Pan-fried halloumi and Israeli cous cous is the perfect Mediterranean diet summer meal, full of freshness and all the bright and beautiful flavors.

I’ve been playing around with the Mediterranean diet lately, trying to make more and more of our meals focused on grains and vegetables. For those of you who don’t know, the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best in the world, simply because it’s not really a diet in the sense of a weight loss plan, but a diet as in what people in and around the Mediterranean traditionally eat.

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

Essentially, you want to eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil. You can also eat a bit of chicken, eggs, cheese and yogurt. Red meat is a special occasion kind of thing and you should avoid added sugars, processed meats, refine grains, and other processed foods. It sounds healthy and fresh and pretty easy to do so we’ve been playing around with a bunch of different dishes and they’ve all turned out delicious.

This pan-fried halloumi and Israeli cous cous has been on repeat because I’m in love with halloumi. I don’t remember the first time I had it – it was years and years ago – but one of my favorite memories of eating halloumi is of a backyard barbecue where the halloumi was the one thing everyone kept going back for. It was a late summer evening where the heat of the day was just easing into a pleasant warmth. I can still remember the warm oozy squeakiness of the smoky chargrilled pieces paired with a refreshing cucumber salad. Pure summer flavors.

I recreated that here with a lemony yogurt, dill cous-cous, and pan-fried halloumi, of course. It’s pretty, healthy, and so, so good.

What is halloumi

Halloumi, if you haven’t had it, is a semi-soft, un-ripened, brined cheese. Compared to most other cheeses it has a high melting point which means it retains it shape after frying or grilling. If you’ve had paneer before, it kind of has the same texture.

Taste-wise halloumi is pretty mild, with a salty finish. It has a distinctive squeak when you eat it and when it’s grilled or fried, the outside gets a delicious golden crust and the inside is melty and gooey. It’s one of my favorite cheeses, hands down.

How to serve halloumi

You can have it simply pan-fried or grilled with a squeeze of lemon, use it in salads, have it in sandwiches, or use it as the “meat” of your main dish. Here I simply pan-fried it until golden and gooey, then served it will a lemon-y dill cucumber and celery cous cous salad.

What is Israeli pearl cous cous

Pearl cous cous is just the thing to pair with halloumi – it’s a toasted pasta that’s shaped in little balls. It was invented in Israel when rice was scare but now it’s super popular essentially everywhere. Most pearl cous cous is made from semolina or whole wheat flour, which makes it a tiny bit healthier than regular pasta. It’s chewy and tender and takes on flavor like a boss.

How to serve cous cous

Just like pasta, it’s boiled, but before you do that, it’s usually toasted in a bit of extra virgin olive oil or butter for a bit of toasty goodness and extra flavor. You can eat it as a side (like rice), pop it into soups, use it in a pilaf, or use it in a salad, like I did here.

How to make pan fried halloumi with Israeli cous cous

1. First, we’re going to start by cooking our pearl cous cous. Heat up a bit of butter or oil in a small pot then toast the cous cous, much like you toast grains of arborio rice for risotto. After the cous cous is toasted, add some water (you can also use vegetable stock or chicken stock for extra flavor), and bring to a simmer, covered.

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

2. While the cous cous is cooking, zest and juice your lemon, and prep the rest of your vegetables and herbs. I used cucumber and celery but you can use any fresh summer-y vegetables you have on hand, just make sure you cut them up into bite size pieces. Same deal with the dill. I love lemon and dill together but if you have basil or chives, you can use those too.

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

3. After your herbs and vegetables are prepped, it’s time to make some lemon-y yogurt. All you do is stir together some lemon juice, zest, and Greek yogurt.

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

4. By now your cous cous should be cooked. I always like to taste one to make sure it’s just the texture I like – some people like their cous cous more bouncy and al dente and some people like it a little more tender. If you want it a bit more tender, just cook for a minute or so more. After your cous cous is cooked to your liking, give it a stir and spread it out on a plate so it can cool off a bit. If you don’t cool it, your vegetables will wilt a bit, which isn’t a big deal, but for aesthetic reasons, we’re going to spread the cous cous out. Once the cous cous is cool, all you need to do to make the salad is mix together the cous cous with the lemon juice, zest, dill, cucumbers, and celery. Taste and season with salt and pepper then set aside so you can pan fry the halloumi.

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

5. Cut the halloumi into 1/4 inch thick slices. Add the slices to a dry non-stick pan and fry over medium-high heat, until golden brown. It’ll take about 1-2 minutes per size. I like using a small off-set spatula to flip the pieces instead of a big spatula because you can get under the pieces easily. After they’re done, remove them from the pan and it’s time to plate.

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

6. Pick out your prettiest plates and place a generous scoop of lemon-y yogurt in the middle. Use the back of your spoon and push down and pull to one side to create a swoosh. Top with some of the cous cous salad and place a couple pieces of grilled halloumi on top. Finish off with extra herbs and some diced jalapeños for heat. If you want to be extra, drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil or even a bit of honey!

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

Some other Mediterranean diet ideas:

If you like the sound of the Mediterranean diet, try our creamy homemade hummus, jammy eggs and yogurt, falafel, garlic butter mushrooms, lemon pepper chicken with dill cous cous, eggplant and tomato pasta, penne pesto, chicken souvlaki, salmon and soba salad, or burrata and kale too!

Perfectly Pan-Seared Garlicky Mushrooms | www.iamafoodblog.com

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad recipe

Serves 2
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup dried Israeli pearl cous cous
  • 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cucumber sliced
  • 1 stalk celery sliced
  • 1 package of halloumi sliced
  • 1 jalapeño diced, optional
  • fresh dill chopped
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • In a small pot, heat up the butter or olive oil over medium high heat. When shimmery, add the cous cous and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted and coated, 1-2 minutes.
    Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Add 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the cous cous is al dente. While the cous cous is cooking, zest the lemon and set aside the zest. Juice the lemon.
    Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Stir the yogurt with 1/2 the lemon zest and 1/2 of the lemon juice and set aside.
    Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • By now your cous cous should be cooked through. Let cool then stir in the remaining lemon zest, remaining lemon juice, and a generous pinch of chopped dill. Mix in the cucumber and celery. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
    Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Slice the halloumi and pan fry over medium high heat until golden and crispy, flipping once.
    Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Plate by swooshing on some of the lemon-y yogurt. Top with some of the lemon cous cous salad. Top with halloumi, optional jalapeños, and salt and pepper. Enjoy!
    Pan-fried Halloumi with Israeli cous cous salad | www.iamafoodblog.com

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Thanks for reading as always!
-Steph & Mike