How to Make Paneer / Chhena (Ricotta Cheese) at Home

Paneer, aka Chhena in India, is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heated milk with a food acid [wiki].  Some call paneer as 'cottage cheese' whereas some call it 'ricotta cheese', but I think it is closer to ricotta cheese because making Paneer does not require rennet, cream, or buttermilk the way cottage cheese does.  It is still a highly debatable question.


how to make paneer at home


What kind of milk should you use to make paneer?  The answer depends on what you want to make:  for heavier sweets like Milk Cake (Kalakand) or Rabdi you should use whole milk, for lighter, spongy sweets like Rasgulla and Ras Malai you’ll need low fat milk, or 2% milk, and for general use of paneer in cooking vegetables, soups, or gravies, you can use either kind of milk to make paneer.

Paneer is quite versatile and good to have it handy in the kitchen.  It takes less than 3 hours to make your own paneer at home - it is easy, fresh, and without any chemicals or preservatives.  Here's how I make paneer at home.


What you need to make paneer at home:
4 cups milk
and
either one of these acidic agents:
     ~ ¼ tsp citric acid
     OR
     ~ 2 Tbsp lemon juice
     OR
     ~ 1 Tbsp vinegar

Let's Begin! 

1.  Boil milk on high heat; stir continuously so it doesn’t scorch at the bottom of pan.  [Note: Milk is heated on a high flame to avoid discoloring, but on medium heat does no harm either.]  When it comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium, take a little hot milk in a ladle and add any one of the acidic agents (sometimes you might need a little more than the given quantity) until milk starts curdling, then add the curdled milk from ladle into the pan and stir very gently so that all the milk is curdled (adding more sour agent if required).  [Note: I do it this way because it makes curdling easier.  Don’t add excess acidic agent: citric acid / lemon juice / vinegar once the milk is curdled, otherwise it will slightly make the chhena firmer & make it sour too.] It may take a minute until you see milk solids (now called chhena/paneer, but calling it chhena is more appropriate at this point) & whey (light greenish liquid) clearly separating, switch off heat.  [Note: If you keep it on heat longer, the chhena/paneer starts becoming firmer, not nice and soft]

boil milk, then add lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid in milk to curdle
2.  Strain out the whey through a muslin cloth/handkerchief/layered cheesecloth (layered so that chhena doesn't seep through holes) supported by a sieve or colander at the bottom.  [Note:  If you strain it in a clean bowl, you can use the whey in place of water for boiling rice, cooking dal, or making roti dough, instead of throwing it away.]  Run the tap water on low speed over the chhena (because if it's on full speed everything will overflow out of the cloth and colander) , while mashing the chhena between fingers, just about 30 seconds.  [Note:  This is for chhena to cool down & to reduce the sourness within.]


strain the whey and separate the milk solids.  preserve the whey to use in other dishes. rinse paneer to remove sourness.

3.  Squeeze out most of the water from the cloth and place the chhena inside the cloth under a heavy load.  The heavier the load, the faster your chhena is ready for use.  In one-two hours after all the whey/water drains out, squeeze the cloth tightly so any left over liquids on the cloth are out & you get soft chhena.




In the above picture you see how I leave my chhena under heavy weight for excess whey to drain?  I have tilted the white chopping board, left my cloth with chenna on that, and balanced all heavy objects on top, while leaving a paper towel underneath for the whey to drain onto instead of making a mess on my countertop.



And that in the picture above is the drained chhena that I can now either crumble and use in paneer bhurji or cut in pieces right away or set in a container to get even, neat pieces.


4.  Remove the drained chhena on a clean surface and mash it using your palms for a minute.  Fill the chhena/paneer in a container, press it well, cover & keep under a heavy weight for an hour & then refrigerate to get a thick slab of soft paneer.  [Note: Why mash paneer? To obtain soft paneer like store-bought instead of crumbly texture. Why press in container after filling? To get an even layer and block of paneer instead of gaps.  You may skip both steps if in a hurry & just leave the drained chhena in the same cloth, cover it & put heavy container/s on it, cut into cubes and use.]

how to make paneer at home
fill chhena in container and put heavy weight on it for an hour, cut into pieces, fresh homemade paneer is ready to use

5.  Now you can use this chhena / paneer / ricotta cheese in a variety of dishes - diced, mashed, grated or rolled, from appetizers to desserts – the choices are aplenty! 

Notes:

* 4 cups milk yields about 1 cup of paneer eventually.  So increase the quantity of milk if you want more paneer, but put the acidic agents gradually in small amounts.

Keep paneer refrigerated, use within a week; or dice/slice & freeze paneer in ziploc bag to use later.  If you freeze the whole chunk of paneer as it is, cutting/slicing it later will not turn out neat.

[UPDATE]: Click here to see how I make paneer in different shapes instead of just squares.
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6 comments:

  1. A great recipe! I definitely have to try making my own paneer, because I can't find this speciality here.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for stopping by, Rosa!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Homemade paneer rocks! You have got some perfect squares there, great work!
    USMasala

    ReplyDelete
  4. home made is always the Best Option....I never felt like buying ,once I started making paneer at home

    http://panchamrutham.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you Puja (USMasala) & Deepti (Panchamrutham) for dropping by!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I never knew to mash and tightly layer crumbled Paneer . Thanks Nisha...I am new to your blog and will be regular.

    ReplyDelete

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