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Ingredient Guide

Paneer perfection

19 December 2023


Everything you need to know about paneer cheese, including how to make it yourself

Everything you need to know about paneer cheese, including how to make it yourself

Is there a simpler, healthier and more versatile cheese to cook with than the humble paneer? Believed to have originated in India, where roughly a third of the population follows a vegetarian diet, it’s one of the oldest dairy products in the world and remains a popular staple in Indian cuisine today. So grab a hot cup of masala chai, as we explore the perfect ingredient to spice up your mealtimes.

What is paneer?

Paneer is a fresh and mild tasting cheese that naturally absorbs flavour, making it a blank canvas for your culinary creativity. With its soft yet firm texture, it’s perfect for grilling, frying and adding to curries, pairing beautifully with spices, herbs and tangy sauces. Paneer is also low in carbs, which makes it a popular choice for those following a low-carb or vegetarian diet.

What does paneer go with?

Paneer cheese is a superstar in Indian cuisine, adding its creamy goodness to a wide array of dishes. From classic curries like Palak Paneer (spinach and cheese curry) to the popular Matar Paneer (peas and cheese curry), and even sweet puddings like Paneer Kheer. It can also be used in rich biryanis, wraps, grilled skewers and salads. The possibilities for paneer are almost endless.

How to make paneer at home

Perhaps the best thing about paneer is that it’s quick and easy to make yourself. In fact, not only is homemade paneer fresher and more wholesome than shop bought, it’s actually cheaper to make it yourself. All you need to make the perfect paneer is milk, lemon juice or vinegar and a few simple steps.

First bring the milk to a gentle simmer, then add the lemon juice and wait for the milk  to curdle. Strain it in cheesecloth to separate the whey (you can use this to make rice or soup later), and refrigerate for 20 minutes to make the perfect paneer. It’s as simple as that.

Paneer Making

How to Cook Paneer

This versatile cheese can be cooked and used in a variety of ways. The lemon used when making paneer means it doesn’t melt when adding it to sauces such as curry, making a perfect meat alternative. Simply chop up your paneer into cubes and add to your curry sauce. Allow to simmer so it can soak up all the lovely flavours. You can even fry it off before adding for an extra crunchy texture. Why not try our paneer and spinach tikka masala to find out how to cook paneer in your curry.

Top tip: If you find your paneer can get a bit dry or chewy when fried or cooked, you can soak it in water for 10 minutes so it retains more moisture while cooking.

Substitutes for paneer

If you can’t find paneer in your local store then don’t worry, other cheeses are available as a substitute. Ricotta cheese or cottage cheese can work as a close match, providing that creamy texture and mild flavour. Just keep in mind that the taste may vary slightly. And did we mention you can whip up your own perfect paneer in just 20 minutes?

Paneer as a sweet or pudding

This versatile cheese can also be transformed into a luscious dessert or pudding. Simply crumble the paneer and cook it gently in milk with sugar, saffron, cardamom and chopped nuts, to make a deliciously creamy Paneer Kheer Pudding. Or create little balls of joy with Paneer Malai Ladoo, by mixing crumbled paneer with condensed milk, nuts, cardamom and rosewater before shaping into bite-sized treats.

Paneer Cheese

Three popular paneer recipes

Not sure what paneer recipe to try first? Here are three of our favourites to inspire you.

Paneer Tikka Masala

Marinated paneer is grilled to perfection and simmered in a rich tomato-based sauce with aromatic spices including cumin and garam masala.

Palak Paneer

A delightfully creamy dish combines paneer cheese with spinach sauce, infused with cumin, coriander and a hint of garam masala.

Matar Paneer

Tender peas and paneer cheese combine in luxuriously rich tomato-based curry. It’s the ultimate comfort food, bursting with flavours.

Can you freeze paneer

Yes! You can freeze paneer. If shop bought you can pop it straight in the freezer in its original packaging, if opened you can just wrap it up in some cellophane and then by foil or a container to avoid freezer burn. If you want to save your homemade paneer, simply follow the same steps as your opened shop bought paneer.