Cream Cheese vs. Labneh

Cream cheese and labneh are two creamy, tangy spreads that can be used in sweet or savory dishes.

Cream Cheese vs. Labneh

Though they have some similarities, there are important differences between traditional cream cheese and labneh.

What is Cream Cheese?

Cream cheese is a classic soft cheese with a rich, creamy texture. According to Philadelphia cream cheese brand, it was first developed in 1872 in New York by separating curds and whey from milk, then adding lactic acid and heat treating it to stabilize the mixture.

The ingredients in traditional cream cheese are simple: pasteurized milk and cream, salt, stabilizers, and sometimes gums or citric acid. The end result is a rich, spreadable cheese that is a beloved addition to bagels, cheesecakes, dips, frostings, and more.

Here is a nutritional comparison of 2 tablespoons of regular cream cheese versus 2 tablespoons of reduced fat cream cheese:

Nutrition FactsRegular Cream CheeseReduced Fat Cream Cheese

Key Takeaway: Cream cheese is made by curdling milk and cream then stabilizing it into a rich, creamy spreadable cheese.

What is Labneh?

While cream cheese uses dairy plus additives to create its texture, labneh only has one ingredient: strained yogurt. Also called yogurt cheese or Greek yogurt cheese, labneh has origins in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines dating back thousands of years.

To make homemade labneh, plain yogurt is mixed with a small amount of salt, then strained overnight through a cheesecloth. This process removes the excess whey, leaving behind a thicker, more concentrated yogurt cream.

The longer labneh strains, the thicker its consistency becomes. At 12-24 hours it has a whipped cream cheese-like texture. If strained for days, it can become firm enough to form into balls and marinate in olive oil.

Compared nutritionally to cream cheese, labneh has fewer calories and fat since it starts as a yogurt base. It also offers more protein and gut-healthy probiotics.

Here is a nutritional comparison of 2 tablespoons of cream cheese versus 2 tablespoons of labneh:

Nutrition FactsCream CheeseLabneh

The flavor of labneh is tangy, tart, and slightly sour like yogurt. The taste varies depending on the type of milk used and length of straining time.

Key Takeaway: Labneh is made by straining plain yogurt to remove whey, resulting in a creamy, probiotic-rich yogurt cream.

Labneh vs. Cream Cheese Uses

Cream cheese and labneh can be used similarly in recipes as spreads, dips, mix-ins for cooking, and dessert ingredients. However, they bring slightly different flavors and textures to the table.

Here is a comparison of some of the most common uses for labneh versus cream cheese:

  • On toast/bagels: Both make excellent spreads for breads and bagels. Cream cheese offers richer flavor and smooth texture, while labneh provides more tang and creaminess.
  • As a dip: Mix cream cheese with herbs, lemon, or other flavors for a classic, creamy dip. Stir spices, olive oil, or za'atar into labneh for a lighter, more yogurt-forward dip.
  • In baking: Cream cheese is frequently baked into cheesecakes, frostings, and more to add richness. Labneh works well too but brings a pleasant tanginess.
  • As a substitution: In recipes calling for cream cheese or sour cream, labneh can substitute well thanks to its similar texture.
  • In savory dishes: Both mix into cooked savory dishes nicely. Cream cheese provides classic creamy flavor, while labneh offers a brighter, more yogurt-like taste.
  • In sweet dishes: Sweeten cream cheese with sugar or honey for a dessert topping or frosting. Sweetened labneh also makes an excellent cake frosting or parfait layer, with more complexity from its subtly sour tang.

While the two spreads can often be used interchangeably thanks to their creamy textures, they each shine in slightly different ways flavor and taste-wise.

Key Takeaway: Both labneh and cream cheese make excellent spreads, dips, baking ingredients, substitutions, and mix-ins for cooking, though they provide somewhat different flavors.

Making Homemade Labneh

Want to enjoy the bright, tangy flavor of homemade labneh? Thankfully, it only requires two ingredients and a couple steps.


  • High-quality plain yogurt - whole milk yogurt works best. Greek yogurt yields even thicker results.
  • Salt


  1. Stir 1/4 teaspoon salt per cup of yogurt until fully blended.
  2. Line a mesh strainer or colander with cheesecloth. Scoop yogurt into the center.
  3. Wrap cheesecloth over yogurt and twist shut. Strain over a bowl for 12-48 hours.
  4. Discard the collected whey from the bowl. Store labneh in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Customize your labneh by mixing in different milks, sweeteners, herbs, spices, olive oil, or za'atar. The possibilities are endless!

Key Takeaway: Making homemade labneh only requires yogurt, salt, cheesecloth for straining, and some patience as it thickens up.

Storing and Shelf Life

Properly stored, both commercial cream cheese and homemade labneh can last 1-2 weeks refrigerated. Here are some storage tips:

  • Cream cheese: Seal tightly in original packaging or an airtight container. Lasts about 2 weeks past printed expiration date. Can be frozen for longer storage.
  • Labneh: Place labneh in a sealed container, pressing plastic wrap directly on the surface if not using immediately. The probiotics help extend its shelf life. Can also be frozen.
  • Whey: The tangy whey drained off making labneh can be used to ferment other foods or baked into breads. Store it in the fridge up to 1 month or freeze for longer duration.


Is labneh just Greek yogurt?

No, labneh starts by straining regular plain yogurt to remove excess whey. This thickens it to a creamy, spreadable texture closer to cream cheese or sour cream versus runny yogurt.

Can you make labneh without cheesecloth?

It is possible but more difficult. Loosely drape a clean paper towel or thin towel over yogurt instead of cheesecloth to absorb whey. Expect it to take longer to reach desired thickness.

Is homemade labneh safe to eat?

Yes, as long as you begin with a high-quality milk and freshly opened yogurt, the labneh ferments safely. Discard if you notice any odd colors or smells develop.

Can you freeze labneh?

Freezing is a great way to preserve homemade labneh for future use. Make sure no air touches the surface before sealing it in a container or bag. Defrost slowly in the fridge before using.


While cream cheese and labneh share some textural similarities and can both be used as spreads, dips, baking ingredients, and substitutes for each other, they offer different nutritional profiles and flavors.

Cream cheese provides indulgent richness and smoothness, while probiotic-packed labneh offers a pleasant tang and creaminess.

Labneh also skips stabilizers and thickeners for a simpler homemade ingredient list.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!