Should You Cook Halloumi Cheese? [And How To!]

Halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus that is growing in popularity. Its unique, almost meat-like flavor hasn't yet made it a common cheese board addition, but that doesn't mean there aren't dozens of halloumi recipes out in the world. Should you cook halloumi cheese, though, and how can you do so effectively?

When you cook halloumi, you soften its texture and improve its already-salty flavor - meaning that while you don't have to cook the cheese, you should. Some of today's most popular methods for cooking halloumi include:

  • Grilling it
  • Frying it
  • Baking it into sweet dishes
  • Baking it into savory dishes

Learning how to interact with a new cheese can be a complicated process. Here, we've researched some of the best ways you can put halloumi to use in your kitchen. Once you understand some of the halloumi's quirks, though, you'll have an easier time transforming this unique dish into something the whole family can enjoy.

Delicious salad halloumi cheese with asparagus leaves and cherry tomatoes, Should You Cook Halloumi Cheese? [And How To!]

Cooking  With Halloumi Cheese

While traditional halloumi recipes put the cheese to good use, you can cook it however you please. Some of the best ways to bring new flavors to halloumi include:

Grilling Halloumi

Grilled halloumi cheese

Whether you have an outdoor grill or a countertop aid, grilled halloumi is a treat. To cook your cheese appropriately, you'll want to preheat and oil your grill before laying thick slices of cheese across the grates.

If you have a George Foreman stovetop grill, flip the cheese halfway through its cook time instead of pressing down the lid - while halloumi has a higher than average melting temperature, it can still gum up a press grill.

Frying Halloumi

It's somewhat traditional to fry halloumi before you eat it. Frying halloumi fits the cheese with a crispy, golden-brown crust that only adds to the dish's unique texture. What's more, this cooking method tends to bring out some of the cheese's hidden flavors.

To effectively fry your halloumi, cut your cheese into slabs or cubes. Cut the cheese too thin, and you risk it dissolving in your frying pan. Before putting the cheese in the pan, grease it and preheat it until just warmed. While you can throw halloumi into a smoking pan, the flash cooking method doesn't tend to melt the cheese in the middle of larger slabs.

Remember that halloumi has a higher melting point than most cheeses, meaning that it needs a little more TLC to come out just right.

Baking With Halloumi - Savory

If you're making a quiche, baked pasta, or another savory dish, why not substitute halloumi for some of your traditional cheeses? The meaty flavor of halloumi adds a boost of umami to any dish. Be sure to soak your halloumi overnight to not through off the salt balance in your dish of choice.

Baking With Halloumi - Sweet

Sweet danishes can be made all the better with the addition of halloumi. While it's not the most traditional addition to a sugar-based dessert, halloumi balances over the overwhelming sweetness of breakfast bread and after-meal snacks.

Best Cooked Halloumi Cheese Recipes

While there are several different ways to cook halloumi, some recipes stand out from the crowd. These include:

Halloumi Kebabs

The ingredients for halloumi kebabs include:

  • 2 cups of cubed halloumi
  • 2 zucchinis, chopped into thick slices
  • 2 onions, chopped into cubes
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • A handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped

To cook your halloumi kebabs, you should:

  1. Preheat your grill (outdoor or indoor)
  2. Create a dressing out of lemon juice, garlic, mint, oregano, vinegar, and oil. Season to your taste.
  3. Toss the cheese and vegetables in the dressing
  4. Skewer the seasoned cheese and vegetables on wooden skewers, leaving an inch for the handle
  5. Once the grill is warmed and prepped with oil, place your skewers on the grates.
  6. After two minutes, or when the cheese starts to turn golden brown, flip the skewers
  7. Once the vegetables look lightly charred and the cheese has just started to melt, remove the skewers from the grill.
  8. Serve immediately

Note that you can include cooked lamb or other prepared meats in this recipe for additional flavor.

Halloumi, Melon, and Mint Salad

Halloumi cheese with fresh melon and mint

When making a halloumi, melon, and mint salad, you'll need:

  • Six slices of halloumi
  • Two sliced and roasted red peppers
  • Six slices of prosciutto
  • Half of a honeydew melon deseeded and cut into cubes
  • One red chili
  • A handful of mint, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

To create this salad, you can:

  1. Wrap your halloumi in slices of pepper
  2. Wrap the sliced, stuffed pepper in prosciutto
  3. Add oil to a frying pan. Fry the wrapped cheese until the prosciutto is crispy and the cheese is golden
  4. In a separate dish, combine the chili, mint, melon, vinegar, and oil
  5. Combine the fried cheese with the rest of the ingredients
  6. Serve with a side of thinly sliced bread

How is Halloumi Traditionally Cooked?

Halloumi can be used as a meat substitute in meals that people want to make vegetarian. When made traditionally, the cheese is soaked in brine to preserve it over time, then paired with mint leaves. Only once the cheese comes to your table can you decide how you want to cook it.

Halloumi has a higher melting point than the cheeses that Western chefs and home cooks alike may be familiar with. Traditionally, it's best to fry the cheese in oil until it's developed a thin, brown crust around its exterior. This heat lends a crunch to your average bite while also transforming the center of the halloumi into gooey bliss.

Note that you can eat halloumi without heating it first. When you do, prepare for a bite that requires a lot of chewing. Uncooked halloumi tends to bounce back against your teeth, letting you taste its meaty, salty flavor without any of the traditional strings. However, heating the cheese up is said to amplify the flavor, so choose your preferred preparation method carefully.

Why Do You Soak Halloumi in Water?

When initially bringing this cheese together, halloumi cheesemakers soak their bricks in salty water for twenty-four hours. You can do the same upon bringing a block of halloumi home. Why, though, is this a traditional way to treat this unique block of cheese?

Halloumi is a cheese that needs to be well-preserved. The initial soak, as performed by cheesemakers, lets salt seep into the cheese. Not only does this alter the flavor, but it also ensures that the cheese stays fresh while it travels.

When you soak halloumi at home, you essentially drain the cheese of that salt. While you'll be shortening your cheese's shelf life, you'll also get a better sense of what the cheese truly tastes like.

You are also free to soak halloumi with diluted lemon juice. While the cheese might take on a slight citrus flavor, you'll still be able to enjoy its naturally meaty notes.

Can You Eat Halloumi Without Soaking It?

You can always eat halloumi without soaking it first. The cheese does not contain any dangerous bacteria or ingredients that might harm you. However, bites of unsoaked halloumi tend to be saltier than soaked halloumi. If you're concerned about your health, you may want to limit your consumption of unsoaked halloumi, if only because the salt content of the cheese may harm your day-to-day diet.

Can You Microwave Halloumi?

If you're in a rush and want to get halloumi on the table quickly, you do have the option to heat the cheese in the microwave. Be sure to put the halloumi on a plate - while its melting point is higher than that of regular cheeses, you don't want a gooey mess in the bottom of your microwave. Be sure to run your microwave for no more than 40 seconds on full power to see the best cooking results.

Do note that microwaved halloumi is primarily soft on the tongue. When you forgo the grill or stovetop, you don't get to enjoy the cheese's usual crunch. Even so, a quick burst of heat from the microwave can make this unique cheese an excellent addition to cheese trays, salads, and family dinners.

What to Eat With Halloumi?

Freshly sliced halloumi cheese on the chopping board

While you can eat halloumi on its own, either fried or raw, the cheese goes exceptionally well with select accouterment. Some of the best dishes to eat halloumi with include:

  • Pasta
  • Salad
  • Fried vegetables and flatbread
  • Crusty bread or crackers
  • Curry
  • Watermelon, apricots, and sweet fruits
  • Eggs, either baked or fried
  • Lamb and fried meats

You can also make your traditional grilled cheese with halloumi. Fry the cheese before putting it on your bread, or cook the whole lot together - either way, you'll enjoy a unique treat with a flavor profile that explodes in your mouth.

Upgrade Your Halloumi Cheese Preparation Today

Halloumi cheese is well-liked for its meaty, salty flavor. When you cook halloumi, you emphasize that flavor and transform otherwise traditional dishes by frying it, baking it, or otherwise experimenting with it. With that in mind, don't be afraid to experiment with your halloumi.

Try out some of the different side dishes and cooking methods mentioned here and discover the new ways you, your friends, and your family can enjoy this Cypriot cheese.

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