Satisfy your cravings with this delicious Middle Eastern labneh dip. A combination of creamy labneh and sweet harissa-spiced cherry tomato sauce, this dip is sure to please. Toasted pine nuts and nigella seeds add a delightful finishing touch.
This labneh dip recipe is incredibly easy to make. If you have a tub of homemade labneh in the fridge, you can serve it up in 15 minutes.
Paired with pita bread or crisps, it’s the perfect snack for unexpected guests. Or serve it as a side dish, as part of a mezze spread or spread onto sourdough toast.
Why you’ll love labneh dip
This spicy labneh dip is a flavour-packed appetiser that happens to be naturally gluten-free. Creamy labneh cheese with a sweet and spicy tomato sauce, topped with crunchy pine nuts – what’s not to love?
- It’s easy to make: This simple labneh dip recipe is ready in no time.
- It’s very customisable: Change the spices to fit your pantry and your palate.
- It’s super versatile: Serve it as an appetiser, side dish or part of a mezze spread. Or, use it as a topping for grain bowls, tacos or salads.
What is labneh dip?
Labneh dip is a Middle Eastern-style dip made with strained yoghurt called labneh (or labna). You can add garlic, herbs and spices to flavour the labneh. Or top the strained yoghurt cheese with a sprinkle of za’atar, a generous drizzle of olive oil, and call it a day.
But in this labneh dip recipe, we opt for a sweet and spicy stovetop burst cherry tomato sauce to offset the creaminess and add a splash of acidity. It transforms a simple bowl of labneh into a crowd-pleasing appetiser, side dish or toast topper.
You can make the creamy dip with store-bought or homemade labneh – just allow at least 24 hours to strain the yoghurt.
If you don’t have labneh and no time to spare, you can also use thick Greek-style yoghurt as Yotam Ottolenghi does in his famous “Hot charred cherry tomatoes with cold yoghurt” from Simple – see Ottolenghi’s recipe as published in The Guardian. The yoghurt will melt more than labneh when hit with the hot tomato sauce, so serve it immediately.
Ingredients and substitutes
This labneh dip with a harissa-spiced cherry tomato sauce is a delicious and easy appetiser that’s ready in 15 minutes.
- Labneh: Grocery stores often have ready-made labneh yoghurt, but making labneh from full-fat Greek yoghurt is super easy. You can also serve the spicy burst cherry tomato sauce on whole milk yoghurt or sour cream instead.
- Nigella (or cumin) seeds: They add an earthy flavour to the dip. You can also use sesame seeds or omit them altogether.
- Pine nuts: Toasted pine nuts add crunch and nutty flavour to the labneh dip. But you can also use toasted almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts.
Spicy tomato sauce ingredients
- Cherry tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes are small and deliciously sweet. But you can use any small tomatoes.
- Extra virgin olive oil: With Middle Eastern food, I always opt for a good quality extra virgin olive oil. But you can use your favourite.
- Garlic: Thinly sliced fresh garlic adds a delicious savoury flavour to the sauce, you can use minced garlic too.
- Rose harissa: Rose harissa is a fragrant blend of chilli peppers, garlic, rose petals, and spices. It adds a floral sweetness and a hint of heat to the tomato sauce. Use shop-bought rose harissa, make your own rose harissa paste from roasted red peppers or try a harissa paste substitute.
- Balsamic vinegar: Balsamic vinegar adds a sweet and tangy depth of flavour to the sauce. But you can also use red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar.
- Maple syrup: The smoky sweetness of maple syrup boosts the natural sweetness of cherry tomatoes and balances the acidity. You can also use date syrup or honey.
- Salt: Use it to season the tomato sauce to taste. I also like to sprinkle the dip with flaky Maldon salt.
Why not try a few labneh variations for that extra flavour boost?
- Garlic labneh: Add a teaspoon of minced garlic or half a teaspoon of garlic powder for every cup of labneh and mix thoroughly.
- Herbed labneh: Stir a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs like mint, parsley or basil into the labneh. Or try it with dried herbs (like in these garlic and herb labneh balls).
- Lemony labneh: Add fresh or dried lemon zest to the labneh – use a teaspoon for every cup of labneh. And finish the dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a lemony twist.
- Spicy labneh: Add dried chilli flakes, red pepper flakes, or finely sliced red chilli pepper to the labneh to suit your spice level. Or finish the creamy dip with a generous grind of black pepper.
How to make labneh dip
This creamy dip is a Middle Eastern appetiser that you can whip up in minutes.
Step 1: Spread the labneh across a shallow serving bowl or plate. Use the back of a large spoon to swirl waves into the labneh. Set it aside while you make the tomato sauce.
Step 2: Toast the nuts and spices in a skillet over medium-low heat and set them aside to cool down.
Step 3: Char the cherry tomatoes in a hot skillet – for about five minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, and add one tablespoon of olive oil with the sliced garlic. Cook for another minute until the garlic is fragrant. Then add the rose harissa paste, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and salt.
Step 4: Squash some of the tomatoes with the back of your spatula. And cook until you have a sweet and sticky tomato sauce with a few whole cherry tomatoes – approximately three minutes. Then stir through another tablespoon of olive oil to loosen the sauce.
To serve: Spoon the warm and spicy burst cherry tomato sauce over the thick and creamy labneh. Scatter with the pine nuts, toasted nigella seeds (or cumin) and a pinch of flaked salt. And serve immediately with flatbreads or toasted sourdough.
This delicious labneh dip is a 15-minute crowd-pleaser you can serve as a dip, spread, or side dish.
Dip it with chips: Enjoy the labneh dip with pita chips, crunchy vegetables, or soft yoghurt flatbread.
As a side dish: Serve the labneh and tomatoes alongside grilled fish or meat. For a real show-stopper, add a layer of shawarma-style roasted cauliflower and top with fresh mint leaves.
Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days and spread generously over your morning slice of sourdough toast.
Labneh Dip With Harissa-Spiced Cherry Tomato Sauce
- Skillet – I use a 10-inch cast-iron skillet
- 1½ cups labneh
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds , or cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
Harissa-spiced tomato sauce
- 2 heaped cups cherry tomatoes , or other small tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil , divided
- 2 garlic cloves , crushed with the flat side of a knife and then sliced
- 1½ tablespoon rose harissa
- ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- flaked Maldon salt , or regular sea salt (to taste)
- flatbread, pita bread or toasted sourdough
- Spread the labneh across a shallow serving bowl or plate. Use the back of a large spoon to swirl waves into the labneh. Set it aside while you make the tomato sauce.
- Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Once hot, toast the nigella seeds and pine nuts until golden, stirring or shaking the pan often – about 1 minute. Transfer the toasted nuts and spices to a small bowl to cool down.
- Return the skillet to the stove and increase the heat to high. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until slightly charred – about 5 minutes – shaking the pan now and then.
- Turn the heat down to medium, and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the sliced garlic. Cook for another minute until the garlic is fragrant. Then add the rose harissa paste, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and salt. Mix well.
- Squash roughly half the tomatoes with the back of your spatula. And cook until you have a sweet and sticky tomato sauce with a few whole cherry tomatoes – approximately 3 minutes. Then stir through another tablespoon of olive oil to loosen the sauce.
- Spoon the warm and spicy burst cherry tomato sauce over the thick and creamy labneh. Scatter with the pine nuts, toasted nigella seeds (or cumin) and a pinch of flaked salt. And serve immediately with flatbread, pita bread or toasted sourdough.
- You can also serve this labneh dip with room-temperature tomato sauce. Just leave the burst tomatoes to cool to room temperature before you assemble the appetiser. You can make the sauce a day ahead.
- If you don’t have labneh, you can serve the spicy burst cherry tomato sauce on thick Greek yoghurt as Yotam Ottolenghi does.
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Try more Middle Eastern recipes to serve with labneh
- 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.