What is Paneer? Everything to Know About This Indian Cheese

If you’re a cheese lover, this one’s for you! In Indian culture, it’s common to be a vegetarian or vegan, and whether you are or not, you’ve probably at least heard of Paneer.

In this post, we’re covering everything you need to know about Paneer cheese, including how to make it, where to find it, and other important factors.

Homemade Paneer on a wooden board.

What is Paneer?

Paneer is an Indian cheese that’s made from curdled milk and some sort of fruit or vegetable acid like lemon juice. There are some distinct traits that make Paneer the cheese that it is:

  • It’s an unaged cheese
  • It’s a soft cheese
  • It doesn’t melt

You can eat paneer as a snack, incorporate it into your favorite Indian dishes or enjoy over breakfast. And while cheese might not seem like a common breakfast item, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

what is paneer

There are different theories as to where Paneer originated, the oldest and most common of them dating back to the 16th century in Southeast Asia where Persian and Afghani rulers first introduced the cheese. No matter its origin, it’s no secret that Paneer is a big and tasty part of Indian cuisine

Straing Paneer Curds through cheesecloth to make paneer

How to Make Paneer at Home

The great news about Paneer is that you can make it yourself at home if you’re feeling up to some homemade, fresh cheese. Perhaps the best part about making Paneer at home is that the ingredients and items necessary are so simple. You’ll have delicious Indian cheese in under one hour. Here is a quick overview of how to make paneer: 

You line your colander with a large double layer of cheesecloth and set it in the sink. Then, bring 8 cups of whole milk to a gentle boil over medium heat while stirring. Once that happens, add in your lemon juice and turn the heat to low. 

While stirring, the curds will start forming! Remove from heat and pour contents into your lined colander and rinse with cold water. Take the cheesecloth in hand and squeeze out the excess liquid. Then tie it to your faucet to let the remaining liquid drain. 

After that, twist the ball tightly and place another plate on top and weigh it down with a heavy pot to ensure smooth cheese. Refrigerate it like this for about 20 minutes and then enjoy!

Ready to try it? Check out our blog on how to make Paneer for in-depth instructions and delicious Indian dishes paneer can be used in. 


Not up for making your own cheese? No problem — you can buy Paneer from a number of places. Of course, your local Indian grocer is the first option to find Paneer as they will most likely have one or two brands of Indian cheese available for purchase. If you don’t have an Indian grocer nearby, there are some other store-bought  Paneer options! You can usually find Paneer locally at your local store or even online on Amazon

If you want to skip cooking completely, our Paneer Biryani brings together Paneer cheese with cauliflower, carrots, and peas seasoned with aromatic spices like turmeric, cumin, and ginger; all cooked with fragrant Basmati rice.

Paneer Substitutes

Paneer Substitutes to Try

If you can’t find Paneer or are living a vegan lifestyle, there are some Paneer substitutes you can try in place of the traditional Paneer. 

  1. Mexican Queso Blanco or Queso Fresco
    1. Most similar to Paneer
    2. Potentially easier to find
  2. Mild Feta Cheese
    1. Wash to reduce briny flavor
  3. Extra Firm Tofu
    1. Great for vegans
    2. Be sure to drain it well
    3. Will absorb flavors of whatever you’re cooking it in
  4. Cottage Cheese

All of these are great alternatives to Paneer and will most likely work in any dish where you’d normally use Paneer. Of course, nothing will taste identical to Paneer, but if you’re in a pinch, these cheeses will do the trick.


There are a wide variety of meals that include Paneer, especially in Indian culture. Some of the most popular Paneer recipes in Indian cuisine  include:

All of these dishes are very popular in India and revolve around our beloved Paneer. Whether you’re eating Paneer by itself or in a dish, be sure to use it up quickly, as it only keeps in the refrigerator for about two or three days

Paneer is just the beginning when it comes to Indian vegetarian dishes, from dinner dishes to sides, the possibilities are endless, but we listed some of your favorites below: 

  1. Mixed Vegetable Pakora
  2. Samosa Sliders
  3. Dal Makhni
  4. Golden Masala Oats
  5. Fig Chutney

38 responses to What is Paneer? Everything to Know About This Indian Cheese

    • Hello, I love Paneer, but don’t make it at home because it’s a process! I get it at an Indian Grocery store usually.
      Here’s the thing – I like to fry the Paneer cubes lightly (as lightly as possible!) to give them a light brown edge because I like the color, as also the texture and taste, that the shallow frying gives the paneer, which improves the taste& appearance of the dish.
      But the oil sputtering drives me insane! I invariably get the HOT oil drops on my arms. I’ve tried the “anti-sputter” lid but it seems to have limited benefits.
      I would appreciate any – ANY and ALL – tips & suggestions to eliminate the sputtering.
      Thank you!


      • Hi Urvashi,
        Glad to hear you enjoy paneer as much as we do! We are no experts when it comes to frying, but we recommend patting your paneer dry before frying it. This helps remove some water before the paneer comes into contact with the hot oil. Another suggestion would be to try different pans (cast iron or enamel coated cast iron is what we prefer) or heat levels. Hope you enjoy cooking paneer! Let us know how it turns out.

    • Thrilled that you liked the recipe. Do not forget to let us know once you try the recipe 🙂

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    • Hi Gloria,
      We don’t recommend re-freezing once it has defrosted. You can freeze it for up to 3 months and once thawed, we recommend storing in the refrigerator and using the paneer within 3-4 days. One suggestion is to freeze in smaller, separate containers so that you can defrost smaller quantities at a time! We like to defrost one container at a time. It’s a big saver for dinner time!

  • What’s the 1 pint buttermilk for?
    Couldn’t locate it to or it’s use in the recipe

    • The buttermilk has some acidity that helps curdle the milk but also gives the paneer a richer flavor. You can make it without buttermilk, but then would need to add more lemon juice or vinegar. Add a teaspoon at a time until the milk starts curdling. Let us know how it turns out!

    • Sometimes, ultrapasteurized milks refuse to set up properly. Check your milk – regular pasteurized milk should perform better.

    • I can identify with your feelings of helplessness. Because I remember!
      When I came to this country 35 years ago I wanted to make my own Paneer. Because that’s what I did in India. Always!
      I boiled the fresh milk. And I kept adding lemon juice and it wouldn’t curdle. I cried ‘Help’ a dozen times but there was no Internet then. Finally, an Indian friend in the neighboring state told me to find the nearest Indian grocery store to buy Paneer.
      It is A different world now. Thanks to globalization and increasing diversity. I am sure you got the answer to your question from this website a long time ago!

  • Have made several times. I don’t use buttermilk. Just whole milk, vinegar, or lemon juice. My best advice, add a little acid, then stir for a few minutes. You will see chunks start to form. Also, turn off heat AS SOON AS IT STARTS to bubble up. Always comes out perfect!

  • 5 stars
    I am a newby to Paneer having found Amy’s Indian Matar Paneer frozen dinner entrees. Now I want to make my own paneer and will very soon use your recipe. Thank you so much for such a lovely website, pictures, recipes and your timely answers to reader’s questions.

    • Paneer is a great dish and we hope you try out the recipe! Let us know how it turns out.

  • Hi you are everything including about paneer. Thank to this very helpful article share with us.

  • Hi, I found this when I was searching what to do with the buttermilk after making butter from raw cow’s cream. Will the uncultured buttermilk whey (for a lack of better term) work to make this Paneer cheese? Thank you!

    • Hi Terri,
      While this recipe calls for buttermilk, we do advise using whole milk as the main base for paneer. The buttermilk is there to help curdle the milk. Your uncultured buttermilk should do the trick! Let us know how it turns out.

  • Paneer is one of the most important food dish among Indians, especially in northen parts of the country. I was really curious about such a dish, thanks for the valuable information

    • We consider milk and cheese vegetarian because there is no consumption of meat. Milk and cheese products are not vegan though because they are animal by products. Thanks for asking.

  • I was going though the litany of questions and your answers, on your website.
    Just want to say “Thank you”! You are doing a great job. A personal response to a desperate question about a recipe gone wrong, means so much to the person asking the question. Thank you 🙏

    I want to let you know that I am aware that this is my third attempt at posting a message on your site. No desperation here! It’s just a continuity of my thought process.

  • Hello! I have n unusual question: I am cooking Indian food for a family that wants to have paneer dishes. Here is my problem: they only want paneer from cows that are never saughtered. I am assuming paneer from India should be safe in this regard, but I need to be sure. They are a very strict vegan family and wish no harm to come to the animal.

    thank you! Evie

    • Cow milk is typically collected from live animals. Also cows are treated as sacred animals in India so you shouldn’t have to worry about about slaughtered dairy cows. Paneer cheese made from dairy is considered “vegetarian” and not “vegan”. Vegan means no use of animal byproducts, even milk.

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