If I had realized how easy it is to make paneer at home, I would have started doing it long ago. I’d made ricotta (or, technically, farmer’s cheese) many times and loved the simple process and fresh taste. Turns out homemade paneer is just an extra step away. Two ingredients and minimal equipment – does it get any easier than that?It all comes down to curdled milk. You need a big, clean pot, cheesecloth, full fat milk (not ultra pasteurized), and an acid. A thermometer is helpful, but not strictly necessary. For the acid you can use lemon juice as I have here, or buttermilk, which I’ve used before to great success (use 4 parts milk to 1 part buttermilk). Lime juice works too!
All you do is heat the milk and add the acid, which separates it into curds and whey. Then you strain it through a cheesecloth and voila! If you want ricotta, strain it for 15 to 30 minutes, until it’s the consistency you like. If you want paneer, strain it for 30 minutes then press it under something heavy for another hour or two.
Seriously. That’s it.
Then you can use either in any recipe you like! I love to serve fresh, still warm ricotta on crostini with honey. And I used my paneer to make one of my favorite Indian dishes, malai kofte – get the recipe over at TreeFree Food – it’s in my meatball article there!
- 2 liters whole milk
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth (I take one big piece and fold it). Set over a large bowl if you wish to reserve they whey, or just in the sink if you are discarding it.
- Put the milk in a large, non-reactive pot and heat until just boiling, but not rapidly boiling (about 205F). Stir occasionally to prevent a film from forming or any from sticking to the bottom.
- Add the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring in between each addition. The mixture should separate into curds and whey as the acid from the lemon juice curdles the milk. Remove from the heat and let sit for another minute to allow the curds and whey to fully separate.
- Carefully pour into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Allow to drain for a few minutes. Tie up the ends of the cheesecloth to form a bundle. Hang the cheesecloth bundle over a bowl or sink (I like to put a wooden spoon through the opening of the bundle and rest it over the strainer, which I leave over a shallow bowl.
- To make ricotta, strain it like this for 15 to 30 minutes, until you get the consistency you’re looking for. Less time will result in a very soft cheese, while more straining will give you a denser cheese. I like it somewhere in the middle. It’s amazing served right away (I love it still warm over some toasted bread drizzled with honey) but it can also be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.
- To make paneer, strain for 30 minutes then place the cheesecloth bundle on a plate and top with something weighted, like a cast iron pan, or another plate with a few cans on top. Let it hang out like this for another hour or two.
- Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use, then cut as desired (refrigerating it will make it easier to cut cleanly as well). Use immediately or store for a few days in the fridge.
To celebrate making your own paneer, I want to see your best Indian recipes! They can be old or new, North or South Indian – or even just Indian inspired! Let me see what you’ve got!