The first time I tried halloumi cheese was at a restaurant called Lola in downtown Seattle. I was there for brunch and ordered Halloumi Cheese Kebabs with Kalamata figs. I had no idea what halloumi was but I love cheese and it came with figs so I ordered it.
The kebabs came and they looked crazy with squares of cheese that hadn't melted and dried figs all lined up on a skewer. I was worried about what I ordered. It almost looked like marshmallows and mushrooms! Alas it was a wonderful breakfast and I was amazed by this cheese that a) paired well with figs and b) didn't melt when cooked!
That began my love affair with halloumi cheese. Let's figure out just what in the world this odd cheese is and exactly how to cook and eat it.
What is Halloumi cheese?
It's cheese from Cyprus that's made from sheep and goats. It's a semisoft cheese that's firm, soft, and springy. The flavor is tangy and salty.
Halloumi is often called "the grilling cheese" because of its ability to be heated directly on a hot grill without melting. It's so strange and wonderful!
We ate a ton of Halloumi when we visited Greece! It's on many restaurant menus there.
Where can Halloumi cheese be found?
You can find halloumi at most specialty grocery stores. Whole Foods always has it, Trader Joe's carries it, and I've even found some at Grocery Outlet! If you've got a Greek or Middle Eastern market near you that's a great place to look.
It can be tricky to find the halloumi in the store. It's not with the majority of cheese slices but near the fancier and packaged cheeses like feta crumbles and cheese spreads.
Halloumi is always tightly vacuum sealed in plastic and sometimes also enclosed in another hard sided container.
Prices for halloumi are all across the board. I've found it at Grocery Outlet for $2.99 and paid up to $13.00 for some. 8 ounces seems to be the standard size and you can see in the photos that TJ's halloumi costs $5.99 while Whole Foods halloumi is $9.00.
How do I get it ready for grilling?
Take it out of the package and slice the cheese right down the middle, lengthwise. You want to create large and thin pieces that will maximize surface coverage for grill marks.
Season the halloumi with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon before grilling.
How do I grill halloumi cheese?
It's easy! Grill it until the color and texture changes on both sides. We like to use the top rack of the grill for 12 - 15 minutes. Moving it around minimally will keep your grill marks nice and neat.
You're looking for lots of grill marks and golden brown deliciousness. The cheese is pretty flavorless before it's cooked so you want to make sure you give it some time on the grill. Anywhere beyond the stark white color it begins with and perfectly golden brown is fine. Just don't burn it!
What should I avoid doing with Halloumi cheese?
Don't cut it small before grilling! I did this a few weeks back to mimic Lola's kebabs and it was a disaster. The cubes split when I skewered them and it was a mess to grill them all separately.
Keep the halloumi pieces large for grilling and cut them later.
What do I eat Halloumi cheese with?
Everything! Ok, ok, that's not helpful.
Figs are obviously a great idea. The day I tried to skewer the halloumi we had a feast of all things grilled: halloumi, green beans, potatoes, and figs.
All things Mediterranean go well with halloumi. Dill, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives are perfect pairings. I had a halloumi sandwich with cucumbers and topped with taztziki sauce at the Double Wide Grill in Pittsburgh, PA last summer and it was amazing.
Last and certainly not least I recommend my FAVORITE recipe, that's cous cous salad with grilled halloumi cheese. There are toasted nuts, grilled corn, and fresh basil and mint in with the halloumi and cous cous. It is delicious and summery and it tastes even better the day after you make it. You can make the recipe in advance and serve it at room temperature so it's perfect for summer BBQs, pot lucks, and camping trips.
I hope that your questions about halloumi cheese have been answered! Please feel free to email me if you have further questions and/or tag @figsandflights or #figsandflights with photos of your halloumi eats.
Hello, I'm Angela.
Figs and Flights is all about traveling near and far & eating great food both at home and away.