I love Indian food, but I’ve never been crazy about the paneer I’ve had either at my local Indian restaurants or the stuff I can buy at the market. So, obviously, I had to eventually try my hand at making my own. It turns out that homemade paneer is simple to make and as delicious as I always thought a homemade Indian cheese should be.
Check out my recipe below for easy and delicious homemade paneer. Once you’ve made it, you can use it in Palak Paneer (paneer in a curried spinach sauce) or use it in grilled cheese sandwiches spread with spicy chutney.
To make homemade paneer, you use acid to separate the curds and whey, then drain out the weigh in a cheesecloth-lined strainer.Print
Paneer is a fresh South Asian farmer’s cheese that is used in Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Afghani cuisines. It’s mildly flavored, soft, and crumbly. It is often cooked in spicy curries, but it can also be grilled or fried, and is great in sandwiches or crumbled over flatbread.
Paneer is super easy to make—you only need 3 ingredients (milk, lemon juice or another acid, and salt) and some cheesecloth. All the other equipment you’ll use (pot, bowl, etc.) are standard, everyday kitchen items. The process, in a nutshell, is to bring the milk to a boil, stir in acid to separate the curds and whey, strain out the whey, and press the curds into a firm slab. It can be done in as little as 30 minutes, although you can take a leisurely approach and do it in an hour with minimal hands-on time.
You can use either whole milk or 2% milk, although as with most recipes, the more fat the better, so go ahead and choose the full-fat variety. You can use any acid you like (vinegar and whey are both common). I used lemon juice and really liked the hint of lemony flavor it added.
- ½ gallon whole or 2% milk
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Put the milk in a large pot and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it just comes to a boil. Do not heat it too quickly or let it scald.
- Take the pot off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Cover the pot and let sit for 10 minutes. At this point, the curds and whey should have separated, and there will be a yellowish, watery layer (the whey) on top with the curds at the bottom.
- Line a strainer or colander with the cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. Pour the separated milk through the strainer. You can pour out the whey or transfer it to another container to save for another purpose (some people use it in baking, smoothies, or in their next batch of paneer.) Let the curds sit in the cheesecloth in the strainer until they are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth around the cheese and squeeze it gently to remove the remaining liquid. Stir in the salt.
- Pat the cheese into a flat patty, about 1½ to 2 inches thick.
- Wrap the patty in the cheesecloth and set it on a plate. A pot or another plate on top and weight it down with a large can of tomatoes or something similar. Let stand for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain off any liquid that has collected on the plate, and then unwrap the cheesecloth. Use or eat the paneer immediately, or wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Paneer can even be frozen (again, wrap it in plastic wrap and then pop it in the freezer, where it will keep for at least 3 months).