Hallelujah for Halloumi: The Savory Cooking Cheese

Hallelujah for Halloumi: The Savory Cooking Cheese

Halloumi is a cheese lover’s dream come true. This firm white cheese is typically grilled or fried. (Full disclosure: It’s somewhat forgettable when it’s served raw.) That’s because heating halloumi transforms it. It goes from rubbery and bland to crispy and rich on the outside and creamy and perfectly melted on the inside. Halloumi is like a giant roasted marshmallow made from cheese, or maybe a grilled cheese minus the bread.

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What Is Halloumi Cheese?

Halloumi cheese comes from the island of Cyprus, a tiny nation in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Halloumi is a semihard brined cheese, and it’s a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk,” explains Vanessa Rissetto, RD, who runs a private nutrition practice in New York City.

It’s generally white but can be slightly yellow, and the cheese is not ripened like Brie or blue cheese.

There’s nothing quite like halloumi: It’s salty like feta but isn’t crumbly. It’s stringy like mozzarella but holds its shape after cooking. It’s thick like Indian paneer cheese but meltier and more flavorful.

“It has a high melting point so it can be easily grilled or fried,” says Rissetto.

And that is halloumi’s claim to fame. Halloumi holds its shape after cooking. Until you slice into it and reveal a gooey, salty interior, this unique attribute is due to one final step in the cheesemaking process.

Halloumi gets gently cooked in water or whey (aka milk protein or the liquid that is a by-product of cheesemaking).

 

Halloumi Cheese Nutrition

what is halloumi- uncooked halloumi

Halloumi provides more protein than comparable cheeses, but it is also higher in fat and sodium. Per 1-ounce serving, halloumi contains:

  • 110 calories
  • 7 g protein
  • 9 g fat
  • 6 g saturated fat
  • 0 g carbs
  • 350 mg sodium

By comparison, a 1-ounce serving of feta cheese contains:

  • 75 calories
  • 4 g protein
  • 6 g fat
  • 4 g saturated fat
  • 1 g carbs
  • 323 mg sodium

And a 1-ounce serving of part-skim mozzarella offers:

  • 72 calories
  • 7 g protein
  • 4.5 g fat
  • 3 g saturated fat
  • 1 g carbs
  • 175 mg sodium

Halloumi is traditionally brined or salted for added flavor (and preservation), but that also means it’s one of the saltiest cheeses. (See how halloumi fares compared to the healthiest cheeses.)

You can find full-fat and reduced-fat versions of halloumi. Halloumi is usually made from whole milk — sometimes cow’s but traditionally goat’s or sheep’s milk. But as the cheese’s popularity spread beyond Cyprus, different versions started popping up.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Dairy Science found some subtle differences in taste.

  • Sheep’s milk halloumi is more yellow and harder.
  • Cow’s milk halloumi is squeakier (that’s a good thing, according to halloumi fans).
  • Lower-fat versions taste the same, but participants (11 trained taste-testers) said the texture wasn’t quite as good as full-fat halloumi.

 

Halloumi Recipes

what is halloumi- halloumi salad

Halloumi is available at larger grocery stores or specialty or Middle Eastern food markets.

Halloumi is also labeled as “grilling cheese” or “frying cheese” if it’s produced outside of Cyprus. It comes in vacuum-sealed plastic packages, and it is sold as a brick or pre-sliced.

Once you get your hands on some, all you need is a skillet. Halloumi is best cooked simply, then finished with an acid like lemon juice to balance it out.

Ready to cook up halloumi? Start with these recipes.

1. Fried Halloumi Cheese

Renowned chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz offers up a foolproof, simple recipe for Fried Halloumi Cheese.

He says, “it’s best with as little embellishment as possible, save for some pepper and a dousing of good olive oil.” Start with this basic recipe before moving on to recipes that use halloumi as one of many ingredients.

Serve this fried halloumi with a side of hummus for a Middle Eastern flair.

2. Halloumi Cheese Fingers

Think halloumi fries or mozzarella sticks without the breading.

These Halloumi Cheese Fingers from Allrecipes are pan-fried and seasoned simply, with lemon juice (to cut the richness), oregano, and black pepper.

Though the recipe doesn’t call for it, you could serve these with your favorite marinara for dunking.

3. Halloumi Cheese Making Recipe

Can’t find halloumi at your usual grocery store?

Not to worry: The folks at New England Cheese Making have a recipe for making your own halloumi cheese!

Typically, halloumi is made with ewe’s milk with added cow’s milk. This recipe is made with just cow’s milk.

However, you do need some specialized ingredients (like rennet, citric acid, and buttermilk culture), but the process is otherwise pretty straightforward.

4. Grilled Halloumi Sandwiches

One of the problems with cheese on sandwiches is that it kind of goes everywhere once it’s melted.

With halloumi, not only does it stay firm after cooking, but it also gets that rich taste unique to cheese that’s been grilled or broiled.

I Heart Vegetables made Grilled Halloumi Sandwiches to give this cheese the star treatment.

These sammies are like a caprese salad and grilled cheese mashup! Add a little kick to this recipe by drizzling it with a balsamic glaze.

5. Halloumi Tacos with Pineapple Salsa & Aji Verde

Another place that halloumi holds up better than other types of cheese?

Tucked into tacos! Cookie and Kate whipped up these Halloumi Tacos with Pineapple Salsa & Aji Verde (Peruvian green hot sauce) that are a mishmash of cultures and flavors.

The result: seriously satisfying vegetarian tacos that even carnivores will enjoy.

Your cheese will taste best just after frying, so make sure you prep your salsa and other toppings in advance to save time.

6. Halloumi Hummus Bowls

How Sweet Eats proves you can “eat the rainbow” and get your cheese fix in the same dish.

Her Halloumi Hummus Bowls are good with just about any veggie you can find at the farmers market.

She uses couscous, but you can swap in any whole grain you have on hand.

Top with Kalamata olives or crispy roasted chickpeas.

7. Grilled Halloumi Salad Recipe

In this Grilled Halloumi Salad from Real Simple (that is also really simple to make!), the cheese stays firm on the outside but melts as soon as you cut into it.

Combined with all the flavors you expect to find in a Greek salad (plus chickpeas for added protein and fiber), this salad is perfect for busy weeknights.

This recipe is a salty, spicy, crunchy treat that will become one of your favorites.

8. Fried Halloumi Avocado Toast

Of course, there’s a mashup of fried halloumi and avocado toast! And, of course, it’s delicious!

This five-minute meal from David Frenkiel via the feedfeed is more of a method than a recipe.

He seasons his toast with chili flakes and za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend with sesame seeds, which nicely balances the rich cheese and creamy avocado.

Stepfanie Romine

About

Stepfanie Romine is a yoga teacher (RYT 500), ACE-certified health coach and fitness nutrition specialist who writes about natural health, plant-based cooking and yoga. A runner and hiker based in Asheville, N.C., her books include The No Meat Athlete Cookbook and Cooking with Healing Mushrooms. Follow her on Twitter.

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