Thick Yogurt Cheese in Olive Oil

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Like a tangy, less gummy version of cream cheese, lebneh is eaten in Syria as a dip or spread on pita bread for lunch, breakfast, or even a light supper. A common way of serving this thick yogurt cheese is sprinkling it with a good-quality olive oil and some za’tar, a combination of sumac, thyme, salt, and other spices.

Serves4 (about 1 1/3 cups)


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Cocktail Party, game day

Recipe Courseantipasto/mezze, snack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealbreakfast, lunch, snack


Taste and Texturecheesy, creamy, herby, rich, tangy

Type of Dishdip/spread


  • 1 recipe Plain Yogurt or 4 cups plain whole milk yogurt
  • ¼ cup good-quality olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • One 12-ounce package pita bread (6 per package), cut into wedges
  • Za’atar (optional)


  1. Fold the cheesecloth into a square that makes at least 4 layers and drape over a large bowl so that the cloth hangs over the bowl’s edge.

  2. Carefully pour the yogurt into the center of the bowl (over the cheesecloth). Tie two opposite ends tightly together, then the remaining two opposite ends so that a sack is created.

  3. Place the bowl with the sack of yogurt on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Tightly tie the loose ends of cheesecloth onto the shelf above it so that the sack is suspended over the bowl. Let the excess liquid drip into the bowl for 2 days, or at least a full 24 hours, until the yogurt becomes like a very thick spread or soft cream cheese. Gently squeeze the sack of lebneh every couple of hours to help remove extra liquid.

  4. Remove the congealed yogurt from the sack and gently roll into balls the size of golf balls. Carefully place the balls in a large glass jar.

  5. Mix the olive oil and salt in a small bowl and pour over the lebneh balls in the jar. Close tightly and refrigerate until ready to eat (keeps for up to 2 weeks).

  6. Serve cold as a spread alongside pita bread, drizzled with some of the olive oil from the jar and sprinkled with za’atar, if desired.


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