Akawi Cheese vs. Halloumi

Cheese holds an esteemed place in Middle Eastern cuisine and culture. Many regions have their own signature cheeses that feature prominently in local dishes. Two of the most beloved are akawi and halloumi.

Akawi Cheese vs. Halloumi

These semisoft white brined cheeses have become popular worldwide. Foodies and home cooks everywhere have fallen for their unique textures and versatile applications.

But what exactly sets these cheeses apart?

Origins and History

Akawi cheese traces its roots to Akkā, an ancient port city in northern Israel and Lebanon. The surrounding region was part of Greater Syria when akawi emerged.

It became known as Akkawi cheese or Ackawi cheese due to its origins. "Akkawi" translates to "from Akka."

Akawi is common in Middle Eastern cuisine, especially:

  • Palestinian
  • Jordanian
  • Syrian
  • Lebanese

This fresh white cheese has a history spanning several centuries. Traditional techniques are still used in villages surrounding Akkā.

Halloumi also has a long pedigree. It hails from Cyprus and has been produced there since medieval Byzantine times.

The name "halloumi" or "Hellim" comes from the Turkish word "hellim," meaning "cheese." Its current form emerged around the 19th century.

Both cheeses are products of the Levant region and broader Middle East. But their unique identities stem from local cultures and food traditions.

Ingredients and Manufacturing Process

Akawi and halloumi are made using simple, fresh ingredients. But their production methods differ in small ways that impact the final product.

To make akawi cheese:

  • Cow, goat, or sheep milk is pasteurized and curdled using rennet.
  • The curds are drained and pressed, then soaked in brine.
  • Akawi matures quickly, in 1-3 weeks.

Halloumi is made by:

  • Curdling goat, sheep, or cow milk with rennet.
  • Draining the curds and kneading them to release more whey.
  • Shaping the curds into balls, then flattening and pressing them.
  • Soaking the cheese in brine for preservation and flavor.
  • Matured for 1-3 months.

The extra kneading and shaping help give halloumi its distinctive texture. This distinguishes it from the softer, looser akawi cheese.

Both cheeses may include mint for added flavor. The animal's diet and breed impact the milk's quality and cheese's final taste.

Taste, Texture, and Aroma Notes

When tasting akawi and halloumi side-by-side, you'll notice clear differences:

  • Akawi has a mild, delicate flavor. It tastes bright and salty, with a subtly tangy lactic note. The soft, smooth texture is flexible when fresh. With age, it becomes firmer but still melts easily. Akawi is moist with a creamy mouthfeel. Its natural white color darkens with age.
  • Halloumi has a much saltier, robust taste. It is tangy and earthy, with characteristic salty squeakiness when bitten into. The dense, rubbery texture resists melting. Instead, halloumi softens and bronzes when cooked. It is generally whiter than akawi, with a drier, crumbly bite.

So akawi is milder and softer, while halloumi is saltier and has a springy bite. Their aromas differ too:

  • Akawi smells sweet, creamy, and tangy. Notes of fresh milk and grassy hay linger. As it ages, nutty and yeasty notes develop.
  • Halloumi has a pungent aroma, with a sheepy, barnyard qualityGrassy citrus notes peek through the salty, concentrated milk scent. Mint and herbs enhance the smell.

These sensory differences stem from their ingredients, processes, and aging. Together, they inform how each cheese is best used.

Culinary Uses

Akawi and halloumi melt, soften, absorb flavors, and brown differently when heated. This suits them for different applications:

Cooking with Akawi

  • Akawi melts smoothly when cooked, so it's perfect for:
    • Grilled cheese
    • Quesadillas
    • Pizza
    • Cheese sauces
    • Filling for baked pastries like fatayer
  • It provides subtle creaminess and tang. Akawi lets other ingredients shine.
  • Akawi's mild flavor pairs well with spices, herbs, meats, and produce.

Cooking with Halloumi

  • Halloumi holds its shape when cooked, browning and softening without melting. This makes it ideal for:
    • Grilling
    • Pan-frying
    • Adding to kebabs
    • Serving with produce
  • Its salty punch stands up to bold ingredients. The squeaky texture adds interest.
  • Halloumi's low moisture helps it brown without sticking or falling apart.

In terms of dish styles, akawi suits:

  • Baked savory pastries (fatayer, sambousek)
  • Pizzas
  • Omelets
  • Sandwiches
  • Dips

While halloumi excels in:

  • Salads
  • Skewered and grilled dishes
  • Breakfast dishes
  • Seafood pairings
  • Vegetable pairings

Think of akawi for melting applications, and halloumi for pan-frying or grilling. Both work in salads.

Key Takeaway: Akawi melts smoothly so excels in cooked dishes like pizza and pastries. Halloumi browns and softens without melting, so shines when pan-fried, grilled, or skewered.

Flavor Pairings

Akawi and halloumi also differ in their ideal flavor pairings:

Akawi pairs well with:

  • Za'atar
  • Herbs like mint, dill, basil
  • Spices like sumac, cumin, paprika
  • Vegetables
  • Olives
  • Nuts

Halloumi calls for bolder flavors:

  • Lemon wedges
  • Za'atar
  • Chili flakes
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Pomegranate
  • Hearty greens
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes

So akawi matches lighter ingredients, while halloumi balances intense flavors.

Buying and Storage

When shopping for akawi and halloumi:

  • Seek out artisanal or imported brands for authentic flavor and texture. Mass-market versions tend to differ.
  • Examine the ingredients list and choose plain, simple cheeses. Some commercial brands add thickeners and preservatives that change the texture.
  • Avoid crumbles or crumbs - moisture loss causes this. Some breaking on the surface is normal.
  • Select packages with minimal liquid. Excess brine indicates the cheese is very young.
  • Refrigerate upon returning home, as these are fresh cheeses.

For storage:

  • Keep refrigerated always, as both cheeses are perishable.
  • If brined, keep immersed in the liquid to prevent drying.
  • Wrap tightly in plastic to minimize air exposure and prevent drying.
  • Use within 1 week of opening for best flavor and texture.

Refrigeration stops further aging and fermentation that would alter the original taste and mouthfeel.

Health Benefits and Nutrition

As fresh dairy products, akawi and halloumi offer nutritional benefits:

  • Excellent source of protein - around 20g per 100g
  • Rich in calcium and phosphorus for bone health
  • Packed with B vitamins like riboflavin, B12, and niacin
  • Provide essential amino acids
  • Supply conjugated linoleic acid
  • Loaded with vitamin A
  • Contain zinc, selenium, and magnesium

However, some downsides exist too:

  • High in saturated fat - can be as much as 25g per 100g
  • High sodium levels - halloumi contains over 50% of the daily value per 100g
  • Contain lactose, so not suitable for the lactose intolerant

In moderation, both cheeses can be part of a balanced diet. But those with dietary restrictions or sodium concerns should take care.

Key Differences Between Akawi and Halloumi

To summarize the major differences:

Softer, smooth textureDense, squeaky texture
Melts easilyHolds shape when cooked
Mild, delicate, tangy flavorRobust, salty flavor
Pairs well with herbs and spicesStands up to bold ingredients
Moist, high moistureDrier, lower moisture
Better for cooking and bakingBetter for pan-frying and grilling

Their unique identities make them suited for different dishes and cooking methods. Both offer delicious taste and nutrition though.

Key Takeaway: Akawi and halloumi differ distinctly in texture, melting qualities, flavor, aromas, and ideal pairings. This makes them suited to different culinary uses. But both provide wonderful taste and nutrition.

How to Substitute Akawi for Halloumi (and Vice Versa)

Want to substitute one for the other in recipes? Here are some tips:

To replace halloumi with akawi:

  • Use 25% less akawi to account for extra moisture
  • Increase saltiness with spices, olives, lemon zest, etc.
  • Adjust cooking method - bake, grill briefly, or add later in sautéing
  • Add wheat starch (1 tsp per cup) to absorb moisture
  • Expect greater melting, browning, and softening

To substitute akawi for halloumi:

  • Increase amount by 25% to compensate for moisture
  • Pat akawi dry before cooking to improve browning
  • Chill akawi first to firm it up before cooking
  • Cook gently and watch closely to prevent meltingAway
  • Consider a complementary flavor boost like za'atar or herbs
  • Note that akawi may melt more than halloumi would

With these adaptations, you can swap one for the other successfully. But for best results, choose the cheese best suited to the dish.

How to Make Akawi and Halloumi at Home

How To Make Akawi And Halloumi Cheese At Home

Store-bought cheeses make life easier. But enterprising home cooks can also craft their own akawi or halloumi.


  • High-quality milk - sheep and goat are traditional
  • Rennet to curdle the milk
  • Cheese molds
  • Cheesecloth for draining
  • Brine solution for soaking
  • Herbs like dried mint (optional)
  • Time, patience, and practice


Refer to traditional cheesemaking guides for detailed steps. Key high-level pointers:

  • Curdle the milk gently at warm temperatures between 90-105°F
  • Halloumi requires more kneading and pressing to achieve its texture
  • Air-dry freshly molded cheeses before brining
  • Use a 7-10% salt brine solution and maintain proper acidity
  • Soak cheeses for the right duration - 12-24 hours up to 2 months
  • Age cheeses in climate-controlled conditions
  • Handle cheeses carefully to avoid damage
  • Ensure ideal humidity levels are maintained


It takes skill and numerous rounds to master the intricacies. But tradition-minded cooks find the hands-on process rewarding.


Akawi and halloumi emerge from the storied food cultures of the Levant. Though they share similarities, each cheese boasts a unique identity informed by local history and tradition.

Key differences set them apart - namely their texture, melting properties, recommended cooking methods and pairings.

Akawi's milder taste and smooth melting quality suits it to dishes like pastries, omelets and sandwiches.

Halloumi's dense texture that holds its shape when cooked make it perfect for grilling, pan-frying, and vegetable pairings.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!