Halloumi or haloumi (Greek χαλούμι, Turkish hellim, Arabic حلوم ḥallūm) is a traditional Cypriot cheese that is also popular in the rest of the Middle East and Greece, and is now made the world over. It is made from a mixture of goat's and sheep milk, although some halloumi can be bought that also contains cow's milk. It has a high melting point, and so can easily be fried or grilled. Halloumi is set with rennet, and is unusual in that no acid or acid-producing bacterium is used in its preparation.
Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and was initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period, subsequently gaining popularity throughout the rest of the Middle East region. Industrial halloumi contains more cow's milk than goat and sheep milk. This reduces the cost but changes the taste and the grilling properties.
The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella, and has a salty flavour. It is stored in its natural juices with salt-water, and can keep for up to a year if frozen below −18 °C (0 °F) and defrosted to +4 °C (39 °F) for sale at supermarkets. It is often garnished with mint to add to the taste. Traditionally, the mint leaves were used as a preservative, the use serendipitously discovered when the fresh Halloumi was kept wrapped for freshness and flavour from the mint leaves. Hence, if you look closely, many packaged Halloumi will have bits of mint leaf on the surface of the cheese.
It is used in cooking, as it can be fried until brown without melting due to its higher-than-normal melting point, making it a good cheese for frying or grilling (such as in saganaki), as an ingredient in salads, or fried and served with vegetables. Cypriots like eating halloumi with watermelon in the warm months, and as halloumi and lountza - a combination of halloumi cheese and either a slice of smoked pork, or a soft lamb sausage.
The resistance to melting comes from the fresh curd being heated before being shaped and placed in brine. Traditional halloumi is a semicircular shape, about the size of a large wallet, weighing 220-270 g. The fat content is approximately 25% wet weight, 47% dry weight with about 17% protein. Its firm texture when cooked causes it to squeak on the teeth when being consumed.
Traditional artisan halloumi is made from unpasteurised sheep and goats milk. . Many people also like halloumi that has been aged; it is much drier, much stronger and much saltier. It is easy to find this traditional product in Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot shops. It is kept in its own brine. This cheese is very different from the milder halloumi that Western chefs use as an ingredient.
Halloumi was known in Cyprus before the invasion of Ottoman Turks in 1571. For example doge Leonardo Dona, who lived in Cyprus, recorded the production of halloumi (calumi) in a 1556 AD manuscript.
Although it is made worldwide and is of rather disputed origin due to the mixed cultures in the Levant and East Mediterranean, halloumi is currently registered as a protected Cypriot product within the US (since the 1990s) but not the EU. The delay in registering the name halloumi with the EU has been largely due to a conflict between dairy producers and sheep and goat farmers as to whether registered halloumi will contain cow’s milk or not and if so, at what ratios with sheep and goat’s milk. If it is registered as a PDO (Protected designation of origin) it will enjoy the same safeguard as 600 or so other agricultural products such as feta and parmesan cheese. Halloumi is also registered in Canada as "Hallomi" without the "U" due to a dispute with a dairy producer in Canada.
Egyptian hâlûm is eaten fresh or brined and spiced, which is called mishsh. Mishsh is sometimes infested with the larva of flies for flavor (cf. casu marzu), which are edible, though not generally eaten.
The word halloumi comes from ancient Egyptian via the Coptic ialom.