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Food & Recipes

Hey Halloumi! Meet The Cheese That Makes Meatless Monday Way More Exciting

This isn’t your average cheese.

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If you’re like most Americans, you love cheese. (I know I do.) We sprinkle it on pasta, melt it over meats, and toss it in salads. How often, though, does it get to be the meal’s main attraction? The answer — again, if you’re like most Americans — is rarely.

Enter halloumi, a firm cheese made from goat, cow, or sheep milk, that looks like a block of tofu and has a texture and taste similar to mozzarella. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be amazed at how seamlessly it replaces chicken or fish in a meal. It doesn’t taste like meat, but it’s heartiness makes it a suitable substitute. Unlike many other cheeses, halloumi doesn’t get gooey when cooked; plus, thanks to its high melting point, it can be fried or grilled for maximum enjoyment. Here are some easy ways to let this wildly versatile cheese play a starring role in your dinner.

How did halloumi get popular?

In recent years, Halloumi has become increasingly popular in the US, perhaps due to a rising interest in meat substitutes — but it first became well-known as an export to the UK from Cyprus. In 2013, the BBC noted that “halloumi has made a classic British culinary journey from ethnic speciality to commonplace item.” Today, the UK is the largest importer of halloumi in the world, and while Americans may not be quite as halloumi-obsessed as the Brits, this cheese’s profile is rising, with global halloumi sales expected to top $900 million by 2030. Market research credits the increasing presence of European tourists in the US as the likely source of our interest in halloumi, and predicts it will be get more popular stateside in years to come.

Health Benefits of Halloumi

As already noted, halloumi has Cypriot origins. Although it’s usually made from goat, sheep, or cow’s milk, it’s not the kind of cheese you’d put on a cheese board. TheSpruceEats.com describes it as “plain and somewhat rubbery with salty notes.” However, once you roast it in a pan, in your oven, or even on a grill, “it becomes beautifully crispy and savory on the outside and sensually melted on the inside, similar to the consistency of a marshmallow when toasted.” 

Cheese with the consistency of a marshmallow may sound decadent, but that doesn’t mean that halloumi is void of health benefits. It’s rich in calcium and protein, which means it may help keep you fuller for longer. The fact that it’s one of the few cheeses that can be used as a meat replacement is also a major plus. You’ve heard of a cheeseburger — but what about a burger made, literally, out of cheese? Where a traditional cheeseburger can have up to 865 calories, a halloumi burger has a mere 455. Just be aware that while halloumi has good nutritional value (and is an excellent choice for anyone following a Mediterranean diet), it’s high in sodium and fat, like many cheeses.  

How To Prepare Halloumi

Halloumi is simple to prepare. Fry it in olive oil to draw out its mellow flavor or grill it for two to three minutes per side. It can also be made in the oven (hello, sheet pan dinners), and while recipes vary, the basic suggestion is that you bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes.

No matter how you cook it, halloumi will take on a golden brown tint and maintain its structural integrity, with a chewy but slightly crisp — rather than melty — texture. This distinctive texture is often described as “squeaky.” The so-called squeak is the result of the protein clumps within the cheese rubbing against your teeth. Here are some of our favorite ways to prepare it. 

Sheet Pan Halloumi Meal for Two

When it comes to preparing a halloumi meal, this recipe from AllRecipes.com is an easy place to start. (Many variations on this sheet pan halloumi formula can be found online.) While it calls for a specific selection of veggies, feel free to experiment with different combinations, depending on your mood.

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • 14 ounces butternut squash, cut into ¾ inch slices
  • 8 ounces halloumi cheese, sliced into 6 slices
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 6 large radishes, halved
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into wedges and layers separated
  • 14 large black olives
  • 1 serrano chile pepper
  • 2 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine first seven ingredients in large bowl. Sprinkle za’atar, turmeric, and dried mint over vegetables; mix to coat. Drizzle oil over everything and toss to combine. Spread vegetables in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.
  3. Roast in preheated oven until halloumi is brown and bubbly and vegetables have softened and browned, or about 18 minutes.

No matter how you end up serving your halloumi, we think this easy-to-cook, impossible-to-melt cheese is worth adding to your weeknight dinner rotation. Bon appétit!

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