Souvlaki is plentiful in my neighborhood. I live in Toronto’s Greektown, so at any given moment I am steps away from top-notch souvlaki. And I take frequent advantage of this happy situation. But I must admit I rarely enjoy a stick of veg souvlaki from these otherwise fantastic haunts. I suspect these lackluster zucchini-heavy affairs are the way they are because few people order them. It’s true, my order is usually chicken or pork souvlaki. But it really doesn’t have to be this way. Veggie souvlaki can be exciting and today’s Halloumi and Eggplant Souvlaki proves just that.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this recipe, let’s talk about its star – halloumi. Halloumi is a type of cheese that hails from Cyprus. It is a semi-hard, unripened cheese that boasts a high melting point making it the ideal candidate for frying and grilling. It has a briny flavor, a firm texture, and it squeaks ever so slightly when you bite into it, like cheese curds. It’s a pretty excellent cheese and yet it is strangely under-represented here in North America, particularly when you compare it to the popularity of its cousin, feta.
Sure, halloumi hasn’t inspired any TikTok fads yet, but it is more than deserving of your attention. And if you’re looking to add more vegetarian grilling recipes to your repertoire, halloumi is a great ingredient to have in your back pocket…Not literally, of course, because ew, lint. And the saltiness of halloumi makes it the ideal foil for sweet summer fruits like strawberries, peaches, or watermelon. In other words, we’re in halloumi prime time. But enough about the cheese, let’s talk about this Halloumi and Eggplant Souvlaki.
This recipe starts as any other souvlaki recipe would – with a marinade. Now, I didn’t alter the traditional lemon and oregano marinade that is typical of souvlaki. It’s perfect the way it is and it is indicative of the dish itself. If I were to add anything to this symphony of simplicity, it would be an unnecessary flourish at best and a distraction at worst. So the marinade is a simple lemon, olive oil, garlic, and oregano affair. But I couldn’t resist adding a sizable dash of crushed red pepper flakes and a ton of black pepper.
From there, it’s as simple as introducing some halloumi cubes and eggplant medallions to the marinade and letting them get acquainted. I used a Japanese eggplant because of its size. A Globe eggplant would have resulted in huge medallions, which is a lot for a wee skewer to bear. I would’ve had to cube them and I wanted the look of medallions. I mention all of this to say my choice of a Japanese eggplant was purely aesthetic. If you want to use a Globe eggplant, you do you. I will not be disappointed.
With the cheese and eggplant marinating, now is a good time to put together the tzatziki. Now, I am going to insist that you use full-fat yogurt for this. 5% milk fat or higher – I can’t abibe runny ziki. And while we’re on this track, let’s talk cucumber. You must squeeze as much excess moisture out of your cucumber as possible. It’s crucial to the consistency of tzatziki. From here, you’re free to have a little fun with your alliums and herbs. I went with thinly sliced shallots, minced garlic, and finely chopped fresh mint. I also added about half a lemon’s worth of juice for a little citrus lift.
Once your eggplant and halloumi are done luxuriating in their marinade, it’s time to grill. I grilled my skewers on a large cast-iron griddle but you could easily do this on a BBQ. Whatever you choose, make sure your chosen cooking surface is well-oiled. Once the grill is smoking, add the skewers. When a nice crust has formed on the cheese, it should release from the grill easily. If you try to move it before it’s ready, it may tear. So practice patience.
When your skewers have a nice char on them, it’s time to build your pita. I went with cucumber spears, a few leaves of bibb lettuce, halved grape tomatoes, a few pitted black olives, and the tzatziki, of course. You can add all or none of this. And if you’re not in wrap mode, you could serve your souvlaki alongside lemon roasted potatoes or rice or a horiatiki salad.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Halloumi and Eggplant Souvlaki. It’s simple, bbq-friendly, and mind-blowingly delicious. In other words, this the perfect summer meal.
Halloumi and Eggplant Souvlaki with Tzatziki
- Bamboo or metal skewers
- BBQ grill or cast-iron griddle
Halloumi and Eggplant Souvlaki
- 6 bambo skewers
- 250g (9oz) halloumi cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 Japanese eggplant cut into 1/2-inch medallions
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lemon juiced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 1½ cups Greek yogurt
- 2 mini cucumbers shredded
- 1 shallot halved and thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tbsp fresh mint finely chopped
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 large whole wheat pitas
- 8-12 bibb lettuce leaves washed and dried
- 2 mini cucumbers cut into spears
- ⅓ cup grape tomatoes halved⅓
- ⅓ cup pitted black olives
- 4 sprigs fresh mint
For the Souvlaki
- Place the bamboo skewers in a large jug of water and set aside to soak for at least 8 hours.**
- In a large bowl whisk to combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Add the halloumi and the eggplant and toss to coat. Cover and let them marinate for 8 hours.
For the Tzatziki
- While the eggplant and halloumi are marinating, make the tzatziki. Place the cucumber in the middle of a peice of cheesecloth and form it into a bundle. Squeeze the bundle to remove as much moisture from the cucumber as possible.
- Place the yogurt, cucumber, shallots, garlic, mint, lemon juice, and salt. Stir to combine. Cover and chill until ready to serve. The tzatziki will last in the fridge for a week.
- String the halloumi and eggplant onto the skewers, taking care not to split the halloumi while you're threading it.
- Oil your grill or cast-iron griddle with a little neutral oil and heat over high until smoking. Add the skewers and grill on both sides, waiting for the halloumi to release from the grill before turing.*** Repeat on the opposite side and transfer to a plate.
- Line a pita with lettuce leaves and top with a sizable dollop of tzatziki. Slide the eggplant and halloumi off of two skewers into the pita and top with tomatoes, cucumber, mint, and olives. Fold the pita close and repeat with the remaining pita and souvlaki. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.