How to make Paneer, a fresh farmer’s cheese

Making cheese is one of those things I’ve always wanted to try. As a baby step, I figured it might be best to start with a simple fresh cheese easily made from common ingredients and without need for complicated devices. Last night, I set to work making Paneer, a type of farmer’s cheese common in Indian cooking.

You’ll find many resources for making paneer, however FXCuisine provides easy to follow step-by-step instructions. I also referred to Anjum Anand’s cookbook in which she follows similar steps. My approach is a mix of both FXCuisine and Anjum Anand.

There are two ingredients to paneer, the milk and an acid. I used a half-gallon of whole (full fat) milk. For the acid, you can use lemon juice (2TB), yogurt (2/3 cup ), or vinegar (1tsp). I opted to use vinegar and depending on the strength of your acid, it may take a bit more. I used about a tablespoon of vinegar.

Begin by heating the milk over medium heat until frothy and nearly boiling. Stir in the acid which will cause the milk to curdle. It should take about 1 minute to occur. If it still hasn’t clearly separated, add small increments of your acid until the curdling occurs. I added nearly 1 tablespoon of vinegar before the milk fully curdled. The milk fats will fully separate from the water (whey) and you’ll have something like this:

Next, pour the milk mixture into a colander lined with cheese cloth or a clean dish towel. Rinse with cold water. Your cheese won’t look too pretty at this point, but instead resembles really wet cottage cheese.

Anjum suggests wrapping the curds in a cheesecloth and hanging from your faucet for 10 minutes to allow it to drain. Before hanging, I urged it along by tightly turning the cheesecloth to wring out as much water as I could. From this photo you’ll see the little something extra I did with this batch of paneer … do you see it?

After 10 minutes, give the ball of cheese another good twist then place the cheesecloth covered ball into the bottom of a colander. Cover with a plate and an added weight. I used a cast-iron pot on top of the plate. The weight will act as a press to remove additional moisture. Allow the cheese to be pressed for about 40 minutes. At this point, the cheese will be firm enough to slice and will retain its shape.

I wanted to play with the flavoring of my paneer. After I poured the curds into the cheesecloth to drain, I rinsed them with cold water as noted above. I then stirred in a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh cilantro. I figured it would get pressed into the cheese and create both flavor and visual interest. I think it worked:

The cheese is ready to eat. It is widely used in Indian stewed dishes since the cheese does not melt. In this way, it can be used similarly to tofu. I’ll show you tomorrow what I did with mine :-) The half-gallon milk made about 8-10oz or about 2 cups of paneer.

You can also use the cheese as an appetizer or snack. Simply drizzle with olive oil, cracked pepper, sea salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. The cheese is tender and somewhat bland on its own. The cilantro added just a hint of freshness and the added spices perked it up. It makes for a wonderful treat.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Paula April 8, 2008, 1:33 pm

    You had me up until the cilantro (I saw the green, by the way). Blech. I wonder if the cheese would retain any flavor if you didn’t rinse it before you drain it. Icky parts aside, I’ve seen recipes before and been tempted to try making my own cheese. You might have convinced me. (I think I’ll try it with fresh milk, just because I can).

  • Allen April 8, 2008, 1:45 pm

    Hey Paula – ahh, you’re lucky enough to have fresh milk available, that would be great. Not a fan of cilantro, huh? No worries, just disregard that bit.

    I’m not sure if skipping the rinse would help increase the flavor, but I’ll give that a try next time. I don’t think FX asked me to do it, but Anjum did.

    Let me know how your cheese turns out!

  • Erin April 8, 2008, 1:48 pm

    You’re hired Allen! Can you please come be my personal cheese maker? I am going to have to try this now, even though it kind of grosses me out just a little. Anything is better than braving the insane Whole Foods parking lot for packaged paneer. Am I going to want to eat the whole batch?

  • Anonymous April 8, 2008, 3:44 pm

    I do make my own paneer, but have never thought to curdle the milk with vinegar! will definitely try it.
    This is how i make my paneer: i temper it with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, a red chilli and a few curry leaves, in olive oil. Saute this and add the paneer, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander powder(depending on the quantity of paneer) turmeric powder, salt and a little pepper. Optional( add finely chopped bell pepper)

  • cookinpanda April 8, 2008, 3:49 pm

    Love the cilantro idea. Also, this seems really simple, and doable. Thanks for the instructions and tips.

  • Peter G April 8, 2008, 5:01 pm

    Thanks for this! Your instructions are quite simple. I always thought it was harder. Nice touch by adding the cilantro Allen.

  • toontz April 8, 2008, 6:33 pm

    Allen-
    That looks yummy. I have always wanted to make cheese, too. I said this to my husband over the summer and he looked at me like I had lobsters coming out of my ears. I think I will show him your site and see what he says to me then!

  • Manggy April 8, 2008, 6:37 pm

    I first learned of paneer from Nigella. I didn’t know then it was cheese-ish. Thanks for the tutorial. Should we refrain from stirring the milk after the curds have started to form? In ricotta-making I hear it breaks up the curds too much.

    Totally envying your faucet, hee :)

    (by the way, this hasn’t come in through my RSS– saw it on tastespotting first. I wonder why.)

  • Allen April 8, 2008, 7:19 pm

    Erin: Hmmm, it all depends on how much you pay!

    Anonymous: Oh, I like the ingredients you use with the paneer, will have to try that on my next batch.

    Cookingpanda: You’re welcome!

    Peter G: You’re welcome!

    Toontz: I say just do it – make the cheese when he’s not in the house :-)

    Manggy: Well, if you didn’t think it was cheese-ish, what did you think it was?? :-) I’m not sure what advice to give on the stirring — since it’s being pressed, I don’t see any harm if the curds break up a little bit. Once it curdles though (it happens in a matter of seconds), there isn’t any need to continue stirring, just dump it into the colander.

    Thank you for noticing my faucet :-) We remodeled our kitchen about four years ago and I searched like crazy to find ‘just the right’ faucet. I’ll admit that I was obsessive about it.

    Hmmm, not sure why my feed didn’t come through for you yet. What service do you use? I’ve noticed that Google Reader can lag by a few hours sometimes. I used to visit everyone’s sites directly but I’ve recently switched to Google Reader since there are soooooo many blogs that I want to follow.

    This week though I’ve been slow in reading everyone’s blogs and need to catch up — sorry everyone.

  • farida April 8, 2008, 8:16 pm

    Allen, wow, cheesemaking sounds like a fun thing to do from your post:) I love your step by step pics. Cilantro must give a nice taste to the cheese. The cheese looks yummy! Am I adding it to my “to make” folder? Sure thing.

  • farida April 8, 2008, 8:21 pm

    Allen, it’s me again:) A quick question. Do the sources say anything about adding the salt after the curding process is complete? I mean before the cheese goes in a cheesecloth? I read you can salt the cheese when you eat it, but was wondering if adding it into the curd will ruin the process. I like salted cheese. Any ideas?

  • Kevin April 8, 2008, 8:47 pm

    That looks good! I have a few bookmarked recipes that call for paneer but I have not been able to find it at the store. Making your own sounds pretty easy! Bookmarked to try.

  • Allen April 8, 2008, 9:06 pm

    Farida: The sources did not mention salt, however I’ve seen other cheesemaking recipes will add salt to the curds before pressing.

    Salt is used for flavor but also to as a preservation agent in aged cheeses. Since paneer is intended to be a fresh cheese, I assume this is why recipes don’t call for it. It’s a matter of preference I would say.

    The paneer definetly needed some salt and I added it at the end once I tasted it.

    Now, I’m curious about trying to make an aged cheese :-)

    Kevin: Well, here you go! The paneer is very simple and fairly quick to make. I looked forward to seeing how you use the paneer :-)

  • farida April 8, 2008, 9:52 pm

    Allen, guess what? I just made your paneer! Believe it or not! I had milk and yogurt in the fridge and instead of putting your recipe into my “to make” folder I decided to try it right away:) I used reduced fat milk, which was a mistake on my part, because the amount of curd wasn’t that much:) I also ended up putting more yogurt into milk. It’s my fault cause you mentioned using whole milk. Still the taste was great! I added salt before the hardening part and it was great! The taste reminded me skim milk cheese we buy from Costco. The bad news is the cheese is already gone:(( Next time, with whole milk, we’ll have enough for the whole family! Thank you for sharing!

  • Allen April 8, 2008, 11:21 pm

    Farida — Wow, that’s great! Yeah, reduced fat milk won’t get you too much cheese :-)

    I’m glad you tried it – let me know how it turns out if you try it again. I’m out of milk so no more cheese for me. I bet the yogurt adds a bit of extra flavor too that you don’t get by using vinegar as I did. I’ll have to try that next time!

  • canarygirl April 9, 2008, 1:19 am

    Wow, this is great! Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I may have to give this a try. :)

  • Jen April 9, 2008, 8:23 pm

    I never imagined that paneer could be so easy to make… this definitely beats paying $7 for an 8oz. block of it at Wholefoods.

  • Arundathi April 9, 2008, 11:43 pm

    Allen – that looks great. I love the cilantro touch. Been making my own paneer for about 2-3 months, but didnt think of adding cilantro – thanks for the tip. Also, I don’t rinse it before straining and it comes out fine.

  • ChichaJo April 10, 2008, 8:55 pm

    Bravo! Your paneer is gorgeous! I love paneer and always order a dish of it when I am at an Indian restaurant. It seems so easy to make! Ok, thanks to you, another recipe bookmarked :)

  • White On Rice Couple April 14, 2008, 8:32 am

    We’ve been wanting to get our hands into cheesemaking (other than ricotta) because we’re working on a video now about home made cheeses!! This paneer is what we are looking into making as well and your step by step instructions are fabulous!
    Curdling the milk with vinegar is something we have not seen with making paneer yet, but will certainly experiment with this idea.
    Thanks Allen!

  • eviedee April 17, 2008, 4:29 pm

    I have been dying to learn more about indian food. Each night as my husband and I approach our apartment with bags of takeout, the wonderful smell of curry coming from our neighbor’s apartment makes me regret every moment that I have spent away from my stove. Since I am better at cooking than making friends I really appreciate these posts!

  • Mango Power Girl April 17, 2008, 10:54 pm

    Great looking paneer! You beat me to posting it ;) Anjum Anand rocks, but for paneer I go with my mother’s recipe. Anjum has really done a great job of showing how simple & delicious Indian food can be. Glad to have found your blog.

  • Arundathi April 20, 2008, 7:47 am

    Allen, You really changed my view of paneer – I have referenced your post and blog here – http://arundathi-foodblog.blogspot.com/2008/04/dressing-up-paneer.html
    Please see.
    Thanks

  • Sam June 16, 2008, 7:03 pm

    From a gallon of milk, what kind of yield should I expect? I ended up with a rather small ball, and still practically a gallon of whey. Of course, I have little idea what I’m going to do with the whey. Suggestions?

  • Shilpa June 30, 2008, 3:24 am

    Hi Allen, This is indeed a wonderfully illustrated ‘recipe’ for paneer. I always knew how to make it but I visited wondering when to add flavoring to it. Yours seemed to be the only site to tell us.

    Did you know that the ‘whey’ that we drain out is extremely nutritious and if used to make dough produces the softest bread. I use it to make chapatti dough. (Ofcourse it is not advisable to store any such dough.)

    Thanks a lot for this recipe.

  • sweetbird September 29, 2008, 8:21 pm

    Snap. Your paneer looks…at least twelve times better than mine. I love the cilantro idea.

  • Mona October 3, 2008, 1:05 am

    Thanks… I have not tried yet with yogurt… I wonder if Kefir would work???
    I have now read twice ‘from the people’ that I can get more solids from the leftover whey to make ricotta…. I have tried twice with little luck… I wonder if the whey is not acidic enough, or too acidic…. or perhaps I was mislead :~)

    My last batch I used roasted garlic and freshly ground black pepper…. nummy…. I really compressed it this time by putting some barbells into a pan to super smoosh the liquid out. While it’s flavor is wonderful, I prefer a lighter texture.

    I am envious of those that can get fresh milk…. my fresh milk kefir (before the law pulled it) blew my pasteurized kefir out of the water and I have no doubt it would be the same with paneer. But I am fortunate that my local Health Food store clearances milk about to go past date… so I got a few gallons for about 1.50 each…awesome! (either organic or at least hormone free)

  • Mona October 3, 2008, 1:06 am

    Oh, I forgot to mention I’ve been using lemon as my acid…

  • kellypea March 24, 2009, 7:00 pm

    I can find paneer in ONE store here and I’m too lazy to drive there! Thanks for sharing this. Seems everybody’s been making cheese, but you’re the first one I’ve seen to make paneer. I have just the Indian veggie dish for this…

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