Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese, native to Cyprus, traditionally made from goat’s or sheep’s milk that thanks to its increasing popularity, can now be found in the majority of well-stocked supermarkets, or bought online.
If you’re following a recipe that calls for halloumi, but you can’t find it anywhere, here are the best substitutes for halloumi cheese and what you need to know to choose the perfect one.
The best substitutes for Halloumi cheese
Halloumi is a white, semi-hard, brined cheese made from goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, or a mixture of the two. Cow’s milk can also sometimes be used. It originates on the island of Cyprus, where it was produced for many centuries.
The process of making halloumi starts with heating the milk and adding rennet or vegetarian rennet in order to coagulate the milk. The curds are then cut, left to firm up and then pressed into molds. The result is then poached in water and then salted.
Halloumi is mostly known as a grilled cheese because it has a high melting point, so it can be fried or grilled while still maintaining its shape. It can be used as an ingredient in salads, eaten in sandwiches, or served with watermelon (this is a traditional dish in Cyprus).
Paneer is a fresh cheese, with qualities and texture similar to halloumi, very popular in Indian cuisine for its taste and versatility. It’s made by curdling milk (usually cow milk or buffalo milk) with an acid element, and it’s ideal for frying because, just like halloumi, it has a high melting point.
Both the fact that it doesn’t melt when heated and the similar mild, milky flavor makes it a perfect halloumi cheese substitute. You can fry it or grill it, and then use it as a substitute in almost any recipe that calls for halloumi.
Feta is a Greek white cheese made, just like halloumi, from sheep’s or goat’s milk, or from a mixture of the two. It’s a brined curd cheese, with no skin and a compact texture, formed into large blocks and then aged, with a salty flavor that can range from mild to sharp.
The texture is crumbly and slightly grainy, and it also takes a while for this cheese to melt. All things considered, feta can be a good halloumi substitute in dishes like salads, if you don’t mind the possible stronger taste and saltiness.
Manouri is a Greek semi-soft cheese, with a similar taste and a similar look to halloumi made from goat or sheep milk.
This cheese has a milder flavor and it’s quite versatile and since it can be used in both sweet and savory recipes, it makes for a good halloumi cheese alternative, especially in salads.
Mozzarella, much like manouri, makes for a perfect halloumi cheese substitute in salads, when you’re looking for a slice of really fresh cheese and a mild flavor.
Mozzarella is an Italian cheese, mostly known as a topping for pizza in its low-moisture variety. Fresh mozzarella is not aged and it’s usually eaten within a few hours after it’s made, it has a delicate flavor of cream and dense consistency. While it doesn’t have the same melting properties as halloumi, it’s still a good choice if you want a fresh, mild cheese.
If you want to use mozzarella as a substitute for halloumi in a salad, you can freely choose any kind of mozzarella: mozzarella di bufala (made from buffalo’s milk, richer and bolder in flavor) and fresh mozzarella (made from pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk, a little bit cheaper and easier to find) both make for excellent substitutes.
Provolone is an Italian cheese that usually comes in two different varieties: provolone dolce (with a milder flavor, closer to halloumi) and provolone piccante (with a stronger taste). The first kind has a similar delicate flavor, so it can work as a substitute for halloumi cheese.
This Italian cheese is known for its melting properties, so if you want to use it keep in mind that it won’t hold its shape when heated. If you’re careful with your cooking, you can still use it as a halloumi substitute in sandwiches or other savory dishes.
6. Queso Panela
Queso panela is a white and fresh Mexican cheese, made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It’s semi-soft, it has a light and salty taste, and it easily absorbs other flavors. This is a cheese similar to halloumi, both in taste and in melting properties.
It holds pretty well its shape when heated, and it tastes fairly similar to halloumi when cooked and fried. It has a higher moisture content, and the fact that it’s slightly wetter than halloumi means it doesn’t brown as well when grilled.
Other than that, queso panela is one of the best substitutes for halloumi cheese.
7. Queso para freir
Queso para freer is a cheese like halloumi that originates in Central America: it’s made from cow’s milk and can withstand high temperatures while still holding its shape without melting.
It has a softer texture than halloumi, but it works perfectly well as an alternative. Queso para freir is similar to queso panela, but with this type of cheese, it should be easier to achieve a brown crust when fried.
Kefalotyri is a hard white cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, or a mixture of the two, just like halloumi. Depending on the mix of milk used, the color can vary between white and yellow.
Kefalotyri is a salty cheese, with a firm texture and a very high melting point that makes it an excellent halloumi cheese substitute when it comes to grilling, but since is a bit harder and tastier than halloumi, be careful when you use it in your recipes.
Tofu is a creamy soy product that has always been an exceptionally important ingredient in Asian cuisines for hundreds of years and has more recently become popular in vegan and vegetarian cooking.
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the curds into white blocks of different softness and texture. There are different varieties of tofu, depending on the firmness, but they all have a mild taste and a spongy texture that absorbs the other flavors of the dish. It’s low in calories and high in protein, iron, and calcium.
Tofu can be a good substitute for halloumi if you’re looking for a plant-based option, or if you are trying to eat fewer dairy products. It’s a very versatile option, and it can be cooked and fried in the same way as halloumi.
10. Queso Blanco
Queso Blanco (which means literally white cheese in Spanish) can refer to different types of cheese with the common trait being their white color. They usually all have a mild, slightly salty flavor because they’re not aged, and they’re very versatile in cooking.
They usually also have similar melting proprieties as halloumi, so this means they’re a good option if you’re looking for a halloumi substitute that doesn’t melt when heated.
Anari is another fresh cheese produced in Cyprus, actually made as a by-product of the production process of other cheeses like halloumi or kefalotyri.
Anari is a bit less popular than other halloumi cheese substitutes, but if you can find it, it can work really well as an alternative to halloumi in fresh dishes like salads.
Graviera is another really popular Greek cheese that is hard, light in color, and with a flavor that ranges from sweet to nutty. It’s usually made from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk, but in some parts of Greece cow’s milk can also be used.
Young graviera tastes sweet and buttery, it’s very versatile and can be used in a variety of different recipes, but in Greece, it’s famously eaten fried or in salads.
Fried graviera, along with feta, kefalotyri, and halloumi, is a key ingredient of a typical Greek dish called saganàki: an appetizer made of fried cheese and served with pepper, lemon, and bread.
How to choose a Halloumi cheese substitute
If you’re looking for a cheese that has the same melting proprieties (a high melting point and the ability to holds its shape when heated) as halloumi, your best choices are queso para freir, queso panela, paneer, kefalotyri, and Queso Blanco.
If you’re looking for a fresh cheese that can work as a substitute for halloumi in salads, you should probably stick to mozzarella, feta, manouri, anari, and graviera.
If you want a plant-based option, tofu is your best bet. All the alternatives above work well as substitutes for halloumi, so choose the best option based on your culinary needs but also on your personal taste.