The Washington Post

Cheese Saganaki

Cheese Saganaki 4.000

Scott Suchman for the Washington Post; food styling by Carolyn Robb for The Washington Post

Dec 28, 2020

Famously served with a loud “opa!” at Greek restaurants around the world, this dish is named for the two-handled pan in which it is served. Cheese saganaki is traditionally made with a firm, salty goat, cow or sheep’s milk cheese such as halloumi, Kasseri or kefalotyri, but queso fresco, Manchego or paneer will work, too. Ouzo, an anise-scented liquor, is often used to set the cheese on fire, but any high-proof spirit will work. Even without the dramatic booze-fueled flambé, the quickly seared cheese is crispy and lightly melty and great with a squeeze of lemon and crusty bread.

Storage Notes: Leftovers may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Where to Buy: Find halloumi, Kasseri or kefalotyri cheese at well-stocked supermarkets, cheese shops or online.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • 8 to 10 ounces halloumi, Kasseri, kefalotyri or other mild, firm cheese with a high melting point such as queso fresco, Manchego or paneer
  • 1/4 cup (32 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) ouzo, or other clear, mild-flavored spirit (optional, but you will not be able to light the dish on fire without the alcohol)
  • Fresh oregano or parsley sprigs, for garnish
  • 1 medium lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
  • Crusty bread, pita or crackers, for serving


On a cutting board, slice the cheese lengthwise, so it’s between 1/2-inch and 1-inch thick. It may be in two or more smaller pieces. Sprinkle the flour evenly over a large plate. Dip the cheese in the flour, dredging until lightly coated on all sides; discard any remaining flour.

In a saganaki pan, small cast-iron or stainless steel skillet over high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Using tongs, carefully slide the flour-coated cheese into the oil away from you. Fry until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Using tongs or a spatula, carefully flip, and fry the other side until golden and just starting to melt, another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

If flambéing: Have a pot lid handy in case you need to cover the pan to suppress the flames. Ensure nothing is hanging over the pan, and keep your face and body at a distance. Pour the ouzo or other alcohol into a small cup and then pour it over the cheese. (Never pour the alcohol directly into a hot pan from the bottle.) Using a long stick lighter, carefully set the alcohol aflame, shaking the pan gently to help disperse the flame. Allow the flames to go out. Garnish the cheese with the oregano or parsley sprigs and serve hot, with lemon wedges and bread.

Recipe Source

From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.

Tested by G. Daniela Galarza.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 341

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 25g 38%

Saturated Fat: 13g 65%

Cholesterol: 50mg 17%

Sodium: 702mg 29%

Total Carbohydrates: 6g 2%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 0g

Protein: 15g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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