Introduction: How to Make Fresh Paneer

Picture of How to Make Fresh Paneer

Paneer is India's version of cottage or farmer's cheese. It is generally a bit more dense than other cottage cheeses. It is closer to Mexican queso blanco than Ethiopian ayib or Italian ricotta.

It is very simple to make, only requires two ingredients that you probably already have at home, and takes only a few minutes active and a few hours passive making time.

Once it is made you can cook it in a variety of dishes, or store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Ingredients.

Picture of Gather Your Tools and Ingredients.

HARDWARE:
- One large pot, preferably with a thick base. I am using an eight quart pressure cooker, without the lid.
- One medium to large colander.
- One piece of cheesecloth large enough to fully line the colander. I double it if the weave looks too loose. If you think normal cottage cheese would slip through the holes, double it. You can also use loose weave muslin.
- One long-handled wooden spoon or latex spatula.


SOFTWARE:
One gallon of whole milk.
About six to eight tablespoons of lemon juice. You can use vinegar in a pinch, or so I am told. I have never tried it so I couldn't tell you if it would be the same amount as the lemon juice.

This recipe is very flexible. You can cut it in half easily, but I would still use at least four tablespoons of lemon juice for a half gallon of milk.

Step 2: Line a Colander With Cheese Cloth.

Picture of Line a Colander With Cheese Cloth.

Do this before you begin, because once you put the milk over the high heat you will need to be ON that constantly until it is time to strain it.

You don't need to use clips, but I just found it helped, especially while I was taking photos and had to ask someone else to do the pouring.

Step 3: Boil Milk.

Picture of Boil Milk.

First find yourself a very large pot with a thick base that will distribute the heat evenly, preferably a stock pot. If the bottom is thin, consider some sort of diffuser. If you don't have one, buy one. They are cheap and you'll be glad you did. They even have them in the grocery store sometimes. Less than $10.

Pour in your milk and turn on the heat to medium/high.

Bring milk to boil over high heat stirring constantly, controlling the foam from boiling over.

Step 4: Curds and Whey.

Picture of Curds and Whey.

Once it reaches a rolling foamy boil, reduce heat to a simmer and immediately pour in your lemon juice!
(or vinegar if you have no lemon juice)

Bottled juice is fine. Stir it up and watch the curds appear immediately. This will leave a yellow liquid (whey) surrounding the curds.

If the curds don't appear after a full minute, add another squirt or two of lemon juice and put the heat up to medium for about one minute. Turn heat off and stir.

Step 5: Strain.

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CAREFULLY empty the pot into the lined colander (over the sink). Boiling water may splash out, so pour slowly and away from your face.

Step 6: Rinse the Whey From the Curds.

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Run cold water over the cheese while still in the colander. Move the colander in a swirling motion to hit all the curds. Do this until it runs clear. This will take a minute or two.
Shake excess water from the curds.

Step 7: Wring Out Water, Creating a Ball.

Picture of Wring Out Water, Creating a Ball.

Gently remove the four corners of the cheese cloth from the colander, lifting the pile of fresh paneer up and out. Twist out the excess water. You will create a ball this way.

Step 8: Hang the Cheese Ball to Drip-dry.

Picture of Hang the Cheese Ball to Drip-dry.

Find a safe place to hang the cheese cloth where it can drip for at least an hour, preferably two.
Tying it over your faucet is good, if you won't be needing the kitchen sink for a while.

Step 9: Compress the Loaf.

Picture of Compress the Loaf.

Put the cheese-filled cloth on a plate and flatten it with your hand, gantly shaping it how you would like it. Now weigh it down. A heavy iron skillet is my method, you may choose to use another plate piled up with tinned food, pickles, anything heavy.
Let it compress for about an hour like this at room temperature.

Step 10: Unwrap and Chill.

Picture of Unwrap and Chill.

Once the cheese has flattened, unwrap and move it to the fridge, but maintain weight for a few more hours. Try a heavy pot of leftovers or a jug of milk if you are trying to conserve fridge space.

Chill overnight with more weight on it if you want it firm enough to slice without fear of total crumble-ization. Even if you do chill it, don't expect it not to crumble somewhat, since you are not using any stabilizer. This is just the nature of "cottage" style cheeses.

Step 11: Consume.

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Hey, you just made your own homemade paneer, you little cheese monger, you!

Now cut it into 1 to 2 inch cubes and eat it plain, crumble and serve with fresh fruit as a light and healthy snack, smother with conserve or preserves as a less light and healthy dessert . Also try it crumbled in salads or added to soups as a creamy garnish at the end. It really is a versatile and easy to make cheese. Just don't use it where you want a stretchy melty cheese, it won't happen.

Most likely you will want to cook it up in your favorite traditional Indian paneer recipe. I suggest saag paneer, a spicy spinach dish, (recipe in next step).

Or you can try the recipe from this delicious looking instructable:

If you lightly brown the cubed paneer before adding to your curry it should hold up alright, just don't stir it much or it will fall apart.

Step 12: SAAG PANEER RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
2 pounds fresh baby spinach, washed and stems trimmed
1/4 cup ghee (substitute olive oil and butter mixed if no ghee is available but I will include a "recipe" on the next step)
1/2 gallon batch (or 1/2 pound store-bought)cubed paneer cheese
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (no need to peel before grating)
3-6 fresh green chilies (serranos work nicely) depending on how spicy you like it.
1/8 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (some like it hot)
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala powder (recipe for mine on upcoming step also)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Salt
Black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:
First blanch about two pounds of fresh spinach (toss in boiling water for just one minute to wilt, but not so long it loses all flavor!).

Strain in colander, pressing all water out with a wooden or latex spoon or spatula. Don't worry about bruising or crushing now, you just want to get rid of as much water as possible. Sometimes I send it for a little spin in the salad spinner if I am not satisfied, or for the extremist, squeeze it in cheese cloth.

Pour 1/4 cup ghee (if you have it, if not you can use half olive oil, half butter) in a large skillet ove medium-high heat.

As soon as this is all melted and hot, add the cubed paneer and fry for a couple minutes until nicely browned all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (1/2 teaspoon of each should suffice), remove from pan and set aside.

Using the same pan, now sauté your chopped onions, garlic, and ginger for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are translucent and floppy.

Add dry spices and another 1/2 teaspoon salt and keep stirring until everything is all incorporated. This should just take a few minutes.

Now gently add the spinach and mix it all up. Reduce heat to the lowest setting while you add the dairy. First stir in buttermilk and yoghurt to create a rich, creamy sauce before finally turning OFF the heat. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Give it one last stir before gently folding in the delicate fried paneer.

Serve with a mound of basmati rice or your favorite flat breads.

Offer chopped fresh cilantro and chilled plain yughurt as sides. Also a simple cold salad of sliced cucumber and tomatoes with nothing but lemon juice and salt makes a wonderful accompaniment to any spicy Indian dish, in my opinion.

Enjoy!

Step 13: MAKE YOUR GHEE

1 pound unsalted butter will make about 1 1/2 cups ghee. Adjust as needed. There are no other ingredients.

Put the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat and keep it moving by tilting and rotating the pot to ensure that it melts slowly and does scorch. Once it has melted, bring it to a boil.

Once the butter has separated and the top is all foam, stir gently and turn heat down to lowest setting. Gently simmer, uncovered without touching for about 45 minutes. Now the solids in the bottom of the pan should be golden brown and the the top will be clarified. Strain through a colander or sieve/strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth. The ghee should be perfectly clear with a golden color much like weak lager, and have a nutty aroma. Pour into a glass jar with a good tight seal. This can be stored in a cool dark place for months, since you have removed the solids which would otherwise turn rancid in normal butter. I refrigerate mine and suggest you do the same.

Step 14: Make Your Own GARAM MASALA

Just so you know, garam means hot, masala means spice. Many garam masala recipes are heavy on the savory-sweet spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon, where mine is a little less heavy handed on those.

The basic preparations will be very similar from one recipe to the next, while specific ingredients and proportions will vary from one family to another. You can come up with a base masala mix that works for your particular taste and then have separate jars of individual ingredients, allowing the modification as per the requirements of each dish. This prevents a monotony of flavor in all your Indian meals, but saves time since for most of us it is not always practical to be toasting and mixing all of the whole spices every day. Once you find a mix you like, and have some in your cupboard you can add the masala to meat or vegetables as a sort of marinade before you are ready to cook. Another tip while experimenting is to try new slow cooker recipes using garam masala. Allow your meat or vegetables to cook in some ghee or oil and masala mix under cover on slow heat for some time before adding additional water or cream etc. It makes for a truly aromatic and robust curry, when you have the time. In any case, the right masala mix can make your life a lot easier if you do a lot of Indian cooking.

Here is the variation I came up with this time and it was wonderful with the saag paneer recipe on the previous step.

2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
6 dried red chilies, broken in pieces, seeds discarded (if you don't like it too hot, go for 3 red chiles)
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon asofoetida seeds (use sparingly, very stinky to some)
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon methi seeds or fenugreek

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (fresh ground if you have the patience, try a microplane)
1 rounded tablespoon ground turmeric

Put whole spices in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet smoky aroma, about 8 minutes. Shake the pan often to prevent them from burning. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked.

Cool completely. Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or clean coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg, turmeric, cinnamon and any other previously ground spices.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark and dry place. Garam Masala can keep for up to 3 months if stored properly. I try to do small enough batches so that I never feel it is going stale.

Comments

Thejesterqueen (author)2015-11-17

Very nice ible. Nice pics and easy to understand . I just learned how to make paneer, ghee, garam masala and ricotta cheese!! Thank you soon much!

satoko68 (author)2015-03-11

I realize that this is a few years old but wanted to give a tip for those having trouble. I made a batch of paneer 2 days ago using homo (full fat milk). After adding 1/4 lemon juice to my 2 liters of boiling milk, my whey was still a bit more cloudy than I prefer. I added just a pinch of citric acid at this point, which improved things significantly right away. My curds had better texture & size & came together more easily. I'll be using citric acid in addition to fresh lemon juice every time from now on as my overall results were better than usual.

satoko68 (author)satoko682015-03-11

Sorry, it should be 1/4 CUP of lemon juice.

sabu.dawdy (author)2013-05-19

excellent ~ible :)

momonkey1997 (author)2012-06-29

could I use goat milk??? i mean, obviously it wouldn't be the same exactly, but would it work?

nanaverm (author)2012-04-29

Why Step #6? Is there a problem just allowing whey to stay on the curds before pressing? A cheese curd recipe I just saw omitted this, didn't bring the milk to a boil, and the result stayed clumped together better. But maybe the flavor was different, too, since your recipe cooks much hotter.

Thanks.

strmrnnr (author)2011-01-04

I researched this a bit and see that some recipes call for vinegar as the acid rather than Lemon juice. I am thinking that you could use different flavoured vinegars to give the cheese different flavours. All are in the region of 5% including the juice so the amount should remain the same.

arora-vesper (author)2010-10-09

I keep ending up with curds that are very, very small. Any idea what could cause this? The first time I tried, it worked, but every time after that... too small...

candiced (author)2009-01-15

Can I use a lower fat milk, like 1 or 2 percent? And does anyone know if the whey has any nutritional value and how I can use it? It seems like a waste to throw it away.

rupamagic (author)candiced2009-03-27

yes, you can use any of those. I usually use regular 4% but have recently done 2% with good results so I would imagine 1% will work also. Good luck and have fun!

rupamagic (author)candiced2009-02-04

I have not tried using 1% or 2% milk but I think it will work. If you try it let me know. I will try to do it myself in the next few weeks if I have time. I'll post an update once I do.

TheCaptain (author)2009-02-16

You watch Good Eats too, dont you?

rupamagic (author)TheCaptain2009-03-27

If I were a home wrecker, Alton would be my target! ;-)

sciamannikoo (author)2008-03-03

Wonderful! I used to do that when I was young, teached from my mother, theached, in turn, from his mother. We used to do that, to have a fast and poor-like breakfast: - put the paneer (we used to call that ricotta as well) in a cup - put also some whey (the greenish liquid you get at the end) in the cup (not much: isn't really healthy, but give the right taste ;) - add some hot milk - add some pieces of bread (old hard bread would stick the tradition) - eat it If I'm not wrong we used to add also a pinch of salt before foaming the milk (don't know exactly why). I still remember the taste of that despite so many years passed from the last one I tried :) ...

rupamagic (author)sciamannikoo2008-03-03

I may add a little salt next time, I was actually wondering about that, because my sister asked be to make it "less bland" next time.

wizodd (author)rupamagic2008-04-18

Salt is a flavor enhancer. Used to make this all the time when I lived in Tucson and we had milk goats--always wanted to make a hard cheese, but it always got eaten at this stage by hungry kids & others. :) You can add spices to the final step if you like....

booker207 (author)2008-03-04

I made this last night and had a bit this morning. It has a lightly nutty flavor, so I probably scorched the milk when cooking it. It's a little bland as is, so I'm waiting on that Saag recipe you mentioned. :) Till then I might cube and cook it a bit with some seasoning. Thanks for the great instructable! ~Matt Booker

rupamagic (author)booker2072008-03-04

Saag paneer recipe up! Hope it's not too late.

booker207 (author)rupamagic2008-03-05

Thanks! A nice touch adding recipes for garam and ghee.

rupamagic (author)booker2072008-03-04

Yes, it is pretty bland on its own, but should still have a light creamy flavor, not nutty. I always add something to it, much like tofu is really not able to stand on its own, it needs to be the compliment to something else, or the vehicle for seasoning. It also serves to mellow out a very spicy curry. I've been too busy to do the saag instructable, but I'll post the recipe later today. Sorry for the delay!

bbkf (author)2008-03-04

i love paneer and saag paneer is my most favourite dinner ever!! thanks fr putting this up and i look forward to making my own saag paneer once that's up.

idontcare (author)bbkf2008-03-04

really? i think paneer butter masala is the best i love paneer too

rupamagic (author)idontcare2008-03-04

Mmmm butter masala... next time!

rupamagic (author)bbkf2008-03-04

There, the recipe is up, and I also added recipes for ghee and my own garam masala blend. Hope you enjoy!

rupamagic (author)bbkf2008-03-04

okay, basic saag paneer recipe will be up by tonight, promise!

bbkf (author)rupamagic2008-03-04

hurrah! thanks loads. i however am already in the future (uk) so i'll look forward to seeing it tomorrow.

GorillazMiko (author)2008-03-03

I agree with everything Brennn10 said. Great job, complete steps, absolutely just awesome pictures, yay for lemon juice and Dixie plates! :-)

rupamagic (author)GorillazMiko2008-03-03

haha yeah, Dixie saves the day

Brennn10 (author)2008-03-03

Great job! Complete steps, and awesome pictures!

rupamagic (author)Brennn102008-03-03

Thanks, glad you like it!

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