Recipe: Vegan labneh (yes, really)

Helloooo my darlings!!

God, it feels like yesterday I became vegan. Remember when I was trying to blog it into existence in July? Haha!

I’ve been pretty good at finding alternatives to cheese and yoghurt – the only two dairy products I actually ate (the thought of eggs and milk have been making me heave for yeaarrrss). I still haven’t brought vegan cheese to the house and if I wanted some at home, I’d make it myself the way I made my own parmesan cheese.

I remember labneh was one of the first things that came to mind when giving up dairy. My whole childhood is characterised by labneh – from the way I used to love labneh mixed with olive oil in a zaatar, cucumber, tomato and olive pitta to feeling embarrassed when my mum made me labneh sandwiches at school and everyone else had standard ham and cheese that was too haram for my family’s liking. Giving it up wasn’t just giving up yoghurt, it was giving up an essential part of my childhood and my beautiful culture.

Dramatic? I’m Palestinian. We’re allowed to be dramatic after decades of exile, displacement, siege, etc. Being possessive of our food is one of the very ways we, especially in the diaspora hold onto our wonderful roots.

So, here’s the recipe – I have been experimenting a lot over the past few weeks and I finally have something I’m impressed with. The yield is what you see in the photo.


2 cups of cashews – soaked
1 lemon
3 tablespoons of water to start and add more if needed (I ended up adding around 4 tbsps)
2 teaspoons of vinegar (just make sure the vinegar isn’t dark in colour so it doesn’t stain the labneh)
Salt to taste – I added 1.5 teaspoons of pink Himalayan salt and then added a crap load more because I love it salty


  • Soak the cashews in hot water for at least an hour – you’ll know they’re done when they feel bendy
  • Drain and add to the high speed blender or food processor
  • Add the wet ingredients to it and start blending until it’s creamy. I blended for around 5 mins

Guys, it’s really that easy. There are some catches and mistakes I made so listen up:

First of all, don’t use dark coloured vinegar. Mine turned out darker than it should because I used half apple cider vinegar and half malt vinegar because I was scared of it tasting too much like apple cider. Stupid mistake. In retrospect, I should have added more lemon and less vinegar or mixed apple cider vinegar with another vinegar. Here are some vinegars you can use:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Brown rice vinegar
  • Cane vinegar
  • Coconut vinegar

Each type has different properties so be sure to look up the type of vinegar. Next time I do it, I’m probably going to either mix apple cider with rice vinegar or just use rice vinegar.

Almonds – ahhhhh! I remember when I first tried to make vegan cream cheese I did it with almonds. Huge bloody mistake. It is doable but it definitely wasn’t for my first time. Almonds aren’t as creamy as cashews and they take longer to soften up. Then you have to peel them if you haven’t bought them pre-peeled which is such a long process that it makes you want to peel your own skin off instead. You also risk breaking a nail regardless of the tool you use. Waah! So always start with cashews.

Mix the mixture! If you’re scared don’t be afraid to take the labneh out and put it back in to make sure it’s all well incorporated. You can change the texture if you don’t like it. When I made it at first it was really thick which I loved because it reminds me of the texture of when you spread labneh balls. Then I wanted to make it look like actual labneh so I put the mixture back in the blender, added a tiny bit of water and started blending again until it turned creamy af:

Not the best quality photo but hey you get the idea – less is more. You can soften it if it’s too dry/not creamy enough easily but difficult to reverse if it’s too soggy

It really helped me to boost my confidence in the labneh because I saw how easy it was to change the texture.

Guys, keep trying. If you don’t get it right the first time, it’s okay. Analyse and learn from your mistakes and trust that you’ll make it perfectly the next time round!!

And once you learn how to make a creamy paste out of nuts, you can adapt it in different ways. Skip the vinegar and add nutritional yeast (or maybe turmeric) for a cheese spread. You can also make sweeter versions. I’m going to be experimenting with lots of different styles so if you want me to try something out, hit me up!

Good luck and love you all!! Thank you all so so so much for reading this and do repost and let me know if you made it. I absolutely love talking to you guys!

Diana xoxo

♡Blog it into Existence – July 2018

Hello! We’re over a week into July and it’s been an amazing month so far. I’ve been growing, detaching and steering myself into healthier habits. It took me a while to figure out how I want to grow this month because last month was so turbulent with Ramadan, travel and trying to get back into the swing of things after returning to the UK.

So for June, despite everything, I managed to fulfill my aims. I’m reading a lot more and focusing on my nutrition. I went a bit downhill when I was on holiday because I ended up eating a lot of meat in Kuwait and I didn’t read much, but when I returned, I was in full force exercising, transitioning to veganism and reading.

I feel like I’m slowly but surely getting there and I’m taking small steps to build sustainable habits for a better self.

So, let’s start with this month! I have one pretty big one this time:

  1. Have a vegan month

    I am in love with veganism. Today, my colleague (who is also Arab and vegan) and I went out and we made the most amazing nutritious vegan tortilla wrap with a creamy cashew basil pesto sauce.

    Okay, so this is going to sound weird, but I was eating a Dairylea dunkers dip on Saturday and on the package, there’s a really cute drawing of a happy cow. The irony sunk into me as I was dipping the breadstick into the cheese that in reality, the cows aren’t actually happy because of the cruel factory farming industry. It broke my heart and I swore myself off cheese that moment.

    dunkersYou guys do not understand how guilty I felt finishing it! Haha! It’s a similar story to my vegetarianism, to which I have committed myself to for four years (minus some exceptions once or twice a year), because I swore off meat whilst eating it.

    I don’t want to label myself a vegan per se because that’s just putting a lot of pressure on myself and I can’t quite divorce the misconception that veganism is somewhat of a cult from my mind. It’s stupid, I know.

    For now, at least, I want to experiment with different recipes and have fun. When I made a vegan mac a few days ago, I genuinely enjoyed cooking it. It’s really made me rekindle my love for being in the kitchen and has helped me become more creative.

    Today, I went for lunch with my fellow newly-converted Arab vegan colleague (shoutout Alex and the mother of the world Egypt) and we continued our mini tradition of making salads. This time, we wanted it to be vegan and he was craving bread, so we got whole wheat tortilla wraps. It actually reminded me of eating a shawarma, haha!

    We stuffed the tortilla rap with jalapeno hummus, a vegan creamy pesto (made by blending cashews, chilli sauce, basil and lime until it’s creamy), edamame beans, seeds and random veggies we got. along with the pesto and flavoured hummus, we seasoned the veggies with vinegar and olive oil. Simple, fast, filling and nutritious!

    Even our non-vegan colleagues who were initially sceptical liked the pesto sauce and wanted the recipe!

    Trying out the vegan life has really helped me with my mental health, physical health and has taught me to trust my instincts, because most of the time, I make up recipes myself. I’ve also learned to compromise with adapting my food to meat eater palette because I come from a meat eating household and I don’t like to shove my lifestyle down anyone’s throat.

    I’m going out on Wednesday and when booking the lounge, I actually checked into the dietary requirements and saw that you can request a vegan meal in advance. I’m sure this is the first of many!

    I’m going to blog this experience, with recipes and tips on eating out. This is going to be very exciting!

Alright, I’m out for now!

See you next week my loves! xox

Click here to learn more about the Blog it into Existence series and here to view older posts

How to stay fitness motivated + my journey (pics)

I’ve always had problems with my weight growing up. I remember being a heavy teenager and then yo-yo-ing during my early 20s. It took me a really long time to finally get into a routine and to feel confident in my own skin. Even though I seem like I have this gym thing down and my days of being overweight are a distant memory, I’m still trying to keep myself motivated. This path is not a linear path. It’s full of ups and downs and bumps and slides and ebbs and flows and highs and lows.

fat diana
Me in December 2015

I hated my figure, I hated the way I looked without makeup, I hated pretty much everything. I was stuck in a career limbo and even though I went to the gym, I wasn’t losing much weight because I didn’t know what I know now (and what I’m about to share with you guys). It took me a few years, but I finally got to this:

fit diana
Me in February 2018 ☆

Even though I still consider myself on my journey, getting to where I am now was one hell of a rollercoaster. Some weeks I was very motivated and would go five times a week and then I would just not see the point anymore. I would either get very frustrated from the results, or I’d just get lazy. I used to force myself to go to the gym after work so it would always be a burden on me.

At one point I woke up at 5am for a workout before my shift – good for you if you can do that, but that was not for me.

I couldn’t exercise because I was so tired and I wasn’t able to eat a proper breakfast because I had to rush to work straight after, I got even more tired, depressed, was less healthy and had a very horrible relationship with food.

I got there eventually – but here are some things I wish I knew:

Keep your expectations realistic

Don’t overburden yourself with a crazy amount of pressure. Don’t go into the gym with an overpowering urge to get that super sexy body – especially because that’s not what your journey is primarily about. Looking good is important, but it’s not the reason to go to the gym.

Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t try to make drastic changes. This is where people tend to fall because they don’t build strong foundations for a healthier lifestyle. Start off with making sure you’re exercising regularly and whilst you’re doing that, gradually cut down on sweets etc so your body can get used to the healthier alternatives. It also gives you more time to figure out what works for you.

Your unhealthy cravings change over time as well. In 2015, crisps were primarily a no-go for me. Now, I see a packet and I hoover it down. Does that mean I’ve regressed? No, it just means my taste has changed. We’re human.

Don’t scare yourself with technicalities. Start slow and as you progress your workouts, actually research the exercise, the muscle groups and the form. Start off light and work your way up. Constantly review yourself and ask people to help. I was very intimidated by fitter people when I first started, but now that I know what I’m doing (to a degree), I’m more than happy to help and ask for help at the same time.

Obsessing over body image is self sabotage

I had a really hard time with this. Still do sometimes. Hating your body will not motivate you to change it, if anything the opposite plays out. You’re on a new journey to better your looks, your mindset, your routine, etc. You’ll stress less and do better if you stop obsessing over your “goal.”

September 2017 – progress!

Trust me, the moment I stopped caring about how I looked and focused more on building strength and increasing my form was the moment my figure improved. It’s also a good mental exercise to stop you from judging your self worth based on your self esteem. There’s a difference between wanting to look good and the crushingly counterproductive act of over-scrutinising.

You fall into a vicious cycle of something that isn’t a big deal. We don’t realise that life journeys start in our heads. If we are convinced that we’re ugly, our perception of ourselves will be ugly no matter what we do. Start with not hating yourself and aspire to love yourself.

It isn’t just my body shape that is different when you compare September 2017 to February 2018. Look at the way my feet are firmly on the ground, my posture, my shoulders and the way I’ve stopped hyperextending my knees (look at how far back my left knee is in the photo). I didn’t even realise how bad all of these issues were back in September because I was so fixated on being “skinny.”

Take your time in developing a routine

Make sure your first few months at the gym consist of you figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you. I hated working out in the morning before work, but I know people who swear by it. Work up a sweat, chug a protein shake, eat something they prepared the night before and they are good to go to the office.

Waking up earlier than I would I am not working, however, works for me and this is only something I realised this month. This lovely girl I met encourages me to go to pilates on Saturday mornings taught by my PT and when I’m not doing weekend shifts, I make sure I go.

As you exercise, you grow and change as a person; not necessarily because of your workouts, but because of the way you manage your time and life so you will have to find and keep updating your workout routine.

Aim to go three times a week. If you slack at some point, don’t beat yourself up and do not plant the idea that you’re not made for the gym. Don’t even think about it or analyse it, just have a better gym week the next week. If a pattern emerges, however, and you realise you don’t go to the gym after work, etc then work around that. There’s a huge difference between having a bad week and having a bad routine.

Remember, you are what you attract. If you treat the gym like a burden, it becomes one. Be wise with your thoughts because they are more powerful than you think.

Don’t think about it

One of my biggest mistakes was thinking about going to the gym. I still make this mistake now.

I used to plan my week and the days I go to the gym, but I realised that doesn’t work out for me. What I like to do is I keep myself in check and on a day I know it’s been a while since I went to the gym and I have nothing to do after work, I just pack my gym clothes with me and take my arse there.

Some of my readers work full time and are also mothers – for that, I would say exercise at home if you can’t go to the gym. YouTube has an insane amount of workouts (at one point I preferred YouTube to the gym) and you can always exercise with your kids.

The gym isn’t the only place to exercise and you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll get a good workout only if you go to the gym. It can be the complete opposite sometimes.

When you have that urge to exercise, just do it. If you know you can’t make it to the gym, then do it at home or at a park or wherever else. If you wake up and have a free day, don’t procrastinate going to the gym, just put your shoes on and go.

Remember, it’s really simple. Don’t over complicate and overthink. Don’t try to be an expert or whatever is in your head, just treat it as a part of your life rather than something you add to your list of chores. Give yourself time and cut yourself some slack. It’s hard to stay committed, but it’s so worth it.