How to make Paneer, Panir, or Indian Curd Cheese
  • Gluten Free
  • Pesceterian
  • Vegetarian

Paneer (or panir) is one of the easiest cheeses to make, partly because it isn’t a cheese at all. Similar to ricotta and labne, paneer is a curd, a coagulation, formed by acidifying milk at a high temperature. Doesn’t sound very sexy but believe me it is.

Drain the curds for a short time and then beat them and you end up with chhenna, a soft curd that can be used to make Kofta or be sweetened into a dessert. Continue to drain the chhenna and you end up with paneer, which is firm enough to cut with a knife and fry.

Just like tofu, the paneer has more texture than flavour. Depending on how much you press it, it will have a bite anywhere from a soft feta to a fried haloumi. And if you use it in curry, it will soak up the flavours it sits with and become more flavourful with time.

I’ll post a series of recipes using paneer over the next few weeks (the first is up now: Matar Paneer). Until then, try it out, press it to different textures, and enjoy the immediate kitchen cred you get from being a cheese maker!

Paneer

Recipe guidance from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, Anne Mendelson’s Milk and Priya Wickramasinghe’s The Food of India, a Journey for Food Lovers
  • 8 cups whole organic milk (preferably unpasteurised)
  • 60ml lemon or lime juice (maybe a little more if necessary)
  • 2 large pieces of fine muslin

Strain the lemon juice through a fine sieve and set aside. Pour the milk into a large heavy based saucepan and start to heat on a medium flame, stirring reasonably often to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom or sides. When the milk comes to the boil (sometimes this is hard to see, but the milk with be very frothy on top and will seem quite ‘active’ underneath), stir the lemon juice into the milk and then let it sit for a few seconds more on a low flame.

After a half minute or so, you will see the milk start to separate into curds and whey. If necessary, shake the pan to pull the curd away from the sides of the pot, or gently drag a wooden spoon in from the edge to see if solids are forming, but don’t stir the pot again. Curds are delicate things.

If nothing much seems to be happening, put the pot back on a flame for a seconds longer. If nothing still happens, then perhaps your lemon juice is rather weak. Add some more, or use a tablespoon of vinegar to pep up the acidity.

Sit a colander in a pot and then line the colander with the two pieces of muslin, each folded in half (so you should have four layers of muslin lining the colander). Once the liquid part of the milk is no longer white but more of a yellow, you can carefully pour the curds into the colander and allow the whey to drain into the pot. Don’t throw the whey away. It’s useful for many things including cooking stock.

As the whey drains, fold the muslin up and over the curds and tie opposite sides of the muslin together. Squeeze the curds gently to release most of the whey and then rinse the outside of the muslin under a running tap of cold water. Hang the curds in an airy place for a couple of hours to drain fully.

They can be used at this stage, or pressed further to make a firmer curd. lay the muslin covered curd on a plate and place a heavy pot filled with water or cans on top of it. Steady the edges of the pot with some appropriate sized jars under its handles. Let it press for 4 hours, or even overnight.

When finished, wrap and put in the fridge, but try to use the cheese as soon as possible in the next couple of days so it maintains its freshness. Paneer can be delicate and crumbly, so most recipes will call for you to fry the paneer slightly before you add it to curries or rice dishes.

This recipe is part of Real Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday Carnival.

22 Comments

  1. Kankana
    February 19, 2011 at 12:22 am | | Reply

    super !! you rock gurl , you are motivating me to make paneer at home :)

  2. Rosemary Mullally
    February 19, 2011 at 6:43 am | | Reply

    Thank you. I love paneer. Does it have to be organic milk?

  3. Michael Toa
    February 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm | | Reply

    Hi Angela. Thanks for sharing this. I really like paneer and I’ve been wanting to try making it at home for sometime, but I couldn’t find the muslin. I have a big dressing in my first aid kit box and I almost use it at one time. Crazy me.

  4. Christina
    February 20, 2011 at 1:42 am | | Reply

    Okay. Now I wish I had a batch of this prepared already because I’m hungry for paneer and chard. Thank you for showing us how accomplish-able this is!

  5. Chris's GourmetFashion
    February 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm | | Reply

    Beautiful presentation! This is more of a question than a comment. Is the result similar to Italian ricotta? The method seems similar, although I have to admit that I have not made my own ricotta!

  6. Magic of Spice
    February 25, 2011 at 7:13 am | | Reply

    Great post, my oldest son loves making fresh cheese and has tried a couple…will definitely share this with him.

  7. experimental_chef
    experimental_chef
    April 27, 2011 at 3:14 am | | Reply

    Im making this now.. Fingers crossed! :)
    If this turns out it will be something i make on a regular basis.

    Thanks heaps!

  8. Lesley Whittle
    Lesley Whittle
    July 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm | | Reply

    Me and cheese haven’t got it together yet. I’ve tried a few times and had to throw out a lot of milk. I’m going to try again with this recipe and I’ll post how I get on. What I wanted was to get a replacement for soft cheese that I could use to make cheesecake – rather than a shop-bought thing with a page of chemical additives. Would this panir work? I’ll try anyway.

  9. Joan
    March 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm | | Reply

    Hi Angela a great blog and really good instructions for this cheese! – can you you this cheese to replace ricotta in a ricotta fruit tart?

  10. aparna
    April 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm | | Reply

    love your recipe… This is how my mum makes paneer too. You could stir in some roasted cumin seeds, nutmeg and some lightly smashed black peppers for some added flavour just before pouring the separated paneer into the muslin… It makes it spicier and tastes amazing with palak paneer or kadhai paneer.

  11. aparna
    April 27, 2012 at 9:25 pm | | Reply

    love your recipe… This is how my mum makes paneer too. You could stir in some roasted cumin seeds, nutmeg and some lightly smashed black peppers for some added flavour just before pouring the separated paneer into the muslin.. It makes it spicier and tastes amazing in palak paneer or kadhai paneer.

  12. Mike
    Mike
    April 27, 2012 at 11:07 pm | | Reply

    I have used even a new wash rag, just make sure the corners are folded so that nothing will come out…. this is obviously for small batches. I am curious…. how important is the pressing part? Is it mostly to ensure the curd has seperated from the cream completely? Is it a means to an end or is this also causing firmness and sliceability?

What do you think? Leave your opinion »