Halloumi (also called Haloumi or Helim) is one of those cheeses that causes confusion among pregnant women because it defies easy categorization. I love Halloumi and have researched in-depth about whether it’s safe or not for pregnant women to eat it.
Can pregnant women eat halloumi? Halloumi cheese is safe to eat in pregnancy, but only if it meets a small number of criteria. It should be made from pasteurized milk, it should ideally be made by traditional brining methods and it’s better if it’s cooked first by frying or grilling it.
There are a few things to look for when you’re buying Halloumi or when you’re about to be served a plate of it. I’ve tried to cover as much of this as I can in this article, including common UK and USA brands.
Is Halloumi made with pasteurized milk?
Semi-soft or soft unpasteurized cheeses are unsuitable for pregnant women due to the possible presence of Listeria (source: CDC).
Most, but not all commercially-produced Halloumi (in other words, Halloumi that is mass-produced for shops) uses pasteurized cow, goat or ewe’s milk, all of which are safe for pregnant women to consume. This is very often clearly stated on the label.
Traditional, non-commercial Halloumi is almost always made from a mix of unpasteurized ewe’s and goat’s milk.
As a general rule:
- If you’re buying halloumi from a supermarket it should be pasteurized and therefore safe to eat when you’re pregnant, but double-check the label.
- If you’re buying halloumi straight from a deli or other small supplier who may be making it traditionally, be a little more careful and ask what type of milk was used in production. This is especially relevant if you’re visiting Cyprus, for example.
Which Halloumi Brands Are Pasteurized?
Below I’ve tried to cover a selection of large USA and UK supermarkets that sell pasteurized Halloumi so you don’t have to go hunting for it.
As always, read the label just in case the supplier or recipe has changed. All the brands listed below are pasteurized. If you can’t find decent pasteurized Halloumi cheese locally, then you can get good quality Halloumi online too.
UK Supermarkets Selling Pasteurized Halloumi
Asda – unfortunately, none of their Halloumi cheeses stated whether or not pasteurized milk was used, so this is unclear.
Sainsbury’s – Cypriot Halloumi, Taste the Difference Cypriot Halloumi, Light Cypriot Halloumi, and Yamas Chilli Halloumi
Tesco – Finest Halloumi, Halloumi Burger Slices, Tesco Halloumi, 30% Less Fat Halloumi, Creamfields Halloumi, and Halloumi Fries
Morrisons – unfortunately, it wasn’t clear from the packaging which of their halloumi cheeses were pasteurized.
Waitrose – No.1 Halloumi (this one’s my favorite), Essential Waitrose Cypriot Halloumi, Cypriot Light Halloumi, Organic Duchy Cypriot Halloumi, Free From Lactose Cypriot Halloumi
USA Stores Stocking Pasteurized Halloumi
Walmart – Mt Vikos Greek Halloumi
Safeway – Shepherds of Cyprus Halloumi
Kroger – Shepherds of Cyprus Halloumi
Whole Foods – Shepherds of Cyprus Halloumi
Albertsons – Kryssos Company Halloumi
Can I Only Eat Halloumi if it’s Cooked? Can I Eat Halloumi Raw?
Halloumi is almost always served cooked, which further adds to its safety as a cheese option for pregnant women. Grill, BBQ or fry it for a couple of minutes on each side until golden or charred.
You can eat Halloumi raw when you’re pregnant, but I’m not sure why you’d want to – unless you have a particular craving for it. It tastes much better cooked!
The only key thing to look out for is whether it’s pasteurized or not, since cooking, grilling or frying Halloumi only really cooks and crisps up the outside, and not the center.
Does the brining process used to make Halloumi cheese make it safer in pregnancy?
Halloumi is classed as a semi-hard (or semi-soft) cheese, which usually requires more caution for pregnant women, but it’s also a brined cheese.
The excess salt used in making Halloumi means that it’s very difficult for bacteria to survive – and this is the case even if the milk is unpasteurized (source: IDF).
If you’ve eaten unpasteurized Halloumi and you’re now worried, it’s more than likely you’ll be fine, as the chances of it harboring bacteria are slim.
However, if you can, choose Halloumi made from pasteurized milk to completely eliminate any risk of Listeria.
Eating Halloumi in Restaurants
If you’re in a restaurant or anywhere else where you didn’t cook the Halloumi yourself, double-check whether it’s been made from pasteurized milk. On the whole, restaurant suppliers do use pasteurized milk but it can’t hurt to check first.
I get asked a lot by British women – is Nando’s Halloumi pasteurized? Yes, Nando’s use pasteurized milk in their halloumi so you can eat their halloumi burgers or fries when you’re pregnant. I checked with Nando’s and they confirmed their Halloumi is made from pasteurized milk.
Are Halloumi Fries OK if I’m Pregnant?
Halloumi fries are fine to eat in pregnancy if the cheese itself is made from the same pasteurized milk. As with all fried foods though, try to moderate them and stick to healthier options where possible.
How to Make Your Own Halloumi
Can’t find pasteurized Halloumi but still crave it? Make your own! It’s much easier than you might think and you’ll have full control over all the ingredients being safe in pregnancy. Here’s a useful video from Gavin Webber:
The Nutritional Benefits of Halloumi in Pregnancy
Halloumi is a great source of protein and is an excellent source of calcium, which is essential to step up during pregnancy. It also contains a number of B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, vitamin A and zinc (source: BBC).
However, as you’d expect with a block of cheese, it’s high in fat – some of it saturated – and this is increased if you’re eating it fried, breaded or battered. It’s also high in salt/sodium due to the brining process when it’s made.
Therefore it’s not recommended that pregnant women eat Halloumi regularly in pregnancy (particularly if it’s fried), but it’s fine in moderation, say, a couple of times a month.
Some suggested ways of incorporating halloumi into a more healthy dish are:
- Do as the Cypriots do and eat grilled halloumi with chunks of fresh watermelon in the summer months. This is a great, nutritious and refreshing way to try it. You could grill the watermelon slightly as well for extra flavor. Delicious!
- Have grilled, rather than fried halloumi where possible and use it instead of meat in sandwiches, on bagels or in wraps
- Halloumi is a great taste of the Mediterranean, so use flavors that complement it like roasted and grilled veggies, hummus, wholemeal pitta bread or with lemon zest and asparagus.
- Since it’s high in protein, halloumi could be used as a snacking cheese in small chunks, to stave off hunger pangs and stop you reaching for carbs or sugary treats.
Overall, halloumi can be enjoyed safely in pregnancy, if you keep consumption down to a moderate level and try to use it as a vehicle to eat healthier, nutritious options. You might also be interested in reading my ultimate guide to cheeses you can eat when pregnant, too.
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