too.

    • Brenda 18/10/2012 at 6:40 am #

      Hi Stacy,
      I made it with plain Greek yogurt and it turned out beautifully. I didn’t get much liquid from letting it sit overnight, but it was yummy.
      Good luck! Report back after you make it, we’d love to hear how it turns out.

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