Although I consider myself a foodie, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I first tried halloumi cheese on a visit to the United Kingdom. And there, in a crowded corner of the Borough Market in London, my life was irrevocably changed.

What is this crispy, grilled deliciousness? I thought, and why don’t we eat it stateside?

If you’re new to this wonderfully unique cheese, this article will get you caught up to speed on what it is, and how to cook, store, and substitute it. We’ve also got seven fab recipes to try.

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According to a 2019 study, halloumi is a semi-hard, white cheese from Cyprus made of a blend of sheep and goats’ milk (sometimes with cows’ milk thrown in too).

Like feta, halloumi is usually brined in a salty solution, giving it an unmistakably tangy taste. Its firm structure lends itself to cooking in large pieces for stand-alone eating, and its high melting point means it can hold up to grilling or frying without losing its shape.

There’s no denying halloumi is a highly saturated fat food at 6 grams per ounce, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it in moderation. Plus, with 7 grams of protein, a single ounce is a good source of high quality animal protein.

As for how halloumi compares with other, more familiar cheeses? It’s lower calorie than cheddar, higher protein than feta, and one of the highest calcium cheeses overall.

Slap a slab of cheddar or mozzarella on a grill or in a frying pan, and you’ll end up with a melted — albeit probably delicious — mess. But solo cooking is where halloumi shines.

In fact, halloumi needs such high heat to melt. So, don’t plan on grating it atop soups or laying it thin-sliced on a burger as a melty garnish.

Instead, like David S. Pumpkins of “Saturday Night Live” fame, it’s its owwwwwwn thing. Halloumi serves as a craveable main ingredient in kabobs, salads, curries, and even sandwiches.

Frying and grilling are generally regarded as the best cooking methods for this thick Med cheese.

How to pan-fry halloumi

Need a quick, impressive appetizer? Pan-fry some halloumi!

  • Slice the halloumi into half-inch thick chunks.
  • Heat a nonstick pan (the nonstick part is critical).
  • Add a splash of a heart-healthy oil with a high smoke point, such as avocado, grapeseed, or canola oil. Alternatively, some chefs prefer to let halloumi’s natural fat content serve as oil.
  • Once the oil is shimmering, add the halloumi to the pan and cook on each side until a lattice of crispy, brown webbing appears on its surface. It’s about 2 minutes per side.

How to grill halloumi

Grilling it is even simpler!

  • Slice the halloumi into half-inch thick chunks.
  • Fire up the barbecue to medium-high heat (about 400°F).
  • Cook sliced halloumi for 2 to 3 minutes per side. (Grill marks make an even more enjoyable finished product.)

1. Grilled halloumi

New to halloumi? Start here. Once you’ve nailed this basic grilling technique from Kitchen Treaty, you’re free to create halloumi kabobs, salads, sandwiches, and more.

Get the recipe here!

2. Halloumi hummus bowls

Halloumi gets on the grain bowl bandwagon in this easy, one-dish dinner from How Sweet Eats. Colorful veggies and a hummus of your choice pack this meal with nutrients.

Get the recipe here!

3. Spicy halloumi curry with potato

Traditional vegetarian curries often use paneer, a firm Indian cheese, but halloumi works just as well for a satisfying protein. A spicy halloumi-potato curry from The Cook Report is just what a chilly winter night ordered.

Get the recipe here!

4. Smoky tomato and halloumi bake

We already knew tomatoes and cheese were a match made in heaven (because #pizza). But this easy casserole from Happy Veggie Kitchen proves there are even more ways to enjoy this classic combo. Canned tomatoes and cannellini beans make this halloumi bake a snap for a weeknight dinner.

Get the recipe here!

5. Halloumi breakfast sandwich

The fast food drive-thru’s got nothing on this halloumi breakfast sandwich from Naturally Ella. Pan-fry a batch of halloumi slices on the weekend to enjoy a cheesy, veggie-loaded breakfast all week long.

Get the recipe here!

6. Herby lemon risotto with halloumi

We’re gonna go ahead and call this one from Kitchen Sanctuary a “sal-otto”: salad and risotto in one. A bed of leafy greens underlies creamy risotto and golden-brown halloumi, while a zesty lemon-herb blend amps up the flavor even further.

Get the recipe here!

7. Grilled whole halloumi with figs, thyme, and honey

Cheese for dessert? Yassss. In this sweet treat from Abel & Cole, fresh, juicy figs and a swirl of honey join grilled halloumi for the perfect Mediterranean ending to a meal.

Get the recipe here!

Depending on your area, you might only be able to find halloumi at specialty food stores. FoodNavigator-USA reported, according to research firm Fact.MR, that as of 2018, the U.S. accounted for less than 10 percent of worldwide halloumi demand.

In larger metro areas, though, it’s starting to make its debut at mainstream grocery stores.

Not finding halloumi at your local chain? Try asking the friendly employee behind your deli counter to order it. They’re often happy to help customers get what they’re looking for (especially if you ask extra-nice).

Because of halloumi’s unique texture and consistency, it can be hard to substitute. You might be able to get away with using paneer (traditional Indian cheese) or a firm feta. Some folks also suggest swapping for tofu, but this will certainly change your dish.

Unopened, halloumi will last for up to a year in the fridge. Once opened, it will keep for around 2 weeks in the fridge. Store it in salt water in an air-tight container, or wrapped in wax or parchment paper, or cheese cloth.