Halloumi is one of my favorite cheeses but have you ever wondered exactly what is halloumi cheese?
Halloumi cheese is said to have originated in Cyprus, most likely in Medieval Byzantyne times.
This is a very old dairy product indeed, and a good one that has obviously stood up to the test of time.
I always remember my trips to Cyprus fondly.
Whether sitting at the beach relaxing, or in the hills with a barbecue, I’ve always had a great time.
And the grilled halloumi has always been a delight.
The unique quality this cheese has is it can be grilled or fried, making the cheese soft without melting away.
This is due to its high melting point.
This occurs because during the cheesemaking process the curds are cooked at a high heat giving them a higher melting point.
Traditionally made with a mixture of goat and sheep milk, today much of the halloumi you find is produced using cow milk.
This is due to it being a cheaper alternative to the more expensive sheep and goat milk.
What is Halloumi Cheese?
So what makes this type of cheese halloumi cheese?
Known as the grilling cheese, halloumi cheese is very popular in the Middle East, and around the world.
Often people will fry halloumi in olive oil, which is my favorite way to enjoy this cheese.
But halloumi can be eaten raw as well and is often served with salads.
It has a bit of a rubbery texture, with a salty flavor, and very often is additionally flavored with mint leaves.
It’s this rubbery texture that can put some people off eating it raw.
Once cooked, it becomes this delicious creamy and crunchy flavorsome bite!
Usually the squeaking between your teeth when you eat it gives away its identity as the national cheese of Cyprus.
To make halloumi cheese, the milk is heated then rennet or vegetarian rennet is added.
The curds are cooked at high temperature and then the cheese is flavored with mint leaves, pressed and soaked in brine.
It’s as simple as that!
What Milk is Halloumi Made From?
The real traditional method is to manufacture halloumi from a mix of goat and sheep milk.
Today it is much more common to come across this cheese using cow’s milk instead.
This is most likely what you will come across on your supermarket shelf.
I prefer the goat, sheep blend, as this makes the frying and flavor so much better.
We’re used to consuming more products with goat or sheep milk here in the Middle East so I may be biased.
But I would definitely recommend adventuring away from cows milk and trying these delicious alternatives.
What is Halloumi Cheese Used For?
Used mainly for grilling and frying, this cheese is great in a variety of dishes.
It is great in salads, sandwiches, and anywhere other cheeses are used.
From cheese boards, canapes, to soups – this is a highly flexible cheese with loads of possibilities.
Containing saturated fat like other cheeses, you will find halloumi cheese full of flavor.
But this also means that for a healthy diet it should be limited to a portion of your meal.
What To Use as a Substitute
Because of the durability of halloumi, a good substitute will need to have a high melting point.
This is to ensure you get a similar consistency that this cheese provides in dishes.
So cheeses like paneer, queso fresco, Nabulsi cheese and kasseri will best do the trick.
Even a good grilled pan feta could make a good replacement, but it will usually be significantly saltier.
What Does It Taste Like?
Some may find this to be a very plain tasting cheese due to its straightforward and simple flavor.
It is a semi hard, slightly salty cheese with some variations as to how it is flavored, the most common of which is mint that is put into the cheese.
It is mild and pleasing to the taste buds.
Frying it provides a crunchy outer skin that when coupled with the soft center is an amazing delight.
How to Cook Halloumi Cheese
The most important tip I can give you when it comes to cooking halloumi cheese is to make sure your slices of halloumi are generous in their thickness.
If they are too thin, the cheese can melt more quickly and what you’ll be left with is a spread out mess of melted cheese.
Fried or grilled are usually the best ways to cook this cheese, but surprisingly it can also be baked.
If you are grilling the cheese, brush both sides of the halloumi and grill directly on the grill grate to achieve grill marks that will give the cheese a nice look.
Sometimes these little presentation tips can make all the difference.
Pan fried or thinly sliced, you will put oil in the pan and heat until hot at which point add the cheese until golden brown on either side.
Frying in a griddle pan will also give distinctive marks to the cheese when serving for an additional aesthetic look.
Do you like halloumi cheese? What’s your favorite recipe to use halloumi in? Let me know in the comments below.