Labneh with Chilli & Anchovy

July 14, 2010



Labneh is strained yoghurt. Now now, do bear with me, it’s delicious. You mix regular, full-fat Greek yoghurt with a scant half-teaspoon of salt then bung it in some muslin and hang it over a bowl overnight. Drip, drip, drip. In the morning all the whey has drained away and what remains is a creamy thick ‘yoghurt-cheese’. It’s magic scooped up with warmed flat breads and sprinkled with za’atar, smeared in a kebab, or rolled into balls, covered with herbs and stored in olive oil.* I’ve taken to eating it plain on walnut toast first thing too; the contrast of hot toast and cool, tangy topping really floats my breakfast boat.

Popular in the Middle East and South Asia, it pops up in mezze, sandwiches, dips and even desserts. It’s basically a flavour whore and will take whatever it can get.

When it comes to comfort snacking, I tend to top it with my salty little friends the anchovies; briny, umami-packed miniatures. First it was the boiled egg with anchovy dippers, then the baked eggs with the same. Now I can’t get enough of them slivered and draped over the labneh, prickled with chilli and sprinkled with whatever herbs are lying around, or perhaps some papery shavings of red onion.


Despite labneh’s surprising richness, I like to reason with myself that it’s fairly healthy; not that the fat content of anything has ever held me back, as I’m sure you’ve come to realise. A drizzle of olive oil is all that’s needed to counter the balance back towards gluttonsville though, so don’t worry about that.
Labneh with chilli and anchovy

500g good quality, full fat Greek yoghurt (I find Total is the best brand)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Anchovy fillets, sliced in half lengthways
1 small mild red chilli, finely chopped
A few leaves parsley (or other herbs), finely chopped
Black pepper
Good bread, toasted, to serve

Muslin and string to strain the yoghurt

Mix the yoghurt with the salt then line a bowl with the muslin and dollop the yoghurt in the middle. Gather up the muslin then tie the top with string and hang somewhere (preferably cool, although I’ve never had a problem in my kitchen), over a bowl, overnight. In the morning remove from the muslin, mix in the lemon juice and refrigerate until needed. It will last a few days.

Spread on hot toast and top with the anchovies, chilli and herbs. Some black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil won’t go amiss.

* I’ll dig out a jar and post a piccy and recipe up for you; it’s really beautiful.

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  • Reply Peter July 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Labneh is taking the process of straining Greek yogurt beyond to a thicker, denser state. I do love it preserved in oil with herbs but I would assert that’s not “popular” in Greece/not Greek at all.

    It might have sneaked into some Greek kitchens but it’s certainly not a well-known meze in Greece.

  • Helen
    Reply Helen July 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks for your comment Peter. That’s so odd, as I found a fair few sources that said it was popular in Greece. I don’t want to give false information though, so I’ve deleted it. I bow down before your immense knowledge of Greek cuisine.

  • Reply The Curious Cat July 14, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    This sounds so unusual but delicious…I’m definitely going to try this! xxx

  • Reply Helen (Fuss Free Flavours) July 14, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Oh yum!

    I have not made this for a couple of years. I think I need to get some on now for supper tomorrow.

    Thanks for the reminder about it!

  • Reply Lizzie July 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    YES HELEN. This looks delicious. As you know I am a great fan of our fishy friends. I have also recently got into my yoghurt, so this looks set to be made VERY soon.

  • Reply Chris July 14, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    That is amazing! Oh my God it’s got anchovies in too. Brilliant.

  • Reply LexEat! July 14, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I have been reading about making labneh as was just given the Moro cookbook – you’ve convinced me to give it a try!

  • Reply Wendy July 15, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Haven’t made this for years now. And never had it with anchovies. Shall be doing so soon.

  • Reply Aletta July 15, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Love this post! ha ha I must say I’ve always done the cool vs hot thing with ricotta in the morning, but your little dripping device is very tempting! ; ) love your sense of humour

  • Reply miss south July 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Anything with anchovies on top makes life better…

  • Reply George@CulinaryTravels July 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I haven’t made labneh for ages. Must do soon with my home made Greek (style) yogurt.

  • Reply Gourmet Chick July 15, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    I saw this quite a lot when I was in Lebanon – impressed you made it yourself!

  • Reply Rambo July 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Labneh is one of those things you see everywhere these days…or maybe I just haven’t noticed before.

    Years ago (well, 5) when I was cooking in France there was a Greek guy staying who said that the best way to make tzatziki was to strain the yoghurt first. I’d like to say that I’ve never looked back since but I can never be bothered…anyhoo you’ve restored my faith in strained yoghurt, thanking thee.

  • Reply Bimbokim May 8, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I thought Labneh was Lebanese. I’ve got a feeling it’s served with garlic in it as a dip? Anyway, I found some in my corner shop and I’m waiting for a dinner party to try some as a dip. I’ll try it this way though.

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