Labneh cheese is a popular dairy product whose rich flavor and light texture has been enjoyed for thousands of years.
Frequently found in Middle Eastern cuisine, labneh cheese can be served as a dip, spread, appetizer or dessert.
It’s low in lactose but high in beneficial bacteria, protein and calcium — all of which are essential for your health.
This article reviews the nutrition, benefits and potential downsides of labneh cheese and gives you a recipe to make your own.
Labneh cheese is a type of soft cheese produced by straining yogurt to remove most of the whey for a thicker, more concentrated product.
It’s often made from cultured dairy products like kefir, Greek yogurt or probiotic yogurt, which are all rich in beneficial bacteria that can help optimize your gut health.
Labneh cheese is typically seasoned with lemon and herbs to give it a savory, cheesy flavor while keeping the light texture and slightly tart taste of yogurt.
It’s a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine and often rolled into small balls or used as a dip or spread for veggies or warm pita.
While it can be purchased pre-made from many specialty stores, labneh cheese is also easy to make at home with just a few simple ingredients, most of which you may already have on hand.
Summary Labneh is a type of soft cheese made by straining yogurt to remove the whey. Often eaten in the Middle East as a dip or spread, it can be made at home with minimal ingredients.
Each serving of labneh cheese contains a good amount of protein and fat, plus micronutrients like calcium and vitamin A.
It’s also relatively high in sodium, holding 530 mg per ounce (28 grams) — or 23% of the reference daily intake (RDI).
One ounce (28 grams) of labneh cheese in oil provides ():
- Calories: 80
- Protein: 5 grams
- Fat: 6 grams
- Sodium: 530 mg (23% of the RDI)
- Calcium: 14% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 6% of the RDI
- Iron: 2% of the RDI
Labneh also offers a small amount of several other vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus, potassium and magnesium (2).
Summary Labneh cheese packs a good amount of protein and fat, plus micronutrients like sodium, calcium and vitamin A.
Like other types of cheese, labneh offers a hearty dose of protein for a low number of calories, with about 5 grams of protein in a single ounce (28 grams) ().
Protein is essential to many aspects of health, from immune function to tissue repair and beyond ().
Studies show that eating more protein from dairy products can preserve lean body mass during weight loss, support metabolic health, promote blood sugar control and maintain bone density (, ).
Some research also suggests that adding more high-protein dairy foods to your daily diet could benefit weight management.
In fact, in one study in 8,516 adults, increased yogurt consumption was associated with a lower risk of being overweight or obese ().
Following a high-protein diet can also keep you feeling full and increase your metabolism to help you burn more calories throughout the day ().
Summary Labneh cheese is a good source of protein, which bolsters many components of your health — including weight management, metabolic function, blood sugar control and bone density.
Labneh cheese is a good source of probiotics, which are a type of beneficial bacteria that support gut health.
Probiotics are linked to a multitude of benefits. One review noted that probiotics could aid in treating and preventing many different digestive diseases, including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Clostridium difficile infection ().
Probiotics may also enhance immunity and decrease the duration of certain types of illness and infection (, , ).
Other studies suggest that probiotics may increase weight loss, improve mental health, reduce cholesterol levels and even help treat skin conditions like dermatitis and acne (, , , ).
Summary The probiotics in labneh cheese can strengthen your digestion, immune function, weight management, mental health, cholesterol levels and skin health.
Lactose is a type of sugar found in most dairy products, including milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheese.
People who lack the enzyme lactase cannot digest lactose, resulting in symptoms like cramps, bloating and gas when they eat lactose-heavy foods ().
Interestingly, about 75% of the world population is lactose intolerant ().
Labneh is thought to harbor less lactose than other cheeses due to its straining and fermentation process, which removes much of the whey and lactose from the final product (, , ).
Therefore, labneh is considered a safe and healthy food for those unable to tolerate lactose from other types of cheese.
Summary Because labneh cheese is strained and fermented, it may be lower in lactose than other types of cheese and can be a good choice if you are lactose intolerant.
Besides being highly nutritious, labneh is versatile and easy to add to your diet.
You can use it as a dip for vegetables or warm pita and spread it on your favorite baked goods or breads.
Alternatively, you can roll it into small balls and serve it as an appetizer atop crackers or toast.
Summary Labneh cheese is versatile and easy to add to your diet. It can function as a dip, spread, breakfast, appetizer or dessert.
Though labneh cheese bestows several potential health benefits, it may also come with downsides.
For starters, labneh can be high in sodium, with a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving squeezing in nearly 23% of the RDI ().
Studies show that cutting back on sodium is one of the most effective ways to reduce blood pressure levels, especially if you have elevated levels (, ).
In addition, high sodium intake may be associated with a higher risk of stomach cancer (, ).
It’s vital to moderate your salt intake and pair labneh cheese with a well-rounded, nutritious diet high in healthy whole foods.
Furthermore, labneh cheese is unsuitable for vegans, those with a dairy allergy or those who may be sensitive to casein, one of the proteins present in milk products.
For these individuals, dairy-free cheese substitutes — such as almond cheese, cashew cheese or nutritional yeast — may be a better alternative.
Summary Labneh cheese is high in sodium, so you should moderate your intake to avoid adverse health effects. It’s also unsuitable for vegans and people with a dairy allergy or sensitivity to casein.
Labneh cheese is widely available at the dairy section or deli counter at most specialty stores and ethnic markets.
However, it’s also easy to prepare and requires just a few simple ingredients to make at home.
To get started, simply set a strainer over a bowl and line it with a few layers of cheesecloth.
For 1 cup (224 grams) of labneh cheese, stir 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt into 12 ounces (340 grams) of plain Greek yogurt.
Add the yogurt mixture to the strainer and fold the cheesecloth over the yogurt to cover completely. Next, transfer the mixture to the refrigerator and allow it to set for 12–24 hours — the longer the wait time, the thicker the final product.
Once it reaches the desired consistency, labneh can be topped with olive oil and your choice of seasonings, then served cold alongside fresh veggies or pita.
Summary Labneh cheese can be made by mixing yogurt, lemon juice and salt and setting in a cheesecloth to strain for 12–24 hours.
Popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, labneh cheese is favored for its light texture and unique flavor.
Best of all, it’s easy to make on your own as a simple and nutritious alternative to regular cheese.