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How to Make Halloumi Cheese

March 2, 2020

WARNING: This is a recipe for a serious foodie. ;)

But if crispy, salty, toasty halloumi cheese sounds good to you, keep on reading.

If you’re wondering how to make halloumi cheese at home, we’ve got you covered. All it takes is just a few steps and a little bit of patience and you, too, can be a home cheese maker.

But first, a little background.

Halloumi cheese is a tasty white cheese that comes from Cyprus. This firm, salty cheese is traditionally seen in both Cypriot and Middle Eastern dishes. It's made from sheep or goat’s milk traditionally, but there’s no problem making it with grass-fed cow’s milk either.

Stored in its salted brine, this cheese has a high melting point, allowing it to be grilled or fried as you see fit. Let’s learn how to make this cheese homemade so you can please your whole crew with this tasty snack!

What to Know about Halloumi Cheese

Before you learn how to make halloumi cheese, there’s a few things you’ll want to know about this recipe you’ll be making.

This recipe will yield about a pound of cheese, but feel free to double or triple it if you want to make a big batch to store or give away to friends.

This recipe is for home cooks of all levels, from beginners all the way to experts. There’s limited skill required, just following directions. There’s also no aging required in this cheese process, so you can enjoy it much quicker. This recipe proves that making cheese can be fun!

Ingredients You Need to Make the Perfect Halloumi Cheese

For the cheese making process of homemade halloumi cheese, you’ll want to prepare your grocery list ahead of time so you can grab all the necessary ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 gallon of milk (ideally not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1/4 tsp Single Strength Liquid rennet (if you’re using raw milk, 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 pack of C21 Buttermilk Culture
  • 1/2 oz of salt
  • 1 ½ tsp lemon juice
  • dried mint (optional)

How to Make Halloumi Cheese From Scratch: Step by Step

Step 1: Heating the Milk

Start out by heating up your milk to about 88-90°F, heating gradually and be sure to continue stirring it as it heats up.

Once you get your milk heated to your ideal temperature, you can go ahead and add the culture (optional). The cultures are destroyed when heated to a higher temperature, but that’s okay. They will provide the important enzymes needed to ripen if you choose to preserve your cheese.

Stir to make sure it all incorporates well.

Step 2: Coagulating the Milk with Rennet

Next up, you’ll want to add ¼ teaspoon of liquid rennet diluted into about a quarter cup of water. It usually takes 30-40 minutes to reach total coagulation, but you’ll notice it start to thicken around 15 to 20 minutes.

You’ll notice that more rennet is used than normal. That’s because there’s little time to ripen or develop acid.

A hard curd is important for the rest of the process to come. Use a knife to begin breaking and then lifting to get the curd to split naturally. You’re looking for a smooth split ideally – you don’t want any small pieces in there.

You don’t want the whey to look too clear, but you also don’t want it too cloudy. Somewhere right in the middle is perfect.

Step 3: Cut Your Cheese Curds

Now your curd is good to be cut! Aim to cut squares of about 1 square inch vertically. Leave it to rest for a few minutes so it can heal. Use the back of a ladle or a spoon to then cut horizontally to make a grid of cubes.

Step 4: Cook the Curds and Remove from Whey

Stir your curds gently and slowly increase the heat on the stove to 100°F over a period of about 20-30 minutes. If you want a drier cheese, use a higher temperature here. Once this temperature is reached, let the curds settle for around 5 minutes beneath the whey.

Then, start pulling out the curds from the whey with a slotted spoon or ladle. Then, place them in a colander to further drain them of the whey.

Once the whey is fully separated, slowly heat it to about 185°F. Watch it carefully to ensure it doesn’t boil.

Step 5: Form the Halloumi Cheese Curds

Now you can go ahead and transfer your dried curds into their cheese cloth and forms for draining. Use your hand to apply light pressure to encourage the consolidation of curd. If you’re making more than one form, feel free to reverse and stack them on top of each other.

Try to turn them every 15 minutes or so in order to create cheese that is well consolidated.

Step 6: Make Ricotta with Your Leftovers (Bonus)

What to do with all that whey? You can make ricotta easily.

Stir gently while you heat the whey. Once it reaches 150°F, add in 1 ½ teaspoon of lemon juice into the whey. This will help to increase your ricotta yield.

Once your whey reaches 165°, you can add a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of milk into the whey. This will boost the richness of the ricotta that you skim off.

As it reaches 185°F, stop stirring the whey and let the ricotta rise to the top. This may take about 10 minutes, but cook time will vary. Then, you can skim off the ricotta and put it in a small cheese mold while it drains.

Now, once you’re done with your halloumi, you’ll also have a nice batch of ricotta waiting for you.

Step 7: Heat it in Whey

Now you’ll heat your halloumi into the whey. At this point, your cheese should now be formed into firm rounds.

Give your halloumi cheese the character its known for by heating it for about 30-40 minutes in the whey at around 190-195°F until all of the halloumi is cooked. Use a ladle or a small basket while cooking to keep the cheese from resting on the bottom, otherwise it may stick. As the cheese cooks, it won’t sink to the bottom so much.

When all of the cheese is floating, it’s good to be removed and cooled. You can cool it by placing the cheese in a bath of cold water and then laying it on your draining mat to continue cooling.

Step 8: Finishing Touches (and Salt)

It’s now time to add the finishing touches and salt to your cheese before eating! While the cheese is still a little bit warm, flatten it with a bit of hand pressure in order to form a wider disc of cheese. Then, finish it by sprinkling on:

  • Mint - Use enough dried mint leaves to completely cover the surface of the cheese. If you can’t find dried mint, there’s no harm in using fresh mint as long as you’re consuming it fresh.
  • Salt - Use about ½ an ounce of cheese salt on top of one side of the cheese. This will be about 3% salt. If you want to add preservation, increase it to 5%.
  • Lemon juice - Squeeze a bit onto the cheese for a zesty bite.
  • Olive oil - Olive oil is a great addition to add just before eating to counteract the saltiness.

Then, you can fold the cheese into a crescent shape and press on it a bit to consolidate as it cools.

When finished, you should have about a pound of halloumi cheese and about a half pound of ricotta. If you used more than one gallon of milk, you can expect double or triple the yield as needed.

How to Store Your Halloumi Cheese

You can grill and eat your halloumi fresh after making it or you can age it for longer! All you need to do is wait the initial 3-5 days for it to set.

If you’re ready to grill the cheese now, then you can set out a griddle or a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with a little bit of oil. You can even cook it straight on the grill. Place the cheese onto the pan and let it caramelize and start to crisp up. You’ll notice it won’t melt even under high heat – that’s the beauty of halloumi!

You can also use it to stuff other foods – grilled vegetables, peppers, etc. Feel free to use it in kabobs, in wraps, or on top of salads for more salty cheesy fun.

You can also store the cheese for longer. Store it in the fridge as it is, or store it in a tightly covered jar with a brine of about 10 percent. The cheese used after brining will be saltier but it’s great to use in place of a salty cheese, like feta.

Conclusion

If homemade cheese is what you’re after, you can have it just a short time by following the directions above. There are just a few ingredients required, so there’s nothing stopping you from being your own cheese maker. Enjoy!

Bruce & Alyssa Hitzfield

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