A small, wooden bowl filled with labneh, olive oil, za'atar, and sprigs of dill. In the background is spilled za'atar, a vibrantly colorful silk scarf, and a couple stems of dill

Labneh with Olive Oil and Za’atar

This deliciously creamy, tangy labneh makes a spectacular dip or spread. For those who are unfamiliar, labneh is yogurt that has been strained to remove the whey, or milk protein that is the liquid byproduct of making cheese. All you have to do is strain the yogurt in muslin or cheesecloth for 24 hours, and it will transform into a spread with the consistency of cream cheese. The process couldn’t be easier- all you need is patience and a pinch or two of salt. I’ve decided to accompany the labneh’s savory flavor profile with some good quality olive oil and za’atar to provide an earthy, nutty roundness. Finally, the complexity of flavor is marked by an herbaceous note from the dill that brings it all together as one of the most delicious and surprisingly simple dips imaginable.

What’s za’atar? Most traditionally, Israeli za’atar (which is the type that I used here) is made using the za’atar the herb (otherwise known as hyssop), which grows in the rocky Israeli soil. For za’atar to be truly authentic, it must have hyssop listed as an ingredient, so be sure to look for it in the list of ingredients before you buy it (some blends use dried thyme or marjoram to mimic the hyssop). In addition to hyssop, za’atar is made with sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt.

There are za’atar blends that hail from different cultures as well, such as the Lebanese, Jordanian, and Turkish versions that all use slightly different ingredients, such as nuts, thyme, coriander, and cumin. In the salad, the za’atar provides an amazing body that just can’t be matched with any other spice blend. The addition of this blend lends a distinctly Israeli flavor to the labneh, but it can be replaced with any combination of herbs and spices you can think of, since labneh (like yogurt) is incredibly versatile.

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Place a colander or strainer into a mixing bowl. Place a muslin (or cheesecloth) bag into the colander and pour the yogurt into the bag. Mix in the salt until it’s well distributed.

Twist the top of the bag and let it sit either at room temperature (if your home is on the cooler side, like mine is) or in the refrigerator, pouring out any whey that’s collected in the bowl ever few hours.

ALTERNATIVELY, you can eliminate the need for a bowl and colander by hanging the bag from your kitchen faucet to strain directly in the sink so that they whey flows down the drain.

After 24 hours, remove the labneh from the straining bag, and transfer it to a small serving bowl. By now, it should have a similar consistency to cream cheese. Using a spoon or spatula, spread the labneh so that it’s evenly distributed throughout the bowl. Create a well in the center.

Pour the olive oil into the well you’ve created. Sprinkle the za’atar over the olive oil. Garnish with sprigs of dill and serve at room temperature with pita, chips, or crudités.

A small, wooden bowl filled with labneh, olive oil, za'atar, and sprigs of dill. In the background is spilled za'atar, a vibrantly colorful silk scarf, and a couple stems of dill

Labneh with Olive Oil and Za’atar

Becca Gallick-Mitchell
This deliciously creamy, tangy labneh makes a spectacular dip or spread. I've accompanied the labneh's savory flavor profile with some good quality olive oil and za'atar to provide an earthy, nutty roundness. The complexity of flavor is finished with an herbaceous note from the dill , bringing it all together as one of the most delicious and surprisingly simple dips imaginable. That being said, labneh is incredibly versatile and can be topped with any combination of spices, herbs, salts, nuts, and/or seeds!
Prep Time 5 mins
Straining Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 5 mins
Course Appetizer, Condiments, Dips
Cuisine Israeli
Servings 8

Equipment

  • muslin or cheesecloth straining bag (normally used for nut milks)

Ingredients
  

  • 32 oz yogurt (preferably made with whole milk)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp za'atar (preferably with hyssop listed as the first ingredient)

Instructions
 

  • Place a colander or strainer into a mixing bowl. Place a muslin (or cheesecloth) bag into the colander and pour the yogurt into the bag. Mix in the salt until it's well distributed. Twist the top of the bag and let it sit either at room temperature (if your home is on the cooler side, like mine is) or in the refrigerator, pouring out any whey that's collected in the bowl ever few hours. ALTERNATIVELY, you can eliminate the need for a bowl and colander by hanging the bag from your kitchen faucet to strain directly in the sink so that they whey flows down the drain.
  • After 24 hours, remove the labneh from the straining bag, and transfer it to a small serving bowl. By now, it should have a similar consistency to cream cheese. Using a spoon or spatula, spread the labneh so that it's evenly distributed throughout the bowl. Create a well in the center.
  • Pour the olive oil into the well you've created. Sprinkle the za'atar over the olive oil. Garnish with sprigs of dill and serve at room temperature with pita, chips, or crudités.
Keyword Dip, Dip Recipe, Dip Recipes, Dips, Dips Recipe, Dips Recipes, Israeli, Israeli Cooking, Israeli Cuisine, Israeli Food, Israeli Recipe, Israeli Recipes, Labne, Labne Recipe, Labne Recipes, Labneh, Labneh Recipe, Labneh Recipes, Za’atar, Za’atar Recipe

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