Labneh with Za’atar and Olive Oil

Labneh with za’atar and olive oil.

Queen Sweets & Bakery in North Kansas City, Missouri, owned by Mohamed and Kholoud “Kay” Bataineh, started as a bakery specializing in Jordanian and Lebanese desserts such as baklava and ma’amoul, a cookie made with dates, pistachios or walnuts. Soon, the couple decided to expand into savory offerings, including lamb shawarma and falafel.

On the appetizer menu, a fan favorite is the labneh, a thick yogurt dip topped with olive oil and za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend with dried thyme, oregano and toasted sesame seeds. The soft, tangy spread is served with warm pita bread and is traditionally eaten for breakfast with mint tea. “This dish is considered very healthy, which is why many people start their day with it,” says Kay. “It has a lot of protein and probiotic properties, with a sour, tangy flavor that we just love.”

Labneh with Za’atar and Olive Oil

Recipe by Kholoud “Kay” Bataineh, chef-co-owner, Queen Sweets & Bakery

Don’t use Greek yogurt or flavored yogurt in place of regular yogurt, as the flavor and texture won’t be the same. 

Za’atar can be found at your favorite local international market, as can labneh, if you’d prefer to buy it premade and packaged.

Serves | 4 |

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp za’atar (for garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint (for garnish)

| Preparation | In a large saucepot over medium heat, add milk and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring constantly and watching to make sure milk doesn’t come to a boil. Once milk reaches 250°F on a candy thermometer, remove pot from heat and let it cool to room temperature. Add yogurt and salt to milk and stir until combined. Cover saucepot with a lid and wrap it with a clean kitchen towel. Let sit out at room temperature for 24 hours.

Place a piece of cheesecloth in a large colander and set colander inside a large mixing bowl with 6 to 8 inches of room for liquid to drain off. Spoon homemade yogurt into colander; let yogurt drain until it has thickened, 24 to 72 hours. When yogurt is thick and spreadable, you can place it in an airtight container with a lid and store in your refrigerator for up to 10 days.

| Assembly | Add a large dollop of fresh labneh to the middle of a small bowl or plate; with the back of a spoon, spread it out flat across your serving dish in all directions. Drizzle olive oil over top and generously sprinkle with za’atar. Garnish plate with fresh mint leaves and serve chilled or at room temperature with warm pita bread.

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