What’s the Difference Between Labneh and Greek Yogurt?

published May 18, 2023
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Graphic of 2 photos comparing labneh with greek yogurt. Labneh is in a bowl drizzled with olive oil, garnished with herbs and yellow cherry tomatoes. There are crackers in the bottom of the frame for spreading/dipping. Homemade Greek yogurt is in a bowl with a spoon sitting next to it
Credit: Labneh: annata78/Getty Images; Greek Yogurt: Tara Holland

If you peek inside my fridge, your eyes will immediately be drawn to the dairy shelf, which is practically exploding with tubs of creamy goodness, from cottage cheese and sour cream to Greek yogurt and labneh.

I love the way a dollop of something creamy can cool down a spicy dish or bring a little protein to a grain bowl, so I’m never without a stockpile of the ones I love best. But some of them seem more similar than others. Like, what exactly is the difference between labneh and Greek yogurt? They’re both smooth and luscious, and they’re both related to regular yogurt. I did some research on how the two compare to one another, and here’s what I found out.

What’s the Difference Between Labneh and Greek Yogurt?

Both labneh and Greek yogurt begin as cultured, fermented milk — aka yogurt. To make Greek yogurt, the regular yogurt is strained to remove some of the whey (yogurt’s liquid component). The result is a more viscous, dense yogurt than the pourable version it started as. Labneh is made exactly the same way — by straining whey from yogurt — but in this case, even more of the whey is strained out, resulting in a smooth, spreadable finished product that more closely resembles cream cheese. Sometimes salt is added during this process. Labneh can also be strained even more, rolled in balls, and preserved in olive oil.

Can I Use Greek Yogurt Instead of Labneh?

Because they are so similar, it’s sometimes possible to swap Greek yogurt for labneh and vice versa in applications. Greek yogurt and labneh have tangy flavor profiles, so if you’re looking to add a dollop to something like this creamy carrot soup with lemon and dill or this easy lobster bisque, both will work nicely. However, labneh is noticeably thicker than Greek yogurt, as well as richer in flavor, so it’s not a direct substitute — especially when used as a spread or dip, or in baking.

Where Did Greek Yogurt and Labneh Originate?

The term Greek yogurt was coined by the brand Fage and popularized by the Turkish-owned brand Chobani. In Greece, strained yogurt is known as straggisto. Labneh, which is also known as yogurt cheese, has been enjoyed in the Middle East for millenia. It comes from the word ‘laban,’ which means white or milk. It is traditionally enjoyed for breakfast or as an appetizer; served with bread for dipping; or rolled into balls, marinated in olive oil, and enjoyed as a snack.

A Few of Our Favorite Greek Yogurt and Labneh Recipes