Orange & Rosemary Yogurt Cheesecake

As a cheesecake lover, I’m always looking for new cheesecake recipe ideas. Is it possible to concoct a healthy cheesecake? If so, I’m all about it. When I ran across a recipe which uses yogurt in the filling rather than cream cheese, I took notice. This cheesecake recipe uses a “labneh” which is Greek yogurt that has been strained to make a soft cheese. The labneh makes a smooth and light-textured cheesecake! It is higher in protein and lower in calories than cream cheese versions. Yes, a little healthier and very easy to make. This cheesecake recipe adds fresh rosemary and orange zest to the filling. These ingredients give a unique flavor “pop” to this cheesecake. Something different to brighten up an otherwise rather bland filling. And I added candied orange peels from marmalade as a topping.

What is a labne (labneh)?

The base of this cheesecake recipe is the labne. Although at first it seemed a little daunting to make the labne, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple this process was.

A labne is made with whole milk plain Greek yogurt. I used Chobani brand yogurt. Don’t substutute low-fat or fat-free yogurt or the cheesecake will be too dry. To make a labne, the yogurt is strained overnight through a cheesecloth-lined fine seive or colander which removes the whey. The result is a thick, dense but soft cheese with a smooth and creamy texture. It is tangy and sour.

Labne cheese is found in Middle Eastern cuisine where it is often used as a dip or spread. Many ingredients can be added to give the labne either a savory or a sweet flavor. Drizzle on olive oil, za’atar and serve with pita bread, chips or crudites. Or, add honey for a sweet version and serve with fruit. Many recipes include adding a little salt to the labneh for a little more flavor.

Cheesecake Recipe

Here are the ingredients for my cheesecake. The recipe has a nice flavor boost from orange zest and fresh rosemary which are added to the filling. Something a little different! The yogurt labne is rather dry, so I added sour cream to the filling to “lighten” the cheesecake. The other ingredients are eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. This is really a simple cheesecake!

For the filling, simple mix up the ingredients using an electric mixer until they are creamy and smooth. Stir in the rosemary and orange zest and pour into a prepared crust. Bake in a 300 degree oven until the center of the cheesecake is just set.

Making the labne

To make the labne, line a fine strainer/sieve with cheesecloth. (Cheesecloth suitable for cooking can be found in many grocery stores.) Place the Greek yogurt in the sieve over a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight. The liquid whey separates out. You can actually let the yogurt strain for one to two days — the longer the yogurt sets, the more dense the finished labne will be. I began with 3 cups (24 oz) yogurt and ended with 2 cups (16 oz) labne.

Graham Cracker Crust

All kinds of crusts can be used for this cheesecake such as a shortbread crust, a chocolate cookie crust or a crust made with almond flour. However, I opted for a simple one using graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter. Flavorful graham crackers balance the filling perfectly. I used a 9″ springform pan with removable sides and baked the crust in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes to set the crust. Cool to room temperature prior to adding the filling.

After the cheesecake was baked, I garnished it with candied orange slices. Here, I made my own. I also used orange marmalade as a garnish which is much easier. This recipe makes a light and delicious cheesecake! Labne was new to me, it worked well in the cheesecake. I plan on trying out other recipes with this Middle Eastern ingredient in the future.

Now I have yet another cheesecake recipe for my recipe collections. Enjoy this “lighter” healtier cheesecake version.

Orange and Rosemary Yogurt Cheesecake

  • Servings: 12 servings cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients for labne:

  • 24 oz (3 cups) whole milk, Greek yogurt

Method and Steps for labne:

  1. to make labne, line a medium sieve with a piece of cheesecloth. Place sieve over a large bowl. Spoon yogurt into the cheesecloth.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight to drain.
  3. When ready to use, remove curd (which should yield about 2 cups) and discard liquid whey.

Ingredients for graham cracker crust:

  • 1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (may substitute softened margarine)

Method and Steps for crust:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In small bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar.
  3. Add melted butter (or softened margarine), stir to combine.
  4. Evenly spread crumb mixture into a 9″ springform pan with removable sides. Press down to cover bottom and 1″ up sides.
  5. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 6 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Ingredients for cheesecake filling:

  • 1 recipe labne (2 cups drained curd)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves, with additional rosemary for garnish
  • zest of 2 grated oranges
  • slivers of marmalade, for garnish

Methods and Steps for cheesecake filling and to finish cheesecake:

  1. Lower temperature of oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Place labne in a large bowl of electric mixer. Add sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. On low speed, mix until ingredients are blended.
  3. Stir in chopped rosemary and orange zest.
  4. Pour mixture into cooked graham cracker crust.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes until just set.
  6. Refrigerature until chilled. 
  7. For serving, garnish with additional rosemary leaves and slivers from orange marmalade.

4 thoughts on “Orange & Rosemary Yogurt Cheesecake

  1. Well, this looks great! You didn’t need to do a water bath for baking the cheesecake? That’s the painstaking detail that keeps me from making them more often, so you may be onto something!

    • Yes, this recipe makes a smaller cheesecake. My original inspiration did not call for using a water bath for baking the cheesecake. And so I didn’t use a water bath either. The cheesecake turned out fine.

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