What is halloumi?
Halloumi is a firm, brined cheese that’s typically made from sheep’s milk, goat’s milk or a mixture of the two.
“It can also be made from cow’s milk, but these are not as good, though they are less expensive to produce,” Barbara Rich, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, told TODAY Food.
This style of cheese originates in Cyprus. It’s salty, rich and tangy, and the texture has bite, making it a great filling for sandwiches and gyros. And, because of its high melting point, it’s a cheese that retains its texture when grilled or fried.
“It is made like traditional cheese, which includes heating the milk and adding rennet. However, after it firms up and is drained, it is simmered in the remaining whey again,” said Rich. “This makes the cheese able to be griddled/grilled without melting.”
You can eat halloumi raw, but why would you? Grilling or frying it makes it so much better.
Where to buy halloumi
You’ll find halloumi in large grocery stores, often in the premium cheese section, or specialty cheese shops. It will usually be stored in brine or in vacuum-sealed plastic.
How to grill halloumi
To make grilled halloumi, slice the cheese into a 1/2-inch thick chunk. Bring a griddle or grill to medium heat. Lightly oil each side of the cheese and cook for about two minutes on each side, until golden-brown. On the grill, you’ll get some nice grill marks on each side. No matter what your final dish is, add a squeeze of lemon, which will cut through the richness of the cheese.
The cheese will warm up but stay firm. Go at it straight with a knife and fork (or, you know, your hands), make it the “meat” of your sandwich for an amped-up caprese salad or roll it up in hot pita with lettuce, tomatoes, lamb or beef for a delicious gyro. Rich also suggests drizzling grilled halloumi with lime juice and serving it with watermelon and mint for a sweet, salty, tangy summer salad.
How to fry halloumi
Halloumi can be used to make the Greek dish saganaki — essentially, fried cheese. No, it’s not good for you or your heart, but your taste buds will do backflips. Honestly, it might be the best thing to happen to your mouth. Dip the cheese in cold water, then dip it in flour and either deep-fry or pan-fry the cheese until it’s golden brown on both. Squeeze some lemon juice on it and eat it right away, before it gets cold.
Recipes with halloumi
“Although not as creamy, [halloumi] can be a substitute for feta and it also has a texture very similar to Wisconsin cheese curds,” said Rich, so you can use it in place of these cheeses in your favorite recipes. Here are a few ideas:
- Salads: Try seared halloumi with strawberries and basil or cube grilled halloumi and pair it with grilled corn, butter and herbs for a tasty corn salad.
- Sandwiches: You can’t go wrong here. Turn it into a fancy grilled cheese sandwich, top burgers, take a chicken sandwich to the next level — there are endless possibilities.
- Halloumi fries: Cut halloumi into sticks, roll in flour and your choice of herbs and spices and fry for a tasty appetizer or snack.
- Stuffed peppers: Fill bell peppers with halloumi, chopped vegetables and cooked grains and bake for a delicious vegetarian meal.
- Shawarma: Add halloumi to your favorite shawarma recipe for a salty, tangy bite.
- Skewers: Add cubes of halloumi with veggies and meat on skewers for a tasty, portable cookout treat, like these chorizo and halloumi skewers.