How to make paneer? It is simple with the right ingredients (milk and an acid) and a little patience.
What is Paneer Cheese?
Paneer is a fresh, mild cheese that you’ll find in East Indian cuisine. It’s soft but doesn’t melt. It’s rennet-free and does not require aging. You can make and use it the same day.
It has a very mild, milky, slightly acidic taste. That makes it the perfect addition to your curries, masalas and kormas.
Palak paneer (paneer in a spinach sauce) is one of my favorite Indian dishes. The paneer acts like a sponge and soaks up all the amazing flavor while keeping its shape and texture. It’s soooo good!
Grilled paneer is also great as a salad topping… and pizza topping too! It’s a wonderful meat-free source of protein.
How to Make Paneer: Use the Right Ingredients
You only need two ingredients to make paneer: milk and an acid.
The milk to use here should be homogenized, pasteurized whole milk. It must be the real deal… not reconstituted milk or powdered milk.
As for the acid, you can choose any one of the following:
- lemon juice
- lime juice
- citric acid
- plain yogurt
Save your whey for the next time you make paneer too. This is one of the many ways I recommend to reduce food waste. If you can’t keep the whey, use it to water your plants. No waste here!
The ingredients I usually use are in the photo below. The milk is from a local farm and is only pasteurized. This bottle has about 3 cups of milk and makes about 4 ounces of paneer.
The lime is from my tree. It leaves a noticeable citrus taste in the paneer. If you are not a fan of that, then use lemon juice or yogurt or whey instead.
Personally, I enjoy the citric taste in the paneer.
How to Make Paneer: Steps
Step 1: Choose the acid
You have a nice list of acid options: lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, yogurt and whey.
What do you have on hand? Use that!
Step 2: Measure the acid
How much acid you need depends on the amount of milk you have and the amount of paneer you’d like to make.
My estimate is:
1 tablespoon of acid and 3 cups of milk makes 4 ounces of paneer.
You can scale up this recipe if you have more milk.
By the way, if you are using a lime or lemon, be sure to strain the juice to remove the seeds and pulp. Any pulp in the cheese will give you a sudden sharp, citrusy, sour taste. So, it’s best to strain the juice.
Step 3: Boil Milk
Boiling milk can be tricky. It can burn at the bottom of your pot or it can suddenly bubble over and create a mess. So you must monitor it.
Add the homogeneous milk to a heavy bottomed pot on low to low-medium heat. Stir often to prevent burning. Skim any thick cream you may see on the surface.
When the milk just starts to boil, turn off your stove.
In the past, I’ve added in herbs like rosemary and oregano to the milk for a more unique, flavorful paneer. If you want to try this, add the herbs before the milk starts to boil to infuse the seasonings.
Adding salt and pepper are also great options too.
Step 4: Add the Acid
After you turn off your stove, stir in your acid (try stirring only in one direction for larger curds). Within seconds, your milk should curdle.
Here’s a photo of mine:
Step 5: Strain
Place a cheesecloth over a colander or strainer. If you want to keep the whey, place a large container below the strainer to catch all the liquid.
Pour the curdled milk carefully onto the cheesecloth (it’s hot!) strain and separate the curds from the whey.
Set the whey aside for another time or for other recipes.
Step 6: Rinse & Squeeze
Rinse the curds with cool water to remove the acidic taste from the paneer. Once it is sufficiently rinsed and cooled, squeeze the curds to remove as much liquid as possible from the paneer.
Step 7: Shape and Compress
Keeping the cheesecloth tight, place it on a hard surface and press down. This will shape the paneer and form a flat base.
Wrap the paneer tightly in the cheesecloth and place on a flat plate. Add a weight (I use a heavy cast iron pot and a 2kg bag of flour) on top to compress the paneer and make it firm.
Step 8: Refrigerate
Pop the cheese and with the weights in the fridge for a couple hours or overnight. The longer you leave it, the firmer it will become.
Step 9: Cut and Use (or Store)
Once your cheese is firm, it is common to cut it into cubes. Grill or stir fry the cubes and add them to your curries, masalas and kormas. Top your salads with them too.
Refrigerate your cubes for later; they can last for up to a week in there and months in the freezer.
How to Make Paneer
- Strainer or colander
- 3 cups homogenized, pasteurized whole milk
- 1 tbsp acid (lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, citric acid,
- Strain juice to remove seeds and pulp if using lemon or lime.
- Add milk to a heavy bottomed pot and place on low to low-medium heat.
- Stir often to prevent burning. (Add seasonings if desired, see step #2 in the section above).
- Once the milk starts to boil, turn off the heat.
- Stir in the acid (stir in one direction to form larger curds). The milk should curdle almost immediately.
- Strain the curds using a cheesecloth and strainer (or colander). Save the whey for other recipes or to make paneer in the future.
- Rinse the curds to remove any acidic taste.
- Squeeze the curds tightly to remove any excess liquid.
- Shape the paneer in the cheesecloth and place heavy weights on it to compress the cheese.
- Refrigerate for at least four hours (although leaving overnight makes a firmer paneer)
- Cut, cube, and serve.
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