How to Make Paneer: A Step-by-Step Guide

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You can learn how to make paneer, a soft Indian cheese, with the guide below. You'll need only two ingredients: milk and an acid like vinegar or lemon juice.

Paneer is a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine. No Indian restaurant menu is complete without at least a couple of dishes with paneer. You can find all kinds of dishes made with this soft cheese, like paneer butter masala, paneer tikka masala, palak paneer—and the list goes on.

It’s easier than you think to learn how to make paneer at home to complement from-scratch Indian recipes. This detailed step-by-step guide will teach you how to make this Indian essential.

Don’t miss our list of the best Indian cookbooks for beginners, too!

What Is Paneer?

Paneer is Indian cottage cheese. It’s a fresh and a non-melting cheese prepared by curdling milk with lemon juice or vinegar. Unlike other cheeses, you won’t need a coagulating agent (like rennet) while making paneer.

The process is simple. You’ll separate the casein and whey protein, and then collect the casein protein, or milk curds. The last step is to press the curds to make fresh paneer.

Paneer Recipe

Ingredients

dutch oven, cheese bag, cut lemons and milkSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice

Tools You’ll Need

Instructions

Step 1: Boil the milk

milk inside the dutch oven ready to be boiledSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Pour the milk into a Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium heat. Keep an eye on the milk! You don’t want it to boil over, but the clumping reaction of casein protein happens only at a warmer temperature, so it is necessary to bring the milk to a good boil.

milk boilingSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

When the milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Put a spatula in the Dutch oven so the milk doesn’t spill over.

Step 2: Add the curdling agent

Add the lemon juice or vinegar and mix gently. Start with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. The milk will start to curdle and you will see the curds and whey separate. If the curdling is not happening, add the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice.

Stir evenly and gently so the curds don’t break apart.

curdled milk with whey and casein protein seperatedSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes. Do not cook the milk again after adding the acid. It will make the paneer hard.

Step 3: Strain the curds

Line a colander with cheesecloth and place the colander in the sink. Slowly pour in the curdled milk to strain the curds. Gently rinse with cold water to ensure the paneer doesn’t keep the flavor of vinegar or lemon juice.

strained milk curdsSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then, tie a knot and hang the bundle on the kitchen faucet for 20 to 30 minutes.

You just made chenna! Chenna is non-firm or crumbled fresh milk curds that don’t have any shape. It’s mainly used in the preparation of milk-based sweets like rasgulla or rasmalai—the strained curds can be kneaded for making these sweet dishes.

strained paneer in the cheese cloth ready to be flattenedSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Step 4: Press the paneer

After 20 to 30 minutes, remove the knot. Fold the cheesecloth and flatten it.

Place a heavy object on top of this flattened paneer. A Dutch oven filled with water should work. Make sure you place the paneer on a flat surface so it doesn’t topple over!

After two hours, remove the cheesecloth and refrigerate the paneer for 30 minutes.

firm and set paneer on a cutting boardSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Step 5: Cut the paneer into cubes

The final step is to cut the firm paneer into cubes.

How to Store Paneer

The shelf life of paneer is shorter when compared to other cheeses. Store it in an airtight container and keep refrigerated. Fresh paneer stays good for up to 3 to 4 days.

You can also freeze it for a longer shelf life. To thaw the paneer, bring it to room temperature and soak in hot water for 5 minutes to make it soft again.

Fresh paneer cut into cubes and blocks placed on a cutting board and serving traySrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

How to Serve Paneer

You can incorporate paneer into homemade curry, along with many other Indian recipes. Some of the popular recipes that you can make with paneer are:

  • Paneer butter masala
  • Paneer tikka masala
  • Palak paneer
  • Paneer biryani
  • Shahi paneer
  • Matar paneer
  • Kadai paneer

These paneer dishes pair well with Indian flatbreads and with basmati rice, too.

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Srividhya Gopalakrishnan
Srividhya Gopalakrishnan is a passionate home cook, recipe developer and vegetarian food blogger, based out of California. She is the author of two cookbooks, Instant Pot Vegetarian Cookbook and The Essential South Indian Cookbook. She firmly believes that that the mouth is the way to the heart. She loves to share family recipes and exciting vegetarian recipes from all over the world. From traditional, authentic recipes to fusion and eggless bakes, you can find it all in her blog.