Discovering Halloumi cheese from Israel

The Unique Character of Halloumi Cheese

Halloumi cheese, originally hailing from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, has a variety of characteristics that make it inherently unique among the expansive world of dairy products. The cheese is a semi-hard, unripened, brined offering that has existed in the culinary landscape for centuries, typically made from a combination of goat’s and sheep’s milk. However, many modern versions also incorporate cow’s milk into the mix.

Distinctively, halloumi cheese does not melt when cooked. It maintains its shape at high temperatures, allowing it to be grilled or fried to a golden hue while maintaining its firm, rubbery texture. This unique characteristic is due to the cheese’s high melting point, a result of the unique heating and cooling process during its production. Curds are heated to 90 degrees Celsius, molded into shape, and then cooled rapidly, resulting in a structure stable enough to withstand further heat.

Noted for its rich, salty flavor, halloumi often carries subtle hints of mint, a remnant from the tradition of adding mint leaves to the cheese’s brine solution as a form of natural preservative. The combination of these flavors contributes to the cheese’s savory depth and complex profile, making it an immensely versatile ingredient in countless cuisines worldwide. Here are some distinguishing factors about halloumi cheese:

  • Versatility: It can be grilled, fried, or eaten fresh, making it suitable for a variety of dishes and culinary contexts.
  • Taste: It has a robust, savory flavor, punctuated by an underlying hint of mint and a characteristically salty overtone.
  • High melting point: Unlike many other cheeses, halloumi does not melt when subject to high temperatures. This makes it ideal for grilling and searing.
  • Nutrition: While rich in protein and calcium, halloumi contains a high amount of fat and salt, making it best enjoyed in moderation.

Halloumi’s robustness, in terms of flavor and cooking versatility, honored tradition, and taste journey through its unique notes of mint and sea salt make it a stand-out offering in the world of cheese.

Halloumi Cheese from Israel: Test your knowledge

Welcome to our quiz about Halloumi Cheese from Israel! Uncover how well-versed you are about this special cheese and its significance in Israeli cuisine. Are you prepared to assess your knowledge and discover more about this unique dairy product? Let's start!

Unraveling the Exquisite Universe of Halloumi Cheese

Praised for its unique characteristics and versatility, Halloumi hails from the sun-kissed island of Cyprus and has occupied a revered position in the culinary world. This semi-hard, unripened cheese is typically made from a blend of goat’s and sheep’s milk, although some modern versions include cow’s milk. It emanates a characteristic layered texture, boasting a robust and slightly salty flavor with a hint of mint.

What makes Halloumi stand out is the high melting point that allows it to withstand grilling and frying without losing its structure, a distinct property attributed to its preparation process. After curdling, the curds are heated at high temperatures and then set in brine, which also contributes to Halloumi’s notable saltiness. This process lends Halloumi its unique “squeaky” texture when bitten into, making it an appetizing addition to various dishes ranging from grills and barbecues to salads and sandwiches. Coupled with its briny flavor profile, the cheese also exhibits a mellow creaminess, making it a gastronomic delight.

While the traditional Halloumi derives from a blend of goat’s and sheep’s milk, its variations differ based on the milk source, aging and additional flavors:

  • Goat’s Milk Halloumi: Exclusively using goat’s milk lends a tangier and richer texture to the cheese, harnessing the inherent flavors of the milk itself.
  • Flavored Halloumi: Infusions of herbs like mint, chili, or basil elevate the savors of the cheese and add an intriguing culinary dimension.
  • Aged Halloumi: Aging this cheese leads to a well-developed, strong taste and a noticeably firmer texture compared to the fresh variety.

Given the mass appeal and growing global demand, Halloumi cheese has undergone industrialization, leading to the emergence of cow’s milk Halloumi, which is arguably less authentic but more economically accessible. However, for cheese connoisseurs, the subtly nuanced flavors of the traditional sheep and goat milk-based Halloumi remain unmatched. Regardless of the variety, Halloumi is a cheese that narrates a tale of tradition and culinary innovation, promising a delightful expedition for every cheese lover.

The Unique Origin of Halloumi: A Taste of Cyprus

Halloumi, a distinctive cheese known for its salty and squeaky texture, has captured the hearts of cheese enthusiasts worldwide. While its popularity continues to grow, it’s essential to understand the unique origin of this delectable treat. Halloumi finds its roots in the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where it has been a culinary tradition for centuries.

Cyprus, located in the Eastern Mediterranean, boasts an ideal climate for cheese production. The island’s fertile soil and temperate climate create the perfect conditions for raising goats and sheep, the primary sources of milk for Halloumi. The Cypriot cheese-making tradition dates back to ancient times, and it has evolved over the centuries to develop the iconic cheese we know today.

Halloumi making is not limited to one particular region of Cyprus. However, the cheese is predominantly produced in the rural areas of the southern part of the island, where traditional methods are faithfully preserved. This region is renowned for its scenic landscapes and picturesque villages, making it a popular destination for tourists looking to experience the authentic taste of Halloumi.

  • Cyprus is the birthplace and the main producer of Halloumi.
  • Halloumi is made using a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk.
  • The traditional method of making Halloumi involves curdling the milk, shaping the cheese into brick-like blocks, and then brining or bathing it in a mixture of water and salt.
  • Halloumi is best known for its unique texture, which allows it to be fried or grilled without melting, making it an excellent ingredient for cooking.
  • The distinctive taste of Halloumi can be attributed to the salty brine solution it is aged in, as well as the flavors imparted by the animals’ diets, which often include wild herbs.

Facts and figures

  • Halloumi cheese is a significant contributor to Israel's dairy industry.
  • According to recent data, Israel ranks high on the list of countries that consume the most cheese per capita, with halloumi being one of the popular choices.
  • The Israeli market sees a surge in halloumi sales during summer, as it is a preferred cheese for grilling.
  • Many restaurants in Israel serve traditional dishes with halloumi cheese as the star ingredient.
  • Halloumi cheese is made using a centuries-old recipe, which is a testament to its long-standing popularity in Israel.
  • The cheese is revered for its versatility, and chefs all over Israel use it in a variety of dishes, both traditional and modern.
  • Research suggests that the unique preparation method of halloumi contributes to its ability to retain its shape when heated, making it a favorite among Israeli chefs.

Mastering the Art of Cooking with Halloumi

Originating from Cyprus, Halloumi cheese has garnered international popularity for its unique texture and flavour flexibility. Its notable high melting point allows it to maintain its shape when grilled or fried, ultimately becoming a star ingredient in various culinary creations. Here, we present two scrumptious recipes – ‘Grilled Halloumi Salad with Peach’ and ‘Authentic Cypriot Halloumi Pita’ – that showcase Halloumi’s distinct characteristics.

Recipe 1: Grilled Halloumi Salad with Peach

This refreshing recipe brilliantly combines the savoury halloumi with the sweet and juicy peaches, creating an irresistible summertime delight.

  • Ingredients: 250g Halloumi, 2 ripe peaches, mixed salad leaves, a handful of roasted walnuts, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Process: Start by cutting the halloumi into thick slices. Grill each side for 2 minutes or until they turn a golden brown. Slice the peaches and grill them as well. For the dressing, whisk together the vinegar and oil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Combine the grilled halloumi and peaches with the salad leaves and walnuts in a large bowl, drizzle your dressing over the top, toss everything together and serve immediately.

Recipe 2: Authentic Cypriot Halloumi Pita

Discover the true essence of Mediterranean cuisine with this authentic Cypriot halloumi pita recipe. It’s hearty, flavourful and guaranteed to keep you coming back for more.

  • Ingredients: 6 pieces of pitas, 300g halloumi, 2 tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1 small red onion, fresh lettuce leaves, handful of fresh mint leaves, 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt to taste.
  • Process: Start by grilling the halloumi cheese on both sides until browned. Slice the tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion into thin slices, and shred the lettuce. To assemble the pita, open one side to make a pocket, layer the inside with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, warm grilled halloumi, and fresh mint. Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil, sprinkle with salt to taste, and serve.

Whether you’re catering for a cocktail party or preparing a family meal, these intriguing dishes featuring halloumi can awaken your culinary senses and broaden your cheese palate.

Perfectly Paired: The Art of Harmonizing Halloumi Cheese with Dishes and Wines

Discovered in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Halloumi cheese is known for its unique blend of goat and sheep milk, with a touch of cow milk. Its rubbery texture and layered look, sesame seed-crusted exterior, and ability to withstand high heat without melting, have made it popular worldwide. However, truly enjoying Halloumi requires more than just appreciation of its texture and flavor. As with most cheeses, the consumption of Halloumi is elevated when paired with the right dishes and wines, creating combinations that indulge the senses and ignite culinary delight.

A classic cheese: Halloumi is versatile. The firm and slightly springy texture holds up well when grilled, creating a beautiful golden crust on the outside while remaining soft on the inside. Grilled Halloumi serves well on a bed of salad greens with a tart dressing such as a vinaigrette. It’s also a standout in a mezze platter, accompanied by olives, nuts, and fresh pitta. Halloumi is also perfectly matched with fruits. Skewer some Halloumi cubes with watermelon chunks or peaches, grill, and drizzle with a honey-lime dressing for a delightful balance of salty and sweet.

Let’s delve into the world of wine pairing with Halloumi. Selecting a wine that can balance the saltiness of Halloumi while also complementing its unique flavor profile can be quite an endeavor. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Rosé wines: The high acidity cuts into the saltiness of Halloumi and leaves a refreshing aftertaste, especially effective when enjoying Halloumi in a summer dish.
  • White wines: Particularly those from the Mediterranean region, such as Assyrtiko from Greece or Vermentino from Italy. They are commonly high in acid and have the body to match the flavorful cheese. Alternatively, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, known for its fruity and tangy nature, could also make an intriguing combination.
  • Light reds: A young Pinot Noir or Gamay can also work well as they provide a fruity counterpoint to the Halloumi’s dense texture.

Bearing these pairings in mind, integrating Halloumi with the right dishes and wines promises to create pleasurable and harmonious gastronomic experiences.

Discovering Similar Cheeses to Halloumi

Among the vast variety of cheeses around the world, Halloumi holds a special place due to its unique characteristics. Originating from Cyprus, Halloumi is a semi-hard, brined cheese that has gained popularity for its ability to be grilled or fried without melting. Its distinct texture and salty flavor make it a beloved choice for countless dishes and recipes.

If you are a fan of Halloumi and wanting to explore similar cheeses, here are a few noteworthy options that you might want to try:

1. Akkawi: Hailing from Lebanon, Akkawi is a firm cheese with a mild, slightly salty taste. It shares some similarities with Halloumi in terms of texture, but it lacks the distinctive squeaky texture when grilled. Akkawi is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in dishes like pastries, sandwiches, and salads.

2. Panela: Originally from Mexico, Panela is a fresh, unaged cheese that shares some commonalities with Halloumi. It has a mild flavor and a slightly firm texture, allowing it to hold its shape when cooked. Panela is often used in Mexican cuisine as a filling for quesadillas, grilled and served alongside salsas, or crumbled into salads.

3. Graviera: Originating from Greece, Graviera is a slightly hard cheese that shares a similar texture to Halloumi. It has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, making it a versatile cheese for cooking and melting. Graviera is commonly used in Greek dishes such as saganaki, a fried cheese appetizer, or grated over various pasta dishes.

4. Queso de Freir: Hailing from Venezuela, Queso de Freir is a white cheese that is specifically made for frying. It has a firm and slightly rubbery texture, resembling Halloumi, and a mildly salty flavor. Queso de Freir is frequently used in traditional Venezuelan dishes like arepas, cachapas, and empanadas.

Exploring similar cheeses to Halloumi offers an exciting journey for cheese enthusiasts. While these options share some characteristics with Halloumi, each cheese has its own unique flavor profile and culinary applications. Whether you’re trying new recipes or experimenting with different textures, these cheeses present an opportunity to broaden your cheese palate and culinary experiences.

Some notable similar cheeses to Halloumi:

  • Akkawi
  • Panela
  • Graviera
  • Queso de Freir

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

About the author: Dr. Wolfgang Sender writes on international careers. He is founder of and

Scroll to Top