You just bought a ‘log’ of halloumi – that white, salty, squidgy and very yummy cheese from Cyprus that everyone raves about. Now how are you going to cook it? Pan-fry, grill, BBQ, bake or even air fry? There are so many fun and delicious halloumi cheese recipes to introduce you to, from fries to burgers to kebabs and more. I’ve got you covered with my expert guide!
What’s halloumi and why learn how to cook it
Halloumi cheese is a semi-hard, white cheese that’s closely associated with the island of Cyprus. Whether it actually originated in Cyprus or in other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean is still an unanswered question. But undoubtedly people have been producing it there from goat’s, sheep’s, and later cow’s milk, for hundreds of years!
It’s made by adding rennet to warm milk. The curds and whey naturally separate. The curds are left to firm up, then they are poached in the whey with some salt. This ‘second’ cooking is what gives the cheese its high melting point. The hard cheese is then kept in brine or salty water to keep it fresh.
This increasingly popular cheese is usually sold in a packet in a kind of ‘log’ shape and in a little brine to keep it moist and fresh. It’s actually a ‘roll’ of cheese so you might notice a split through the middle when you slice it up. Traditionally there are also little flecks of mint leaves on the surface of the cheese. This is a throw-back from a time when the cheese was kept in mint leaves to keep it fresh.
What does it taste like? It’s a little like mozzarella in texture and taste, but harder and saltier. Some also compare it to cooked Greek kefalotyri, Indian paneer, Mexican queso panela and even some hard types of tofu.
Since halloumi doesn’t melt when it’s cooked, it’s absolutely perfect for pan-frying, grilling, BBQing, baking and even air frying. It’s so versatile! You can make delicious appetizers, burgers, kebabs, salads and more with it. Since it’s quite ‘meaty’ in texture, it’s perfect for vegetarians, but equally as good paired with meat.
This cheese can divide a room. When cooked it’s salty, crispy, chewy, creamy, even ‘bouncy’ and ‘squeaky’ all at the same time. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, which is fair enough. But I’d definitely challenge the haters to try some of the ideas in this post and then decide again!
What you need (ingredients)
A ‘log’ or ‘roll’ of halloumi cheese. Usually they’re sold in a package with a little brine inside to keep the cheese moist and fresh.
Although it’s more expensive, I usually choose a genuine Cypriot brand because I think the texture is better than most supermarket own-brand copies. I also like the little flecks of mint around the cheese which is sometimes missing when it’s a cheaper brand.
A little olive oil, for cooking: For pan-fried or grilled/BBQ’d halloumi, you don’t necessarily need any oil. If you’re using a stainless steel pan, however, lightly spraying the halloumi with a little olive oil will make absolutely sure it doesn’t stick to the pan and burn.
Garnishes of your choice: Lemon or lime segments for squeezing over the hot cheese are perfect. I sometimes also sprinkle over some fresh herbs at the last minute. Alternatively (or as well!), you can sprinkle or drizzle over paprika, black pepper, balsamic vinegar or glaze, or even honey.
How to pan-fry it
Halloumi cheese makes a delicious (not to mention ridiculously easy) appetizer. All you need to do is slice the cheese into roughly 1/2-inch thick slices, almost like you would a loaf of bread. I usually get 7 or 8 slices out of each ‘log’, so enough for 2 to 3 as an appetizer.
Then you pan-fry them in a hot frying pan – for just a few minutes on each side or until hot, golden brown and lightly crisp. You’ll find when you first add the cheese to the pan it will release some liquid. The key is to wait until this liquid evaporates in the pan and leaves behind a golden brown residue – 2 or 3 minutes. Then it’s time to flip it to cook on the other side! Keep an eye on it because it probably won’t need quite as much time to cook on the second side.
In a non-stick pan it won’t stick so you don’t need to add any oil. If you’re using a stainless steel pan just add a tiny drizzle of oil – olive oil is perfect. Pan-fry for a few minutes on one side, resisting the urge to move the cheese around! Then flip it over and cook for another few minutes on the other side, until golden brown and lightly crisp.
Sometimes I find the halloumi closest to the middle of the pan cooks faster. If this happens, you can always move the cheese around a little towards the end of the cooking time until it’s all evenly cooked.
I’d say this is the very simplest way to cook halloumi cheese – but no less delicious than any other way! If you use a grill pan you can get those impressive grill lines to make your cheese look a bit fancier. If you’re using an enameled cast iron grill pan or frying pan I would recommend using a little oil to help with the clean-up.
How to BBQ/grill it
First preheat your BBQ or grill, to medium high, or around 200C/390F. Brush roughly 1/2 to 1-inch thick halloumi slices with a little oil, then throw them on to cook for a few minutes on each side until browned and crisp.
Alternatively you can thread large cubes of halloumi onto skewers and cook them on the grill that way. You can add some veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms or peppers too if you like. Or how about meatballs?! Just brush with oil and turn regularly as you cook them for 5 to 10 minutes until browned on all sides. Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over just before serving!
Use thin metal skewers or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for a while beforehand so that they don’t burn.
How to broil it (UK/Australia ‘put it under the grill’!)
This is also a great way to cook it! In fact this is how I usually cook my yummy halloumi and chorizo kebabs with honey lime dressing.
I’d recommend lining a baking pan or grill/broiler pan with baking paper or foil, then brushing the halloumi or halloumi kebabs with a little olive oil. Grill/Broil for around 10 to 15 minutes, turning a few times to cook all sides. If you’re grilling/broiling simple slices of halloumi, just a few minutes on each side will be enough.
Don’t worry if a few pieces fall off the skewer as it cooks. Just let it cook by the side and try to thread it back on after cooking 😉
How to bake it
Yes, it’s possible to cook halloumi in the oven too! This would be a good choice if you already have the oven turned on to cook something else.
You can lay 1/2-inch thick slices in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and perhaps scatter over some black pepper and dried herbs, a few dried chili flakes or smoked paprika. Bake at 200C/390F for around 15 minutes, turning half way through.
Serve with your favourite grilled or toasted bread and a few wedges of lemon or lime as a simple appetizer or side.
How to air fry it
No comprehensive guide on how to cook halloumi would be complete these days without mentioning air frying.
You can indeed cook it in your air fryer! What I like to do is brush it lightly with olive oil and air fry it for around 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Or until it’s golden brown and crispy. Keep an eye on it as different air fryers cook at slightly different speeds. This method of cooking isn’t necessarily faster than any of the other methods, but it’s very hands-off which you might find attractive.
Air frying is also an easier and cleaner way to make halloumi fries. And of course you’ll use far less oil than you would when cooking them in the traditional way on the stove.
Which air fryer is the best? Honestly… I’m still using a cheap supermarket brand air fryer and it’s absolutely fine. If you’d like a few recommendations, however, both of these – this Cosori XL model and this Philips XL model – get good reviews and are quite large. I also happen to own a Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro, which I use almost every single day!
How to serve halloumi
The very simplest (but no less delicious!) way to serve plain pan-fried, grilled, BBQ’d, baked or air fried halloumi is this. Arrange it on a small platter, and serve with 2-minute toasted bread with olive oil and salt, 1-hour focaccia bread or grilled Mediterranean style pita bread. Don’t forget a few lemon or lime wedges for squeezing over and perhaps even a scattering of fresh mint, basil, oregano or thyme leaves. You could even sprinkle over a few capers or sliced sundried tomatoes or drizzle over some balsamic vinegar or glaze.
Grab a glass of crisp white wine or ouzo on a warm evening and enjoy your delicious pan-fried halloumi as the sun goes down. Absolutely delicious!
However… there are many other ways to serve this amazing cheese. I’ll be sharing some of these ideas in the rest of the post, so read on. My absolute favorite is halloumi fries or halloumi bites. These recipes will quite literally change your life. See below for details!
What goes well with halloumi?
As mentioned above, squeeze lemon or lime juice over cooked halloumi and you’ll be in food heaven. But here are a few more things that pair perfectly with it:
Mint: Sprinkle a few fresh mint leaves over it before serving.
Honey: As if I needed to tell you about this one. Drizzle a little over the hot cheese before serving. Delish.
Chili: For a hit of spice to contrast nicely with the milky, mild flavor, sprinkle over a few chili flakes before cooking. Alternatively, serve some sweet chili sauce on the side for dipping.
Fresh Mediterranean herbs: Simple but effective. Just scatter fresh oregano, basil or thyme over your cooked cheese along with a dash of lemon and olive oil.
Balsamic vinegar: Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or glaze for a tasty contrast to the salty cheese.
Pomegranate: Here’s a wild card option. Sprinkle some of these delicious seeds over halloumi before serving. Or how about pomegranate molasses? It’s a perfect paring of salty, juicy, crunchy and sweet.
Watermelon: Believe it or not, halloumi and watermelon is a popular combo. Just toss the cooked cheese with cubes of watermelon in a salad with your favorite simple dressing. You can scatter a few mint leaves in there too.
Mediterranean style vegetables: Vegetables such as courgette/zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, capsicum, sweet potato, beetroot and eggplant go really well. Roast the veggies then stack them up with just-cooked halloumi and drizzle with balsamic glaze for a colourful, healthy and yummy meal.
Bacon and/or chorizo: Perhaps surprisingly, salty meats like bacon and chorizo go pretty well with halloumi too. The punchy flavor of these meats complement the mild and creamy cheese. See below for my very delicious recipe for halloumi kebabs with chorizo and tomatoes!
Pesto: Green or red, with or without nuts, pesto pairs really well too. Thin it out with a little olive oil and drizzle over cooked halloumi. Or make tiny crostini with a slice of crispy cheese and a small spoonful of pesto on the top.
Onion/Fig/Tomato jam, relish or chutney: Probably no explanation needed here. The strong fruity, vinegary flavours work perfectly. Pile them all on a sandwich with some fresh green salad and perhaps some hummus and you have a tasty and easy lunch idea.
How to make halloumi fries
I can’t continue without mentioning these! I’ve been making them for years now. Everyone who tries them loves them. They’re legendary.
I usually make them as a quick casual appetizer when I have guests over. You can cut the cheese into the fry shapes before your guests arrive, then spend a few minutes frying them when you’re ready. Serve on a platter with a dish of sweet chili sauce and Greek yogurt on the side… and watch everyone swoon.
So how do you make them? You can read more about halloumi fries in my dedicated post if you like, but honestly, the recipe is ridiculously easy. All you do is cut a log of halloumi into fry shapes, roll in a little flour, and fry in a cm or two of oil until dark golden and crispy (just a few minutes). I usually flip the fries over half way through cooking with a fork, but sometimes you’ll find you don’t have to.
Alternatively, make halloumi bites. More or less the same idea – but in cute little bite form.
These recipes will quite literally change your life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
More clever ways to use halloumi
When it comes to halloumi, it’s worth thinking outside of the box. There are so many fun ways to use it! In particular it makes a great ‘meaty’ alternative for vegetarians.
- Make fried halloumi bites as an alternative to croutons in a salad or scattered on top of a soup.
- Add some thin slices to a homemade pizza. Sprinkle capers and chopped chilis over after cooking for a luxury, restaurant-quality feel.
- Make these Mediterranean roast vegetables. Use the biggest baking tray you have, so there’s room to add some slices to the pan around 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
- Add cooked halloumi to any curry instead of meat. It’s best stir it through the curry just before serving so it keeps its lovely crispy exterior and squidgy middle. Try adding it to this 20-minute coconut chickpea curry.
- Ever made your own chicken schnitzels? Try grating some halloumi cheese and adding it the crumbs! This would work in this crispy chicken burger recipe too.
- It’s a great addition to a cooked breakfast. Cook a few slices or cubes and serve alongside bacon and eggs. Sometimes I throw some into the oven for 10 minutes with some cherry tomatoes and mushrooms to serve alongside a yummy breakfast.
- Make crostini, flatbreads, veggie sandwiches and toasties with it. I love this Italian toasted veggie sandwich already, but replacing the mozzarella with some cooked halloumi would take it to another level!
- It’s fantastic stirred through any kind of pasta or grain salads. Try it stirred through this Mediterranean penne pasta salad. Or toss it with couscous, bulgur wheat or another grain, roasted vegetables and your favourite salad dressing.
Halloumi cheese FAQs
Whether you’re new to cooking halloumi cheese or not, you might still have some questions. Here are some of the most common questions people have:
In Australia and the UK, it’s available at most major supermarkets. Look for it either in the packaged cheese section, or at the deli counter. In the USA, it’s growing in popularity and has been spotted at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Walmart. Note that it might be called ‘halloumi style’ or even just ‘grillable cheese’. A European style deli might also stock it. Failing that, you can buy it on Amazon!
Many supermarkets now have their own brands. Some of them taste authentic, others not so much. Traditional Cypriot brands can be expensive, but I usually grab a few packets when they’re on special. Luckily packaged halloumi usually has a long expiration date!
If you’re feeling especially brave, why not buy a kit to make your own? 😉
While it’s becoming more and more popular, there may still be some places where it’s difficult to find.
In these cases, there ARE a few alternatives you could enjoy eating in the same ways. Some similar cheeses include Indian paneer, Greek kefalotyri, Greek saganaki, Mexican queso panela or queso blanco or simply ‘grilling cheese’ (sometimes called queso para freir). You’ll find that these look and act rather like halloumi, but may not taste exactly the same or brown as easily.
The wild card non-cheese vegan replacement option? Tofu!
There are a few possible reasons for this. First of all I find certain brands can be a little rubbery – usually the cheaper ones. If you have a choice, it’s worth spending a little more on an authentic Cypriot brand.
Secondly, don’t slice it too thin – half an inch or 1 to 2cm is about right. This way it’ll be crispy on the outside and squidgy and moist in the middle.
It’s also important not to overcook it. Just 2 to 3 minutes on each side on a medium to high heat is all you need. Wait until just after the juices have evaporated, allow the halloumi to start to go golden brown, then flip onto the other side.
Finally, it’s best to eat it immediately after cooking. It tends to lose its crisp and become a little rubbery after it cools.
Halloumi contains good amounts of protein and calcium. It’s quite high in fat, calories and salt, but it’s so flavourful that you don’t need to eat much of it to feel satisfied.
You could say it’s almost ‘meaty’ in texture so it’s a great choice for vegetarians. It is sometimes made with animal rennet, however, so do check the package if you’d rather go for a brand made with plant-based rennet instead.
If you’re sensitive to lactose, you might find halloumi that’s made with sheep’s or goat’s milk easier to digest.
You can! In Cyprus and Greece you will sometimes come across raw halloumi served with watermelon and perhaps a bit of fresh mint. Try this on skewers on a hot summer’s day!
Try some small cubes of the raw cheese in a simple salad with some fresh green leaves and something fruity to balance out the saltiness of the cheese. Try orange segments or chopped strawberries.
Another idea is to grate a little raw halloumi over your pasta! This works particularly well if it’s a lemony pasta dish. Try it grated over this lemony Mediterranean tuna pasta, for example.
Given a choice I would go for cooked 90% of the time, but if you’re curious, give raw halloumi a chance and try one or two of these ideas (then hit the comments section and let me know how you got on!).
Yes. It’s high in protein and fats and low in carbs. You might say it’s the pefect keto food!
Hmm. To be perfectly honest it’s always best eaten immediately after cooking. I have been known to reheat leftover halloumi kebabs in the microwave and they still taste great, but they won’t be as crisp on the outside and soft in the middle as when freshly cooked.
In its unopened package, it will keep in the fridge for a long time – up to a year! But of course check what the expiration date is.
Once opened, you can store any leftover raw halloumi in some salty water for up to about 2 weeks in the fridge.
Alternatively, it freezes well. Just wrap it well in plastic wrap and then put it inside a labelled freezer bag. It will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months. Let it defrost overnight in the fridge before slicing and cooking as you would when fresh.
More halloumi recipes from Scrummy Lane
- Burgers: These crispy halloumi burgers are probably the quickest, easiest veggie burgers you could ever make – ready in just 15 minutes.
- Tacos: Did you know that crispy halloumi makes perfect tacos? You could describe these halloumi tacos with pineapple mango salsa as Greek-Mex. Try them – they’re sooo delicious!
- Kebabs: A new idea for your next BBQ! These halloumi kebabs with chorizo, tomatoes and honey lime dressing are just a little bit different, and ridiculously tasty.
- Salad: You won’t be able to stop eating this crispy halloumi salad with avocado, corn and tomatoes. Perfect with grilled chicken, steak or fish on the side.
- Easy veggie meal: This one pan roasted vegetable couscous with halloumi is a great option for meatless Mondays, or serve it as a tasty side.
- Another salad: This minty halloumi and sundried tomato salad with honey balsamic spinach might be simple, but it sure sounds fancy, and packs a punch in flavour!
Looking for more easy appetizer ideas? Check out these 15 easy Greek appetizers.
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How To Cook Halloumi (+ Recipe Ideas)
Equipment (affiliate links)
Ingredients (UK/Australia? Click below for grams/ml)
- 450 grams halloumi cheese This is the approximate weight of 2 typical commercial 'logs' of halloumi cheese – 225 grams or 8 ounces per log.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil Approximately, for brushing (unless you're cooking your halloumi simply in a non-stick pan, in which case you don't really need any oil)
To serve (optional)
- Choice of: lemon or lime wedges, black pepper, fresh herbs e.g. mint, oregano, thyme, basil, chili flakes, chopped sundried tomatoes, capers, balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze
- fresh bread, toasted bread with olive oil and salt, pitta bread
- Greek yogurt and/or sweet chili sauce (for dipping or serving on the side)
- Crisp white wine or ouzo
- Slice the halloumi into approximately 1-2 cm thick slices. Slice across the width, just like you would a loaf of bread.450 grams halloumi cheese
- Pre-heat a frying pan or griddle pan on a medium-high heat. Unless you're using a non-stick pan, brush the halloumi all over with the olive oil.3 tablespoons olive oil
- Place the slices of halloumi into the pan and leave them to cook for a few minutes. Don't move them until the liquid that oozes out of the cheese has evaporated and the residue has gone golden brown. At this point, check to see if the underside of the cheese is mid to dark golden brown. If it is, flip it over with a fork or tongs and cook on the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, you may need to move some of the pieces on the outer edges of the pan into the middle to finish browning equally.
- When the halloumi is mid to dark golden brown on both sides, arrange on a small platter or medium sized plate with slices of bread, toast or pita bread and lemon or lime segments. Scatter over any fresh herbs and/or other spices/flavourings and serve immediately.Choice of: lemon or lime wedges, black pepper, fresh herbs e.g. mint, oregano, thyme, basil, chili flakes, chopped sundried tomatoes, capers, balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze, fresh bread, toasted bread with olive oil and salt, pitta bread
- Pre-heat the grill or BBQ to a medium-high heat or 200C/390F. If you prefer to make kebabs and are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent burning while cooking.
- If cooking slices, slice the halloumi into roughly 2 to 3cm (or 1/2 to 1 inch) thick slices and brush all over with the olive oil. If cooking kebabs, cut into large chunks and carefully thread the halloumi onto the skewers, then brush carefully with oil. Pinch the sides of the cheese as you thread it on to minimise splitting (Add chunks of vegetables such as zucchini, peppers and mushrooms or even meatballs if you like).450 grams halloumi cheese, 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Place the cheese on the BBQ/grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes without moving. Wait until any liquid has evaporated and the residue has gone golden to dark brown, then flip onto the other side with a fork/tongs and let cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. If cooking kebabs, cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning regularly to brown all sides.
- Serve immediately with bread/toast/pita bread, lemon and lime wedges and any other herbs/spices/flavours.Choice of: lemon or lime wedges, black pepper, fresh herbs e.g. mint, oregano, thyme, basil, chili flakes, chopped sundried tomatoes, capers, balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze, fresh bread, toasted bread with olive oil and salt, pitta bread
To air fry
- Preheat the air fryer to 200C/390F. Slice the halloumi into 1-2cm slices, into long 2-3cm thick fry shapes or 1-2cm cubes or 'bites'.450 grams halloumi cheese
- Brush the halloumi all over with olive oil. Then air fry in the air fryer basket for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until mid to dark golden brown and crispy.3 tablespoons olive oil
- Serve immediately with bread/toast/pita bread, lemon or lime wedges and any other spices/herbs/flavours. You might also like to serve some Greek yogurt and/or sweet chili sauce on the side for dipping.Choice of: lemon or lime wedges, black pepper, fresh herbs e.g. mint, oregano, thyme, basil, chili flakes, chopped sundried tomatoes, capers, balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze, fresh bread, toasted bread with olive oil and salt, pitta bread, Greek yogurt and/or sweet chili sauce (for dipping or serving on the side)
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C/390F. Slice the halloumi into thick (around 1/2 inch) slices.450 grams halloumi cheese
- Lay in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Add pepper, paprika, dried herbs, or chili flakes if you like.3 tablespoons olive oil
- Bake for around 15 minutes, turning half way through, or until golden brown and lightly crisp.
- Serve immediately with optional toasted bread, lemon or lime wedges and fresh herbs.Choice of: lemon or lime wedges, black pepper, fresh herbs e.g. mint, oregano, thyme, basil, chili flakes, chopped sundried tomatoes, capers, balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze, fresh bread, toasted bread with olive oil and salt, pitta bread
IF YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE, LET ME KNOW HOW YOU GET ON BY LEAVING A COMMENT AND RATING BELOW… AND DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP TO RECEIVE ALL MY NEW RECIPES BY EMAIL!
Thank you for this post! Have always enjoyed eating halloumi but wasn’t confident cooking with it. This will now become my go-to guide! I’ll be looking out for some genuine Cypriot cheese next time i go shopping too!
Hi Cat! I’m so happy you found this helpful. It’s definitely worth hunting down a good quality brand, but ultimately the recipes will be great whichever brand you use. 🙂