A jar of Leben
CourseBreakfast, lunch
Region or stateMiddle East, Northern Africa
Serving temperatureCold
Main ingredientsMilk, yogurt, half & half

The term Leben, variously laban, liben, lben // (Arabic: لبن) in the Middle East and North Africa,[1] refers to a food or beverage of fermented milk. Generally, there are two main products known as leben: in the Levant region and parts of Arabia and North Africa (Maghreb), buttermilk. Leben can be served at breakfast, lunch or dinner. [2]

Buttermilk variant

Leben as a drink is traditionally prepared by letting milk ferment for around 24 hours, then churning and removing the butter. The remaining buttermilk can keep for several days at room temperature. In modern times, it is produced industrially.

Yogurt variant

Leben in parts of the Middle East is traditionally prepared by boiling milk, usually whole milk, then adding yogurt (or previously made, left over/store-bought leben), and then cooled overnight.

In Israel

In the early 20th century, small dairies run by Ashkenazi Jews in what was then Ottoman Palestine began producing the yogurt variant in quantity. It was called leben, from the Arabic, meaning "white", cognate to the Hebrew "לָבָן" (lavan). Leben was of extremely high importance to Jews during the British Mandate years, and was considered a dietary staple. During the tzena (austerity) period that followed independence, leben qualified for the state rationing system and was issued as a basic staple dairy product. Due to its importance during tzena, leben became indelibly ingrained in Israeli culture. In the 1970s, strawberry and chocolate flavoured varieties of leben appeared on store shelves, but these have largely been supplanted by fruit-flavoured yogurts.[3]

See also

Similar beverages:


  1. ^ FAO corporate document repository, "The technology of traditional milk products in developing countries", "[1]"
  2. ^ NPSelection (2018-05-03). "Fermented Milk Products from All Over the World. Leben and Kishk". natprosel. Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  3. ^ Marks, Gil (2010). Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 355–356. ISBN 978-0544186316.