How to Make Homemade Paneer (from Rescued Milk)

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Earlier this year, my daughter MK rescued a few cartons of milk from a café where she had been working. The milk had long passed its best-before date but remained unopened so she brought it home to me. It looked fine, smelled perhaps a tiny bit off and tasted absolutely fine, so with it I made, among other things, this delicious paneer, a quick, soft cheese.

So many resources go into producing milk—the food that fed the cow, the water to grow the food that fed the cow, the energy to pump the water to grow the food that fed the cow and on and on and on. The process quickly becomes very Little Red Hen like.

If you find yourself with excess milk on your hands that may head south soon, you can:

  • Bake with it. Quick breads, muffins, bread pudding or french toast, for example, won’t likely go uneaten.
  • Cook with it. Make quiche, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, strata and so on.
  • Make soft cheese, such as this paneer. If you find yourself with a large amount of milk in need of a waste intervention, make a soft, non-aged cheese like paneer.

Paneer is similar to ricotta but with less fat, or perhaps ricotta is similar to paneer but with more fat. You need only two ingredients to make it: milk and an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. For this post, I used lemon juice. (A large amount of cultured buttermilk will also work. Please see the recipe notes.) A couple of days after I made the paneer, I cooked paneer khumb masala (paneer and mushrooms in an onion-tomato sauce). OMG. It tasted amazing.

But wait there’s more! Cheesemaking renders a shockingly large amount of whey. But that whey need never go to waste. I froze a couple of jars’ worth and with the rest, baked whole wheat sandwich bread (I substituted the whey for the water). Delicious! The whey softens the bread and adds flavor and nutrients.

Finally, after I had cooked piles of food with the rescued milk, its empty compostable cartons went into the green bin. (Our city’s curbside composting program accepts these cartons.)

Now for piles of pics of the simple paneer-making process.

Milk past its best-before date

Heat the milk, add the lemon juice, strain the curds

Remove from heat, add lemon juice immediately and stir gently just until distributed evenly
Curds and…

Form the block of paneer

Twist the fabric and place the bundle on a cutting board, plate or other flat surface
Don't cry over wasted milk. Instead, make paneer—a soft, non-aged cheese similar to ricotta—and neither waste milk nor cry over it.
Place another cutting board or plate on top of the paneer and press the cheese with a heavy object (or two)
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Homemade Paneer

Servings: 10 ounces

Ingredients

  • 8 cups whole milk see Note
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar see Note

Instructions

  • Heat the milk in a large pot over medium heat, stirring often, until the milk foams up and nearly boils. Remove the pot from the heat immediately.
  • Add the lemon juice or vinegar. Stir gently just until distributed. Let the pot rest for 10 minutes while the curds form.
  • Place a colander inside a large bowl. Drape a tightly woven cloth inside the colander. Carefully pour in the curds and whey. If the bottom of the colander is submerged in whey, transfer the whey to another bowl or heat-resistant jars. Let the curds sit in the colander and continue to strain over the bowl for 30 minutes.
  • Gather up the edges of the cloth to form a ball of paneer and turn and squeeze out as much whey as you can. Reserve the whey for another use.
  • Place the cloth-wrapped ball of paneer between two cutting boards or plates. Place a heavy weight on top and allow the paneer to rest for 1 to 2 hours. Chill in the refrigerator to firm up the cheese and eat within a few days.

Notes

Whole fat milk renders a richer, less crumbly cheese. Do not use ultra-pasteurized milk as it may not curdle. I usually make cheese with non-homogenized milk but the process did work well with this rescued, homogenized milk.
Cultured buttermilk will also curdle the milk for your paneer. It must be cultured buttermilk, containing live bacteria, not merely flavored buttermilk. Use 2 cups for this recipe. You’ll render more cheese with this addition.

If you ordered my book, first of all, thank you very much. I hope you are enjoying it. If you ordered it from Amazon, will you please write a review? (Goodreads also works!) Thank you for your support!

13 Replies to “How to Make Homemade Paneer (from Rescued Milk)”

  1. That looks amazing and easy!
    Do you stir the hot milk after you add the acid to distribute it or just let the whole thing sit and self-distribute?
    And we love Indian food – is your paneer khumb masala recipe in your cookbook? I need to buy it anyway!

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Yes, stir it! Thank you for asking. I’ll go update the post. The paneer khumb masala isn’t in the book. Maybe the next book 😉 It’s so good.
      ~ Anne-Marie

    1. Thanks Dorothy 🙂
      ~ Anne-Marie

  2. Is there anything that can be done with large amounts of the normal, store-bought pasteurized milk? Our local school has been giving out food daily for children in the county and we’ve ended up with so much waste because it goes bad too quickly. I bought rennet and found out after that cheese making won’t work with it. Any ideas would be wonderful!

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      This paneer or ricotta will work with pasteurized milk. It’s the ultrapasteurized you have to avoid. You can also freeze milk. That’s a great way to extend its shelf life until you need it. I hope that helps.
      ~ Anne-Marie

  3. Is the 2 cups of buttermilk added to the 8 cups of milk or just replace 2 of the cups of plain milk?

    1. Hi Jill,
      That two cups is in addition to the milk. Thanks for asking!
      ~ Anne-Marie

  4. Thank you, very useful

  5. Would it be possible to make this with homemade nut or oat milk?

    1. Hi Katie,
      I haven’t tried that so I’m not sure. I do make tofu, however, and will substitute that in Indian paneer dishes. The next time I make very fatty nut milk, I’ll try curdling a bit and see what happens.
      ~ Anne-Marie

      1. Wonderful, thank you! I just read your book cover to cover and feel very inspired.

      2. Thank you very much Katie, for buying my book and for the kind words!
        ~ Anne-Marie

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