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Making paneer at home is quite simple and with just TWO ingredients you can make soft and perfectly textured paneer each time at home!!
Paneer is a fresh cheese commonly used in Indian cuisine. You can make fresh paneer and eat it right away, it does not require any aging or culturing of cheese. Making paneer at home is very easy and a simple process. Homemade paneer is much better than any store bought paneer. Most store bought paneer have some kind of preservatives and additives. Homemade paneer does not have any preservatives and is fresh and full of flavors.
Homemade paneer is soft and has slightly chewy texture, wheres store bought paneer is quite chewy and makes a squeaky noise when you bite on it. Paneer is quite versatile and can be used in many Indian dishes, from savory to sweet, for making curries or for grilling. Since paneer does not melt, unlike any other cheese it is perfect cheese for grilling purposes.
Growing up in India, I remember my mom always used to make fresh paneer at home. She used this homemade paneer in many Indian dishes. One of my favorite dish was saag paneer. I absolutely loved the soft and creamy texture of paneer pieces, with some rich and creamy gravy made out of saag (spinach). Perfect blend of texture, spices and flavors 😋
I love making paneer at home. Even though these days paneer is easily available in most grocery stores where I live, I still prefer making it at home. The fact it is so fresh and full of flavors, I never buy paneer from outside. It is one of the basic and most simple recipe one can make at home without any fuss. Today, I am sharing my mom’s recipe for making perfectly textured and super soft paneer at home.
Traditionally, paneer is not flavored with any spices. It has mildly milky flavor from the milk it is made from. Paneer when added to a dish takes the flavors of the dish. Some of the Indian classic paneer dishes are saag paneer, matar paneer, shahi paneer, paneer tikka masala. Paneer is also used in making various dessert recipes such as ras malai, rasagulla, paneer kheer. How can I forget my favorite appetizers, paneer pakora and paneer tikka, well these are also made out of paneer. There are many many ways you can use paneer, the possibilities are endless 😍
What is Paneer?
Paneer is a fresh cheese made by curdling the milk using some acidic food such as lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, curd(yogurt) or citric acid. Paneer is a type of Indian cottage cheese also known as “chenna”. Paneer is not aged or fermented unlike other cheese and therefore can be consumed right away. Paneer is firm, non-melting cheese unlike other cheese and hence makes an excellent candidate for grilling purposes.
To make paneer, milk is boiled and then curdled using some acidic food. The curdled milk solids are collected into a cheese cloth or muslin cloth. Later it is hung or pressed with a heavy weight for the paneer to set.
How to make Paneer?
Making homemade paneer is a very easy process. Though many a times we end up with an undesirable product. The only time consuming step in this entire process is of boiling the milk. Thanks to Instant Pot I no longer have to baby sit it anymore. It is extremely easy and a mess free process of boiling milk in Instant pot.
Turn on the Instant Pot, press twice the “yogurt” mode to change the mode to “boil”. Close the Instant Pot with the vent sealed. This will take good 40 mins or so to boil the milk. This is the best part you don’t have to watch milk boil, prevent any spilling, any mess whatsoever. While Instant Pot is boiling the milk for you, you can do some other chores. How cool it is!! After 40 mins or so, the Instant Pot will beep. Wait for 5 mins, before opening the lid. Switch to saute mode high and bring the milk to a gentle boil, this takes around 10 mins or so. Make sure to stir inbetween to prevent milk from sticking to the bottom. Once the milk is boiled, add some vinegar and let the milk curdle. In just couple of minutes milk curdles. You will see milk solids separated from the whey which is whitish or greenish in color. Turn off the Instant Pot. Collect all the milk solids into a cheese cloth, rinse it with some fresh water to remove any smell of the vinegar. Press to remove any extra liquid. Form into a shape and keep some heavy weight for paneer to set. Allow 30 mins or so for paneer to set into a nice, soft block. And here you have the freshest cheese – homemade paneer ready to be devoured!! Cut it into desired pieces and use it your favorite dish. Enjoy 😋
Tips and Tricks
- The fat content in the milk plays a very important role in the quality of the paneer. I personally prefer full fat or whole milk for homemade paneer.
- Make sure the milk has a good shelf life.
- You can use any acidic food to make paneer. Lemon juice, vinegar, curd(yogurt) or citric acid. Depending upon what acidic food is used to coagulate milk, the texture of the paneer will vary. The yogurt based paneer is more soft and less firm in texture.
- The ratio of 1 gallon of milk to 1/4 cup of vinegar has worked for me like a charm. I always get perfect textured, soft paneer. Make sure to use good quality vinegar. I prefer distilled white vinegar.
- Always add the acidic food like vinegar or lemon juice once the milk has come to boil.
- After adding the acidic food, gently stir the milk to curdle the milk.
- As soon as the milk has completely curdled. Remove the milk from the heat and strain it. Overcooking will yield hard and crumbly paneer once it is set.
- Once refrigerated paneer does turn little hard. Soak the paneer pieces in warm water to soften the paneer before adding the paneer to the recipe.
- It takes around 30 mins for paneer to set. Depending upon the moisture in the milk solids the time will vary. If required keep the paneer to set for little longer (max. upto an hour).
Whey from the Paneer
After making paneer, the leftover whitish or greenish colored liquid is called whey. This whey is rich in nutrients value. Think of whey as a vegetable stock. You can use the whey pretty much wherever you can use vegetable stock. Possibilities are endless. But keep in mind that this whey will have some sour taste from the acidic food used to curdle the milk. Hence use it cautiously. Some of the uses I find useful are as follows:
- add this nutrient rich whey to knead a dough for bread, roti, paratha, naan.
- add this whey to the dal/lentils, kadhi, homemade buttermilk instead of water.
- use it in making of gravy or curry.
- you can also give a boost to your plants by adding whey mixed with some water. Its an excellent source of nutrients for your plants.
How to store and freeze Paneer?
- Paneer stays fresh for upto a week in the refrigerator. Paneer does tend to be little hard upon refrigeration. Add the pieces of paneer into warm water before using it in your favorite dish.
- Paneer freezes well too. Paneer stays good for several months in the freezer. Defrost the paneer in the refrigerator overnight and use it.
How to make Paneer - Instant Pot, Stove Top
- 1 gallon full fat / whole milk
- 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
- piece of cheese cloth / muslin cloth
- large colander
- large mixing bowl
Instructions for Instant Pot:
- Line a large colander with a piece of double layer of cheese cloth and place the colander onto a large empty bowl.
- Turn on Instant Pot on "boil" mode.
- Note: Press yogurt mode twice to get boil mode.
- Add 1 gallon of whole milk. Close the Instant Pot with vent sealed.
- Approximately, after around 40 mins. the Instant Pot will beep. Turn off the Instant Pot.
- After around 10 mins. carefully open the Instant Pot. Turn on the saute mode (high).
- Let milk come to a gentle boil, around 10 mins. Keep stirring in-between to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Add vinegar, mix gently. Milk starts to curdle immediately, as soon as the white milk solids and whey(greenish liquiseparate. Turn off the Instant Pot.
- Immediately pour the contents into the colander lined with cheese cloth to strain the whey out.
- Carefully lift the colander and rinse it under cold water to remove any smell from the vinegar.
- Grab the ends of the cheese cloth and twist to form a ball, while removing any extra liquid.
- Place the cheese ball on a plate with twisted part of the cheese cloth on the side (this assures nice and smooth block of cheese). Place another plate on the top. Add some weight on the second plate to set the paneer. I normally keep weight equivalent to a gallon (empty jar of milk filled with water, an oil container).
- After 30 mins. check if paneer is set. It should feel soft, but firm. If required add few more mins. for paneer to set.
- Note: Paneer will harden upon refrigeration.
- Cut the paneer into desired pieces and use it in your favorite dish. Enjoy!!
Instructions for Stove Top:
- In a heavy bottom pot, on a high heat, add milk and bring it to a gentle boil. Keep stirring in-between to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Follow the same steps as above.