Shanklish cheese

March 24, 2015  •  Category:

Shanklish cheese
Shanklish cheese

The greatest benefit of blogging is that it has allowed me to meet wonderful people from around the globe.

For instance, I met Sylva Titizian, an Armenian-Lebanese, whose family settled in Kessab (Syria), and who now is an American living in California. She generously shared her grandmother’s recipe for a traditional cheese, known in Lebanon as shanklish and in Armenian as surquig.

Sylvia told me that the local folks in Kessab were self-sufficient, surviving in large part by farming their land and orchards and raising their livestock. She remembers her grandmother milking the cow, making yogurt and this cheese. Every family used their own spice mix to coat the cheese with and this is her family’s mixture. The cheese is usually left to mature for several weeks but can be consumed sooner.

Shanklish tastes dry and salty and pungent. It is served as a mezze with fresh veggies in Lebanon, crumbled in the middle of the plate and surrounded with chopped onions, diced tomatoes and fresh herbs, with a basket of pita bread on the side.

shanklish mezze
shanklish mezze


4 pounds of yogurt, preferably whole-milk

Spice mix: 1 TBsp. oregano, 2 TBsp. Aleppo pepper (or chipotle or chili or paprika), 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 TBsp salt. All the spices are ground.

  1. Pour the yogurt in a large pot. Set it on medium heat and let it cook. In the meantime, place the spices in a bowl and mix them with a wire whisk.
  2. As soon as the yogurt starts forming curds, set aside and pour into a calico bag or a large bowl over which you set a sieve lined with several layer of paper towels or cheesecloth. Let the yogurt drain for a few hours. When firmed-up, transfer it to a bowl and mix in half the spice mixture.
  3. Form into baseball-sized balls and let it dry out outside on a hot day or in the fridge, set on paper-towels, changing the towels every time they get all soaked. This could take several days.
  4. When the cheese balls are firm and rather dry, coat them with the spice mixture on the outside. Keep in the fridge covered and serve each ball crumbled-up in a salad or with crackers or pita.



60 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Susan says:

    The tangy yogurt and blend of herbs and spices must be wonderful! I’ve never tried making my own cheese but this recipe sounds totally doable.

    I hope you are having a wonderful trip!

  2. rebecca says:

    oh wow this looks amazing I will convince you that Brits can cook lol have fun on your trip

  3. Meeta says:

    oh i love spiced cheese like this! always a great appetizer at parties.

  4. Katerina says:

    This is a fantastic appetizer. I will try it with goat cheese or even soft feta.

  5. SYLVIA says:

    Oh Joumana, you did an excellent job, it looks gorgeous, my grandmother would be so proud in heaven with smiles in her eyes. Thank you Joumana for posting one of my families treasures, it looks so homy and comferting, the kind of thing you say did I make this? This is a village cheese that spells sharing.
    On behalf of my family I would like to express to you my genuine boxes of graduate, courtesy, and graciousness.

  6. tobias cooks! says:

    Thanks for the great recipe and useful links!

  7. FOODESSA says:

    I completely appreciate the fact that this is a true authentic recipe.
    The fact that it’s goat milk based is certainly a big bonus…easier to digest;0)
    A very easy and versatile recipe.
    Thanks for sharing and flavourful wishes, Claudia

  8. Nadege says:

    Thank you to Sylvia and her grandmother!
    You are so kind to take the time and post all the way
    from Beirut.

  9. Anita says:

    This is a great cheese and thanks for sharing with us the “secret” recipe. Now, go out and get some Hanna’s ice cream and eat it on my behalf 🙂

  10. Amber @Almost Vegan says:

    That spice mixture sounds fantastic.

  11. Rosa says:

    Perfect when it’s hot! Those fresh cheeses must be deliciozs on homemade bread!



  12. Rachana says:

    What a lovely and delicious blend of flavours… An excellent recipe!

    Hope you are having a lovely trip!

  13. Faith says:

    This is beautiful and sounds delicious with the tangy yogurt and all the spices.
    Syliva is so sweet to share this heirloom recipe!

  14. Wizzythestick says:

    Isn’t it the sweetest thing when someone shares a treasured family recipe – that’s like the best gift ever!

  15. peter says:

    I m intrigued by this cheese and I think one should try a new cheese each & every day!

    Blog friends are wonderful, especially the food bloggers.

  16. xiaoyen says:

    I have all the ingredients except for the pepper. I love cheese and I’m sure this recipe is going to be fantastic!

  17. lisaiscooking says:

    I want to try making this cheese! I made ricotta for the first time recently, and now I’m fascinated with cheese-making. The spice coating looks delicious too.

  18. Lyndsey says:

    The cheese looks wonderful. I love authentic recipes, and how special to get it from a grandmother! Lucky you and lucky us!

  19. Sushma Mallya says:

    The cheese looks so good and melt in mouth…

  20. Krista says:

    I really like this story, Joumana, and your cheese photos are GORGEOUS!!! I’ve been studying Armenian history but know so little about their cuisine. Thank you for sharing this!! 🙂

  21. Emmanuelle says:

    Oh joy! A recipe for shankleesh!

    I dearly love this cheese, and I have been unable to find any here in Vancouver. Now I can – and will – make my own.

    Merci beaucoup Joumana / shenorakal em Sylvia !


  22. Angie's Recipes says:

    These are a great party snack! Thank you for sharing such a delicious recipe.

  23. citronetvanille says:

    C’est vrai qu’on rencontre plein de monde grace au blog, et tu as de la chance que Sylvia t’ai transmis une recette de famille, en plus gĂ©niale, cette recette a base de yaourt. Elles ont l’air dĂ©licieuses ces petites boulettes de fromage enrobĂ©es d’Ă©pices!

  24. theUngourmet says:

    Every time I hop over here I see something amazing! This cheese looks unbelievably delicious! I would love to give it a try! Double yum!!

  25. Mary says:

    I really have to try this. I haven’t made cheese in years. Yours looks so good I’ve been inspired. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  26. A Canadian Foodie says:

    I tasted these once somewhere and was out of my mind with the flavour. HOOKeD. and had to go home and make them myself. I had no name to google. I didn’t know what I was eating – except that it was definitely a yogurt cheese with herbs… I make my own yogurt and yogurt cheese often… so – which herbs? I discovered an outstanding flavour profile my first try – and have stuck to it since. Just tonight, for grade 9 grad – I used the same spice herb mixture to toss with some feta in olive oli and everyone went nuts over it. This recipe is similar yet different than mine, so bravo to me. Mine is on my site under yogurt cheese balls… cinnamon and nutmeg would be different. What are the differences between the Armenian recipe and the traditional Lebonese recipe?

  27. Vanessa says:

    I love this blog because I find things I’d never normally see. Beautiful pictures and thanks for taking time in your trip to share your recipes.

  28. Sophie says:

    I am surely going to try this!! Home made cheese, I never made !!

    All of the spices around the cheese balls look so appetizing & inviting too!

    Another must try recipe of yours!!

  29. Sasa says:

    I’ve made yoghurt cheese marinated in chilli and rosemary but this spice mix looks FAR more exciting…Hope you had stress free flight.

  30. Jojo says:

    Just shared this with my husband and he said,”just listening to you, I need some arak!”

  31. Chef Dennis says:

    I had no idea it was that easy to make cheese….lol… least you make it look easy! I love all types of cheese and this looks positively wonderful.. Its so nice to make such great friends on the web, through our sites, we gain such a valuable insight into how others live and eat, and sometimes we are taken back to our roots or awaken such wonderful memories of our own youth…..what a blessing!

    I love reading your blog and your fantastic recipes….next year I do want to try and incorporate more of your recipes in my offerings to my girls!!

  32. Joanne says:

    I love seeing recipes for homemade cheese. Not that I’ve ever made it before but someday I will and when I do, I’ll know who to turn to! THe spices in this sound excellent!

  33. pierre says:

    tu as eu de la chance d’avoir un tel secret et en plus c’est tres j joli et surement tres bon !! bizz de paris pierre

  34. TastyTrix says:

    How sweet of Sylvia to share the recipe – it’s wonderful!

  35. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    In the last months I have come across so many recipes to make certain cheese and I am a cheese freak. I love it. So easy with just yogurt. I have to admit the drying outside took me aback but it makes sense.

    I do have a question how do you keep the cheese to mature without it going bad?

    • Joumana says:

      @Eve: you scrape off the mold when it appears; at least that’s what cheesemakers do with this cheese; since I was dubious about this I chose to make the cheese and eat it right away!

  36. Jamie says:

    Amazing! And sounds so easy! Wonderful. Love herbed cheeses.

  37. Ivy says:

    Amazing. I’d love to try and make this.

  38. Viviane, Taste-Buds says:

    I just LOVE Shankleesh! J’ai tellement envie d’essayer d’en faire, je crois qu’avec ta recette et tes rĂ©fĂ©rences je pourrai bien le faire prochainement, après tout il fair chaud au Liban maintenant, c’est parfait pour assĂ©cher le Shankleesh!

  39. grace says:

    what a FABULOUS combination of herbs and spices–they deliver in both flavor and appearance. wonderful creation indeed.

  40. joudie kalla says:

    Joumana, i think i have been living in th uk too long and forgetting slowly all the good simple things from back home…. Love shankleesh. Love it!

  41. OysterCulture says:

    Oh my, I see a meze plate coming up with this delicious sounding cheese and the stuffed grape leaves. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful sounding recipe.

  42. Bria @ WestofPersia says:

    Oh wow, I’ve BEEN to Kessab in Syria. It’s lovely. Shankleesh has an amazing flavor, one of the few cheeses I miss now that I (mostly) avoid dairy. I will have to make this sometime, and of course, sneak a few bites. Thanks for sharing this!

  43. Pamela says:

    I totaly agree with you: what a great community this is, sharing recipes with people from places I never thought of is just a delight, so is this cheese I had tried in Armenian restaurants, but never dreamed of makink it myself, THANK YOU

  44. Kitchen Butterfly says:

    Wow….it looks beautiful. I like the last photo with the chilli coated cheese ball! Have fun at home

  45. Nour El-Zibdeh says:

    WOW… looks great! never had Armenian cheeses… these look like the fancy expensive stuff I find in my grocery store… excited to try them out

  46. Christine @ Fresh says:

    I did not realize that it was this easy to make this cheese! I make fresh yogurt at home all the time, and this would be a very easy next step.

  47. Katie @Cozydelicious says:

    I’ve never made my own yogurt cheese and this looks so fun! An dthose balls of cheese are really pretty. Yum!

  48. Doc says:

    This looks absolutely divine! I have been hankering for a “starter” recipe to do some homemade cheese making. Now I have it.

  49. Maria says:

    This looks so delicious, I really love cheese 🙂

  50. Mimi says:

    How generous of Sylvia to share such a delicious family recipe.

  51. Paul Ringo says:

    Does this cheese have to be refrigerated? How long would it keep if covered with cheese wax? Thank you so much for your recipes.

    • Joumana says:

      @Paul: Yes the cheese would need to be refrigerated. It is not covered in cheese wax traditionally, just in spices, so I have no answer for the second question. 🙂

  52. domi says:

    Un dĂ©licieux cadeau fromagĂ©…” Ă©picĂ© tout “, un bon voyage alimentaire, bises parfumĂ©es ( au fromage, bien sĂ»r )

  53. Georges says:

    How long should it take for the curds to start forming after you’ve turned on the heat? Does it have to boil before that starts happening?

  54. christiann says:

    Suddenly got hungry for Shunkleesh and found this recipe! Interesting that it calls for yogurt rather than cottage cheese! I remember my mother making this as a young child and she used cottage cheese. Just the other day, my brother , who lives in Virginia beach as posting on FB where he could purchase this. I surprised him and bought him on and mailed it.. I thought, geez, I should learn to make this myself, as I LOVE IT !! (Americans won’t understand!!) Anyhow, the other day I casually opened my mothers recipe box (she passed away ) and the first thing I pulled out was her handwritten recipe for shunkleesh.. It was as if she was telling me, “You can do this!!” When my first child was born (more than 30 yrs ago) my sweet mother would visit and on one of thiose visits she taught me how to make Syrian bread. I still have the same recipe, on the same faded card.. I will never re write it, looking at it, all smudged with greasy hands . reminds me of better, simpler days.. Sorry!!!

  55. Kathy says:

    Lovely yummy cheese recipes handed down many thanks. I grew up on a goat farm central coast but we didn’t have your spice combinations. Mwa

  56. Christiann says:

    I had NO idea this could be made with yogurt! My mother would make this using cottage cheese she purchased in the store special order! I always wanted to make it !

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