What Is Halloumi Cheese or "Grilling Cheese"?

Wondering about cooking with this unique Greek sheep's milk cheese?

Halloumi cheese
Halloumi cheese photo by Foodcollection/Getty Images

Halloumi cheese, sometimes just called "grilling cheese", is making it's way up the list of popular food trends - and with good reason! Halloumi cheese is a delicious and uniquely grillable cheese. Read on to learn about what is halloumi cheese, cooking and grilling with Halloumi, and some Halloumi recipes, of course!

What Is Halloumi Cheese? Is It the Same as "Grilling Cheese"?

Traditionally prepared from sheep's milk in the Greek island of Cyprus, Halloumi is a soft curd-like cheese free of rennet and safe for vegetarians who do not eat rennet.

See also: Is cheese vegetarian

Many similar cheeses are prepared by dairy and goat farmers in Canada and the United States. For legal proprietary reasons, these cheeses are usually called "Halloumi-style" or "grillable" cheeses. I've also seen such halloumi-style cheeses just called "grilling cheese" or "frying cheese", and one brand I've come across is labeled in Spanish as "Queso de Freir".  I find these similar cheeses to be just as good as a real Greek halloumi, and they also hold up well on the grill, but someone with a more sophisticated or refined palette than my own might strongly disagree!

Can I Substitute Other Cheeses?

Depending on your recipe, Halloumi is not usually easy to substitute. Tofu or Indian paneer may be used in some recipes, but it won't be quite the same as halloumi or a similar "grillable" cheese.

If you can't find halloumi cheese locally where you live you may want to try shopping online for Halloumi.

Trader Joe's sells a pre-sliced halloumi cheese, and though you might not find it in your regular grocery store, just about any specialty grocer such as Whole Foods will carry halloumi. Many smaller co-ops and natural foods stores stock at least one halloumi as well, and specialty cheese shops are also a safe bet.

What Does Halloumi Cheese Taste Like?

Plain, Halloumi is firm, salty and a bit rubbery, perhaps most comparable to a thick feta in taste with a smoother texture, though the taste of halloumi is certainly unique.

But halloumi is not meant to be eaten plain! Halloumi should be warmed, grilled, or otherwise fired up in order to really be enjoyed. Cooked, the saltiness fades into a strong savory bite, with a slightly creamy texture. Grilled or fried, it is truly delicious. 

I think of halloumi like the marshmallow of cheeses: Eaten plain, it's nothing special and even tastes a bit odd, but properly crisped over an open flame (or a grill), both halloumi and marshmallows become beautifully and pleasantly crispy and savory on the outside, sensually melted on the inside and really can't be compared to any other food experience or taste. You've really got to try it.

How to Cook Halloumi Cheese:

Try Halloumi grilled, pan-fried or thinly sliced. Try it instead of mozzarella in a caprese salad, or serve it with watermelon, as is traditional in Cyprus.

Halloumi Cheese Nutritional Information: 

Real sheep's milk halloumi cheese has no substitute when it comes to taste, but what about its nutritional content?

Here's what CalorieCount has to say about the nutritional value of halloumi cheese:

One ounce of halloumi cheese contains:
90 calories
8g / 12% total fat
20mg / 7% cholesterol
300mg / 12% sodium
0 carbohydrates
0 dietary fiber
0 sugars
6g protein
20% RDA calcium
0% Vitamin C
0% Vitamin A
0% Iron

Recipes using Halloumi cheese:

Ready to try some halloumi cheese? You can grill it on a grill pan, or even just fry it up in a skillet with a bit of oil. Or, try some of these simple halloumi cheese recipes to get you started: