Labneh, the Arabic strained yoghurt cheese, is a staple in our house – always ready for effortless dips and spreads. These garlic and herb labneh balls are even more convenient to have on hand, perfectly flavoured and ready to go.
You can store the labneh balls in olive oil in the fridge for a month.
They are delicious in summer salads or popped into warm and spicy soups. Serve them as part of a mezze spread or quick platter for impromptu guests. And, of course, I love to squash and spread a flavoured labneh ball on my morning slice of sourdough before topping it with a boiled egg.
I won’t go into detail about the labneh straining process here. There is a whole different post dedicated to making labneh at home. Go have a look if you need convincing to make your own. Spoiler alert: It’s super easy!
The recipe card below includes instructions to start with either yoghurt or store-bought labneh.
Garlic and herb labneh
If you’ve never tried Boursin garlic and herb cheese before, do yourself a favour and track it down. The soft cheese from France is creamy and expertly flavoured with garlic and herbs – equally delicious with breakfast eggs or baked potatoes.
When the imported Boursin cheese briefly disappeared from shelves in 2020, I made garlic and herb labneh balls. And I did not stop. They are absolutely delicious and so convenient to have on hand. To think that I can turn yoghurt into these healthy and savoury morsels still blows my mind!
If you are making the labneh at home, keep in mind that different yoghurts yield different quantities of labneh. For example, my favourite double cream yoghurt loses 30 % in weight, whereas the full-fat goat’s yoghurt loses more than 50 %!
The thinner your yoghurt, the more liquid (whey) will drain away. I prefer a mix of goat and cow’s milk yoghurts that I strain for two days until nice and dry. But you can use any full-fat, unflavoured yoghurt.
Use dried herbs and garlic powder
To make the garlic and herb labneh, thoroughly mix your labneh cheese with the dried herbs, garlic powder and salt. Use roughly 1½ teaspoons of dried herbs per cup of labneh, as well as ½ teaspoon of salt – adjusting the salt to taste.
I don’t add more than a ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder per cup of yoghurt. But you do you!
Experiment with different dried herbs such as tarragon, oregano, dill, sage, thyme, parsley, basil, mint, chives or marjoram. I give my favourite combination in the recipe card below, but you can use what you have at home – tasting and adding more as you go. You can also try herb blends, like Italian seasoning.
Or better yet, dry your own leftover herbs. Learn how to dry parsley in the oven and apply the method to any fresh herbs.
You can use garlic and herb labneh straight away as a spread or a dip – as you would Boursin cheese. But I love taking the extra step and storing the flavoured cheese as labneh balls preserved in olive oil to scoop out perfect little portions as needed.
I prefer dried herbs for the convenience and stability of the final cheese. But if you plan to serve the garlic and herb labneh in the next few days, you can also use fresh herbs instead of dried. Why not add some fresh or dried lemon zest and grated parmesan cheese while you’re at it?
How to make labneh balls (plain or flavoured)
Take a tablespoon of garlic and herb labneh (or plain labneh) and roll it into a ball with oiled hands, roughly 20 to 30 grams each. It is OK if your balls look a bit uneven, you will get an opportunity to roll them smoothly later.
Place the rough labneh balls on a plate lined with a clean, damp tea towel or muslin. Fold the cloth over the balls (or use a second cloth) and place them in the fridge to set and dry overnight – or longer, depending on your schedule.
Once set, remove the balls from the fridge. With lightly oiled hands, roll the labneh balls between your palms to smooth out the rough texture. You can now keep the balls stacked in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Or, if you would like to keep it for longer, continue reading to learn how to preserve the labneh balls in olive oil.
How to store labneh balls in olive oil
You can store the labneh balls in olive oil to extend their freshness. Though there are a few things to keep in mind.
Start with good quality olive oil (and don’t waste it)
Use good quality extra virgin olive oil because the olive oil characteristics will linger with the labneh balls.
You need a lot of olive oil for this, so please don’t discard it once your labneh balls are finished. The garlic and herbs will gently flavour the olive oil. So, as you carefully fish out your labneh balls, you can start using the olive oil for salad dressings or cooking.
Just ensure that the labneh balls stay submerged in olive oil – add more oil if needed.
Use sealable glass jars for storage
Place half a cup of extra virgin olive oil in a sterilised, sealable glass jar. Add a few labneh balls with more olive oil – enough to completely cover the labneh balls.
Add another layer of labneh balls followed with more olive oil.
Repeat until all the labneh balls are completely covered in olive oil. I prefer to store a single batch of labneh balls in two smaller glass jars (roughly 350 ml each) instead of one large container. But you can use the glass jars you have available, as long as it is sterilised and sealable.
Resist the urge to shake the jar to make the labneh balls settle in place. It will leave smears all over the glass. And if you’re anything like me, those smears will drive you up the wall – even though it’s technically fine.
Instead, give the jar a gentle tap on the kitchen counter to release any air bubbles and help the cheese balls settle.
Refrigerate the garlic and herb labneh balls in olive oil
The garlic and herb labneh balls are ready to enjoy immediately, stacked in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
If you want to store them for longer, cover them with olive oil as instructed above. They will then keep for up to a month in the fridge. The oil will solidify over time. Before serving, place the container at room temperature until the oil is liquid enough to easily remove a labneh ball – maybe an hour, depending on your patience. Return the jar to the fridge until needed again.
I have seen many folks online who don’t keep their labneh balls in the fridge. Instead, they store it in a cool, dark pantry cupboard. So have I. And it’s so convenient, but you should only do this when your labneh balls and oil are both unflavoured.
So, when you have only labneh, salt and oil going into the sterilised jar.
Any plant material added to the oil or the labneh cheese can introduce bacteria that can produce toxins in the oxygen-free environment. Not good!
While the dried garlic and herbs used in this recipe should be fine, it’s definitely easiest to just refrigerate and be safe.
How to eat labneh balls
Serve the labneh balls as part of a mezze spread, or arrange them on a cheese board to serve unexpected guests.
You can use labneh balls as a substitute for goat’s cheese in salads. Try them in this artichoke and goat’s cheese salad.
Pop a soothing yoghurt cheese ball in a spicy soup instead of yoghurt – like this spicy harissa red lentil soup made from pantry favourites.
Or simply smoosh a labneh ball on a slice of sourdough for breakfast. Add a boiled egg and drizzle with some olive oil from the jar. Finish with flaky salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Alternative labneh ball flavours
If you want to keep the labneh balls for longer than 1 month, you can leave the garlic and herbs (also do not add aromatics to the oil). Instead, store unflavoured labneh balls in olive oil. When ready to serve, roll the labneh balls in the garlic and herb spice mix. Or cover them in za’atar, dukkah, Italian seasoning, chilli flakes or black sesame seeds for some variation.
You can also add aromatics to the olive oil if you prefer to store the balls unflavoured. It will infuse the labneh balls with a subtle flavour. Think garlic cloves, citrus rind and herbs like rosemary or thyme. Just remember to refrigerate the labneh balls when they are stored in flavoured olive oil.
No matter how you choose to flavour your labneh balls – garlic and herb, plain, or coated in za’atar – having labneh balls ready for your morning toast, impromptu cheese platters and salads are an absolute treat. And a healthy one at that!
- Two medium-sized jars for storing (or 1 large jar)
- Muslin or clean tea towels
- 500 grams (roughly 2 cups) labneh, or 1 kilogram full–fat yoghurt (roughly 3–4 cups)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more if making the labneh
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- extra virgin olive oil, for preserving (roughly 2 cups)
- If you have ready-made labneh, skip to the next step. For the labneh, mix 1 teaspoon salt with the yoghurt. Balance a sieve over a large bowl and line the sieve with muslin or a clean tea towel – leaving a large enough overhang of cloth to secure the yoghurt inside. The sieve should not touch the bottom of the bowl, and there should be enough space for the drained liquid to collect. Spoon the yoghurt and salt mixture into the cloth. Secure the yoghurt inside the muslin by folding or tying it with string. Yoghurt should not leak out. Instead, liquid whey should strain through the fabric. Place everything in the fridge and leave the yoghurt to strain for 24 to 48 hours until the labneh is thick – almost like cream cheese.
- Place the labneh in a bowl and add the garlic powder, ½ teaspoon salt and dried herbs. Mix very well with a fork until the herbs are distributed evenly.
- With lightly oiled hands, roll the labneh into rough balls. Use up to a heaped tablespoon – between 20 and 30 grams – per ball.
- Put the rough labneh balls on a plate lined with a clean, damp tea towel or muslin. Cover the balls with more cloth. Place in the fridge to set overnight.
- Remove the balls from the fridge and, again using lightly oiled hands, smooth over the labneh balls by applying gentle pressure and rolling the labneh balls between your palms.
- You can now keep the balls refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 1 week. Or, if you would like to preserve it for longer, store it in olive oil. Place half a cup of extra virgin olive oil in a sterilised, sealable jar. Drop in the first few labneh balls and cover with olive oil. Repeat until the container is filled and all of the labneh balls are completely covered in olive oil. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- For more in-depth notes on making labneh, see this post focussed on how to make labneh. For labneh balls, I like to use a combination of double cream cow’s milk yoghurt and full cream goat’s milk yoghurt.
- Keep in mind that different yoghurts will have different labneh yields, just adjust the herbs depending on your labneh weight.
- You can use fresh herbs if you don’t plan on consuming the labneh balls within a few days.
- Use good quality extra virgin olive oil. And don’t discard it when the labneh balls are finished! You can use the oil in salad dressings or regular cooking.
- When refrigerating the labneh balls in olive oil, the olive oil will eventually solidify. Simply leave it at room temperature for an hour for the oil to soften before fishing out the labneh balls. Return the jar to the fridge until needed again.
- Try different combinations of dried herbs, but stick to roughly 1½ teaspoons of dried herbs per cup of labneh.
Middle Eastern recipes to serve with labneh balls
- Harissa roasted cauliflower: A buttery, spicy and indulgent vegetarian main to serve with Persian yoghurt.
- Barley pilaf with rose harissa: An easy Middle Eastern pilaf to pair with mast-o khiar.
- Persian eggplant stew: Slow-roasted eggplant stew with lentils and black lime.
- Arabic salad: A classic Middle Eastern-style chopped salad to serve alongside the yoghurt side dish.
- Kuku sabzi: An easy Persian herb frittata recipe packed with greens and just enough eggs to hold it all together.