How to Make Lebna
Also called lebnah, lebanah, lebneh, or yogurt cheese, lebna is a creamy cheese used in Middle Eastern and Eastern European cooking. It is an essential ingredient in tzatziki sauce. It is a good accompaniment to bagels, naan, or pita. Add some fresh or dried herbs to lebna for a delicious spread for crackers. Use it instead of buttermilk in salad dressings and dips, too. In fact, lebna can be used anywhere that you would use sour cream or cream cheese.
Posted by Chris
Lebna is made, traditionally, with thick Greek yogurt. However, both Greek yogurt and Bulgarian yogurt can be used to make lebna. In fact, any kind of yogurt or milk kefir that contains live bacterial culture can be used in this recipe. Yields will vary depending on the kind of cultured milk that you begin with. Lebna has all the healthy probiotics of yogurt or kefir.
How to make lebna is easy. You don’t need any specialized molds or equipment. Lebna has only one ingredient – culture yogurt or kefir.
How to Make Lebna
Yield: 1 cup of lebna cheese
- 1 quart of homemade yogurt or kefir or 1 large tub of store-bought unflavored Bulgarian yogurt with live culture
- Salt (optional)
- Large colander
- Large bowl that the colander can sit on
- Draining cloth *(see note)
Wash the colander and the draining cloth. Pour boiling water over all the equipment and the cloth after washing with soap and water to sanitize. Line the colander with the cloth. Place over the bowl. Place the bowl in a sink.
If you are using kefir instead of yogurt, drain the kefir and reserve the grains for another batch. Use the drained kefir in place of yogurt in this recipe.
Spoon the yogurt or kefir into the cloth in the colander.
Pull up the corners of the cloth and tie them. This will lift the edges of the cloth, allowing the whey to drain more efficiently.
Leave the yogurt draining overnight on the counter for at least 8 to 12 hours. The active bacteria in the cultured milk will preserve the milk from spoilage.
When the whey has stopped dripping from the cloth the lebna cheese is ready. It will be thick and creamy, the texture of soft cheese. It will firm up when it is refrigerated. Reserve the whey for another use.
Using a spatula, scrape the thickened cream cheese from the cloth to a bowl. If desired stir in ½ tsp. of salt. Transfer to a wide mouth mason jar. Refrigerate.
It is ready to use in tzatziki, ranch dressing, or dip. You may also use it as a spread on pitas, crackers or bagels.
Please don’t use cheesecloth for this recipe. Cheesecloth is too wimpy to hold the tiny solids in lebna. I purchased a dozen birdseye weave, flat fold diapers specifically for cheese making. These will last you for a decade of regular use, not just for cheese making, but for any ferments that require you to strain out solids from liquid ingredients. You won’t regret the investment.
Chris is a teacher, author, gardener, and herbalist with 30+ years’ of growing herbs and formulating herbal remedies, skin care products, soaps, and candles. She teaches workshops and writes extensively about gardening, crafts, scratch cooking, fermentation, medicinal herbs, and traditional skills on her blog at JoybileeFarm.com. Chris is the author of the The Beginner’s Book of Essential Oils, Learning to Use Your First 10 Essential Oils with Confidence and Homegrown Healing, from Seed to Apothecary. Her newest book is “The Beeswax Workshop, How to Make Your Own Natural Candles, Cosmetics, Cleaners, Soaps, Healing Balms and More” with Ulysses Press (2017). Chris is a contributing writer to The Biblical Herbal Magazine, The Fermentools Blog, and the Attainable Sustainable blog. Her books are available on Amazon. Chris lives with her husband Robin in the mountains of British Columbia on a 140-acre ranch where they raise lamb. They have 3 adult children and 3 granddaughters.