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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Herbed Yogurt Cheese Balls in Olive Oil (Labneh Balls)

Free of gluten, soy, nuts, eggs and corn

Drained yogurt, rolled in herbs and preserved in olive oil, then slathered on crackers and bread, served with olives and Middle Eastern Zata'ar Rolls, followed by Turkish Coffee. Uhm, yeah, it's pretty awesome. And you can totally make it all at home, cheaply and easily. 

Cheese balls in oil are a common method of preserving yogurt in the Middle East, and those of you who've been following me for a while know that I love Middle Eastern food! I spent 4 months in Cairo studying Arabic at an institute which included weekly cooking lessons. Cheese balls, however, are a little more common in the Levant region (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, etc) than in Egypt.

Cheese balls are very flexible because you can choose the herbs and seasonings you use depending on your taste. They're a great way to use up extra yogurt and make wonderful accompaniments to breakfasts, tapas and appies. Or you can just pop them in your mouth whole!!

The ingredients are also flexible, as it will depend on how much yogurt you have and what herbs you want. I don't really measure, I just use up leftover yogurt and use herbs and oil accordingly.


Yogurt (click here for my tutorial on making Syrian/Greek yogurt)
Olive oil

Optional herbs & seasonings: (In the photos above I used cilantro and green onions)
green onions
red pepper flakes
zata'ar seasoning (find the recipe in my post on gluten free herb rolls)
sesame seeds
lemon juice
white vinegar


1. Drain the yogurt in cheesecloth or a flour sack for approximately 24 hrs or more. Draining in the fridge will give a milder flavour, draining outside of the fridge will give a tangier flavour. For more details on how to do this, check my post on making yogurt. The idea is to get a thick paste from the yogurt. If draining for longer than 24 hrs change the cheesecloth for good hygiene!

2. Scoop out spoonfuls of yogurt and roll into small balls. Chop herbs and sprinkle with salt. Roll the balls in herbs and place into a glass mason jar. Cover with olive oil and add in a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar if desired. If using garlic or pepper flakes add in with the oil, screw on lid and gently turn jar to distribute garlic and /or pepper flakes.

These will keep for a couple of weeks on the counter, except in hot weather, when you'll want to keep them in the fridge so they don't get moldy. The oil can be reused for more cheese balls, or used for cooking and sauteing, the way you would most oil, but this will be wonderfully flavoured!

Do you ever flavour your cheese? What seasonings do you like?

This post was shared on the following great link parties: Musings of a Houswife,Natural Living Monday,


  1. These sound amazing! :) Never thought I could strain yogurt that way.

    Mm...and the seasonings sound so good too!

    1. Strained yogurt tastes amazing! It's my favorite way to eat it. In the Middle East they sometimes take it a step further and dry the cheese so it's almost crumbly. It's called shankleesh :)

    2. I made these for the first time--simple, and absolutely delicious!!!


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