Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)

You need just 1 ingredient to make your own cream cheese and whey (or labneh and whey)- giving you two amazing products instead of one, that can be used in countless ways. The labneh is creamy, light, tart and great for both sweet and savoury dishes. 

I first came across this recipe years ago when working at gorgeous cafe in Richmond. My boss used to make labneh to serve with the banana bread and, despite being so simple and easy, it was incredibly delicious (and healthy), and I couldn’t wait to have my own kitchen to make it myself (at that stage I was living above the cafe, sans kitchen!). After that I travelled through parts of the Muddle East and was inundated with labneh in all its glory. It was, and us, love. 

This recipe is of course not my own, but nor can I give credit to any individual- it’s a beautifully simple recipe made by many millions of hands over the past thousands of years, and one I simply want to share with you because, truely, every kitchen is better knowing it.

So, before we begin- I truely want to honour that this recipe has a strong significance across the Middle East, and in no way is it ‘my recipe’ . It’s labneh, and I love to make it + use it instead of cream cheese (hence the blog title). 

Yes, you can easily buy cream cheese in any supermarket, but; can you buy it with one ingredient, and an organic one at that? Hmmm, that is less easy.

Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)Cream cheese or labneh- what is the difference

First of all, I’d like to again recognise the cultural significance of labneh. Labneh specifically relates to a cheese made from strained yoghurt that has its origins Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Israel, and has been used for thousands of years. It can be made from the milk of goat, sheep or cow and is generally served as a side or accompany to savoury middle eastern dishes. 

In short though- its bloody amazing! Labneh has more flavour than cream cheese, being more tart and tangy, plus its beautifully filled with probiotics and gut-loving bacteria from the yoghurt. 

Cream cheese, on the other hand, has a much less significant history. According to Philadelphia cream cheese brand it was developed in 1872 in New York and was soon distributed in their famous foil packaging. The method was simply one of separating curds and whey (via adding lactic acid), followed by heat treatment and stabilising to create the cream cheese we know today (source). 

They are 2 (sort of) similar products created by different methods and can be used interchangeably.

For all intents the recipe and method we are using today is in fact that of labneh, and not cream cheese. Making labneh is easier, more reliable, time honoured and so much more wholesome- plus we don’t need to apply lactic acid, heat or stabilisers. Win win. 

Strained yoghurtHow to make cream cheese or labneh

1.  Purchase some good quality, natural yoghurt

I love to use a natural, organic yoghurt that contains preferably only milk and bacteria. A “Greek” style yoghurt is perfect for this. A few great brands have ‘milk solids’ as a third ingredient which is ok. If you look for a yoghurt that is labelled as ‘pot set’ you’ll more easily avoid unwanted added ingredients like stabilisers and thickeners. 

Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)

Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)2. Set up the straining system

There are many ways to strain your yoghurt but I find the easiest way to do it is;

  • First, set a sieve over a bowl so that it is sitting in the rim of the bowl with plenty of space below the sieve for the whey to strain out. 
  • Next, grab a natural fibre tea towel or large napkin and lay it in the sieve, taking care to ensure the edges are spread evenly overhanging the sieve (ie, centre the middle of the tea towel to lay in the centre of the sieve). I love to use linen for this, but cotton or hemp work too. Pour the full tub of yoghurt into the tea towel. Next, grab the 4 corners of the tea towel and bring them together, then begin to twirl or twist the loose parts of the tea towel until tight. The end result should look a little like a jelly fish with the yoghurt bunched up into a ball (the head of the jelly fish) and the remaining tea towel the tightly twisted arms. 

Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)3. Strain for 8-24 hours. 

The longer you strain, the thicker your labneh or cream cheese will be, so this is a personal choice. I find 12 hours is perfect for me. 

During the warmer or hotter months of the year (or if you live in a hot climate) you may want to do this process in the fridge. For milder weather this is perfectly fine to do on a bench top or in the pantry. 

4. Store your labneh and whey

Labneh or cream cheese can then be used immediately for any recipe- this is my go to top any cake, simply mixed with some fresh lemon zest, vanilla and pure maple syrup or honey. 

If you’re not using your labneh straight away, store in it the fridge in a sealed container. It will last up to 2 weeks. 

The yellowish clear liquid that has collected in your bowl is whey– there is no need to throw this out- it is perfect for adding to ferments as a starter culture, added to baking (instead of butter milk) or at the least poured over your garden. Whey can be stored in a clean container in the fridge for up to 1 month, or you can freeze it for longer storage. 

Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)

Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)How to use your homemade cream cheese and whey 

Cream cheese;

  • As a wonderful substitute for any recipe that calls for conventional, store bought cream cheese. 
  • Mixed with lemon zest, vanilla and a small amount of maple syrup/honey as a healthy cake frosting
  • Served as a sweet or savoury dip. For a sweet dip mix with honey and chopped nuts and perhaps some cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg. For a savoury dip mix with some salt with any flavours you love like lemon, fresh herbs, spices like smoked paprika, black pepper, chopped nuts or extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Spread straight onto fresh toast, a felafel wrap or warm pita
  • As a wholesome, single ingredient, probiotic-rich condiments to any nourish bowl, curry or stew

Homemade labnehCream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)Whey:

Don’t discard your whey! Whey is a wonderful ingredient that has so many uses in the kitchen

  • Add to ferments to make lacto-fermented vegetables. Adding whey to your ferments helps to establish a bacteria rich, acidic medium and reduces the need for salt, time and error. 
  • Use to soak nuts, seeds, grains or legumes. When soaking any of these things overnight add some whey to create an acidic medium that will helps to achieve activation (never heard of activation? Click here for a bit more info). 
  • Add to baking as a substitute for butter milk or water
  • Give your garden an extra boost by feeding any excess when to flowers, veggies or fruit trees 

Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)Looking for more easy and amazing recipe ideas? Try;

We hope you enjoy this recipe for cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey) and find it as truely easy and useful as we do. Your reviews and comments below help others find this recipe to, and we love chatting to you in the comments. 

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Homemade labneh

Cream cheese and whey (labneh and whey)

  • Author: Jade Woodd
  • Prep Time: 8-24 hours
  • Total Time: 33 minute
  • Yield: 8 serves 1x
  • Category: Snacks/condiments
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Cuisine: Middle-eastern origins
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

You need just 1 ingredient to make your own cream cheese and whey (or labneh and whey)- giving you two amazing products instead of one that can be used in countless ways. The labneh is creamy, light, tart and great for both sweet and savoury dishes.

 


Ingredients

Scale

1 x 1L tub of natural yoghurt (see notes)


Instructions

  1. First, set a sieve over a bowl, so that it is sitting in the rim of the bowl with plenty of space below the sieve for the whey to strain out.
  2. Next, grab a natural fibre tea towel or large napkin and lay it in the sieve, taking care to ensure the edges are spread evenly overhanging the sieve (ie, centre the middle of the tea towel to lay in the centre of the sieve). I love to use linen for this, but cotton or hemp work too. Pour the full tub of yoghurt into the tea towel. Next, grab the 4 corners of the tea towel and bring them together. Begin to twirl or twist the loose parts of the tea towel until tight. The end result should look a little like a jelly fish with the yoghurt bunched up into a ball (the head of the jelly fish) and the remaining tea towel the tightly twisted arms.
  3. Strain your yoghurt for 8-24 hours. The longer you strain, the thicker your labneh or cream cheese will be, so this is a personal choice. I find 12 hours is perfect for me. NOTE; During the warmer or hotter months of the year (or if you live in a hot climate) you may want to do this process in the fridge. For milder weather this is perfectly fine to do on a bench top or in the pantry.
  4. Store your labneh and whey. After you have left your yoghurt to strain you will be left with two new products. The thick creamy part collected in the tea towel is labneh/cream cheese. The yellowish clear liquid that has collected in your bowl is whey. 

If you’re not using your labneh/cream cheese straight away then store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

There is there is no need to throw the whey out- it is perfect for adding to ferments as a starter culture, adding to baking (instead of butter milk, or water/milk) or, at the least, poured over your garden. Whey can be stored in a clean container in the fridge for up to 1 month, or you can freeze it for longer storage.


Notes

  • I love to use a natural, organic yoghurt that contains preferably only milk and bacteria. A “Greek” style yoghurt is perfect for this. A few great brands have ‘milk solids’ as a third ingredient which is ok. If you look for a yoghurt that is labelled as ‘pot set’ you’ll more easily avoid unwanted added ingredients like stabilisers and thickeners.

Keywords: Cream cheese, curds and whey, strained yoghurt, labneh

 

 

3 Comments
  1. I can’t have dairy any more. But, I’m actually going to try this with my very healthy plain cashew yoghurt. I’ll let you know if it turns out!

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