Paneer or Cottage Cheese is commonly available in Indian subcontinent region. The paneer making process is simple and only requires a few ingredients. It is prepared by curdling of heated milk. Let's learn step-by-step how to make paneer at home.
Once you start making paneer at home, I am sure you will stop buying it from the market. While growing up I have seen my mother always made chana (chena) and paneer at home.
However, when I started my cooking journey as a novice, I used to buy store bought paneer. I never got the same taste in those packed paneers. Most of the store-bought paneers are either hard, chewy or extreme sour taste. This often spoils your hard work when you make curry using those store-bought paneers.
When I told this to my mother, she said why don't you start making it at home. She explained the steps to make paneer at home and over time I have mastered it and now sharing the steps to make paneer at home.
What is Paneer?
Paneer is fresh cheese, commonly known as cottage cheese. Paneer aka Indian cottage cheese is prepared by curdling of milk by adding curdling (souring) agents like lemon juice or vinegar.
Cottage cheese is considered as fresh cheese. Unlike other cheese, it does not undergo an aging process to develop flavor. Hence, you will get very mild flavor in paneer or cottage cheese.
Nutritional Benefits of Paneer
Paneer or Cottage cheese is high in protein as well as other vital elements. Cottage cheese's nutritional composition changes based on the amount of milk fat utilized. It's a good source of calcium, a mineral that's important for tooth and bone health as well as osteoporosis prevention.
It also has a high amount of vitamin B12, which helps to prevent anemia.
Potassium, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin A are among the other nutrients included in cottage cheese.
What is Chana or Chena?
Chana is the crumbled version of the curdled milk. It is more moist than paneer. Milk is boiled and curdling agents are added to get chana at home. The process of making chana is similar to the process of making paneer.
However, after adding the curdling agent milk curdles and accumulates together which is then separated from the whey and called chana. Chana is further solidified by putting pressure to make paneer.
Chana is also pronounced as Chena, Chhana or Chhena. Soft, juicy and crumbly chana is used for making varities of Indian sweet dishes like Sondesh, Rosogolla, Kanchagolla and many more.
How to make Paneer from Spoiled milk?
Making of paneer is an easy process and anyone can prepare paneer at home. Let's learn how to make paneer at home. You just need two ingredients to prepare paneer at home:
- Full cream milk
- Curdling Agents (Check the below section to know more about it)
For making paneer, you have to boil the milk and the add the curdling agent.
To start this easy process, take milk in a heavy bottom pan and boil it.
Once the milk boil, simmer the flame and add the curdling agent (lemon juice or vinegar or any other curdling agents). Gently stir the milk. After that, boost the heat and milk gets curdled. Switch off the gas.
After that use a muslin cloth to drain the whey (don't discard) and collect the curdled milk. You can tie the muslin cloth and hang for some time, as a result extra water drains out. This gives you chana which contains more moisture than paneer.
Finally, keep the collected chana on a plate or tray and you have to keep a heavy weight on it to get firm slab of paneer.
Different curdling agents are used to curdle milk
We need souring agents to make paneer at home. Generally, curdling agents are also known as food acids. Different curdling agents are used to curdle milk.
Lemon juice is commonly used to curdle the milk. I have seen my mother using lemon juice to curdle the milk while preparing chana or paneer.
Vinegar is a good curdling agent. White vinegar is used for curdling the milk. When you do not have lemon in your pantry, then vinegar does the job.
Curd is also used for curdling of milk while making paneer at home. Curd is normally used for curdling of milk when chana or panner is used for making desserts.
Buttermilk is one more curdling agent which can be used to curdle the milk.
Tips and Tricks to make paneer at home
Certain tips and tricks will help you to get the best paneer at home:
- Firstly, use full cream milk (preferably cow milk) to get good yield of paneer.
- Secondly, though toned milk could give low fat paneer but it does not set properly. Hence avoid using toned milk while making paneer. Also, if you are using skimmed milk the yield will be very less. Therefore, you should avoid using skimmed milk for making paneer.
- Furthermore, check the shelf life of the milk before making paneer. Milk should be within its shelf life.
- Finally, when milk is curdled completely avoid heating it further. Remove it from heat and drain it through muslin cloth. Unnecessary heat will result in hard texture of paneer.
What is the difference between Ricotta Cheese and Cottage Cheese?
Many people often ask if ricotta cheese and cottage cheese are same and the answer is no.
Ricotta is a traditional Italian cheese which is prepared from the leftover whey. It has a mild and sweet flavor. Ricotta has grainy texture.
Cottage cheese is fresh, unripened cheese which has a mild flavor. It has lumpier texture. To know more about Ricotta Cheese and Cottage Cheese Read..
Recipes using Paneer or Cottage Cheese
Paneer is an integral part of Indian cuisine and there are plenty of dishes where paneer is the star ingredient.
If you visit any Indian restaurant, you will definitely get couple of popular paneer recipes in the menu. Moreover, some of the continental restaurants have also modified their non-vegetarian recipes replacing meat with paneer.
Cottage cheese is a very good source of protein for vegetarian population.
Paneer is utilized in a wide range of cuisines, from appetizers to desserts.
Starter or Appetizer
Let's talk about some of the popular starter recipes which are cooked using paneer.
I believe paneer tikka comes top on the list. Here paneer cubes are marinated with yogurt and spices and later frilled in oven or stove top. Paneer malai tikka is also a very good appetizer which is mild spicy and creamy in texture.
Paneer chilli and paneer manchurian are popular Indo-Chinese starters we often see in restaurant's menu.
Some paneer based snacks including paneer bread rolls, paneer pakora, paneer pops, etc. are good to go with evening tea or coffee.
There are more snack ideas with paneer such as paneer cutlet, paneer lollipop, sesame grilled paneer, etc.
Main course of Indian menu is incomplete without paneer. Top paneer recipes include matar paneer, paneer butter masala, palak paneer, kadai paneer, methi malai paneer, badami paneer, malai paneer, kaju paneer, and many more.
Paneer Bhurji is also a popular paneer dish which can be paired with any Indian flatbread. Sometimes I use paneer bhurji to stuff paratha, sandwich, dosa and each of the item taste unique. I also prepare paneer paratha for breakfast and lunch.
Chanar dalna is a famous Bengali dish prepared using homemade chana.
Stuffed flatbread is my favorite, so I make palak paneer paratha, paneer bhurji paratha for brunch.
There are plenty of sweet dishes which are prepared using paneer or chana. I often prepare different varieties of sondesh including nolen gurer sondesh, kora paker sondesh, etc. using homemade paneer.
Bengali's popular sweet rosogolla is also made using freshly prepare chana.
Other popular sweet dishes made with paneer are chanar payesh, chanar murki, kalakand, paneer barfi, paneer malai ladoo, etc.
How to make Paneer
- Muslin cloth or thin cloth
- Heavy Bottom Pan
- A Heavy Weight
- 1 Litre Full Cream Milk
- 2 tablespoon Lemon Juice or Vinegar
- Boil milk in a heavy bottom pan on medium or low flame.
- Stir the milk occasionally, so that the milk does not get burnt at the bottom and also prevents to form cream (malai) on top.
- Once the milk comes to boil, simmer and add the curdling agent (lemon juice or vinegar).
- Stir the milk gently with a ladle until the milk curdles completely. Boost the flame, milk will start curdling.
- If the milk does not curdle properly, feel free to add more curdling agent (lemon juice or vinegar) until the curdled milk and water separate completely.
- When the milk curdles completely, you can see the greenish color whey and at this time turn off the flame.
- Use a muslin cloth or thin cloth to separate the curdled milk from whey.
- Line a colander with the muslin cloth and drain the curdled milk.
- Rinse the curdled milk to remove the sourness from lemon juice or vinegar.
- Now carefully gather the edges of the muslin cloth together and squeeze the water from it.
- Tie the edges of the muslin cloth together and keep it on a plate.
- Keep a heavy weight on the top of the muslin cloth for 30 minutes.
- After half an hour, paneer block will be ready and you can cut it in desired shape.
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