How to make paneer at home – an easy step by step recipe to make paneer at home. Making paneer at home is very easy and there is no rocket science involved to get perfect soft paneer each time you make. Most store bought Indian cottage cheese or paneer contains additives or at least citric acid that is not good for health so I make my own paneer at home.
Homemade paneer is much superior in taste, freshness and flavor than the store bought ones. You also have the chance to choose the milk you desire. If you are new to Indian Cuisine, then these FAQ may help you.
What is paneer?
Paneer is a kind of fresh cheese made by curdling milk using an acidic food ingredient like lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, curd (yogurt) or citric acid. Paneer is a soft yet firm, non melting cheese that is made without using any kind of rennet. It is also not fermented or aged like other kinds of cheese.
To make paneer or chenna, milk is boiled and then curdled with a acidic ingredient. The curdled milk solids are then drained to a muslin or cheese cloth. Later it is pressed with a heavy object to set and then it is cubed to pieces.
Acids used to make paneer
Commercially sold paneer is made using citric acid. For homemade paneer – curd (yogurt), lemon juice, or vinegar are the choices to curdle the milk. The taste, flavor & texture of the Indian cottage cheese depends on the kind of acidic ingredient.
1. Curd or yogurt yields very soft yet firm paneer. You can skip rinsing the chenna but it has to be very well drained by hanging it for at least 30 mins. Then it has to set. Using too much curd to curdle will impart a mild yogurt flavor to the cheese.
2. Lemon juice imparts a lemony flavor to the chenna so it has to rinsed well. Too much lemon juice will make the cheese grainy.
3. Vinegar – too much vinegar will make the chenna grainy.
How much lemon juice to use?
Many readers write to me asking if there is any standard amount of lemon juice or vinegar to use per liter of milk to make paneer.
No there is no standard amount of acidic ingredient to add per liter of milk as it entirely depends on the kind of milk. Commercial milks are much processed to increase the shelf life so no 2 packs of milk may be the same even if they are from the same brand.
In my many years of experience I have seen farm fresh raw unpasteurized milk curdles just with few drops of lemon juice. While the commercial milk needs different amounts of vinegar or lemon juice each time.
So how much acidic ingredient to use is purely judgmental and just go ahead adding the minimum. The measures given below in the recipe card are approximations of what works well for me.
How to choose milk for paneer
- Use full fat fresh milk. Do not use stale or milk that has gone beyond the expiry date as it is unhealthy & does not yield good results.
- Cow’s milk, buffalo milk or goat milk can be used to make paneer. The key to make good paneer is the amount of fats. If using buffalo milk then keep stirring to prevent the milk getting scorched at the bottom. The fats in the buffalo milk get stuck to the bottom quickly.
- Best homemade paneer can be made from non-homogenized & raw milk. However if non homogenized milk or raw milk is not available you can also make homogenized & pasteurized milk just like the way I did.
- Avoid using skimmed milk as it yields lesser paneer. Also avoid using low fat milk to make paneer as it may not set well.
Tips to make soft paneer
The following tips will help you to make soft and well set paneer.
- Always add the acidic ingredient like lemon juice, vinegar or curd only after the milk comes to a boil.
- Once the acid ingredient is added to the milk, stir and check if the milk has curdled completely. If not add as much needed and turn off the stove in time.
- Do not continue to boil after the milk has curdled completely. This makes the paneer very hard & grainy.
- Use just the right amount of acids to curdle the milk. Using too much of acidic ingredient makes the chenna or paneer grainy and rubbery. So add the lemon juice in batches only as needed.
- I always prefer to pour some cold water or ice cubes immediately to the pot to stop it from cooking further. You can also skip this step and transfer the paneer quickly to a colander that is lined with muslin cloth. Immediately rinse it under running water.
- Always drain, squeeze and hang the chenna or milk solids for 30 mins to remove excess whey before placing a heavy object. This helps the paneer to stay firm and avoids disintegrating after adding to gravy dishes.
- Keeping the weight over the paneer for many hours makes the paneer denser.
Why do paneer cubes break in the gravy
Low amount of fats or excess whey in the curdled milk solids won’t set the paneer well. They may break as soon as it is added to the gravy. So I always ensure to hang the curdled milk solids or chenna for 30 mins before setting.
Add it to the gravy only after it has thickened. Cover the pan after adding the cubes. Turn off the stove. The heat in the pan is enough to cook it.
Homemade paneer recipe
How to make paneer
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- 1 ½ liters full fat milk or 6 cups
- 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons Lemon juice or ¼ cup curd or yogurt
- 1 colander or strainer
- 1 cheese cloth or muslin cloth or fresh handkerchief
- 1 large bowl to collect whey
- 1 to 2 heavy objects
How to make the recipe
Preparation to make paneer
- Pour milk to a heavy bottom pot & bring it to a boil on a medium heat.
- Keep stirring occasionally to ensure the milk doesn’t get scorched at the bottom.
- Meanwhile spread a cheese cloth or muslin cloth over a colander.
- Place this over a large bowl to hold the whey.
How to make paneer
- When the milk comes to a boil, pour lemon juice or curd or vinegar.
- Then gently stir the milk until you see the entire milk begins to curdle
- If the milk doesn’t curdle fully, then pour some more lemon juice.
- Stir & wait until the entire milk curdles.
- Turn off the stove as soon as you see the whole pot of milk curdles.
- If you continue to cook at this stage, paneer can become hard.
- Pour some cold water or add ice cubes to stop the paneer from cooking further.
- Allow the paneer to settle for 1 min.
- Gently pour the entire paneer along with whey to the colander.
- Rinse it under running water to remove the smell of the lemon juice.
- If using yogurt you can skip rinsing. If you like lemony paneer then also just skip the rinsing part.
How to set paneer
- Wring the cheese cloth and make a knot.
- Squeeze any excess whey or water and hang it for 30 mins.
- Hanging the paneer helps to get rid of whey quickly and will set the paneer well.
- Place muslin cloth on a plate & place a heavy object on it for the paneer to set.
- Discard the whey from the plate.
- I usually put a pot or cast iron pan over the paneer and then place a 2 kg rice pack or oil container.
- After 1 hour, Remove the cloth and cut it to cubes.
- Refrigerate the homemade paneer and use up with 2 to 3 weeks. Or freeze up to 3 months.
- Whenever needed just add the blocks to 2 cups how water and rest for 10 to 15 mins.
- Drain and use up in the paneer recipes. Avoid overcooking the paneer after adding it to the curry.
Notes on how to make paneer
- Please use only full fat fresh milk or whole milk as high fats in the milk will yield more paneer & will set well.
- Do not use milk that has not gone beyond the expiry date.
- Adding sufficient amount of acidic ingredient like lemon juice, vinegar or curd (yogurt) is very essential otherwise the milk will not curdle. So you may need to add more than what is mentioned in the recipe card.
- Similarly adding too much of lemon juice or vinegar will make the paneer harder & grainier. So begin by adding only a little and add more as needed until it curdles.
- Once the milk curdles completely, turn off the stove and avoid cooking further to prevent the paneer from turning hard.
- It is also good to add some ice cubes or ice cold water to stop the paneer from cooking immediately.
Preparation – How to make paneer at home
1. Bring milk to a boil on a medium flame. If using very cold milk, it is a good idea to boil on a low heat till the milk becomes warm. Then boil on a medium flame. Boiling very cold milk on high flame can lend a weird smell to paneer.
2. When the milk comes to a good boil, add the lemon juice or curd. Using curd for curdling milk yields the best soft paneer. But lemon juice or vinegar can also be used.
3. As soon as you see milk curdling, switch off the stove. If the milk does not curdle with in a short while, add little more lemon juice or curd. Make sure the milk curdled well before you switch off the stove.
4. If you continue to cook longer, it may become hard and grainy. We need to use a bowl full of ice cubes or ice cold water to stop it from getting cooked further. I suggest using some ice cold water or ice cubes after the milk is curdled completely. Allow it to rest for a minute.
How to make paneer at home with step by step photos
5. Place a colander over a pot, layer it with a thin muslin or cotton cloth. A thin handkerchief works well too. If you have used yogurt, no need to rinse the paneer. If lemon is used then we need to rinse under running water to remove the smell of lemon.
6. I poured some ice cold water. Drain the water completely. Squeeze off the excess water.
7. Hang it for about 30 minutes.
8. Keep the muslin cloth on a plate. I used my electric rice cooker steaming basket. You can also use a plate with holes that comes with a pressure cooker. If using a normal plate then discard the whey after a while. Form a nice round shape by wringing the cloth.
9. Place a heavy object over it. I fill my pressure cooker with uncooked raw rice and place over it. This time I used my cast iron pan and then placed a pumpkin. Any heavy object will just work well to set paneer. Allow it to set for about 1 hour.
Leaving it for too long to set will make the paneer dense.
10. Remove the cloth and you will find a round block of paneer. You will also notice a dent on the block. It is just normal.
11. Slice the paneer. Use or Refrigerate for further use. I usually put the entire block in a steel box and refrigerate. I cut only when needed.
How to prevent paneer cubes from breaking in gravy?
I suggest using cornflour only if your homemade paneer cubes ever broke in the gravy. Do not use more than suggested as it may turn the cubes hard after cooking.
Knead the chenna well. There should be no water left it must be only moist. Add 1.5 tsps corn flour, knead it again thoroughly. Make a nice moist rectangle in a plate. If needed can wet your palm to make a moist rectangle. (Not soggy)
Cover the plate with a moist cloth. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut to cubes after it is set.