The etiquette rules on how to serve and eat labneh. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest and avoid any embarrassment.
What labneh etiquette is
Labneh etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat labneh cheese. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.
If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve labneh to your guests appropriately.
As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat labneh at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts or embarrassing yourself.
What you should know about labneh
Labneh is a type of strained yogurt that originates from the Middle East. It is made by straining the whey from plain yogurt, resulting in a creamy, tangy, and slightly sour spread that can be eaten on its own or used in cooking.
Labneh has a thick and creamy consistency with a tangy, slightly sour flavor. Its appearance is typically white or off-white, with a smooth texture and a consistency that can range from soft and spreadable to firm and crumbly.
Etiquette rules to serve and eat labneh
1) How to store labneh
The ideal temperature to store labneh is in the fridge, between 35°F (2°C) to 40°F (4°C). When stored properly in an airtight container, labneh can last up to two weeks in the fridge. Labneh can also be stored in the freezer, but it may change in texture and lose some of its flavors. To store it in the pantry, place it in an airtight container and store it in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight. However, it is best to consume it within a few days.
Store cooked labneh in the fridge, cover it in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container. It can last for up to one week.
You can tell when labneh has gone bad when it has a sour or rancid smell, or when mold or discoloration appears. Discard any labneh that appears to have spoiled.
2) How to clean labneh
There is no need to clean the labneh. To clean utensils or dishes from the labneh, simply rinse the container or utensils used with hot water and mild soap. There are no risks associated with cleaning the labneh, and you do not need any special tools to clean it.
3) How to prepare & cook labneh
Labneh can be eaten raw or cooked. To prepare labneh for cooking, use it as you would use cream cheese or sour cream. You can use any utensils or appliances you would use to prepare those ingredients. Labneh can be used in a variety of ways, such as in dips, spreads, dressings, and sauces. Some popular ways to cook labneh include using it in baked goods, as a topping for savory dishes, or as a filling for sandwiches. It is common in salads, dips, and spreads. You can use it as a topping for bread, crackers, or vegetables. You can also use labneh in smoothies, as a substitute for cream cheese in cheesecakes, or as a topping for pancakes or waffles.
Labneh is not suitable for vegan and paleo diets. It may be suitable for keto diets. However, those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies should avoid it. There are no religious dietary restrictions on eating labneh.
4) How to serve & present labneh
Labneh is appropriate for a variety of occasions, from formal dinners to casual brunches or snacks. You can serve it as a side dish, appetizer, or dessert, depending on the preparation and serving style.
The most polite way to serve labneh to your guests is to present it on a decorative plate or shallow bowl. You can use a white ceramic or glass plate to highlight the natural color of the labneh. The ideal serving temperature for labneh is chilled or at room temperature, so you can leave it out for 15-20 minutes before serving. You can use a spoon or knife to serve the labneh, or you can use a special labneh spoon that has a curved shape to make it easier to scoop.
Serve labneh accompanied by a variety of seasonings and sides, depending on your personal taste. Some popular options include drizzling olive oil on top, adding za’atar or sumac, sprinkling with chopped fresh herbs like parsley or mint, or adding chopped garlic or shallots. You can also serve it with bread, pita chips, or vegetables like cucumbers or carrots.
5) Food and wine to pair labneh with
Labneh pairs well with a range of flavors, condiments, spices, and herbs. Some great vegetable pairings include roasted eggplant, grilled zucchini, or sliced tomatoes. For fruit, try pairing labneh with figs, pomegranate seeds, or sliced peaches. You should avoid pairing labneh with acidic fruits like citrus, as it can cause the labneh to become too sour.
You can pair it also with other cheeses and dairy products, such as feta, goat cheese, or yogurt. Avoid pairing labneh with strong-flavored cheeses like blue cheese or aged cheddar, as they can overpower the delicate flavor of the labneh.
Labneh can pair with meat or fish, but it is most common as a dip or spread rather than as a main ingredient in a dish. It pairs well with grilled or roasted chicken, lamb, mutton, or fish. You should avoid pairing labneh with strongly flavored meats like game meats or heavily spiced dishes, as they can overpower the delicate flavor of the labneh.
Labneh can go well with a range of wines and other beverages. For red wine, try pairing it with a light-bodied or medium-bodied wine like Pinot Noir or Chianti. For white wine, try pairing it with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a Chardonnay. You can also pair it with Rosé wine, sparkling wine, beer, or spirits, depending on your personal taste.
6) How to eat labneh
The most polite etiquette for eating labneh is to use a spoon or small piece of bread to scoop the labneh onto your plate. Avoid eating it with your fingers.
Labneh etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the most common labneh etiquette mistakes:
- 8/10. Double-dipping.
- 8/10. Using your fingers to touch other food items on the plate.
- 6/10. Taking too much labneh at once.
- 6/10. Using the wrong utensils.
Additional information for properly serving labneh
How many calories per serving?
Counting calories is important to stay healthy and correctly plan a menu.
Labneh contains around 100-120 calories per serving (2 tablespoons) and around 250-280 calories per 100 grams.
How to buy the best labneh
A crucial factor in labneh etiquette is serving your guests the best product possible.
Season and availability
Labneh is available all year round.
Choose the best
Labneh can be found in a variety of forms in commerce, including fresh, canned, and dried. Fresh labneh is the most popular and can be found in Middle Eastern markets or specialty food stores. Canned or dried labneh is also available but is less common.
Labneh comes in various types depending on the milk used to make it, the thickness of the yogurt, and the region. Some of the most popular varieties of labneh in commerce include:
- Strained yogurt labneh: Made from plain yogurt that is strained to remove excess whey, resulting in a thick and creamy labneh.
- Goat milk labneh: Made from goat milk. It has a slightly tangy taste.
- Sheep milk labneh: Made from sheep milk. It has a more intense flavor than cow milk labneh.
- Greek yogurt labneh: Made from Greek yogurt that has been strained. It has a slightly tangy taste.
The most prized variety of labneh may depend on personal preference and regional availability.
When buying labneh, it is important to look for the following qualities to ensure that it is of good quality:
- Creamy texture: The labneh should be smooth and creamy, without any lumps or graininess.
- Tangy flavor: it should have a slightly tangy flavor, with mild acidity.
- No additives: Ideally, the labneh should only contain milk and cultures, with no added preservatives, stabilizers, or thickeners.
Alternatives to labneh
Some common alternatives to labneh include:
- Cream cheese: This is a soft cheese made from milk and cream. It has a similar texture to labneh.
- Ricotta cheese: An Italian cheese made from whey. It has a slightly grainy texture and mild flavor.
- Cottage cheese: A fresh cheese made from curdled milk. It has a similar texture to ricotta but with a more tangy flavor.
- Hummus: A dip made from chickpeas, tahini, and spices. It has a similar texture and flavor to labneh, but with a nutty undertone.
- Preference mapping of commercial Labneh (strained yogurt) products in the Lebanese market: sciencedirect.com