Few foods are more moreish than halloumi. As a nation, we can’t get enough of this salty, firm, and versatile ingredient, which can be enjoyed sliced or cubed, grilled, barbecued, fried or even eaten raw. But can this cheese fit into a balanced diet, and which nutrients does it contain? Read our expert guide to find out.
What is halloumi?
Halloumi is a cheese that originates from Cyprus. It’s a semi-hard, unripened, brined cheese that can be made from cow, sheep or goat’s cheese, and has quite a salty flavour. Halloumi can be eaten raw but is truly delicious cooked – it has a high melting point, making it excellent for grilling or frying.
To make halloumi, milk is heated and rennet or vegetarian rennet is added. Once cooled, the curds and whey naturally separate. The curds are then left to firm up, after which they are poached in the original whey with a little salt, and then kept in brine in order to preserve the cheese for longer.
Nutritional profile of halloumi
Being a cheese, and a somewhat salty one at that, halloumi is naturally high in both fat and salt. Most of the fat in halloumi is saturated fat, and one portion can provide around 2.4g of salt which is approximately 40% of the adult recommended daily allowance. However, halloumi is also high in protein, with the same serving providing 19g per portion, making it a good vegetarian option (in moderation).
Nutritionally, halloumi is an excellent source of calcium, providing 70% of the adult recommended daily allowance in one portion. Halloumi also contains zinc, selenium, magnesium, vitamin A and many of the B vitamins.
What is a healthy portion size of halloumi?
A healthy portion size of halloumi is about 80g, roughly a palm-sized piece, but it isn’t advisable to eat it every day due to its high saturated fat and salt content.
The NHS recommends that men should consume no more than 30g of saturated fat a day, and women 20g – so while halloumi can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, it’s best not to have it more than once a week. This will also help you to keep your salt intake down.
Is halloumi vegetarian?
Halloumi is often vegetarian, but it is worth checking the packet, because it can be made with animal-derived rennet. It is not vegan as it is a dairy product.
How to buy the healthiest halloumi
Nutritionally, there isn’t a great deal of difference between different types of halloumi. If you are sensitive to lactose or cow’s milk, you may find sheep or goat’s halloumi is easier to digest – speak to your GP or dietitian if you’re concerned about food allergies or intolerances.
Some supermarkets offer a ‘light halloumi’ which has a reduced fat content, but the saturated fat and salt levels are still significant. Some brands replace the fat content with added sugar, so it’s worth checking the nutrition on the packet in order to make an informed decision.
Healthy halloumi recipes
Spiced halloumi & pineapple burger with zingy slaw
Cumin-spiced halloumi with corn & tomato slaw
Beetroot & halloumi salad with pomegranate & dill
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This article was published on 16th August 2018.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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