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Labneh Balls

I've made these with whole milk plain yogurt, as well as Greek yogurt and you can read some of the differences in my post, above.
You can use any of your favorite aromatic herbs, like thyme, sage, or bay leaves in the oil you pack the balls in. I like to add some chili flakes too, but while it’s tempting to add fresh garlic, there are some health hazards associate with that, so if you do, the labneh balls and oil should be used within 2-3 days. It's nice to roll the finished balls in za’atar, chili flakes, Aleppo pepper, fresh or dried thyme, oregano, or mint, or paprika, before placing them in the jar and covering them completely with olive oil.
One quart of whole milk yogurt will yield about fifteen balls. A quart of Greek or Greek-style yogurt will yield about three times as many.
I don't know if it makes a difference but as a precaution, I poured boiling water in the jar first and let it sit for 10 minutes then poured it out and let it dry (and cool) upside down before using.
These labneh balls should last a few months in the refrigerator but make sure the labneh balls are fully submerged under the oil, not sticking out above it. If the oil solidifies in the refrigerator, remove the jar about an hour before serving, letting them come to room temperature.
Course Appetizer
Servings 8
  • 1 quart (900g) Greek or Greek-style plain yogurt
  • 2 cups (500ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
  • za'atar, paprika (sweet or smoked), sumac, Aleppo pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, a few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary (some suggested flavorings)
  • Line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth or food-grade muslin (called étamine in France). Set the strainer over a deep bowl and scrape the yogurt into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Fold the cheesecloth over the cheese, set a small plate on it with something not too heavy, such as a 14oz/400g tin of tomatoes, and refrigerate for 2 days.
  • Prepare any seasonings that you wish to use (if you want to roll them in something) and spread them on dinner plates. Pour the oil into a clean 1-quart (or larger) jar.
  • Use a spoon to scoop out labneh into rough 1-inch (2,5cm) rounds. Use your hands to roll them into smooth balls and drop them into whatever seasonings you want to roll them in, if using, then roll them around to coat them. (If keeping them plain, just drop them into the oil with any seasonings added, being careful to avoid letting them slide down the sides of the jar.)
  • If you wish, add a few branches of fresh herbs, some chile flakes perhaps, and additional olive oil if the labneh balls aren't completely covered in oil. Cover with the lid and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Serving: Serve the balls on their own, as part of an appetizer spread, with hummus, eggplant caviar, tarama, and baba ganoush, along with flatbread. They can also be used as a base for tartines, open-faced sandwiches, topped with smoked salmon, radishes, pickled carrots, sliced tomatoes, and a scattering of fresh herbs, or whatever you prefer.
Storage: Store the labneh balls in the refrigerator. The olive oil may thicken, and if it does, remove the jar an hour or so before serving, to the labneh balls are easy to remove. They'll keep for at least two months if the balls are completely submerged in olive oil.