Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese traditionally made from goat's and sheep's milk, or a mixture of the two. Cow's milk is sometimes used. It's most appreciated as a grilling cheese because it maintains its shape when heated and grills well.
• Source: Sheep's, goat's, and/or cow's milk
• Origin: Cyprus
• Texture: Semihard, rubbery, remains firm when heated
• Color: White
What Is Halloumi?
Traditionally prepared from goat's and/or sheep's milk on the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Halloumi is a white, layered cheese, similar to mozzarella. It is a semihard, unripened, and brined cheese with a slightly spongy texture. Its flavor is tangy and salty, and it has no rind. Halloumi is sometimes made from cow's milk. The milk may be pasteurized or unpasteurized. Halloumi can be eaten raw, but due to its high melting point, it's an ideal cheese for grilling or frying.
When eaten raw, Halloumi is plain and somewhat rubbery with salty notes. However, once crisped in a pan or on the grill, it becomes beautifully crispy and savory on the outside and sensually melted on the inside, similar to the consistency of a marshmallow when toasted.
Halloumi is increasingly popular. It can be found in most well-stocked supermarkets or specialty stores and is reasonably priced. Trader Joe's sells a presliced Halloumi cheese, and many natural foods stores stock Halloumi as well. Alternatively, you can purchase it online.
How Halloumi Is Made
The milk is heated, and rennet or vegetarian rennet is added to coagulate the milk. When the curds form, they are cut, the whey is drained, and the curds are left to firm up and pressed into molds. The cheese is then poached in water or whey, and it's this additional heating step that provides Halloumi's resistance to melting. The cheese is then salted (and traditionally sprinkled with mint) and can be eaten fresh within three to five days. Otherwise, it can be preserved in brine and aged for several months, which contributes to its salty flavor. Unlike most cheeses, no acid or acid-producing bacteria are used to produce Halloumi.
Halloumi is firm in texture and is sold in compact bricks and vacuum-packed in plastic, similar to feta cheese. Many Halloumi-style cheeses are prepared by dairy and goat farmers in Canada and the United States. For legal proprietary reasons, these cheeses are usually called Halloumi-style or grillable cheeses. Sometimes they are called grilling cheese or frying cheese, or queso de freír in Spanish.
Depending on the recipe, Halloumi's unique texture can make it difficult to substitute. Tofu or Indian paneer may be used in some recipes but won't be quite the same as Halloumi. If eaten raw, a firm, dry feta cheese is slightly similar.
Try Halloumi grilled, pan-fried, or thinly sliced. Layer in salads or use in place of mozzarella in a caprese salad. Substitute grilled slices of Halloumi for bread in sandwiches as a gluten-free option, or serve it with watermelon, as is traditional in Cyprus. While Halloumi can be eaten raw, it's best warmed, grilled, or otherwise fired up to be appreciated. Once cooked, the cheese's saltiness fades into a strong, savory bite with a slightly creamy texture. Grilled or fried, Halloumi is truly delicious.
Halloumi may be refrigerated, unopened, for up to one year. Once opened, store it in the refrigerator in salted water in an airtight container for up to two weeks, or wrap it tightly in waxed paper, parchment paper, or cheese wrap. Halloumi may also be wrapped in plastic or foil and frozen for up to three months without affecting its texture when cooked.
The best way to try Halloumi is to grill it in a grill pan or pan-fry it with a bit of oil.