But what exactly are the differences between them, and when is it best to use one over the other?
What is Grilled Cheese?
Grilled cheese is a classic American sandwich made by cooking cheese between two slices of bread on a hot griddle or pan. The cheese is usually American, cheddar, or Swiss, though other varieties can be used too.
As the bread cooks and browns in butter or oil, the cheese melts into a hot, gooey mess. The key characteristics of grilled cheese are:
- Made with bread (usually white) and cheese
- Cooked on a hot pan or griddle until crisp and browned
- Melted, ooey-gooey cheese in the middle
- Distinct buttery, toasty flavor
Grilled cheese makes a quick and comforting meal any time of day. It's also highly customizable - you can add ingredients like ham, bacon, tomatoes, or pesto to jazz it up.
What is Halloumi?
Halloumi originated in Cyprus and is traditionally made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk. Cow's milk may also be used. It has a few things that distinguish it from other cheeses:
- High melting point - holds shape even when cooked
- Salty, tangy flavor
- Slightly squeaky texture when bitten into
- Often served fried, grilled, or in salads
- Originally from Cyprus, popular in Mediterranean cuisine
So while normal cheeses melt or get soft when cooked, halloumi maintains its shape. And instead of getting too hot or gooey when fried or grilled, halloumi develops a crisp, golden exterior while staying cool and firm inside.
The taste of raw halloumi is like a mild goat cheese. But when cooked, the salty notes become more pronounced and it develops a unique squeakiness.
Key Takeaway: Grilled cheese is an American sandwich made with melted cheese, while halloumi is an unmelting cheese originating from Cyprus known for being fried and grilled.
Cheese Used in Grilled Cheese vs Halloumi
The first key difference between these two cheeses is the actual cheese used to make them:
Grilled Cheese Cheese
Grilled cheese showcases simple cheeses that melt well:
- Cheddar - range of sharpness, melts smoothly
- Havarti - creamy, buttery texture when melted
- Gouda - sweet, nutty notes
- Swiss - mild flavor, excellent melting
- Provolone - melts without hardening or toughening
- American - processed cheese perfect for oozing melts
The most popular choice for grilled cheese is cheddar, thanks to its range of sharpness and smooth melting qualities. But anything that melts into that ideal ooey-gooey texture works.
Avoid cheeses like parmesan or halloumi that don't melt well.
There's only one cheese used to make authentic halloumi:
- Blend of sheep and goat milk
- Can additionally contain cow's milk
- No other cheeses can be labeled as "halloumi"
The key item enabling halloumi cheese's unique properties is the addition of rennet. Rennet is an enzyme that helps separate milk into curds and whey.
Most cheeses use rennet then quickly acidify with bacteria. But halloumi uses rennet while avoiding the acidification, resulting in a higher pH and different texture.
This allows it to withstand high heat without melting. Cow's milk halloumi may be made today, but traditional Cypriot halloumi uses a sheep and goat milk blend.
Flavor and Texture Differences
Let's now compare some of the tangible differences between grilled cheese and halloumi in terms of flavor, texture, and how they taste when cooked:
|Ooey, gooey when melted
|Remains in original shape
|Appearance when cooked
|Golden brown exterior, melted interior
|Golden brown exterior, unmelted interior
|Overall flavor when cooked
|Toasty, buttery, rich
|Full-bodied salty flavor, tangy notes
- Grilled cheese has a salty, buttery taste that becomes even richer when cooked into a melt
- Halloumi's salty punch is joined by tangy notes when fried or grilled
- Grilled cheese melts smoothly, halloumi retains its shape and squeakiness
So if you're looking for an epic melt, opt for cheeses like cheddar or gouda. But when you need a cheese that stays intact on the grill, halloumi is your best bet.
Key Takeaway: Grilled cheese highlights melty cheeses that become ooey-gooey when cooked. Halloumi uniquely stays in its original form when heated.
Best Cooking Methods
Another key difference between halloumi and cheeses used for grilled cheese is the best cooking methods for each:
Cooking Grilled Cheese
To achieve grilled cheese perfection:
- Griddle or frying pan on medium heat
- Butter the pan and toast bread until golden brown
- Flip and continue cooking until cheese melts
Using a hot skillet or griddle is perfect for getting:
- A crunchy texture to the bread
- Ideal heat transfer to melt cheese
- Caramelized, buttery flavors
For the best halloumi flavor and texture:
- Pan-fry or grill on high heat
- Cook a few minutes per side
- Until exterior is crispy and brown
High, direct heat is essential for getting that:
- Distinct squeakiness when bitten into
- Contrast of crispy exterior and firm interior
Pro tip: Halloumi goes great with a squeeze of lemon to balance the saltiness!
So for ultimate grilled cheese, opt for gentler griddle heat to melt the cheese without burning the bread. Meanwhile, halloumi requires intense heat to transform its texture from rubbery to crispy and brown.
When to Choose One Over the Other
Still confused about when to use halloumi vs grilled cheese? Let's summarize a few scenarios where one cheese shines over the other:
When to Use Grilled Cheese
Grilled cheese is the choice for:
- Classic American comfort food
- An ooey, toasty flavor and ultrasmooth melt
- Making sandwiches or paninis
- Serving with soup or fries for dipping
In other words, when you crave that nostalgic, buttery grilled cheese experience, opt for cheddar, Swiss, or provolone over halloumi.
When to Use Halloumi
Halloumi is the star for:
- Greek or Mediterranean-inspired meals
- Adding salty savoriness without heaviness
- High-heat cooking on the grill or in a pan
- Serving in salads or with fresh veggies
So when you need a cheese that can hold its own on skewers or over an open flame, halloumi is your go-to. Its sturdy nature makes it perfect for grilling.
Key Takeaway: Choose grilled cheese for ultimate melted sandwiches and comfort food. Pick halloumi to lend salty richness to salads, veggie dishes, and high-heat grilled or fried meals.
Can you use halloumi for grilled cheese?
You can use halloumi in a grilled cheese sandwich, but it won't melt smoothly like cheddar or Swiss. The halloumi will get warm and soften slightly while retaining its shape when bitten into.
Why doesn't halloumi melt like regular cheese?
Halloumi's unique production method gives it a higher pH and lower levels of calcium and acidity than other cheeses. This causes its proteins to stay intact even when exposed to high heat, preventing smooth melting.
Is halloumi healthier than grilled cheese?
Halloumi has less fat and calories per ounce compared to cheese like cheddar or gouda used in grilled cheese. However, halloumi also packs a whopping 38% of your daily recommended sodium in a single ounce!
So in moderation, halloumi can be a healthier choice. But don't overdo it on the salty Cypriot cheese.
What cheese works best for grilled cheese?
The perfect grilled cheese cheeses are cheddar, Swiss, Havarti, and gouda. Their smooth meltability and buttery flavors take the sandwich to a decadent level. For an epic crispy-crunchy grilled cheese crust, use American cheese.
Can you use halloumi on pizza?
You sure can! Halloumi makes an excellent pizza topping. The high cooking heat from the pizza oven will give it that distinctive crispy texture. Just be sure to slice the halloumi first so it doesn't block melting of other cheeses and toppings.
While grilled cheese and halloumi are both tasty cheeses in their own right, they have distinct differences that make them shine in different scenarios.
Grilled cheese dominates when you need an uber-melty, decadent melted sandwich. Switch to halloumi when you require a cheese that can withstand and even benefit from high heat like grilling, frying, or skewers.
Halloumi also adds a uniquely salty, squeaky texture and tangy flavor to dishes like salads, veggie sides, and Mediterranean meals.