Paneer is a fresh, non-melting cheese made by adding acid to milk to separate curds from whey, producing firmer curds than in mozzarella or ricotta cheeses.
Put a strainer lined with clean cheesecloth (or muslin) over a bowl to collect the strained whey. Cover with a plate or thin handkerchief and weigh down as needed.
Table of Contents
What is paneer?
Paneer is an iconic Indian dish and fresh cheese staple. Produced by curdling milk using heat and acid instead of rennet to form firm curds that can then be cooked and fried, paneer has an irresistibly mild taste. It is frequently enjoyed on its own or served alongside sauces – as an essential source of protein for vegetarians.
Paneer can be prepared from cows, buffalo, or goat’s milk and used to add flavor and texture to many Indian cuisine dishes and fillings for flatbreads such as paratha or puri. Its popularity makes it an easy addition to Indian restaurants nationwide.
Paneer quality depends on its method of preparation, processing, and storage. To be considered a high-grade paneer, it must be free from spoilage and possess good physical-chemical and sensory qualities.
For optimal results, always use unhomogenized or pasteurized whole milk that contains enough fat for soft paneer. Low-fat dairy may result in hard or rubbery cheese. To maintain soft paneer, try adding cream while boiling the milk.
Paneer can be made in various ways, but the most straightforward method involves heating two quarts of milk over medium heat and continuously stirring it until it boils, at which point two minutes later, chunks of white cheese begin separating from a thin greenish liquid called whey and cooling will solidify into firm cheese that can still be crumbled or cut up for serving purposes.
To soften the cheese further, stir in some heavy cream to encourage the milk to coagulate faster for faster results. To create a smoother texture, strain through cheesecloth for a smoother texture; otherwise, you can reuse any leftover whey in more paneer production, soups, smoothies, fruit juices, and nourish houseplants or garden plants!
Due to decreased milk production during summer months, farmers find it increasingly challenging to sell full-fat and skim milk at their regular prices, with skim milk not receiving an appropriate market price either. To address this problem, technology has been devised for creating acceptable quality paneer from milk powder combined with fat sources – boasting improved sensory, rheological, and nutritional characteristics (Kanawjia and Khurana 2006).
How to make paneer
Create homemade paneer with only two ingredients at home using milk and an acid like vinegar or lemon juice – an easy and quick process that yields delicious results!
Traditional Indian paneer is typically prepared from buffalo (or cow) milk; however, regular dairy and non-dairy alternatives like soy milk can also be used successfully. For optimal results, use full-fat whole milk that has not been homogenized (a common practice among supermarkets for increasing the shelf life of products).
Once your milk reaches a boil, remove from heat and slowly add your curdling agent in small increments until it begins to curdle, stirring continuously. As it does so, you should see it start curling, with little white bits separating from its clear(-ish) liquid; this whey serves as the basis for cheesemaking!
Once the whey has separated from the curds, pour it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth to drain away excess whey and create a firmer paneer. You can also drain away whey by running it under cold water in your sink until all of its liquid drains away. This leftover whey contains tons of essential vitamins and nutrients that could help make pasta and gravy-based dishes or even be used to feed houseplants and garden plants!
Paneer is a versatile cheese, easily cut into various shapes and sizes depending on your recipe. Small cubes may be added to salads, while larger chunks are perfect for curries and soups. Sliced strips may even be marinated and pan-fried before being marinated further before consumption.
Paneer can be stored for 3-to four days in the fridge and two months in the freezer, offering an ideal way to enjoy this protein-rich, calcium, and phosphorus-rich snack that also contains fat-soluble vitamins A and D. Plus, it’s low as a healthier alternative to store-bought processed cheeses! You can make it vegetarian-friendly simply by substituting vegetable rennet for animal rennet; vegans can leave out this step altogether!
Recipes with paneer
Paneer cheese is a highly versatile ingredient, perfect for many dishes. As it doesn’t melt when heated, paneer can be simmered, fried, or grilled without disintegrating or dissolving into liquid form; also keeping its shape when heated, allowing it to be cut into cubes or chunks before being added to dishes for cooking. It is suitable for vegetarian diets due to no animal products contained within its makeup while providing plenty of protein and calcium!
To make paneer, an acid is added to milk to curdle it, such as lemon juice, vinegar, or dahi (yogurt). Once curdled, the cheese must be strained through cheesecloth to remove excess whey before being pressed under weights for several hours or days until firm. Pressing longer may result in a more complex, more traditional paneer, while short pressing produces a liquidier paneer suitable for curries.
For optimal paneer preparation, heat from the dish must not come into direct contact with the cheese, which could cause it to melt or deform and ruin the receptacle. If this should happen by mistake, place it back into hot water for several minutes to rewarm it.
Another way to stop cheese from melting is to add an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar before heating. Be mindful to add only enough acidic components to cause curdling; adding too much may result in grainy, rubbery paneer.
Paneer can be used in curries, grilled, and folded into wraps to create tasty snacks or meals for large groups. One such popular Indian curry dish, paneer tikka masala, features tomato puree mixed with ginger, garlic chili powder, and coriander-cumin powder for an unforgettable taste experience! Served alongside rice or naan, it makes the ideal group-feeder dish and is easily made in batches for maximum convenience!
Ingredients for paneer
Paneer cheese is a fresh, non-aged fresh cheese made from cow or buffalo milk curdled with acid. Popularly found in Indian, Pakistani, and Afghani cuisines alike, paneer is highly customizable. It is easily formed into various shapes and sizes to fit multiple applications; it is firm enough to hold its shape but soft enough and spongy enough. It makes an excellent addition with a mild flavor profile similar to American cottage cheese or queso fresco.
Homemade paneer requires full-fat milk for optimal results. Skim milk may not curdle properly, and lower-fat varieties won’t taste as rich. To give extra flavor, consider adding vinegar or lemon juice before curdling for additional tang.
Once the milk has been curdled, strain it through cheesecloth or muslin to separate its components and extract its whey for use as an extra source of protein in soups, stews, and gravies. Furthermore, this leftover liquid can also nourish houseplants or garden crops by mixing it with water and pouring it directly over them.
To make paneer, you will need whole milk, food acids such as lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid, or dahi, and an optional press to help set and firm up the cheese while it charges. Some prefer using bricks or heavy metal plates to weigh it down while it sets; others prefer covering their cheese in cloth and leaving it in the refrigerator for two or three hours to put it entirely before refrigerating it.
Alternative to traditional paneer is soy milk-made paneer. Babaje et al. (1992) demonstrated that coagulating soy milk yielded a product with a bland taste, unique body, and texture closely resembling paneer. This soy paneer can be substituted without altering the quality of dishes it is being added to, hence its name, “soy paneer.” It is also frequently used as part of vegetarian entrees and salads!