I’ve often thought about sharing this. Some recipes might feel almost too straightforward to mention, but isn’t it true that the simplest dishes can often offer the best bites? Flavoured Dairy Free Labneh Balls are highly adaptable, they are the perfect vehicle for your favourite flavours or for using whatever you have at hand.
Traditional Labneh – also spelled labna or labne is yoghurt, strained through cheese cloth to drain away excess liquid until it has a cream cheese-like texture. For flavoured dairy free labneh balls, simply roll my two ingredient fermented soy yoghurt into balls. It has the acidic taste and creamy texture synonymous with Labneh. They can be eye-catching too, personally, my favourite coating flavours are Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired. A beautiful array of jewel coloured mixtures combining fresh green herbs, spices, nuts and preserved lemon.
To Make Dairy Free Labneh Balls
To make labneh from yoghurt, you simply strain it to remove excess moisture. The choice of cloth for straining makes a difference in the consistency. Line a sieve with a thick natural cotton cloth, pour in the soy yoghurt or sour cream and put in the fridge. The cloth will strain liquid and absorb moisture, you may wish to change it after a day for the thicker labneh. Lightly oiled hands make rolling the labneh easier.
If not serving immediately, roll into balls and put into a sterilised jar. Cover with extra virgin olive oil, plain or flavoured, before storing in the fridge. When you are ready to serve, drain and roll the balls in your choice herb and spice coatings.
Coating Dairy Free Labneh Balls
You could use a huge variety of fresh or dried herbs and spices paired with nuts or seeds to coat the dairy free labneh balls. I like them to include an array of colours, flavours and textures. Below are some of my favourite coatings.
- 2 tbsp dried oregano or thyme
- 1 tbsp dried marjoram
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds – toasted
- 1 tbsp sumac
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Za’atar is a herb in its own right, not just a spice mix. It has thyme like flavour and grows wild on the slopes of Syrian and Lebanese mountains. The za’atar that coats these dairy free labneh is a spiced herb and seed blend with a citrus flavour from sumac and is often available ready made. As with many of my favourite Middle Eastern foods, sesame seeds are a traditional component za’atar, however I am allergic. I use sunflower seeds as an alternative, you can of course use sesame seeds instead. If za’atar isn’t an option, you could use my sesame-free dukkah.
Allepo chilli and Sumac
Aleppo chilli has a mild, sweet fruity flavour with a hint of smoke, if unavailable add a teaspoon of smoked paprika to some chilli flakes. Sumac adds a zesty lemon flavour.
- 2 tbsp Allepo chilli
- 4 tbsp sumac
- 1 tsp flaky sea salt
Pistachio and Preserved Lemon
Pretty green colour and the umami flavoured preserved lemons make a delicious coating for labneh balls, you could use fresh lemon zest for a brighter flavour.
- 4 tbsp toasted pistachios
- 1 tbsp finely diced preserved lemons
Chive and Nigella Seeds
If you haven’t heard of nigella seeds (Nigella sativa), they are also known as black cumin, black caraway or simply black onion seeds (which they taste like, though are no relation). Freshly chopped chives pair extremely well with them when coating a labneh ball. If you’re a fan of cheesy onion flavours, add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast to the mix.
- 3 tbsp finely chopped chives
- 3 tbsp nigella seeds
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
The options are endless, check out your own spice collection and get creative.