What is Halloumi Cheese?

close up Grilled slabs of Halloumi cheese on salad
Grilled Halloumi cheese on salad

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Halloumi cheese has become a popular addition to many restaurant menus over the last few years. It can usually be found alongside the extras that you pay a few dollars to add to your meal, like bacon, cheese, or as a French fry substitute for those trying to reduce their carb intake.

Piece of fresh sliced halloumi cheese on a cutting board
Piece of fresh sliced halloumi cheese on a cutting board

We have all been tempted to pay the extra dollar or two to add a slice of halloumi to our burger, or to swap out regular fries for halloumi fries, despite a large number of people not even really knowing what halloumi even is. Other than knowing it as a type of cheese that has become almost as popular as avocado, most of us are ordering blindly because we know halloumi to be trendy.

Let’s take a closer look at what exactly halloumi is and how you can use it when cooking at home.

What is Halloumi

Halloumi originates from Cyprus and is a cheese made traditionally from sheep’s milk. It is sometimes made using a combination of sheep and goat’s milk and can even have cow’s milk thrown into the mixture when being mass-produced. Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese that has been brined and not been ripened, in comparison to many other hard cheeses.

Unlike most cheese, halloumi has a high melting point, meaning it can be cooked without losing its shape or chewy texture. Its ability to retain its shape makes it the perfect meat substitute for vegetarians, with it staying firm and not becoming stringy and difficult to eat as most other cheeses do. It is the cheese’s popularity within the vegetarian community that caused the sudden spike in popularity with people who had never even heard of the cheese before suddenly being tempted to give it a try.

How to Prepare Halloumi

Halloumi can be prepared in many different ways, but the two most common are grilled and fried. Grilling halloumi helps to amp up its meaty texture and makes for a healthy snack. Or it can work really well as a side dish for grilling a steak.

When you fry halloumi, on the other hand, adds an extra layer of flavor and is best served in small chunks, but of course, it is not such a healthy option.

Grilled slabs of Halloumi Cheese on white background
Grilled Halloumi

Grilling Halloumi

When grilling halloumi, you want to make sure that your grill is at a steady medium-high temperature, as this allows you to cook the halloumi all the way through in just a few minutes.

Cut your halloumi into slabs that are half an inch thick and place them on the grill. After 2 to 3 minutes, flip each slab to ensure that both sides get a chance to brown and develop those cool grill lines.

After another 3 minutes, remove your halloumi from the grill and add to your dish. Grilled halloumi works best in salads, burgers, and wraps. It can also be eaten on its own with a drizzle of lemon as a tasty snack.

Frying Halloumi

Deep frying halloumi might not be the healthiest of options, but it sure is tasty, and it makes for an excellent alternative to French fries. Halloumi fries are super easy to make at home and only require three ingredients.

To start with, you need to cut your halloumi into your chosen shape, so for fries, you are going to want long strips, much like the shape of a real fry. All you then need to do is dredge your halloumi in egg, then roll your halloumi in flour and drop into a prepared pan of hot oil.

After just a few minutes, your fries will be ready to remove from the oil and placed on a kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil. Halloumi fries are great with a tomato dipping sauce on the side, but you can also get creative and try out different sauces with your fries.

close up Grilled slabs of Halloumi cheese on salad
Grilled Halloumi cheese on salad

What does Halloumi Cheese Taste Like?

When eaten raw, halloumi has a strong salty flavor that comes from the brine that it is preserved in. There is a reason that you very rarely see raw halloumi on a menu; it lacks the texture and flavor that most people associate with the cheese and honestly does not show it at its best.

When cooked, the salty flavor blends into the background and the true flavor of the cheese is able to shine through. Whether fried or grilled, the texture of cooked halloumi stays true to the cheese’s chewy and almost meaty texture. When cooked right, halloumi should almost squeak between your teeth as you chew it.

Where to Find Halloumi Cheese

Most supermarkets now sell at least a few different types of halloumi, ranging from your budget cheese, most likely made with the addition of cow’s milk, all the way up to the expensive stuff complete with rich flavor.

Burger joints have become the most likely restaurant to find halloumi, either in the form of halloumi fries or as a substitute for a meat patty. A really good burger place will also have the option of adding a slice of halloumi to your burger alongside the regular meat patty.

Halloumi is also increasingly popping up in salad bars and sandwich shops, normally as an extra that you can add to your meal for a price. Unsurprisingly, Greek restaurants are another great place for trying halloumi, with it normally being cooked in a very traditional way.

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Sam Eskenazi

Sam is a writer from the UK with a strange fixation on making as many things from scratch as possible and eating all of it.

Whether it’s brewing beer, making hot sauce or tending his bees, Sam is determined to try and make everything himself, as well as writing or making videos about it as he goes. Follow him on Twitter @Aldrahill.

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