Saturday, October 9, 2010

Paneer/Cottage Cheeese/ Chhana; Homemade Paneer

 Paneer is very popular and an integral part of Indian cuisine. As far as Bengalis are concerned I doubt whether there is a Bengali who can contemplate life without ‘Chhana’ (the Chh is pronounced as it is pronounced in the Hindi word Chhatri –Umbrella). Chhana the Bengali word for paneer is the essential ingredient in most Bengali sweets. I was therefore surprised to read that paneer was introduced in India by the Portuguese. I thought I will delve deeper and do a bit of research and share my findings with my readers. My search took to me to Wikipedia; I soon beat a hasty retreat when I found an intense debate raging on whether paneer is of Indian or foreign origin. Since I do not have a time machine to take me into the past and help me solve the problem, I thought it would be better if I focused on the paneer recipes.

Before I proceed to the recipes I would like to show you how to make paneer at home, because the usual reaction to mum’s paneer dishes have been, “The paneer is so soft the paneer just melts in the mouth” and my mum’s response to that is, “I never use readymade paneer, I always make it at home.”

It is actually quite simple. Here is a step- by- step instruction along with a video on how to make paneer:  

How To Make Paneer (Cottage Cheese)

  • Boil a litre of full cream milk. You may use skimmed milk but paneer always tastes better when made with full cream milk.
  • Squeeze a lemon in a bowl. A word of caution since you are using lemon which is acidic in nature (it contains citric acid) use chinaware take care not to use stainless steel, aluminium or a vessel made from any metal.
  • Now pour the boiling milk into this bowl.
  • The milk will begin to curdle.
  • Strain using a fine cotton cloth.
  • Hang the paneer till all the whey has drained out and the paneer is dry. It usually takes about 7 to 8 hours for instance if you curdle the milk at around 8 in the morning the paneer will be nice and dry by about 4 to 5 in the evening.
  • Check the whey to see there is no trace of milk; if the lemon is not sour or large enough you may need to add few more drops of lemon.
  • Do not discard the whey, it’s very nutritious, you can either drink it (add a bit of sugar if you want to sweeten it) or add the whey to the paneer dishes; it enhances the flavour of the dish. But use it immediately or store in refrigerator in glass or chinaware.


  1. You know the only difference in our methods is that I dilute the lemon juice with two teaspoons of water and pour the liquid when the milk in boiling over the gas. I stir it gently and the milk curdles. Then I strain the chhana in a muslin cloth and keep the liquid aside. I do not hang the chhana for long. Instead I take a heavy vessel (filled with water) and keep it on the bundle (that is already kept on a flat plate. This way the chhana becomes tight in seconds and I can cut it into cubes after taking it out of the cloth. :)

  2. I must admit to being too lazy to make paneer at home, though I do make sure that I never buy 'loose paneer' - the blocks that sweetsellers etc sell. A cousin of mine who used to live in Ghaziabad and come by train to Delhi once saw how paneer is transported into Delhi: in large open aluminium boxes, in trains. The boxes she saw were kept next to the toilets in the train, and the man who was incharge of them would every now and then top up the water in the boxes with water from the toilet tap. Arrrrgggh!! This was 20 years back, so I'm hoping things have improved now, but still...

  3. @Sharmi: Most people make it the way you have suggested but mum always pours the boiling milk into the vessel containing the lemon juice. By the way I am sure you agree nothing like home made paneer.

    @dustedoff: YUCK! YUCK! I too hope things have improved.

  4. Even then, I only buy packaged paneer!! I'm not taking any chances.

  5. Love the video, love....I think even I could do this, although what I would then DO with the paneer is another story :D

  6. @dustedoff: I do not blame you for buying only packaged paneer.

  7. @memsaab:Well, I have one of mum's recipes which is nothing but tossing around the paneer with some capsicum(green bell pepper) in a bit of oil. I will post it, later maybe you can try it.It is quite simple.