The Curious Case of Splitting Halloumi

  • The process of halloumi cheese splitting down the middle is rooted in its unique preparation, where the milk proteins harden, lacking stretch, leading to the characteristic split seen in the cheese
  • After draining the whey, halloumi is seasoned with salt and dried mint, folded, and then brined, which contributes to its split appearance
  • This splitting phenomenon is a natural result of the cheese’s traditional Cypriot recipe
  • Understanding why halloumi splits provides insight into the intricate balance of chemistry and tradition in cheesemaking
  • The splitting of halloumi is not just a curious detail but a signature feature that reflects its artisanal heritage

What Causes Halloumi to Split?

You can’t have failed to notice this when you open a packet of halloumi cheese.

It looks as though it’s split straight through the middle.

And as you start to slice it, the split becomes even more obvious.

The individual slices might come apart into two separate pieces.

So, what causes this?

Surprisingly, the halloumi hasn’t split at all.

It is what happens during the cheesemaking process that makes it appear this way.

After the halloumi has been drained from the whey, it is stretched and folded over itself.

This gives the illusion of a split in the middle.

Before folding, it may be sprinkled with a little extra salt or some dried herbs such as mint or oregano.

The halloumi is then folded and placed in a brine solution, which both ages it and preserves it.

Originally, halloumi was made in a circular shape and then folded to create a semi-circle, typically weighing between seven and 10 ounces.

But now, we see the more familiar block shape adopted by commercial manufacturers.

So, it has nothing to do with the way the halloumi is packaged or stored.

How to Stop Halloumi Splitting?

So, having established that the halloumi is deliberately folded, is there a way to stop it from splitting?

Well, no, is, unfortunately, the short answer!

It has been suggested that if you slice the block of halloumi from its narrowest side, this may help.

But realistically, the method of folding means that the split runs through it anyway.

Make sure you are using a very sharp knife that slices cleanly through the cheese.

Of course, you could purposely cut the halloumi along the split and simply have thinner slices! 

If you plan on putting the halloumi on skewers, use round ones, not ones with a flat edge.

That will help to stop the cheese from breaking apart.

Or grill the halloumi separately and just use the skewers for the vegetables.  

Halloumi Fries

My Final Thoughts

Halloumi has the appearance of a split down the middle of the block.

However, the halloumi has not split, it has been folded during the cheesemaking process.

When the cheese has been drained from the whey, it is folded and then stored in brine.

It is difficult to stop the halloumi from splitting.

You can try using a sharp knife and slicing it from the narrowest side of the block.  

At the end of the day, does it matter whether the halloumi splits or not?

It still tastes delicious!

Having resolved the problem of split cheese, have you ever wondered if you can eat cooked halloumi when it’s cold?

How do you think the unique splitting characteristic of halloumi cheese enhances or impacts your culinary experience and the way you incorporate it into different dishes?

Let us know in the comments below!


Why does halloumi cheese split when cooked?

  • Halloumi cheese splits when cooked due to its unique structure. The milk proteins in halloumi become rigid during its preparation, which means the cheese doesn’t melt like others but rather retains its shape, leading to a split when exposed to heat.
  • The splitting is also influenced by the cheese’s low moisture content and the high cooking temperature. As halloumi heats up, the outside cooks faster than the inside, creating tension that can cause the cheese to split.

2. Can you prevent halloumi from splitting?

  • One method to reduce the chance of halloumi splitting is to slice the cheese more thickly. Thicker slices are less likely to split compared to thinner ones because they handle the heat better.
  • Another approach is to cook halloumi at a lower temperature. Gentle cooking can minimize the rapid expansion and contraction that causes splitting, allowing the cheese to warm through more evenly.

3. Is it safe to eat split halloumi?

  • Yes, it’s perfectly safe to eat halloumi that has split during cooking. The split is a physical change that doesn’t affect the cheese’s safety or edibility.
  • Many people find that split halloumi has a desirable texture and enhanced flavor, as the split surfaces can become crispier and more caramelized when cooked.

4. How does halloumi’s preparation contribute to its splitting?

  • The preparation process, which includes salting and folding the cheese before brining, contributes to its unique texture and firmness, making it prone to splitting. The salt helps to draw out moisture, further firming up the cheese.
  • Additionally, the folding process introduces air pockets and weak points within the cheese block. These areas are more susceptible to splitting when the cheese is heated and the proteins contract.

5. What makes halloumi unique compared to other cheeses?

  • Halloumi’s uniqueness lies in its ability to retain its shape and texture when cooked, unlike most cheeses that melt. This is due to its high melting point, which results from the specific combination of milk proteins and its preparation process.
  • Another unique feature is its salty, tangy flavor profile, enriched with hints of mint. This distinct taste, along with its cooking-friendly properties, makes halloumi a favorite in grilling and frying dishes, offering a versatility that’s rare among cheeses.

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