Tangy, creamy and super nutritious, labneh has been an essential ingredient used in Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years. In fact, in certain areas, it can be commonly found in everything from appetizers to dips, desserts and beyond. Not only is it incredibly versatile, but it’s also easy to prepare from the comfort of your own kitchen using just a few simple ingredients. It’s also on the list of probiotic foods that can benefit gut health and so much more.
Need a few more reasons to consider adding this delicious dairy product to your diet? Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Labneh Cheese?
Labneh cheese, also sometimes called strained yoghurt or yogurt cheese, is a type of soft cheese made by straining yogurt or kefir to create a thicker, more highly concentrated final product that can be seasoned for use as a dip or spread.
With its rich and tangy taste, labneh cheese has been used for centuries. It is a staple ingredient in many types of Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s often served alongside fresh pita or added to baked goods and desserts to bump up the flavor.
Not only is it revered for its creamy, delicious taste and texture, but it’s also jam-packed with probiotics and several key nutrients. Thanks to its rich nutrient profile, including even a serving or two of this delicious ingredient in your diet can have a powerful impact on overall health.
The labneh nutrition profile is low in calories but rich in several important vitamins and minerals. In fact, a single serving provides a good amount of protein, plus plenty of calcium and vitamin A.
One ounce of labneh cheese in oil contains approximately:
- 80 calories
- 5 grams protein
- 6 grams fat
- 140 milligrams calcium (14 percent DV)
- 300 international units vitamin A (6 percent DV)
- 0.36 milligrams iron (2 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, labneh also contains a small amount of phosphorus, magnesium and potassium as well.
- High in Protein
- Low in Lactose
- Promotes Gut Health
- May Aid in Weight Loss
- Promotes Blood Sugar Control
1. High in Protein
Protein is absolutely essential to several different aspects of health. It is needed to produce enzymes, synthesize hormones, and repair cells and tissues in the body. A deficiency in this key nutrient can have detrimental effects on health. It can cause protein deficiency symptoms like stunted growth, impaired immune function, increased hunger and muscle loss.
Labneh cheese is a great source of protein. A single ounce packs in a whopping five grams of protein. When combined with a good assortment of other protein foods, adding a serving or two of labneh cheese into your daily diet can quickly boost your protein intake.
2. Low in Lactose
Lactose is a type of sugar found in dairy products, such as milk, butter, ice cream, skyr and yogurt. Many people lack the enzyme needed to digest this type of milk sugar. In fact, some sources estimate that lactose intolerance may affect up to 75 percent of the global population. This can cause serious digestive issues, such as bloating, diarrhea, indigestion and stomach pain.
Like other types of dairy, such as Greek yogurt, labneh is thought to be significantly lower in lactose thanks to the straining process that it undergoes before consumption. This process removes much of the lactose, creating a final product that can be enjoyed even by those with lactose intolerance.
3. Promotes Gut Health
Because labneh yogurt is typically made with fermented foods, such as kefir, it’s usually rich in probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help enhance gut health and strengthen your microbiome.
Probiotics have been linked to many benefits. They are believed to play a central role in nearly every aspect of health. In fact, according to a review published in ISRN Nutrition, probiotics may help enhance immune function, improve digestive health, reduce cholesterol levels and even aid in cancer prevention.
4. May Aid in Weight Loss
If you’re looking for a simple way to shed a few extra pounds, you may want to consider adding labneh to your diet. Labneh is a great source of protein, which can be very beneficial when it comes to weight loss.
In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming a high-protein breakfast helped slow the emptying of the stomach and reduced levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, to a greater degree than a high-carb breakfast. Furthermore, another study out of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle showed that increasing protein intake by just 15 percent was effective at decreasing caloric intake to support weight loss.
5. Promotes Blood Sugar Control
Sustaining high levels of blood sugar can take a serious toll on health, causing issues like weight loss, frequent urination, nerve damage and even vision loss. Incorporating a few servings of high-protein foods like labneh is a simple and effective way to maintain normal blood sugar levels and prevent adverse side effects.
In particular, protein has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes while also supporting better overall glycemic control. This is because, unlike carbohydrates, protein has minimal effect on blood sugar levels and can slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream to prevent spikes and crashes.
Uses in Traditional Medicine
Milk and dairy products like labneh have long been revered for their medicinal properties in several forms of holistic medicine, including Ayurveda.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, milk products are thought to be highly nourishing and satisfying. Milk is also considered to be soothing and cooling, as well as grounding. This means it helps support feelings of stability and relaxation.
Meanwhile, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, milk products are believed to increase strength, nourish the blood and decrease dryness. In some cases, they may be used to correct issues like constipation, anemia and malnutrition as well.
Labneh vs. Yogurt vs. Kefir
Labneh cheese is a cultured dairy product that is typically made using ingredients such as yogurt or kefir. The whey protein is strained out to create a thicker, creamier and more cheese-like final product. Probiotic yogurt, kefir and labneh are all high in probiotics, low in lactose and loaded with protein, making each an excellent addition to a well-rounded, healthy diet.
Compared to labneh, both yogurt and kefir are slightly higher in a few select essential vitamins and minerals. For example, kefir is a good source of phosphorus, vitamin B12 and riboflavin. Meanwhile, a single serving of yogurt can supply plenty of calcium, potassium, zinc and pantothenic acid.
In terms of flavor, there are also some notable differences between the three ingredients. Kefir has a slightly sour taste and creamy texture. It’s typically consumed as a beverage due to its somewhat thin consistency. Yogurt, on the other hand, is much thicker and has a tart taste that works well when combined with fruit, nuts or other nutritious ingredients.
For best results, try adding a mix of all three dairy products to your diet. There are plenty of healthy and nutritious labneh, kefir and Greek yogurt recipes out there that can help you enjoy the nutritional rewards that each has to offer.
Where to Find and How to Use
Wondering where to buy labneh or how to make labneh from milk at home? You can easily find labneh in most ethnic markets, typically at the deli counter or alongside other dairy products like goat cheese.
Alternatively, you can make it at home using just a few simple ingredients:
- Start by lining a strainer with cheesecloth, and set it over a bowl.
- Next, combine 12 ounces of Greek yogurt with a bit of lemon juice and salt, and add the mixture to the strainer with the cheesecloth folded over top.
- Finally, place it in the refrigerator, and allow it to set between 12–24 hours or until it reaches the desired consistency.
There are plenty of labneh recipe ideas available as well as many different options for how to eat labneh. It’s often added to desserts, appetizers and breakfasts or mixed with other ingredients like olive oil and spices to make a creamy labneh dip. It’s also sometimes served alongside pita bread or fresh veggies or used as a tasty and nutritious spread for baked goods or crackers.
Looking for a few quick labneh recipe ideas to take advantage of the unique benefits of this delicious dairy product? Here are a few simple recipes that you can try at home to help get you started:
- Labneh with Olives, Pistachios and Oregano
- Grilled Eggplant and Lemons with Garlic Labneh
- Olive Oil Cake with Labneh and Figs
- Shawarma-Spiced Beets with Garlicky Labneh
- Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Garlic Labneh
In recent years, labneh has started to slowly gain widespread recognition around the world. However, it remains most popular in the Middle East, where it is used as a common ingredient in appetizers and sandwiches. In areas like Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, it is strained until most of the liquid is removed and it becomes a soft cheese-like consistency.
It’s used in many traditional dishes, such as mansaf, which is the national dish of Jordan and consists of lamb cooked in a fermented yogurt sauce and served alongside rice or bulgur. Meanwhile, in Egypt, strained yogurt is paired with olive oil and natural sweeteners for a delicious breakfast or snack.
Risks and Side Effects
Although labneh can be super healthy and nutritious, it’s also relatively high in sodium. In fact, labneh provides around 23 percent of the daily recommended limit for sodium in a single ounce. This is especially important to keep in mind for those with high blood pressure, as it’s typically recommended to limit sodium intake to help lower blood pressure. Not only that, but a high intake of sodium also is linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer as well. Therefore, it’s best to keep consumption in moderation to reduce the risk of adverse side effects and minimize the potential impact on health.
Additionally, while labneh is naturally low in lactose, it’s still considered a dairy product. This means that it can still cause issues for those with a dairy allergy as well as those who are sensitive to milk proteins, such as casein protein. Furthermore, it may also not be suitable for those on a vegan diet or those who abstain from consuming animal-based products.
- What is labneh? Labneh is a type of soft cheese made by straining yogurt or kefir to create a thicker and more concentrated product.
- Labneh is high in protein as well as important micronutrients like calcium and vitamin A. It’s also low in lactose and can be easily digested by those with a lactose intolerance.
- Some of the potential labneh health benefits include improved gut health, increased weight loss and better blood sugar control.
- You can find labneh in specialty markets or try making it at home using just a few simple ingredients.
- Enjoy this probiotic-packed ingredient as part of a well-rounded, nutritious diet by adding it to appetizers, baked goods, dips and spreads.