Let’s create this really simple spreadable, naturally fermented milk kefir cheese. Milk kefir grains can be crazily active, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll often have an abundance of fermented kefir. This is the tastiest way to use it. Once you have mastered this basic recipe, you can get experimenting with herbs and spice and everything nice!Read more: Soft Milk Kefir Cheese: A Step-by-Step Guide (plus flavour options)
What is kefir cheese | labneh?
Soft milk kefir cheese (also called milk kefir labneh) is a tangy soft, spreadable cheese with a fresh, clean flavour. You make it by straining fermented milk kefir to remove most of the whey. You then condense the remaining curds to form cheese.
Kefir cheese is a good source of protein, minerals, and probiotic microbes. You can find out all about milk kefir here.
Lots of ways to use your kefir cheese
This tangy, delicious cheese has a rich and creamy texture that adds a smooth and velvety mouthfeel to dishes. It is equally lovely on its own. We love it spread on seeded crackers with kalamata olives and homemade quince paste.
Here is lots of inspiration on how to use it:
- Add dollops to soups or stews
- Create a savoury dip with herbs, garlic, and olive oil
- An alternative to cream cheese in wraps, bagels, or sandwiches
- Dollop onto roasted veggies with a handful of fresh chopped herbs for an easy meal or side
- Make a Mediterranean-inspired mezze platter with labneh, olives, pita bread, and fresh vegetables
- Mix a creamy pasta sauce with sautéed garlic and herbs
- A topping for baked potatoes, along with herbs and chives
- Create a tangy marinade with lemon juice, garlic, and spices for chicken or fish
- As a base for salad dressings, replacing mayonnaise or sour cream
- Mix with honey or maple syrup to top pancakes or waffles
- 1 Litre / 4 cups of fermented milk kefir (grains removed)
You Will Also Need
- Cheesecloth or a thin, clean teatowel
- Strainer or colander
- Bowl or container to catch the whey
- Deep wide-mouthed jar or stainless steel/glass bowl
- Chopstick or long-handled wooden spoon
- Allow Curds to Separate from the Whey: allowing the curds to separate from the whey before straining results in a better texture for your milk kefir cheese (labneh). Simply pour the milk kefir into a clean glass jar or container and cover it with a clean cloth or kitchen paper secured with a rubber band. Let it sit undisturbed at room temperature for up to 12 hours. The curds will separate from the whey during this time.
- Prepare the Strainer: line your strainer or colander with a double layer of cheesecloth or an old, thin, fine-woven teatowel. Ensure it's large enough to hold the milk kefir without overflowing, and place it over a deep, wide-mouthed jar or stainless steel/glass bowl.
- Transfer the Curds to the Strainer: carefully scoop the top layer of curds of thickened milk kefir into the lined strainer/colander. If you are incorporating flavouring ingredients (see below for a list), add them now and stir them in well.
- Suspend the Curds: gather the corners of the fabric up and tie over a long-handled spoon or chopstick that spans the top of the jar/bowl so that the kefir is suspended in a ball with enough room at the bottom of the vessel for the whey to collect (see picture).
- Allow the Whey to Drain: let the curds strain for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator if you live in a warm environment. The longer you allow it to drain, the thicker the cheese will become.
- Transfer the Cheese to a Container: once the desired thickness is achieved, carefully remove the cheesecloth or kitchen towel from the strainer or colander, and transfer the labneh to a clean container with an airtight lid.
- Store in the Refrigerator: pop in a container in the refrigerator to chill and set it further. This will also help it develop a creamier texture. Leave it in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. (or you can eat is straight away, which is what we usually do - lol)
- Enjoy! Your homemade milk kefir cheese is now ready. Store in the fridge and consume within a week.
My cheese is too runny!
- Try extending the straining time. Leave it to drain for a few more hours or overnight to achieve a thicker consistency.
- You can also use a tighter weave or a few extra layers of cheesecloth to improve the straining process.
My cheese is too sour
- Balance the tanginess by adding a pinch of salt or a small amount of sweetener such as honey or date syrup.
My cheese is too dry and crumbly
- Add a small amount of the reserved whey. Stir it in gradually until you reach the desired consistency.
- For the next batch try a shorter straining time.
I can see mould! (or it tastes or smells unpleasant)
- If you notice any mould growth on the surface of your kefir cheese or it smells or tastes unpleasant/disgusting, discard it immediately. Mould can develop if the labneh is left at room temperature for too long during the straining stage, especially if you live in a warmer environment.
- For your next batch, ensure proper hygiene by using clean utensils and containers, and refrigerate the labneh during the straining stage or as soon as it reaches the desired thickness.
- It may be a sign of spoiled kefir grains or milk. Consider obtaining fresh kefir grains and using fresh, high-quality milk for your next batch.
Flavouring your milk kefir cheese
While lovely by itself, you can take milk kefir cheese | labneh in a sweet or savoury direction. Really it up to you to experiment and choose flavours that suit your palate. These suggestions should kickstart your creativity:
Fresh Herbs: Mint, basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and chives
Citrus Zest: lemon zest, lime zest, orange zest, grapefruit zest …
Spices: cumin, paprika, za’atar, sumac, turmeric, chilli powder, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil, infused olive oils (such as lemon-infused or rosemary-infused)
Nuts: chopped pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts
Seeds: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and pepitas
Fresh or roasted Garlic: mashed or finely chopped garlic cloves
Fermented or pickled Vegetables: finely sliced – radishes, onions,
Dried Fruits: chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries, raisins …
Smoked Flavours: smoked paprika, smoked salt, liquid smoke
Mediterranean Ingredients: olives (green or black), sun-dried tomatoes, capers
Roasted Nuts: crushed or finely chopped roasted almonds, pecans, and cashews
Aromatic Oils: truffle oil, basil oil, rosemary oil
Hot Sauces: sriracha, harissa, Tabasco, chili sauce
Fruits: fresh berries (such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), pomegranate seeds, diced mango, sliced peaches, sliced figs, grapes
Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, agave nectar
Experiment and build your confidence
Making milk kefir cheese may need trial and error to get the consistency and flavour just right for your palate. Don’t be disheartened if your initial attempts aren’t perfect. Variables like straining time, temperature, and ingredients may all be adjusted to help you troubleshoot and improve your results over time.
I love hearing about your adventures with fermented foods. Comment below on your journey and tell me about wonderful new flavours you have come up with or tasty ways to dish up your cheese.