This grilled halloumi cheese salad comes together in just minutes and is a wonderful option for a light dinner during the summer months.
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- Read on for step-by-step pictures and relevant tips (1 min)
This is a simple Cypriot salad which highlights the unique texture and flavor of halloumi cheese – one of the country’s most celebrated locally produced foods. It is a staple in the homes of Cypriot families all over the island.
Try it and you will see why – the fabulous soft chewiness and briny notes of the halloumi against the sweetness of the watermelon, balanced by the savory crispness of the onion, coolness of the mint and the freshness of the simple flavorings. It is nearly impossible to grow tired of grilled halloumi salad, even if you make it every week.
What is Halloumi Cheese?
Halloumi is a semi-solid cheese traditionally made with sheep’s and/or goat’s milk on the island of Cyprus (today cow’s milk is used too). Greek Cypriots call it halloumi (Χαλλούμι) while the Turkish speaking population refers to it as hellim. Only cheese produced in Cyprus can be called halloumi and it also has a protected designation of origin by the European Commision.
Halloumi is made with rennet and is conserved in brine until consumed. It tastes milder than feta and has a somewhat rubbery consistency which in combination with its high melting temperature makes it perfect for cooking.
You can grill, pan-fry and bake halloumi with spectacular results – it will not lose its shape or turn into a gooey mess in the process.
How is Halloumi Cheese Made
The reason halloumi is resistant to melting has to do with its rigid protein structure. When the cheese is made the fresh curd is heated (dipped in hot whey) before it is shaped, salted and placed in brine. This thermal intervention kills the rennet bacteria and ensures a strong protein network which accounts for the high melting point.
You can watch how halloumi is made by a small Cypriot dairy producer.
Where to Buy Halloumi in the US
Halloumi is a registered trademark name in the US (owned by the government of Cyprus) and therefore you can only purchase imported cheese. Grocery store chains such as Trader Joe’s and King Soopers carry it, as well as many specialty cheese stores and online vendors.
How to Grill Halloumi Cheese
You can grill hallouimi in several different ways. While you can certainly place it straight on top of a clean, well greased grill surface – we have dropped quite a few pieces in between the grate ribs and caution against this. To ensure you do not lose any cheese pieces you can:
- place a grill mat or non-stick mesh liner over the grate and grill on top
- use a grilling basket or pan
- pan grill it in a cast iron grilling pan (over a stove burner)
- use a griddle
- skewer it and grill (like this Brazillian grilling cheese)
NOTE: The grill should not be too hot. Medium to medium-high heat is perfect – it allows for the halloumi to heat through a bit more gradually while it is strong enough to create a nice sear and not scorch the surface. Overall, grilling halloumi cheese is fast work and consuming it after it has been grilled should happen relatively fast too – it tastes best while still warm.
- Slice the halloumi in about half inch thick rectangles, squares or triangles (not too large) and brush them with a bit of neutral oil (regular olive oil or vegetable oil)
- Grill for about a minute per side, until nicely browned and charred and heated through.
- Assemble the salad – workflow wise it is best to have most of this done before you grill the cheese.
- Cut chilled watermelon into small wedges, thinly slice red onion and chop some fresh mint. Arrange on a salad platter then place grilled halloumi slices on top and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.
If you can find Commandaria, the sweet dessert wine of Cyprus – the pairing with this salad is delightful. Rosé wines are a great choice as well, or lighter, fruity whites such as pinot grigio. A crisp sauvignon blanc nicely accentuates the brinniness of the halloumi.
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- 16 oz halloumi cheese
- 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 lbs seedless watermelon*, chilled
- 1/4 red onion
- 4-5 fresh mint sprigs
- 1/2 lemon, juice of
- coarse salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat grill** to medium-high.
- Cut halloumi into about 1 inch thick pieces (rectangular or triangles) and lightly brush with the oil.
- Cut the watermelon into wedges, thinly slice the red onion and chop the the mint, leaving a couple of leaves whole for garnish.
- Lightly brush grilling surface and grill halloumi for about 1 minute per side (could be less, you are looking for a nicely bronwed and slightly charred surface and heated through).
- Assemble the salad - watermelon at the bottom, onion and mint scattered over it, and grilled halloumi on top. Season with salt and pepper (minimally) and add a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Enjoy immediately.
*ripe, weight before rind removed
**you can use grilling aids such as mesh mats or grilling basket, you can also grill in a grilling skillet over stove top burner
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 467Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 808mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 2gSugar: 19gProtein: 27g