What Is Halloumi Cheese—and How Do You Grill It?

Everything you need to know about this salty, tangy Mediterranean cheese.

<p>Kiboka/Getty Images</p>

Kiboka/Getty Images

Halloumi cheese has become a staple in many American grocery stores, and for good reason. A Mediterranean cheese with origins in Cyprus, halloumi is best cooked until golden and hot. Its salty, tangy flavor and chewy, melty texture jazz up salads, sandwiches, and beyond. Keep reading for more information about this craveable cheese, and how to incorporate it into your cooking. 

Related: 12 Panzanella Recipes To Make When You’re Craving a Bread-Filled Salad

What Is Halloumi Cheese?

Halloumi is a semi-hard, unripened cheese that originated centuries ago in Cyprus—an island country in the Mediterranean. Typically made with a combination of goat’s and sheep’s milk, modern renditions may also feature cow’s milk. Halloumi’s texture is often described as squeaky, chewy, and stretchy. However, when it's grilled or seared, halloumi’s texture changes, softening on the inside and crisping up on the outside. Halloumi can withstand high temperatures without melting, which makes it a favorite for grilling and frying.

What Is In Halloumi Cheese?

Traditionally, halloumi contains both goat’s and sheep’s milk, but in some modern versions, cow’s milk is used. A coagulant like rennet is used to curdle the milk, which creates cheese curds. From there, the cheese curds are pressed and then brined. The brining step gives halloumi its signature saltiness. Although halloumi can be aged slightly, which dries and hardens the cheese, it’s generally considered best when it’s fresh and soft.

How to Use Halloumi Cheese

Although halloumi can be eaten raw, it’s more common to cook it. Grilling and pan-frying are two popular methods for cooking halloumi. For both methods, cook the halloumi on a hot surface for just a few minutes per side, or until it develops a golden brown crust on both sides. It’s best to serve cooked halloumi immediately, so you can enjoy the texture: crisp on the outside, melty on the inside. Try it over a bright, crunchy salad, tossed with pasta and grilled vegetables, or on its own with a squeeze of lemon. The opportunities are endless. 

Related: Types of Cheese You Should Know About and What to Pair Them With

Halloumi Cheese Substitutes

Halloumi is widely available in grocery stores, but if you can’t find it, there are some cheeses that could serve as substitutes.


This fresh Indian cheese is a good substitute for halloumi, since it has a similar texture and can be grilled or fried. Flavor-wise, it’s milder and creamier than salty, tangy halloumi.

Queso blanco

This is a fresh, unaged cheese from Mexico that can withstand high temperatures without melting. But, like paneer, queso blanco is milder than halloumi.


Another popular Mediterranean cheese, feta has a salty, tangy flavor that’s reminiscent of halloumi. However, since its texture is more crumbly and delicate, it can’t be cooked in the same way.

Halloumi Cheese Recipes

Now that you know all about halloumi, it’s time to experiment in the kitchen with these scrumptious halloumi recipes.

Halloumi Grain Bowls With Figs and Charred Lemon Dressing

<p>Jen Causey</p>

Jen Causey

In this recipe, rich halloumi jazzes up a kale and farro grain bowl. To finish the dish, drizzle everything with a zingy charred lemon dressing and toss it with a handful of torn, fresh mint.

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Grilled Halloumi Salad

Greg DuPree
Greg DuPree

Here, halloumi gets seared in a cast-iron skillet until golden brown, then served atop a bright, crunchy salad with romaine, chickpeas, and cucumbers. The vinaigrette features za’atar—a fragrant Middle Eastern spice blend.

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Related: Parmesan vs. Parmigiano Reggiano: What's the Difference?

Grilled Mediterranean Salad

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

This recipe gives pasta salad a modern Mediterranean twist, with grilled veggies and halloumi, fresh oregano, and a simple vinaigrette. It tastes best at room temperature, so it’s the perfect dish to bring to any gathering.

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Halloumi Saganaki

Lori Rice
Lori Rice

For a perfect appetizer, try dusting halloumi with semolina and frying it in a pan until the outside is golden and crisp and the inside is warm and melty. Balance out the richness with arugula, pomegranate seeds, and fresh figs.

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