This beautiful recipe comes from the heart & hands of Rocio Graves - a dear sister who has inspired my own culinary creations for many years. She is a food alchemist, activist, food photographer, meditator and home gardener - growing a variety of local foods on her family’s land in Mallorca. In-joy!
Herby Coconut Yoghurt Labneh
I came across labneh only a couple of years ago — yoghurt turned into tangy thick cream cheese, but better. An ancient staple of Middle Eastern cuisine.
It feels so empowering and satisfying to make your own cream cheese at home: it’s healthier, tastier and more nourishing than what you can find in stores. Made with two ingredients: yoghurt + sea salt.
The process of making labneh is nostalgic for me, it brings back memories of my dad hanging cheesecloth bags of curdled milk in our basement/art studio to make fresh cheese. I used to love watching it drip into a bowl, the smell was divine and the patience required made all the more exciting.
Making labneh is made using a very similar technique, by adding salt to the yoghurt the alchemical process begins to release the water content in the yoghurt, it’s a slow drip through a double layered cheesecloth. I like to keep it at room temperature for the first 24 hours (hanging the cheesecloth bag from the faucet using an elastic band as pictured below, though any system where the cheesecloth can hang above a recipient works). The next step is placing the cheesecloth bag into the fridge to continue the dripping process for another 24 hours, also hanging it over a recipient.
I find that the best consistency is reached after the 48 hour mark — at this point it’s thick and creamy, perfect to spread on toast or anywhere you would use cream cheese. When serving, you can add your favourite cold pressed oils; I love pumpkin seed oil or a quality extra virgin olive oil for this. A sprinkle of dukkah and flaky sea salt are delicious too.
It pairs really well with tangy, citrusy fruits like roasted plums or grapes, also with slow oven roasted tomatoes. You could mix in spices, such as cumin, paprika, sumac or confit garlic, be playful!
Once it’s ready it can be stored in the fridge in a tupperware for up to a week. This recipe uses coconut yoghurt. I love to make this as a dairy-free alternative, especially when cooking on retreats. The flavour is beautiful and still holds that creamy tanginess that resembles cream cheese. Having said this, using sheep’s yoghurt is probably my favourite. Traditionally labneh is made mixing cow and sheep or goat yoghurt.
800ml good quality coconut yoghurt
1+ 1/2 tsp fine good quality sea salt
2 tbsp finely chopped herbs such as parsley, dill or basil
Cover the bottom of a deep bowl with a double layer of cheese cloth. In a separate bowl, mix the coconut yoghurt, salt and finely chopped herbs with a hand whisk and pour the mixture onto the cloth. Bring the four corners together and tie them to form a tight bundle. Hang the cheesecloth bag over the bowl and leave to drain at room temperature for 24 hours.
Discard the liquid collected in the bowl and transfer the bag to the fridge, hanging it again over the same bowl for another 24 hours. After this time, the yoghurt should have released most of its water content and thickened.
Untie the cloth bag and empty the labneh into a serving bowl and smooth down the surface with the back of a spoon. Garnish and serve.