Homemade paneer step-by-step recipe with photos.
What is Paneer
Paneer is a fresh Indian cheese made from curdled milk. Being a fresh cheese, it can be eaten straight away, which means no aging or culturing. Paneer is prepared by adding food acid like lime or lemon to boiling milk, separating the whey from the curdled milk, and pressing out the curdled milk to remove excess water content.
Paneer has a mild and slightly milky taste. It is dense and firm, yet beautifully absorbs the flavors from the spices. The texture is comparable to firm tofu as it is pressed firmly to remove any water content.
About this recipe
The most common way to make paneer is on the stovetop by boiling milk and adding acid to it. But making it in the Instant Pot is way easier, saves a lot of time, and needs absolutely no monitoring. This homemade Instant Pot paneer gives you the perfect texture and is great for a variety of dishes.
This hands-off recipe needs just 2 ingredients and 10 minutes in the Instant Pot. The rest of the time is for the cheese to set. This homemade soft cheese is a good source of vegetarian protein and is very versatile.
It is low-carb, gluten-free, and suitable for the keto diet and vegetarian diet. Low in GI, it is also considered a good source of calcium, iron, and magnesium. It is also known to help with weight loss and promote bone health.
Once you make it using this paneer recipe, you will not want to use store-bought ones. It is softer, creamier, way superior to store-bought ones, and has no additives or preservatives. Read on for step-by-step instructions and useful tips to make this soft fresh cheese at home.
You will need just two ingredients to make this easy Indian cottage cheese.
Milk: Use whole milk or even half and half. If you use low-fat milk, it may lose the creamy texture.
Lime/lemon: The acidic agent that causes the milk to curdle and separates the whey and curd, which is the key step to this dish.
Step by step instructions
Set the Instant Pot to saute mode and add water. Once it heats up, cancel the saute mode (step 1).
Add milk and lime/lemon juice (steps 2,3). Mix it well (step 4).
Secure the Instant Pot lid and set it to pressure cook mode (on low pressure) for 3 minutes (step 5).
Do a natural release of pressure. Once the pin drops, open the lid (step 6).
The milk would have curdled and the whey and solids are separated. The solids will float on top and the whey settling down (steps 7,8).
Carefully pour the curdled milk from the Instant Pot into the muslin cloth. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to ensure all the whey is drained (steps 9,10).
To set the cheese without a press, place the muslin cloth back on the colander. Place a small plate on top and place weights on the plate. Let it sit for 30-45 minutes (step 11).
To set the cheese using a paneer press, place the muslin cloth onto the paneer press or tofu press (step 12).
Place the lid and place some weights on the top. Let it sit for 30-45 minutes so that all the liquid is drained and the cheese sets well (steps 13,14).
Remove the weights and plate from the muslin cloth. Open the ends of the cloth and transfer it onto a cutting board (step 15).
Carefully remove the muslin cloth and cut them into the desired shape (step 16). Homemade paneer is ready for immediate use or storage.
The first step is to add ½ cup of water to the inner pot of the Instant Pot and heat it. This prevents milk from sticking to the pot and burning.
Use whole milk or half and half. If you use low-fat milk, the paneer may lose the creamy texture. Also, do not use UHT milk as it doesn't curdle.
It is really important NOT to wash the curdled milk (when curdled using lime/lemon) before setting the paneer. The acidic taste is in the whey and not in the cheese itself. Also, washing the curds will make the cheese crumbly. If the curd cools down, it loses the ability to set well.
If you must wash it, make sure you do it using warm water just for a few seconds. Cold running water will cool the curds down quickly, preventing them from setting.
Do not scrape after curdle as the brown bits will end up in the cheese.
Let the whey drain for 5-10 minutes before setting the curds. Then bring the muslin cloth together and start the process of setting it.
In this post, I have shown setting it using a paneer press or in a colander. If you have access to a tofu press, you can use it.
If the whey has not separated after pressure release, put in saute and add 1 tablespoon lime juice for 2 minutes.
You can also use white vinegar to curdle milk; however, it may impart an aftertaste. If using vinegar, mix it with ¼ cup of water before using. Also, give it a quick rinse just for a few seconds when using vinegar. Once the whey drips, bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and rinse using warm water for a few seconds.
Recipes to try with homemade paneer
Homemade paneer versus:
Cottage cheese - Although they are both made with the same ingredients, they are very different in terms of taste and texture. Cottage cheese is not pressed and set into a firm block. It is hung to drip the whey which makes it crumbly. Adding salt is very common in cottage cheese.
Tofu - Tofu is made using soy milk. It can be soft, medium, or firm depending on how it is set.
Halloumi - The texture of both is very similar, which makes halloumi a good replacement for paneer. However, the taste of both the cheeses is very different and the taste of the final dish will be different.
Feta - They are both very different in terms of taste and ingredients used. Feta uses sheep's milk and has a tangy and salty taste and is more crumbly.
FAQs and Troubleshooting
NO. It is really important NOT to wash the curdled milk (when curdled using lime/lemon) before setting the paneer. The acidic taste is in the whey and not in the cheese itself. Washing the curds will make the cheese crumbly. If the curd cools down, it loses the ability to set well.
If you use vinegar to curdle the milk, rinse using warm water for a few seconds as vinegar has a stronger aftertaste.
No. Tofu is made using soy milk whereas paneer is made using cow or buffalo milk.
Paneer can be stored in the refrigerator and freezer. To store it in the fridge, wrap the paneer block using a damp muslin cloth. Then, place it in an air-tight container and refrigerate. It can stay fresh for 3-4 days. You can also immerse it in water and store it. The muslin cloth or water will prevent it from drying.
Yes. Paneer freezes very well and can be stored for up to six months in the freezer. Cut the paneer into cubes and place it on a freezer-safe tray. Freeze the cubes for a few hours, then transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container and store them for up to six months in the freezer. To defrost, place them in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain the water and use.
Crumbly paneer means that it has not been set well and has whey content in it.
Whey can be used instead of water to knead dough to make roti or for cooking rice. Use a 1:1 water to whey ratio to make Basmati rice or red rice. It can also be used in cooking dals and curries. If you do not want to use it in cooking, it can be used to water plants too.
Chhena is just unset curdled milk from which the whey is strained. It is usually used to make sweets and desserts. It is very popular in Bengali cuisine and is used to make rasgulla, rasmalai, chanar payesh, gulab jamun, etc. Unset curd is usually rubbed with palms and turned into soft cheese (which is almost like a paste), which is then used in a variety of sweet dishes.
This homemade paneer recipe:
- is easy to follow,
- needs no monitoring,
- gives a perfect creamy texture.
Homemade Paneer recipe in Instant Pot (Indian Cottage Cheese)
- 8 cups milk (2 litres / 2 quarts)
- ¼ cup lime juice (or lemon juice)
- ½ cup water
Curdle the milk
- Set the Instant Pot to saute mode and add water. Once it heats up, cancel the saute mode.
- Add milk and lime/lemon juice. Mix well.
- Secure the Instant Pot lid and set it to pressure cook mode (on low pressure) for 3 minutes.
- Do a natural release of pressure. Once the pin drops, open the lid.
- The milk would have curdled and the whey and solids are separated. The solids will float on top with the whey settling down.
- If the milk is not fully curdled, put the Instant Pot back on saute mode and add one tablespoon of lime juice. Mix well and simmer for 1-2 minutes. The milk will curdle fully.
Strain the cheese
- Line a strainer or colander with a muslin cloth or cheesecloth and place it in a large bowl.
- Carefully pour the curdled milk from the Instant Pot into the muslin cloth.
- Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to ensure all the whey is drained.
- Carefully bring all the ends of the muslin cloth together.
- Squeeze out the excess liquid from the muslin cloth gently.
Setting in a colander, without paneer press
- Place the muslin cloth back on a colander.
- Shape it into a round disc. Place a small plate on top and place heavy weights on top (for example, 2 sealed cans work well).
- Let it sit for 30-45 minutes so that all the liquid is drained.
Setting in a paneer press
- Place the muslin cloth onto a paneer press or tofu press.
- Place the lid and place some heavy weights on the top (for example, sealed cans).
- Let it sit for 30-45 minutes so that all the liquid is drained and the cheese sets well.
Using the paneer
- Remove the weights and plate from the muslin cloth.
- Open the ends of the cloth and transfer the paneer onto a cutting board.
- Cut them into the desired shape.
- Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to one week.