Until a couple of years ago, I lived close to a ‘Punjab-Sindh’ dairy, that sold the softest, creamiest paneer; a place where you can walk in and ask for the exact weight that you need, as little as 100 gms, or as many kilos as you like😀. Didn’t realize until after moving cities that Fresh Paneer is a luxury, not available in many parts of the country. I reconciled to buying the packaged variety from my local supermarket, but it just didn’t hit the spot. And so began the DIY paneer experiments! Surprisingly, making soft, homemade paneer takes only 3 ingredients + water. Milk, lime juice and salt!
And the paneer making process itself takes all of 10 minutes! Here’s what I’ve learned through trial and error – the secrets to making soft paneer at home:
- Local dairies in the north often use Buffalo milk to make paneer; the higher fat content produces a creamier end product. Now since I can’t get my hands on buffalo milk, full fat milk is the next best alternative. Skimmed is NEVER going to work!
- Cooling down the curdled milk with cold water (before its drained) prevents the curds from overcooking and getting chewy. This is an essential step to achieving a soft texture.
- Washing out the lime! – most DIY paneer recipes use lime juice as the acid to curdle milk. This can impart a slightly sour taste to the paneer if not washed out. This recipe takes care to rinse the curds while draining them.
- SALT! Like with any recipe, don’t forget to add salt. Unseasoned paneer doesn’t really taste like anything.
- Do not over-drain. 1.5 – 2 hours of draining is adequate; any longer and the block of paneer is compressed a bit too much and will get hard.
- A perforated mold (while not essential) helps achieve an evenly shaped block of paneer. While you can totally do without a mold, but its an inexpensive piece of equipment that you can find online. Here’s a picture of the one I use:
The following recipe isn’t going to deliver Punjab Sindh dairy quality paneer,(they’re the experts!), but I promise you it delivers paneer that’s way better than any packed variety you’ll find in the refrigerated section of super market! Bonus: A litre of milk will give you roughly 240 gms of paneer, so its also a more cost-effective option.
Recipe: Home-made Paneer
- A Strainer
- A Muslin Cloth (Any thin cotton cloth)
- A large Saucepan
- A Perforated Paneer Mold (Optional)
- 1 Ltr Full Fat Milk
- 1 – 2 small Limes
- Salt [to taste]
- 1 Ltr Cold Water
- Bring a litre of full fat milk to the boil in a large saucepan.
- Once the milk has come to a boil, turn the heat down to minimum. Add the juice of 2 small limes and stir gently until it begins to curdle. Turn the heat off as soon as the milk begins to split.
- Pour a litre of cold water into the split milk to stop the curds from cooking any further.
- Place a sieve/ strainer over a large bowl that's big enough to collect the moisture that drains out of the curdled mixture. Line the strainer with a muslin cloth; pour the curds and whey in. Now rinse the curds with some more water to remove the sour taste of the lime!
- Gather up the ends of the muslin cloth and twist to squeeze the water out.
- Once you've got most of the water out, add salt to taste and stir well!
- Place the drained curds (still in the muslin cloth) into a perforated mold. In case you don't have a mold, just fasten the top of the muslin cloth into a knot.
- Now place something heavy (I use a mortar) atop the drained curds to force more moisture out. Keep the weight on the draining curds for 2 hours.
- Remove the paneer from the mold / muslin cloth. Cut into cubes of desired size and use as needed!
Here are just a few pieces cut from my home-made paneer block. Look how soft and creamy! Just one note while cooking with them: If adding to a gravy, do not stir too much after the paneer is added, or the tender cubes will begin to disintegrate.
Give this recipe a go if you’re in a DIY mood or just craving good home-made paneer, and let me know how it goes in the comments below🖖