Recipe - How to make Paneer (Indian cottage cheese)

Paneer is a fresh cheese akin to the Italian Ricotta Salata or the Mexican Queso Fresco and can be used in recipes that require those ingredients.  It is widely used in several traditional North Indian recipes.

Making Paneer is easy, but involves a few steps. Don't be daunted by the long recipe below, it's easy once you have all the equipment.  We have broken up the process into 3 main operations:

1.  Curdling the Milk:
What you need:
  • 2 litres full cream milk (not UHT)
  • 200ml fresh cream
  • 2 tbsps white vinegar
  • 2 litres ice cold water
What to do: 
    1. Place a heavy based pot on a stove, on medium heat, and pour the 2 litres of full fat milk and 200ml cream into it (picture 1)
    2. Stir milk occasionally and watch for it to come to the boil. 
    3. When the milk comes to a boil, lower the flame and simmer for 5 minutes.

2.  Straining the whey:

What you need to have ready while the milk is boiling:
  • colander/strainer
  • a cheese/muslin cloth
  • a bowl to collect the whey (I used a Soup pot as I don't have a big enough bowl).
What to do:
  1. Line your colander with muslin cloth and place it over the bowl to catch the whey.
  2. Pour out 2 tbsp white vinegar into a cup and have it ready.
  3. Turn off the stove and then add the vinegar to the milk - a teaspoon at a time - and stir.  Stop adding the vinegar when you see the milk split (picture 2)
  4. Add another 2 cups of ice cold water and stir for a minute.
  5. Pour the curdled milk over the muslin (picture 3).  


3.  Forming the cheese:

While the split milk is draining, get the following ready:
  • colander with a bowl under it
  • 8" round cutting shape (use a round cake tin mould without the base) this is to shape the paneer so you can also use a square tin if you like.
  • heavy pan that fits in the cutting shape.
What to do:
    1. Hold the 4 corners of the muslin and squeeze out the remaining whey.
    2. Now pour a cup of cold water over the whey and squeeze out the water again - this will ensure your paneer isn't sour.
    3. Again, squeeze out the moisture as in step 1.
    4. Empty the paneer inside the cake tin mould (picture 4).  
    5. Place a heavy pot that can fit inside the shape and fill it with water to give it some weight.  You may also place a kilo bag of rice in the pot.  This will ensure all the water is drained out and you are left with just the cheese.
    6. After 2 hours all the water will have drained and your paneer will be ready.

Store in the fridge and use within 3 days.