International cooking for the youthful malcontent.

WTF is Paneer (and How Do I Make It?)

Paneer

Paneer is South Asian cow- or buffalo-milk cheese. It’s used mainly in Northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and as a protein source in Hindu lacto-vegetarian cuisine. It’s a simple white cheese – unsalted, unaged, and acid-set. Its texture and consistency is similar to firm tofu (which is a good substitute for vegans) and its flavour is extremely mild due to the lack of salting and aging.

Sounds boring, right? Wrong; there’s more. Paneer doesn’t melt – which means you can do a lot of things with it that you can’t with most cheeses. Deep-frying, pan-frying, roasting, even grilling. Chop up paneer into 1″ cubes and add a splash of oil to a non-stick pan over medium heat, then fry the cubes for a few minutes each side and you’ll get nice browning, crispy edges, and a nice, soft, moist interior. Also similar to tofu, paneer can be marinated and it will absorb the flavours that it is cooked with. All of this makes it an ideal ingredient in South Asian cuisine; it’s an all-purpose, protein-rich flavour sponge that holds up to just about any cooking technique you need it to.

Paneer is available for purchase in blocks at Indian grocery stores with dairy sections (BJ Supermarket never lets me down). However, you can make it yourself for a few less dollars and some waiting. The preparation method is extremely simple: add acid to hot milk, then drain the whey and press the curds into a block. That’s it. So easy, I tried it myself and took pictures. However, before we do that, it may be helpful to know what’s going on first. Raising the milk to the boiling point, to start, will begin the curdling process as casein aggregates. Adding an acid at that point (often lemon juice, but white vinegar produces more consistent results, I’ve been told) stimulates the curdling process even further (producing an instant-souring effect) and the milk proteins form large clumps, leaving behind a thin, watery liquid called whey. You then strain the curds out of the whey, and press them into a block (or whatever shape you’d like, assuming you have the tools to do it). After it’s been pressed for about 3-5 hours, it’s a block of cheese. Done. So let’s go.

Making Paneer

This recipe will make just over 1 lb of cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 4 L of homogenized / whole milk (3.25% milk fat content)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

Things you will need: large pot, flat-edged wooden-handled tool for stirring/scraping, colander, cheesecloth (you can buy this at almost any grocery store – it’s very cheap)

Directions:

1. Add the milk to the large pot and turn the heat to medium-high (about 6-7 on my dial).

2. As the milk heats up, the surface will get foamy (as shown above). Using the flat-edged tool (I used a silicon square spoon) stir the milk regularly and remember to scrape the bottom of the pan. If you don’t, milk solids will stick the bottom and eventually burn.

3. While the milk is approaching the boiling point, line a colander with 2 or 3 strips of cheesecloth. Leave a few inches of cloth hanging over the edge – you need extra cloth to wrap the cheese up when we get to the pressing stage.

4. Once the milk starts to boil, the foam on the surface will rise. Fast. That is why I didn’t get a picture of it. So when your milk is getting close to boiling, stay close! Once you hear the bubbles and see the foam growing, remove it from the heat immediately (or suffer the consequences), and stir in the vinegar. It will instantly get clumpy (like above). Let it sit like that for about 20-30 seconds to achieve maximum clumping.

5. Pour the entire contents carefully and slowly into the colander. This stuff is incredibly hot and a lot of steam comes off of 4 litres of boiling milk. Once you empty the contents of the pot into the colander, you’ll notice a pile of mush leftover. These are the curds. Right now they are loose and mushy. It’s not cheese yet. Well, it’s a kind of cheese already (you could eat it) but it’s not paneer yet.

6. Once the curds are relatively cool to the touch (let them sit for half an hour or so), fold the cheesecloth over the curd, and apply a heavy, flat weight to the top. I used another large pot filled with water. Once the weight is on, let it sit there for about 4 hours, or so.

7. After 4 hours, remove the weight, and open the cheesecloth up and magically you have a firm block of cheese! Remove it from the cheesecloth carefully, and when it’s relatively cool, it can be used immediately or refrigerated.

Paneer made like this has a fridge-life of about 1 week. You can freeze it for longer, but this is enough paneer for 1 or 2 significant meals, so you should use it right away!

Edit: Try the paneer with this recipe for Mattar Paneer! Fried paneer cubes simmered in a richly spiced, creamy tomato sauce with green peas!

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92 responses

  1. It’s like eating a cloud…Reminds me of my Mom’s lemon meringue pie…Just the top though…And it’s lighter and fluffier…

    April 23, 2010 at 10:55 am

  2. oh wow – that looks solid. i don’t know if I’m ready to make that myself.

    http://www.tracyzhangphoto.wordpress.com/

    April 23, 2010 at 11:05 am

  3. This is probably one of the coolest things I’ve read in a while. The paneer itself is definitely something I’ve been looking for and I’ll be sure to try this out soon. I like your title and the way the article is written, very fun and informative at the same time. Great pictures, too. Your tutorial makes perfect sense and I can’t wait to get started on this new cheesy adventure. Thank you so much!

    April 23, 2010 at 11:05 am

  4. Lovely! I have always wanted to make my own Paneer, but the thought of making CHEESE at home is scary…so thank you for demystifying it for me!! Oooooo I’m going to make some Rocking Indian food this weekend….

    April 23, 2010 at 11:11 am

  5. TEC4

    That’s great. You do know you could make ricotta cheese fairly easily from the whey you drain off the curds? Google “ricotta cheese recipe”, there’s several out there and it’s not much harder or unusual from what you just did. You can even find vegetable rennet at a health food store if the ordinary sort is a turn-off for you.

    April 23, 2010 at 11:45 am

  6. Nowadays Paneer is eaten all over India. I love eating Paneer but didn’t know how to make it. Thanks for the recipe.

    http://wisevishvesh.wordpress.com

    April 23, 2010 at 11:54 am

  7. nihonbecca

    My partner is Indian, and I’ve eaten paneer a few times, but never really knew much about it; and I’m glad to have randomly come across some more information about it!
    I’d quite like to attempt to make it myself one day.
    Thanks for all the useful information!

    April 23, 2010 at 12:04 pm

  8. I loved it a lot this is easy

    April 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

  9. hintoflemon

    its very popular in Indian dishes… besides you can even use lemon instead of vinegar.
    You can call it a cousin of Tofu.

    There are lot of Indian dishes made along with panner =)

    Its nice to see people around the world are learning more about it!

    April 23, 2010 at 12:25 pm

  10. This looks like frozen cottage cheese lol

    April 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm

  11. Kelly Sheehan-Funk

    Thanks! I’m going to send a link to a couple of friends of mine who are great cooks.

    April 23, 2010 at 12:40 pm

  12. What is the difference between this an queso blanco? I was given a paneer/queso blanco making kit, but I haven’t figured out the difference yet.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    • I wouldn’t quote me on this, but I think the only difference between paneer and queso blanco is that paneer is pressed into a more dense final product whereas queso blanco retains a slightly softer, crumbly texture. Both are cow’s milk, unaged, etc.

      Queso blanco is only *hung* in cheesecloth, rather than pressed. Wikipedia says “if it is pressed, and more water is removed, it becomes known as queso seco.” So one can assume that queso seco is possibly the exact same thing as paneer.

      Queso blanco also doesn’t melt, but it does soften when heated, which I assume is because of the extra moisture content due to the lack of pressing. Heads up on that, too. Flavour-wise queso blanco and paneer are the same, at least close enough that you can substitute them for each other.

      Check this out: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Recipes/Make-Queso-Fresco–Queso-Blanco-956/Queso-Blanco-Cheese-1198.aspx
      and you’ll see the ingredients for the cheese are exactly the same as the paneer here – the only difference is the hanging of the cheesecloth rather than pressing. Hope this helps!

      April 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      • Rathi

        Actually back home in India, we hang the paneer is a cheesecloth to drain. That helps in retaining a little bit of the moistness unlike when it is pressed. The moistness gives a fresh and softer paneer which makes absorbing the flavours a lot better. Once its hung, the cheesecloth is moulded into the shape you want and left aside to cool and firm up. Most of the frozen paneer available in shops are pressed which loses the charm and texture that fresh paneer has.
        I think Paneer and queso blanco are one and the same, only it has evolved in different countries and called different names.

        April 23, 2010 at 4:16 pm

  13. Interesting Blog, Thanks for sharing 🙂

    April 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm

  14. I’ve seen it topped with edible silver too…

    April 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm

  15. wife in captivity

    This looks really yummy and your instructions make it look very easy. Thanks for the great info!

    April 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

  16. Congratulations for appearing on Freshly Pressed and on showing it the exact perfect way its made in India. I am from India and its made exactly the same way you have shown in my home.

    http://desihomecook.wordpress.com

    April 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm

  17. I recommend lime juice for the best flavor (and smell), especially if you’re like me and tend to snack on it as soon as it’s firm.

    These pictures made me drool.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

  18. Wow, that looks just like making tofu at home. Thanks for the instructions and great step by step photos.

    April 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm

  19. I am Indian who grew up eating paneer. But am lazy, so buy paneer from the grocery store. Your post and easy instructions is amazing. I will try it at home.

    Thanks for posting this!

    April 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

  20. Cheese is always tasty, especially with crackers dipped into soup.
    Thx for sharing your recipe.

    Remain.Simple

    April 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm

  21. Wow this is really cool. I’m going to have to try this out and share your blog with friends. Great post. =)

    April 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm

  22. marc

    Brilliant article!
    Thanks for sharing this cheesy batch of awesome with the rest of us paneer-slinging wannabe’s. Life changing, surely. Can’t wait to get this recipe fired up at home- won’t the wife be surprised! Looking forward to your next one- keep ’em coming!
    M

    April 23, 2010 at 5:03 pm

  23. dhoopkinaray

    Hardly any Indians I know nowadays in the US make paneer at home anymore, my mom still does though.
    What you get at the store is really good, surprisingly.
    But there’s a satisfaction, an enjoyment to eating paneer you made yourself.
    It’s really not that difficult to make either.

    @ramonakenttravels are you sure you mean paneer topped with silver? There’s mithai (indian sweets made of ghee/sugar etc) that are often topped with edible silver and some look just like paneer. But I’ve never seen paneer topped with silver.

    April 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm

  24. I’m Indian and I didn’t even know how to make paneer (matter of fact…I’ve never even had paneer), so thank you so much for this wonderful article and recipe on it 🙂

    April 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm

  25. wow, super cool. I’m definitely going to try this, thanks!

    April 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm

  26. thewordofme

    You used metric measurement for the milk and ounces for the vinegar. Since we get our milk in gallon size(3.79L)here is this OK with 4 oz. of vinegar or should one pop the cork on another milk to make up the .21L of milk?

    April 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    • Should be fine with a gallon of milk and 1/4 cup vinegar. It’s not an exact science! 😀

      April 23, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      • thewordofme

        Thanks so much…you have a great site.

        April 23, 2010 at 10:22 pm

  27. bloowalrus

    LOL Paneer is cheese in farsi.I’m sure it means cheese in other languages too.My mum’s a pro at makin this stuff.

    April 23, 2010 at 7:35 pm

  28. Although being an Indian, we have never prepared Paneer at home. Simply because it is a North-Indian speciality. People in south India do not even purchase Paneer and prepare any paneer dishes. It is always consumed out of home at restaurants, hotels etc.

    North India -It is a different story altogether. They can eat paneer and Potatoes all the meals and every day.

    Thanks for the recipe anyway. We had never bothered of preparing paneer at home till I read your blog.

    April 23, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    • @rohit….says you…wow….that was such an ignorant remark…..i know of plenty of south indians who buy as well as make paneer at home…

      April 24, 2010 at 12:08 am

    • In am from the east part of india, Westbengal Kolkata, we also have paneer , yay, i love paneer.

      April 24, 2010 at 4:30 am

  29. JPK

    thanks for the easy to follow directions, I knew making paneer couldn’t be so hard but I never tried even though it’s one of my favorite parts of Indian food, will be doing this asap

    April 23, 2010 at 10:27 pm

  30. Being an Oklahoma farmer’s daughter, I have never seen L. What does it stand for? How much mile IS that in America?

    April 23, 2010 at 11:52 pm

  31. Again, how much milk is “L”?

    April 23, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    • one litre (L) = 1000 ml
      one quart = 946.3… ml

      So you can round up and say one quart is one litre, if you’d like.

      In Canada we sell milk by the litre so that’s how I’m writing it.

      April 24, 2010 at 12:40 am

  32. roger

    tasty stuff….depends what dish you make it with///allooo paneer is a great tasting indian dish.

    April 24, 2010 at 12:33 am

  33. beatifulll

    April 24, 2010 at 1:23 am

  34. Kris

    How interesting, and the process of making it seems (deceptively?) simple… I just may attempt as it looks so delicious… had never heard of it before- thanks for sharing!

    April 24, 2010 at 2:12 am

  35. *droool*

    Paneer is my favourite dish! It’s so mouth watering… yummm… 😀

    April 24, 2010 at 2:13 am

  36. paneer is what i like. You can make a huge number of excellent dishes out of paneer. I dont know how to cook them but i do really like to eat them.

    April 24, 2010 at 4:28 am

  37. kola

    i love it ^ ^

    April 24, 2010 at 5:28 am

  38. Panneer is about the awesomest ever.

    You could use Lime extract instead of vinegar to get a mild twang in the taste.

    April 24, 2010 at 7:52 am

  39. rsingstar

    very nice article

    April 24, 2010 at 8:45 am

  40. fshields

    Thanks for the aricle. My wife loves saag paneer (cooked spinach with cubes of paneer in it), but we haven’t been able to find a local source.

    I will give your method a try.

    April 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

  41. Pingback: Recipe: Mattar Paneer « No More Microwaves

  42. Bagoffortune

    I’m from north India and Paneer is one thing I can hog on day and night! I missed it a lot when I was in UK last year but eventually found a few places that served Paneer dishes. Trust me, you’ve not tasted real Indian food till you’ve had some Paneer delicacies 🙂

    April 24, 2010 at 12:49 pm

  43. THank you for this! Had Palak Paneer(?) lastnight. I have alot of free time on my hands this coming week, I feel experimenting coming on!

    April 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm

  44. Andrea

    I am going to make this for sure! THis sound like cheap cheese for a student, not to mentin really yummy. Thanks for the recipe. I make feta out of keifer too…..how awesome!

    April 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm

  45. A little tip for you people, if you use lemon instead of vinegar, it would taste much better because of the lemony zest and if you store it in the refrigerator overnight night then to make it as fresh as ever the next day, just boil it again in half water,half the height of the paneer cube and add a tea spoon of lemon juice, take the advice of the indian and try it. Hope it works out for you, works for me everytime.

    April 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm

  46. Wow, I eat paneer at restaurants but I didn’t know how easy it was to make! Thanks for that 🙂

    April 24, 2010 at 4:25 pm

  47. Paneer is YUM. I love it. I never got around to making it myself but whenever I go out to eat Indian, I always get something with paneer.

    April 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

  48. I especially like your use of the word “clumpiness”…that’s some awesomeness all in itself! :o)

    April 24, 2010 at 4:47 pm

  49. Pingback: Top Posts — WordPress.com

  50. Paneer, though it tastes really great with Indian curries, is really fatty food. Use in moderation.

    April 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm

  51. very cool. I’m definitely going to try this, thanks.. 🙂

    April 25, 2010 at 12:04 am

  52. this looks very good. i will have to try this. my wife come from America and always so how much she miss cheese. cheese so expensive in Thailand. thanks! also, great pictures. very helpful

    April 25, 2010 at 1:13 am

  53. I totally ❤ This post i hope i see more of things like this from you

    April 25, 2010 at 1:14 am

  54. hey this is a great pictorial and recipe for paneer. i love to make paneer and make it on regular basis.
    this is great base for many curries and indian recipes

    thanks!

    April 25, 2010 at 1:37 am

  55. Paneer Tikka Masala is deelish! Have you guys tried it?

    April 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

  56. Paneer is great, I make it regularly.

    I particularly like to use it to make paneer pilaf mmmm

    April 25, 2010 at 11:00 am

  57. Hi, cool recipe, even though i grew up eating Paneer in Iran (salted, which tast awsome) never knew how to make it. good job
    ps
    nice blog

    April 25, 2010 at 11:02 am

  58. I have been eating this sort of cuisine for over 40 years; but have always shied away from tasting paneer. I believe it is served with spinach sometimes. For those persons who live or visit the city of Toronto and area…this place operates on sustainable practices. Water-buffalo products are being introduced. http://www.monfortedairy.com/ is near Stratford, Ontario in Canada. I visited last year and was very impressed. Quality, quality and more quality. Hope you like it.

    April 25, 2010 at 2:16 pm

  59. oo, I think I’ve had it before, but can’t quite remember. I like your step-by-step guide. Maybe I’ll try to make it one day..

    April 25, 2010 at 3:47 pm

  60. THANK YOU so much for sharing this! i was just hoping to find instructions for making this cheese, and was routed here by the wordpress recommendation – a well deserved one i see =)

    http://florries.wordpress.com
    you are unique – all you do is ground-breaking

    April 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm

  61. dude this is so cool! im definitely adding this to my hat list at http://thehatlist.wordpress.com/

    April 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

  62. Now I know what I’ve been eating at Indian restaurants! This is fascinating. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to experiment with it myself, but it is definitely worth documenting.

    April 25, 2010 at 9:16 pm

  63. Pingback: ToDo: I should make some paneer « Michael Ellerbeck

  64. Thanks for this, I think I’ll give it a bash.

    April 25, 2010 at 11:57 pm

  65. paneer is not eaten much in Pakistan, but I tasted “Palak(Spinach) Paneer” a few times and it was delicious. I had no idea paneer is made of milk :p

    April 26, 2010 at 2:12 am

  66. Hi! I found your post really curious. I just would like to add some cultural information. You say paneer is South Asian cheese. I find it curious because I didn’t know what paneer was but reading the recipe, I can tell you that paneer is not only Asian food, but also Mediterranean.
    In my country (Catalunya) we have the same but we call it “MATÓ” and it is really typical.
    We don’t fry, roast or grill it. We have it mainly as a dessert, served cold with honey over it. We call the whole dessert “Mel i mató” (literally “honey and mató”).
    Now knowing that in Asia they have it as a hot dish, I’ll try those options!! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    April 26, 2010 at 3:42 am

  67. Wow, this looks amazing. I’ve never had or heard of paneer before, but I will definitely try this out. Thanks!

    April 26, 2010 at 4:49 am

  68. Ted

    that looks like a delicious, sopping wet hunk, of almost consumable cocaine.

    April 26, 2010 at 5:01 am

  69. cool 🙂

    April 26, 2010 at 5:19 am

  70. Just see the number of comments and responses that youve earned by simply asking for Paneer. Its a massive centre of attraction in the Indian food world. More of it is considered as unhealthy.

    April 26, 2010 at 5:20 am

  71. Yeah Paneer is awesome – but don’t eat too much, other you WILL get a pot belly! Seriously. It is so tasty but dangerous for the waistline.

    April 26, 2010 at 5:41 am

  72. Awesome, I love paneer. I heard that it was relatively simple to make… think I’ll give this a try one weekend. Thanks.

    April 26, 2010 at 8:55 am

  73. Pingback: In Defense of (My) Food « No More Microwaves

  74. I love cheese, but never tried this …. very interesting !

    Wedding Photographer South Wales

    April 27, 2010 at 6:17 am

  75. ehmm yummy. i’ll try it.

    April 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

  76. Erin

    So simple! I’ve heard of paneer before and I’ve eaten it in Indian dishes, but I had no idea what it actually was. I must try making this! I’ve been adding more protein to my diet and have been looking for different ways to make it tasty 🙂

    I’ll be sharing this link on my blog!

    -Erin
    http://entredeuxbetweentwo.wordpress.com

    April 29, 2010 at 11:23 pm

  77. Wow!Surprisingly easy to make and it sounds good especially fried

    May 5, 2010 at 3:56 pm

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  80. siridoeskorea

    Thanks for this guide–I used it on Friday to make my first batch of paneer for palak paneer.

    Good to see another fellow Canadian food blogger. Keep it up!

    May 31, 2010 at 8:09 am

  81. pam

    I make this all the time and I love it I have also added a bit of salt and fresh herbs like dill and basil,garlic with sundried tomatoes love to cuble it over pasta. love it.

    July 2, 2010 at 3:37 pm

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