A World of Arabic Cheeses

Learn about some common Arabic cheeses: labneh, kashkaval, halloumi, and more!


Cheese has been a central part of the Middle Eastern diet, not least because it was an easy commodity to come by, as most families raised their own sheep, cows, or goats. That’s why you’ll find cheese incorporated into meals throughout the day, from breakfast (as part of a quick morning spread of bread, jam, eggs, and za’atar) to dessert (as a typical ingredient in pastries).

This book is highly representative of that ingrained love of cheese, as evidenced by my regular calls for labneh, halloumi, or kashkaval. But keep your eyes peeled if you happen upon a Middle Eastern market so you can experiment with some of the other common cheeses below.

Labneh: Made from strained and pressed yogurt (like Greek yogurt but thicker), labneh is creamy, tangy, and spreadable, making it a great alternative to cream cheese.

Kashkaval: Readily found in Middle Eastern groceries, this very mild, yellow, spongy-textured cheese is commonly made from cow’s or sheep’s milk (or both) and is a great melter, which is why you can use it almost interchangeably with Cheddar or mozzarella.

Halloumi: Possibly my favorite cheese, firm and briny halloumi (made from goat’s and sheep’s milk) can be set directly onto a grill, where it gets browned and melty outside while retaining its shape within. It’s also spectacular simply cut into cubes for my Watermelon Salad or grated directly on top of Green Tomato Shakshuka.  You can also find aged halloumi, which has been stored in brine for a long time. Just be aware that it’s drier, stronger, and much saltier, and should be soaked in water to reduce the salinity before use.



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