Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Homemade Paneer

I have been meaning to post about making paneer pretty much since I started this blog, more than a year ago. Paneer is traditional Indian cheese, similar in taste and texture to ricotta. While ricotta is traditionally made from whey, paneer is made from the curds produced from adding an acid to boiling milk. It is a very mild cheese that is popular in many savory and sweet Indian dishes. It is also not very difficult to make at home.

Here are the two most helpful tips I can give about making paneer. (1) Milk is not as innocent as it seems: it can go from hot, to boiling to burnt in a matter of seconds. (2) To achieve a nice, firm, paneer like the kind you can buy in Indian grocery stores, you must drain out ALL of the water from the cheese. The easiest way is to press the paneer under heavy weight.

To prepare, place a colander lined with cheesecloth in the sink.
Then begin heating a gallon of milk in a large heavy-bottomed pan. The milk must be heated slowly and stirred constantly until it comes to the boil. Be very careful to heat the milk slowly, and stir constantly to prevent it from burning.
Once the milk reaches a boil, stir in a half cup of lemon juice or vinegar. The milk will immediately begin to separate into a liquid (whey) and curds. Continue stirring for another minute or two.

Now carefully pour the contents of the pot into the lined colander. Be very carefully since the liquid will be extremely hot. Every time I do this step, it breaks my heart a little to have to throw out the whey. But even after lots of google searching, I still have not found a use for it.
Rinse the paneer with a bit of cold water just so it is warm enough to handle. Then try to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can using your hands.

The paneer needs to be drained of its liquid, and depending on how firm you'd like it, this could take anywhere from 2 hours to overnight. Most savory Indian dishes require a firm block of paneer, but many desserts call for a softer paneer that can be achieved with 2-3 hours of draining.
My go-to method for draining is to place the paneer (still in the cheesecloth) on a cutting board that is slighty hanging over the sink. Then on top, I place as much weight as possible as I can -- some iron skillets, cans of tomato sauces, textbooks that I don't feel like reading, etc.

This is what the paneer should look like after being drained overnight. The texture will be just like the kind you find in the Indian grocery stores, but the taste will be at least 10 times better.

Here is what it looks like cut up. Anyone want to take a guess as to what I made with this?

Homemade Paneer

* 8 cups (half gallon) milk
* 1/2 cup lemon Juice or vinegar

1. Place a colander in the sink and line with a large piece of cheesecloth.
2. In a heavy bottomed pot, over medium heat, cook the milk, stirring occasionally, making sure not it does not burn.
3. As the milk comes to a boil, gradually stir in the lemon juice or vinegar. The curd will begin separating from the whey. Cook for an additional minute, then remove the pot from the heat.
4. Pour the liquid into the prepared colander. Wrap the curds in the cloth and gently rinse under cold water for a few seconds. Then, using your hands, squeeze the cloth to remove the excess water. This also helps to remove some of the sourness from the lemon juice/vinegar.
5. To drain the liquid, place the curds wrapped in the cheesecloth on a cutting board. Place a heavy pan (cast iron works well) on top. Then place a few cans in the pan. Drain for at least 2 hours and at most overnight. The longer the cheese is drained, the firmer the final product.


  1. Super nice, Ms. Meanie. I'm making this for sure-sounds wonderful for summer salads and such...me likey!

  2. Very informative! I'm guessing you just put chocolate chips on it and ate it like that.

  3. I have been wanting to make paneer for the longest! I've always known how easy it is to make it, but your process photos help out a lot. You knew I would love your comment about the textbooks, didn't ya! hahahaha I would love to read about algorithms *yawn* hah!!! Now I know what to do with all of my syntax and historical linguistics books - make paneer!

    I think you're going to make paneer tikka masala...or is that just wishful thinking...

  4. The whey I heard can be used in bread baking recipes to replace water. It's very nutritious?

  5. I have always wanted to make my own paneer, but have been SUCH a baby about doing it! This looks fantastic. I'm definitely going to have to give it a shot. I am so impressed.

  6. This is on my list for a while now, and I have to say your post is probably my favorite of those I've read! It would totally break my heart to ditch the whey, too. I wonder if you could bake with it? I bet you could use it like a thin buttermilk... May be worth a shot!

  7. Paneer sounds a lot like the ricotta an old italian lady showed my how to make and it uses the whole milk with calcium lactate added. I'm just discovering a whole new world of making fresh cheese. Thanks!

  8. What a coincidence because I was trying out some Indian recipes and one of which was green peas and paneer. I couldn't find paneer anywhere to buy. Well, guess I now can make my own fresh batch.

  9. mmm, curdy. :) i hope you find some way to make use of that whey--i'd hate to toss it too!

  10. I have a cheese making kit that says to use they whey instead of water in bread baking which sounds like a great idea... if you are a bread baker!

  11. Wow, you make your own paneer! I am impressed.

  12. As Eva Said, Whey can be used anywhere you use water. Like I use it to make dough for roti/puri/naan, daal, kadhi, sabji etc. Also you can store it in refrigerator for few days for similar usage.

  13. Hi :)
    I just made paneer, and it worked great. I used half a gallon of milk and only added 1/4 cup of vinegar (your recipe says to use 1/2 cup for a half gallon of milk). In between the pictures you mention that you add 1/2 cup vinegar to a gallon of milk, so I went with that ratio and ignored the actual recipe.
    Also, do you use whole milk, 2%, or skim? I used whole milk, but would like to use reduced fat milk next time, if that'd work equally well. And lastly, I'm wondering about the draining process: Do you really leave the paneer out on the counter overnight to drain? I'd assume it has to be refrigerated. Won't it go bad otherwise?
    Thanks for the inspiration, as always. You're really great! And, I hope you're not tired of hearing this, yet: I made your chocolate cupcakes yet again today, and they're still the best cake I ever had. Also, The One (you know, The One I'm going to marry three months from today) says hi to the bf ;)

  14. i'm on a cheese making bender now, so this is welcomed information! i've never had indian food, seems like this is a good place to start.

    i use whey to make bread and rolls. i use it to make a traditional romanian lettuce soup, it's kinda like a lemony egg drop, with lots of chopped lettuce. and i sometimes use it to make polenta. i have to check my recipe book, i'm sure there's more uses. grandma never wasted anything...

    glad to come across your stuff.

  15. Wonderful tutorial.

    PS - glad to see you have Muir Glen tomatoes - they're fabulous.

  16. How can I make this in a microwave?