What is Halloumi Cheese?

Halloumi is a semi-hard, salty cheese that originated on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It has a distinctive squeaky, rubbery texture and high melting point, which makes it perfect for grilling, frying, or eating raw.

What is Halloumi Cheese

Halloumi is traditionally made from a blend of goat and sheep milk, but cow's milk is also commonly used. The cheese is brined, giving it a salty flavor. Fresh mint leaves are often added during the brining process.

Halloumi has become popular worldwide, but especially across the Middle East, Europe, and North America. It's a staple ingredient in many Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Lebanese dishes.

The origins of halloumi cheese can be traced back to Medieval Byzantine Cyprus between 400-1200 AD. Recipes for a brined cheese like halloumi appeared in Egyptian cookbooks as early as the 14th century.

Descriptions of a Cypriot cheese similar to modern halloumi were first recorded by Italian visitors to Cyprus in the mid-16th century. However, there is debate about whether halloumi originated in Cyprus or the greater Levant area of the Middle East.

Traditionally, halloumi was made from sheep and goat milk since there were few cows in Cyprus until the 20th century. But as demand grew, cow's milk began being used more frequently.

The name "halloumi" comes from the Egyptian Arabic word "ḥallūm," meaning "cheese." Similar sounding names are used in languages across the eastern Mediterranean, like "hellim" in Turkish and "hallomi" in Arabic.

How Halloumi Is Produced

Halloumi production involves several steps:

  • Coagulation: Rennet is stirred into heated milk to form curds. This takes 30-45 minutes.
  • Cutting: Once cooled, the curds are cut up to increase firmness.
  • Draining: The curds are put in molds, pressed to remove whey.
  • Scalding: The curds are boiled in hot whey for at least 30 minutes. This gives halloumi its distinctive texture.
  • Salting: The cheese is taken out of the whey, salted, and often garnished with mint.
  • Brining: Halloumi is placed in salted whey for 1-3 days before packaging. For aged halloumi, it's brined for over 40 days.
  • Packaging: The cheese is vacuum-sealed or stored in containers filled with brine.

The scalding step is key, as it helps halloumi keep its shape when cooked. The high heat denatures the proteins in the cheese.

Halloumi Nutrition Facts

Halloumi is a good source of protein and calcium. A 3.5 oz (100 gram) serving provides:

NutrientAmount% Daily Value
Saturated Fat13g65%

However, halloumi is high in saturated fat and sodium, as it's a full-fat cheese preserved in brine. If you're limiting these nutrients, enjoy halloumi in moderation. Reduced fat versions are sometimes available.

What Does Halloumi Taste Like?

Fresh out of the package, halloumi has a mild, milky flavor with notes of salt from the brine. When cooked, it takes on rich caramelized and nutty notes.

The cheese has a unique firm and springy texture. High-quality halloumi even squeaks against your teeth when bitten into! The brining process makes it very salty.

Many describe the salty flavor as similar to feta cheese. The texture is often compared to mozzarella, with a bit of resistance when chewing.

Where to Buy Halloumi Cheese

Halloumi can be found at:

  • Mediterranean markets or delis
  • Specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods
  • Larger supermarket chains
  • Online retailers like Amazon

In the US, halloumi is often sold vacuum-packed in plastic. The Cypriot government owns the trademark to "halloumi" in America. Brands from other countries may be labeled "halloumi-style."

When buying, look for halloumi made from sheep and/or goat's milk for a more authentic flavor. Cow's milk versions tend to be cheaper.

How to Store Halloumi

  • Unopened - Can be refrigerated for up to 1 year.
  • Opened - Lasts up to 1 week refrigerated in brine in an airtight container.
  • Freeze - Can be frozen for 2-3 months if well wrapped. Defrost overnight in the fridge before using.

Proper storage is important to prevent halloumi from drying out. Always keep it submerged in brine if storing for more than a couple days.

How to Cook Halloumi

Halloumi holds its shape beautifully when cooked. It can be enjoyed in many ways:


  1. Slice halloumi and pat dry. Halloumi should be sliced no thinner than 1/2-inch or it may overcook.
  2. Brush both sides with olive oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Grill on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown.
  4. Serve immediately while hot.


  1. Dry halloumi slices and coat in olive oil.
  2. Cook in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes per side.
  3. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice when serving.

Oven Baking

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place halloumi slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over top.
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until browned.

Air Frying

  1. Coat halloumi with oil and place in air fryer basket.
  2. Cook at 390°F for 6-8 minutes until outside is crispy.

Tips for Cooking Halloumi:

  • Use a non-stick pan or well-oiled surface to prevent sticking
  • Flip carefully to keep shape intact
  • Cook over medium-high heat for best results
  • Slice halloumi at least 1/2-inch thick or it may overcook
  • Allow the cheese to brown for fullest flavor

Serving Ideas and Dishes with Halloumi

Halloumi's tasty saltiness and meaty texture make it a versatile ingredient. Here are some delicious ways to serve it:

  • Layer grilled halloumi on sandwiches and burgers
  • Toss with fresh vegetables for halloumi salad
  • Pair with watermelon for a sweet-salty Cypriot-style salad
  • Add to kebabs in place of meat
  • Serve with flatbreads like pita and lavash
  • Top pizza with cubed grilled halloumi
  • Skewer and grill halloumi for appetizers
  • Fry into chips or sticks for halloumi fries
  • Bake into halloumi hash browns
  • Crumble over pasta, rice bowls, or grain salads

Some popular Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes featuring halloumi include:

  • Meze - Halloumi is commonly served as an appetizer in a Mediterranean meze spread.
  • Falafel - Halloumi makes a great veggie filling alongside falafel in pita sandwiches.
  • Fatayer - These savory Middle Eastern pies are often filled with halloumi.
  • Salads - Halloumi is routinely used in Greek and Cypriot salad recipes.
  • Breakfast - Fried halloumi served with tomatoes, olives, bread is a typical Cypriot breakfast.

Can You Eat Halloumi Raw?

Yes, halloumi can be eaten raw straight from the package. It has a mild, salty flavor.

The signature squeaky, dense texture of halloumi is more pronounced when eaten raw. For the best flavor and experience, though, halloumi is always cooked.

Halloumi Substitutes

No cheese is quite like halloumi. But in a pinch, firm mozzarella or feta cheese can work:

  • Mozzarella - High-moisture, fresh mozzarella is the closest texturally. Grilled mozzarella holds its shape but gets deliciously melty in the center.
  • Feta - Feta won't grill or fry like halloumi, but when crumbled over dishes it provides a similar salty tang.
  • Paneer - Indian paneer has a comparable squeaky texture when cooked. But it lacks the brininess of halloumi.
  • Queso para freir - Some Latin grocery stores carry this "frying cheese" that browns like halloumi.

You can also find halloumi-style cheeses sold as grilling cheese. But for the authentic halloumi experience, nothing beats the real thing!

Is Halloumi Keto?

Halloumi can fit into a keto diet in moderation. It provides around 0g net carbs per serving.

However, it's high in calories from saturated fat. Limit your portion size to 1-2 oz if following a keto eating pattern.

Is Halloumi Vegetarian?

Traditionally, halloumi is made from a blend of goat and sheep milk. But cow's milk halloumi is also common.

To make the cheese vegetarian-friendly, vegetarian rennet is used rather than traditional animal rennet. Check the label when purchasing.

Is Halloumi Healthy?

Halloumi provides protein, calcium, and other nutrients. But its high sodium and saturated fat contents may be concerning for some.

Health experts recommend limiting saturated fat intake to reduce the risk of heart disease. Halloumi's high sodium content could also negatively impact blood pressure.

Personally, I enjoy halloumi in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet. Always keep quantities reasonable.


Does halloumi melt when cooked?

No, halloumi doesn't melt like most cheeses when heated. Thanks to its unique production method, it maintains its dense, rubbery texture. The inside softens while the exterior gets crispy.

Why does halloumi squeak?

The firm, rubbery texture of halloumi causes it to squeak against your teeth when chewed or bitten into. This springy, resistant quality comes from the curds being scalded at high heat during production.

Can you cook halloumi on the grill?

Yes, grilling is one of the most popular cooking methods for halloumi. Make sure to oil the grill grates well first. Grill on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes per side until charred.

Does halloumi need to be soaked before cooking?

No soaking is required. But you should thoroughly pat dry halloumi slices before cooking. Removing excess moisture on the exterior helps halloumi brown and crisp up properly.

Can you freeze halloumi cheese?

Freezing is fine for storing halloumi long-term. First wrap tightly in plastic wrap or parchment paper to prevent freezer burn. It will keep for 2-3 months frozen before thawing overnight in the fridge.


From its origins on the island of Cyprus to worldwide fame, savory and salty halloumi cheese is a unique ingredient loved for its distinctive texture. It tastes delicious when grilled, fried, or used in a variety of Mediterranean-inspired dishes.

Due to its high saturated fat and sodium contents, halloumi is best enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Seek out brands made with vegetarian rennet if avoiding animal products.

The next time you come across halloumi at the grocery store or farmers market, pick some up! It's easy to cook and makes veggies, sandwiches, salads, and meatless dishes extra tasty.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions