Halloumi is an unripened, semi-hard, brined cheese that is made using sheep's milk. It originated from the island of Cyprus and is a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. Known for its high melting point, this cheese can be pan-fried until its exterior is crispy with a soft chewy inside. Halloumi is delicious on skewers or added to sandwiches and salads.
In the United States finding a pack of halloumi in the supermarket can be a challenge. Stores that do stock the product tend to place a high price tag on it. If you are looking for a halloumi substitute then keep reading, we have compiled a list of our favorite alternatives that share similar properties such as a high melting point and a mild, slightly salty flavor.
What can I use as a halloumi substitute?
The best options for replacing halloumi are Queso Para Frier, Queso Panela, Kefalotyri, Saganaki, Queso Blanco, and Paneer. They all have excellent high-melt properties and won't taste out of place in most dishes. At a pinch, other alternatives include feta, tofu, and provolone. These options, while having noticeably different flavor or texture, are still good for cooking and don't have an overpowering flavor profile.
1. Queso Para Freir
Queso Para Freir is often referred to as frying or grilling cheese and is delicious served with meat, vegetables, or salads. It is usually found at grocery stores in the Central American cheese section. Queso Para Freir develops a lovely golden colored skin once cooked and won't melt into a soggy mess. A cheese aficionado will notice that it has a much softer texture than halloumi but most won't even notice that you've done a switch.
2. Queso Panela
Queso panela is a semi-soft cheese made from cow's milk with a pleasant light, slightly salty flavor. It is delicious fried, baked, added to sandwiches, or crumbled into dishes like quesadillas or tacos. Queso panela has a higher moisture content than halloumi so it doesn't tend to brown quite so well when grilled. But it will hold its shape nicely when subjected to heat.
Kefalotyri is a salty, tangy flavored cheese with a firm, flaky texture that is made from sheep or goat’s milk. It is a Greek-Cypriot cheese with a very high melting point, excellent for grilling. Kefalotyri is harder in texture and is also saltier than halloumi and once cooked it is creamier. This cheese may overpower some ingredients, so it is often best served as an appetizer like traditional saganaki.
Saganaki is a lovely Greek cheese that is commonly fried until bubbling then served with bread and a splash of lemon juice. It has a similar flavor profile to halloumi as this product is basically Greece's version of the same cheese. There are subtle differences though. Saganaki won't brown as much and doesn't have the same "squeak" when you chew it.
5. Queso Blanco
Queso Blanco is a soft, slightly salty, non-aged cheese that is versatile in cooking. It can be sprinkled onto food like tacos and salads or eaten on its own as a snack. Queso Blanco has cooking characteristics that are similar to halloumi and can be grilled or fried without melting.
Paneer is a fresh, white cheese that is made by curdling milk with an acid like lemon juice. It is very popular in Indian cuisine, providing creamy balance to spicy curries. Paneer cheese looks and acts a lot like halloumi in recipes and is ideal for pan-frying. Its flavor profile is mild, making it a versatile ingredient in cooking.
To learn more about paneer check out this article.
Tofu is your best option if you're looking for a plant-based alternative to halloumi. It is less salty and is excellent for taking on board the flavors of other ingredients. For vegans or those wanting to cut dairy out of their diet, tofu is a versatile option that works in many savory recipes.
If you're looking for a mild cheese that will melt when heated then add provolone to the shortlist. When added to the grill briefly, it will sear nicely. The cheese won't hold its structure when pan-fried for longer periods - instead, it will melt into a gooey pile. This is an excellent option for adding to grilled cheese sandwiches or if you like topping savory dishes with melted cheese.
Although feta can vary depending on the brand and type, it will usually have a dominant salty flavor and a crumbly texture. Its saltiness is stronger than halloumi and it doesn't have the same squeaky texture that is perfect for frying. But if you enjoy a stronger tasting cheese then feta is a good backup option if you're in a pinch.
Quick tip: If you're having trouble finding halloumi in-store then search online or visit specialty grocers where there are large Greek or Arabic communities. Another option is Whole Foods Markets who typically carry this cheese variety.
How do I replace mizithra in cooking?
If mildly salty frying cheeses are your preference then halloumi is a good choice. But finding it can be a challenge and its price can be high. If you are looking to replace halloumi then try Queso Para Freir, Queso Panela, Kefalotyri, Saganaki, Queso Blanco, or Paneer. Feta and provolone are useful if you want something a little different. Tofu is the best option if you are after a dairy-free cheese.
What is your favorite cheese for grilling? Please let us know in the comments below.