Paneer is a fresh cheese commonly used in South Asian cuisine, especially so in Indian, Pakistani, Afghan, Nepali, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi dishes. Sometimes known as ‘Indian cottage cheese’, paneer is an important source of protein for vegetarians and is used in a variety of Indian dishes such as palak paneer, matar paneer, and channa masala. It’s also a popular filling for flatbreads such as paratha and puri.
Based on the Gold Coast, Fresco is a fresh cheese maker determined to bring you authentic, traditional, and hand-made cheese. If you’re interested in tasting paneer cheese but don’t know where to start or what type of cheese it is, continue reading to find out what is paneer cheese.
What is Paneer Cheese? The History
If you’re wondering what is paneer and how did it influence the cuisine of one country, let us explain. India has always had a tradition of using dairy products in their cuisine, thanks to the large number of cattle that are raised in the country. Paneer’s presence in India is a little unclear, with the first mention dating back to the 12th century when Amir Khusrow, a poet and musician from India, documented the process of making the cheese. Paneer cheese then became more widely known in the 16th century when it was mentioned by Akbar, the Mughal Emperor.
Some credit Portuguese colonisers settling in Kolkata (also known as Calcutta) for introducing paneer to India, dating to the 17th century. Others theorise that there are connections to Persia as the word ‘paneer’ is derived from the Persian word ‘panir’, which generally means cheese.
How is Paneer Cheese Made?
Now that we’ve answered ‘what is paneer cheese’, let’s explore how it’s made. Paneer can be made with buffalo milk, goat milk, sheep milk or cow’s milk. Although it is similar to cottage cheese, paneer is usually made without rennet and therefore has a different texture. Paneer is made by curdling milk with a food acid, usually lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid. The curds are then drained of their whey, traditionally by hanging them in a muslin cloth, and pressed into a block.
Paneer is a fresh cheese, so it does not need to be aged. However, some brands of paneer are aged for a few months to give them a sharper flavour. It also remains fresh far longer than other cheeses made with rennet and will not melt when cooked. It has a crumbly texture when raw but becomes soft when cooked or simmered in gravy.
What Does Paneer Cheese Taste Like?
By looking at paneer cheese, you may think it would taste a lot like fetta, salty and tangy. In fact, paneer has no salt content. Paneer is milky, fresh, and very mild in taste. Paneer is firm in texture and is closer in taste to cottage cheese and Italian ricotta and is easily adapted to any recipe.
Common Uses of Paneer
Now you know how paneer is prepared and what it tastes like, but what recipes best feature paneer? Paneer is a versatile cheese that can be used in sweet or savoury dishes and can be grilled, roasted, or fried, and is usually cooked rather than eaten raw. It is often used as a filling for flatbreads or cooked in gravy and is included in curries, salads, and sandwiches.
Paneer is the perfect meat substitute for vegetarians as it is an excellent source of protein and calcium, and it is low in fat and cholesterol. Anyone looking for a healthy, low-fat alternative to other cheese should opt for paneer.
Understanding what does paneer cheese taste like can help you choose between your next recipes. Here are some recipes you can use paneer cheese in:
Paneer Manchurian is an Indo-Chinese recipe, blending the creamy paneer compliments the sweet and spicy Manchurian sauce. Our recipe features the dry version of the dish where the paneer is pan-friend rather than deep fried, and the perfect starter dish to enjoy before your favourite Indian meal.
Palak paneer is a vegetarian curry dish consisting of paneer cooked in a thick paste of spinach, sauteed tomatoes and onions. It’s a highly nutritional dish, low in carbs and packed with protein. Make this dish your main course and serve it with a side of roti, naan or rice.
A popular dish in northern India is the shahi paneer. Known for its creamy and spicy taste, this dish is warm and comforting and filled with aromatic flavours such as ginger, onion, garlic, and saffron, among others.
Buy Local Paneer Cheese
For more information on what is paneer, visit the Paneer Cheese page for a range of Fresco’s hand-made paneer cheese. If you’d like to buy paneer cheese from our cheese outlet, get in touch with Fresco Cheese directly by calling (07) 5520 1666. Alternatively, reach out via the online form.