Homemade paneer is easy to make and requires only two ingredients — milk and lemon juice. It’s perfect for sprinkling over eggs or tacos, stirring into curries, or adding to chouriço potato salad.
When I think of cheese, Indian food rarely comes to mind. But the one type of cheese that stands out in Indian cooking is paneer. I don’t use fat-free milk because the curd doesn’t hold up as well when the paneer forms. Unlike regular cheese, paneer doesn’t melt; it holds its shape when heated. You can crumble it and use it as a topping in salads or add chunks to stews or even roast cubes with vegetables for a salad. [Editor’s Note: This homemade paneer is designed to have a much sturdier, drier consistency than store-bought, allowing you to effectively crumble it and use it in place of queso fresco or feta. So devour at will. Kindly let us know how you used your homemade paneer in a comment below.]–Nik Sharma
CAN I FREEZE PANEER?
If you’ve made a big batch of paneer and find yourself with more than you can eat in a few days, rest easy because you can freeze this delicious cheese. To freeze paneer for long-term storage, wrap it in plastic wrap, then store it in an airtight plastic bag in the freezer. Be aware that thawed paneer is a little more crumbly so plan accordingly for how you’ll use it.
- 1 gallon whole milk or reduced-fat milk
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar plus more as needed
- Line a large colander with a double layer of cheesecloth, muslin, or other porous white cloth.
- In a large pot over medium heat, bring the milk to a rolling boil, stirring the milk and scraping the bottom to prevent scalding.
- Stir in the lemon juice. The milk will immediately curdle and separate. If the milk doesn’t completely curdle, add a little more lemon juice. Continue to boil for about 30 seconds, stirring slowly to prevent the large clumps from breaking up.
- Remove the pot from the heat and pour everything—the whey with the cheese—through the lined colander. Rinse under cold running water for 15 to 20 seconds to remove any traces of the lemon juice.
- Gather the edges of the cloth, tie them together, and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Hang the cloth by tying the edges to the handle of a wooden spoon and place the spoon over the colander. Let the water completely drain from the cheese at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
- To shape the paneer, place the drained cheese, still in the cloth, on a flat plate. Place a heavy weight, such as a Dutch oven, on the cheese. Let it sit until any excess water has been released and the cheese is firm to the touch, 30 to 60 minutes.
- Remove the paneer from the cloth and cut and use as needed. (You can store the paneer, wrapped with plastic wrap in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I used whole milk and I needed to add a little more lemon juice—maybe 1 teaspoon more. The homemade paneer held together really well, so it could have been cut into cubes, but it was also easy to break off and crumble.
I sprinkled it on eggs, tacos, and cut it into chunks for a curry dish. I think it's pretty versatile for Indian and Mexican dishes. I've seen recipes that recommend using vinegar to make paneer but I love the very subtle lemony flavor that is left in the cheese. It was so fresh and light.
I've made cheese in the past so I wasn’t intimidated by this recipe for homemade paneer. I ended up using the juice from 3 lemons, which was more than 1/4 cup. I started with 1/4 cup and then added more to get it to curdle. It took about 2 hours to drain the liquid out then another hour of it being pressed with a pot on top. I got some big pieces which I froze to use in a recipe at some point.
Originally published June 23, 2021