Homemade Paneer Cheese

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I was gifted with a couple gallons of cow’s milk recently. Friends had bought some for the youngsters that were visiting with their parents. The said youngsters did not drink much of the milk and not being milk drinkers themselves or wanting to waste it they asked if we would like the milk. I said yes of course and set about figuring out what to do with it. Time was running short when all of a sudden the answer popped into my head. Paneer cheese! So easy to make and so good in many dishes, especially East Indian. Here’s how I do it and a suggestion for what to do with it afterwards.

Makes a little over a pound of cheese.

1 gallon whole milk (not UHT pasteurized)
1/4 – 1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 salt or to taste

Big heavy bottomed pot
Slotted spoon
Mixing bowls
Small flat plate & weight (can be a can of something)

How to:

Pour the milk into the pot and set over medium heat. Bring the milk to just below boil at around 200 F. Stir the milk occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the milk doesn’t burn. Use a thermometer if possible. The milk will be steamy when ready.

Remove the milk from heat and stir in the lemon juice. The milk should begin to curdle immediately.

Cover the milk and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes, the curds should be completely separated and the liquid should look yellow and watery. If the milk hasn’t separated, try adding lemon juice a tablespoon at a time. I used Meyer lemons and I don’t think they are as acidic as regular lemons. I had to add more lemon juice. Also make sure you are not using ultra high temperature pasteurized (UHT) milk. This kind of milk doesn’t separate.

Set a colander over a big mixing bowl and line it with a few layers of cheesecloth draping over the sides. You can secure the sides with clothespins. Carefully pour the curds into the colander. The whey will collect in the bowl beneath.

Gather the cheesecloth in your hand and gently squeeze to remove the excess whey. It could be too warm to hold so you might need to wear rubber gloves.

Open the cheesecloth and sprinkle the salt over the curds. Stir gently and taste. Add more salt if desired.

Transfer the curds (still in the cheesecloth) into a bowl over the colander. Fold the cheesecloth around the curds. Set a small plate on top of the package and weight it. I used a big jar partially filled with water. You could also use a large can of something like tomatoes. Press for at least 15 minutes but don’t worry if it goes longer.

Once pressed, your paneer is finished and ready to use. You can use it immediately or refrigerate for up to two days. Refrigerated paneer will be firmer and less likely to crumble than fresh paneer.

You can drink the leftover whey straight or in smoothies. You can use it in place of water in any baking recipe.

I have heard: if you are on a septic system you should not pour the whey down the sink drain because it can ruin your septic system. I have been trying to research if there’s any science behind this or if it’s a tale spread by people who think they know or have been told something that is not true. If you know anything about this I’d like to hear from you.


Easy Paneer Curry

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
14 oz can diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/2 to 1 pound paneer, cubed
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1/4 cup cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

How to:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic slowly until they are soft and golden brown. Sprinkle the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder over the onion and garlic. Continue cooking until the seasonings are fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour the tomatoes into the skillet. Cook until the excess liquid evaporates and the oil separates, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the paneer, chicken broth, sugar, and salt to the mixture. Stir gently so the paneer does not break apart. Cook until the paneer begins to absorb some of the liquid, about 10 minutes. Stir the cream into the mixture and warm for another 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro to serve.

You can add peas and green beans to this recipe.