Paneer cheese—a ridiculously dreamy, creamy fresh cheese and an Indian food favorite of mine. I can’t believe how quick and easy it is to make cheese and you only need two ingredients. I guess I’m a late bloomer in the kitchen. I crave Indian food a lot, and one of my favorite dishes is Saag Paneer. I’ve been looking for paneer cheese for months now, and it’s as if all the stores stopped carrying it at the very moment I decided I needed some! I’d seen it there before…many times. I decided to ask someone at the Deli. I was told it could be ordered, but it could take a week or two to get it. No way! When I have a craving and finally decide I need to do something about it, I can’t wait. Can you? I need instant gratification! Still, in the store, I said, “Maybe I’ll just make some.” and I felt like all eyes turned to me to give me the “you’re crazy!” look. I even heard a gasp from behind me! I quickly searched for “paneer recipe” on my phone. I found a recipe and before I could read the directions, I put the milk, cheesecloth, and lemon in my cart and went on my way.
At that point, I started to feel some doubt and regret. I mean, if it were as easy as that, everyone would be making it, right? Apparently, the incident at the store made me doubt my ability to make cheese at home. I started to feel a little anxious. I couldn’t believe it! That incident totally psyched me out. Luckily, I got over it in only a few minutes when I saw those curds come together! Success! Yay!
Long story longer, I simmered the milk as instructed and Bam! Instant cheese. It was really that easy and so much better than the packaged paneer cheese.
Let me show you!
Get some milk. You can use whole milk or 2%. I used whole. Make sure it’s not ultra-pasteurized! I use Lucerne, and it works great.
Grab a pot large enough for a 1/2 gallon of milk, pour the milk in and turn the heat to medium.
The milk needs to come to a boil, and you’ll need to stay there and stir it until it does—no multitasking during this process. I promise this is the hardest part.
Once the milk is boiling, you’ll remove it from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. It starts to break up immediately.
Pour it through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
Allow the whey to drain off and lightly salt and mix it in.
Gather the cheesecloth and give it a good squeeze, but not too much or it will be dense and dry.
Hang it from the faucet using a rubber band. Allow it to hang there for about 5 minutes.
Transfer it to a plate with the tied end off to the side. Set a heavy pot or cast iron pan on top to help shape it, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Take it out, slice it up and enjoy!
Look at that! This recipe is available in my new book.
Unlike mozzarella, which I think I’ve finally mastered too, the paneer has come out perfect every single time I’ve made it. If you’ve experienced a problem with this recipe, try one or more of the ideas below and don’t give up! It’s going to be something simple, and as soon as you figure it out, it’s a snap to pull cheese together anytime you want it. It’s totally worth it!
Check your milk. Is it UHT pasteurized? Ultra-pasteurized? Most of the brands in the US are ultra-pasteurized to give milk a longer shelf life. While UHT milk may work for this type of cheese (won’t work for most cheese-making), get a standard pasteurized milk for best results. Lucerne is a brand I use.
Did you get the milk hot enough, or did you let it boil too long? Remember, UHT milk isn’t suitable for cheesemaking and UHT is ultra-high temperature processing.
Did you use enough lemon or lime juice? Was it fresh?
There isn’t much else that can go wrong with this cheese!
By the way, I believe you can use distilled white vinegar as a substitute for the citrus juice. However, I have not tried it. It does make sense, though, as I’ve used it for buttermilk and mozzarella.
- ½ gallon milk, not ultra-pasteurized (No UHT), whole or 2%
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
- Pour milk into large pot and heat over medium heat, stirring often until the milk starts to boil gently. This may take a while, so be patient.
- When the milk is boiling, turn down the heat to low and stir in the citrus juice. Continue stirring for a minute or so to help the curds form and separate from the
whey. You should have a yellowish or greenish clear liquid, along with beautiful, big curds. It really doesn’t take long on this step. You may only need about 30 seconds.
- If you don’t have separation, keep stirring, check the temp of your milk, heat again if it feels lukewarm. If the milk is hot, try adding a little more lemon juice, and verify you haven’t used UHT pasteurized milk.
- Remove from the heat, and carefully pour curds and whey into the strainer lined with cheesecloth. You can run a little cold water over it to remove the citrus flavor if you want. Now is also the time to sprinkle a pinch of salt over it and gently mix it in.
- Gather the cheesecloth, securing the curds inside. Wring it a little with your hands. It’s going to be very hot. Don’t squeeze too much or your cheese will be dense and dry. Use a strong rubber band to hang the cheese ball from the faucet for 5 minutes.
- Transfer cheese ball to a plate. Lay it on the plate with the tied end out to the side. Place something heavy on top to push it down. I use a heavy cast iron pan. Allow it to sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
- Take it out of the fridge. Remove the cheesecloth. Slice or cube the cheese as desired. It’s ready to go!
Recipe adapted from Aarti Sequeira, Food Network: