Labneh

Of course, the best way to get to know Labneh cheese is by tasting it, but on our website, you'll find clues to determine if Labneh is the right choice for your palate in advance.

Cheese Labneh: A Creamy and Delicious Delicacy

Labneh is a soft and creamy cheese that is made using one of the oldest forms of cheese production. It is primarily made in homes rather than dairies, as it is drained and filtered using a cheesecloth lined with salt to remove the whey from sour milk or yogurt. This process takes approximately 24 hours and results in a cheese with a consistency that falls somewhere between yogurt and cheese.

Traditionally, Bedouin tribes used a goat or sheep's skin for this process. While Labneh is commonly made using cow's milk, sheep's milk or goat's milk can also be used. Once the cheese has been formed into small balls by hand, it is preserved in clay vessels or a bottle with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes, Labneh is mixed with delicious flavors like wild thyme (zaate) and toasted sesame seeds, or combined with lemon juice and fresh mint. It is often served with falafel made from chickpeas or beans.

There are two main types of Labneh. The first is a cool version made by extracting whey from yogurt and preserving the resulting Labneh. This type is simply drained for a few more days until it retains very little moisture. Due to the intense heat in Lebanon, the cheeses are preserved in oil or brine. Labneh balls will remain safe in a sterilized jar for up to a year. Similar cheeses can be found throughout the Middle East, especially in Syria. In Lebanon, it is called Labneh, in Israel it is known as Labane, while in Syria it is called Labaneh. The generic term for this type of cheese in Arabic is Gibne. Labneh is derived from the word "Laban," which means white or milk.

This sweet, rich, and velvety cheese has a tangy freshness reminiscent of lemon. The taste largely depends on the type of milk used. Cow's milk Labneh has a slightly milder flavor, while Labneh made with sheep's milk has a wonderful sweetness. The quality of the olive oil covering also influences the taste of Labneh. Camel milk and other animal milks are used in Labneh production in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

In Lebanon, there is a Jesuit monastery in a small town in the central Bekaa Valley that is famous for its production of Labneh. When visitors stop in this village of 800 inhabitants on their way to a festival in Baalbeck, they will see crowds of people impatiently requesting Labneh sandwiches in the cafes, as if they haven't eaten for a week! It's quite amazing to witness. But that's the significance of Labneh to the Lebanese people. This round-shaped cheese is consumed daily in traditional Lebanese homes and is typically enjoyed for breakfast with olive oil, fresh mint, and of course, a piece of pita bread. It may be accompanied by olives, pine nuts, fresh herbs, small pieces of tomato, and cucumber. Sweet Labneh with ginger honey and orange blossom is also a popular choice. A national beer of Lebanon, such as "Almaza," a Pilsner-type beer, perfectly complements all Arabic dishes.

With its creamy texture and delightful flavors, Labneh is truly a treat for cheese enthusiasts. Whether enjoyed as a spread, dip, or accompaniment to various foods, this Lebanese specialty never fails to impress. If you haven't tried Labneh yet, make sure to add it to your culinary bucket list and savor its unique qualities.

✓ Lebanon