Did you know that you can make vegan labneh (a kind of cream cheese) from coconut yogurt? You need just three ingredients for a version of vegan cream cheese, with just yogurt, lemon juice, and salt.
The only thing I consistently miss since giving up dairy is cream cheese. On bagels or whipped up into an easy two-ingredient frosting, it’s so easy and delicious. This is a sweeter version, since it’s made with coconut yogurt, and I more often use cashew cream cheese for something savoury. You can also use this base recipe to make dairy-free labneh balls.
Use store-bought or homemade coconut yogurt (page 228 of my cookbook). There is certainly a coconut flavour, so if you hate coconut then I don’t recommend this recipe. I don’t find it overwhelming in the finished product, as it’s already a little sour as it’s a yogurt, and you also add lemon juice.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Yogurt: while I highly recommend using a richer coconut yogurt for this recipe, other dairy-free yogurts like soya will also work to some extent. If you can find a Greek-style vegan yogurt, that’s ideal.
- Lemon: this is part of what adds the distinctive flavour and shouldn’t be left out.
- Salt: the salt will help to draw the water out of the yogurt and thickens it more effectively.
The method to make this coconut yogurt labneh is very simple, no different from normal labneh, and you don’t need any special equipment. You’re essentially straining yogurt overnight to make a type of fresh cheese.
It’s important to keep the yogurt chilled while straining, and it shouldn’t be kept on the kitchen counter, where it will spoil quickly.
How to Store
Storage: the labneh will keep for several days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Freezing: while this can be frozen, the texture changes for the worse once thawed, so I don’t recommend it.
- Use a thin cloth: a nut milk bag is perfect, or multi-layered cheesecloth, but I’ve also used a thin tea towel. The latter is not as effective but will work in a pinch. Note that it does make a mess and will have to be scraped off the cloth with a spoon.
- Be patient: keep it in the refrigerator so that it has enough time to thicken without spoiling. The yogurt should reduce in size by at least half before it resembles labneh.
- Use the water: this isn’t whey, because the yogurt isn’t made with milk, but the liquid that’s strained from the yogurt can still be used. I usually replace some of the water with breads like naan or sweet potato flatbread with it.
More Vegan Yogurt Recipes
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Coconut Yogurt Labneh
- 300 grams full-fat coconut yogurt*
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Juice of one lemon
- Honey or maple syrup for topping optional
- Line a bowl with a nut milk bag, double layer of cheesecloth, or a finely woven tea towel.
- Stir together the yogurt, salt and lemon juice. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth-lined bowl and wrap the cloth tightly around it, twisting at the top, and tie it firmly with a piece of string. Hang the yogurt over the bowl, or place the bundle into a sieve. Make sure there is enough room at the base of the bowl for any liquid that will collect there. You can give it a gentle squeeze at this point to remove some water, but stop if yogurt starts to come out the sides of the fabric.300 grams full-fat coconut yogurt*, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, Juice of one lemon
- Place the bundle, suspended over the bowl, into the refrigerator for 24-36 hours. The yogurt will lose excess water during the rest period. You can gently squeeze it a few more times to remove any remaining water during that time. Once the labneh is finished, it will have lost much of its liquid and will feel quite dry to the touch.
- Place the finished labneh into a bowl, and mix it with a spoon to make it evenly creamy and smooth. Top it with the zest of a lemon, some honey, and bee pollen (or another liquid sweetener like maple syrup). Serve as is or keep it to make cream cheese frosting.Honey or maple syrup for topping
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was first published in April 2017. It has been updated with no changes to the recipe as of January 2023.