Brow Beat

Don’t Grill Mushrooms for Your Vegetarian Friends. Grill Halloumi Instead.

Halloumi with tomatoes.

Stuart Webster

Vegetarians dread few things more than summer cookouts. The estival ritual is, for us meatless many, a culinary calamity. While friends chow down on burgers and hot dogs, we are given—if we’re lucky—mushroom caps and zucchini slices, usually tepid, always unevenly cooked. Vegetables get soggy and limp when grilled, not smoky and succulent. But in the name of inclusion, naive omnivores tend to throw them on the grill next to the meat and hope for the best. The result is a season of disappointment for vegetarians, an endless parade of gross, cold vegetables pathetically placed on buns in a sick charade of meat-eating.

Omnivores, please take note: There is a solution. Its name is halloumi.

If you haven’t heard of halloumi—and most Americans haven’t—here are the basics. The semi-hard cheese is usually made with sheep or goat’s milk. It originated in Cyprus and is extremely popular in Greece, Turkey, Israel, and other Mediterranean countries. It has a tangy, salty flavor and a layered, smooth texture. Sometimes it squeaks a little between your teeth when you chew it. And yes, you can get it at Trader Joe’s. 

But here’s the most important detail about halloumi: Unlike other cheeses, it resists melting. Rather, it holds its shape when heated. This means you can grill halloumi—in fact, you should grill it. Tossing a thick slice of halloumi on a grill lends it that rich, smoky flavor that grill bros crave. Leave it over the flames until the bottom is browned—usually three to five minutes, depending on how hot the grill is—then flip it and repeat. Afterward, plunk it on a plate, drizzle some honey on top, and add a dash of cracked pepper. No need for ketchup, mustard, or any of the other pungent condiments omnivores employ to conceal animal flesh’s fundamentally dull, monotonous flavor. Halloumi is a chunk of cheese. And it is divine.

If you want to get creative, you can chop up grilled halloumi and toss it into a salad. The Internet also says you can make halloumi burgers, but if I were you, I wouldn’t. One of the joys of the cheese is that it doesn’t try to emulate a meat staple—unlike the dreaded, invariably soggy portobello burger. Halloumi is its own dish, a savory, low-maintenance miracle practically designed for summer cookouts. Make a vegetarian’s summer. Grill him some halloumi.