5 Delicious Ways to Use Paneer
Whether you buy it or make it at home, it’s great in everything from cakes to curries.
When it comes to versatile ingredients, cheese is one of my favorites. It can just as easily be a main dish as it can a snack or appetizer — and it effortlessly adapts to both sweet and savory recipes. Honestly, is there anything cheese can’t do?!
The Indian cheese paneer is no exception. Used as a meat alternative, you’ll find it in curries, kebabs, desserts and more. You can even shred the cheese and use it in fillings for things like stuffed peppers. Store-bought paneer is readily available, but the reason I really love this cheese is because it’s so easy to make at home. You only need two simple ingredients and about 45 minutes of time (Aarti Sequeira's recipe will walk you through the steps) and you’ll have a cheese with a flavor that’s truly beyond compare.
Making fresh paneer is as simple as boiling some whole milk and adding an acid like lemon juice, vinegar or yogurt. As soon as you do that, you’ll notice the milk separating. At that point simply pour the milk into a double layer of cheesecloth set over a bowl so that the solid curds can be separated from the liquid whey. After about 5 minutes of draining you’re ready to shape your cheese into a block or wheel and let it rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, after which it’s ready to use (or store for future use).
Not only is your cheese going to taste better than anything you could buy at the store, you’re going to be so impressed with your own culinary skills. So, what should you do with your extra delicious homemade cheese once you have it? Here are 5 perfect ways to enjoy it.
Saag Paneer (pictured above)
This is comfort food at its absolute finest. Cubes of paneer are seasoned and pan-fried, until toasty and golden. Nestled into a creamy spinach curry that’s infused with caramelized onions, garlic and ginger, it’s the perfect blend of warm spices and mild, milky cheese.
Paneer is the perfect cheese for pan-frying. It holds its shape well and easily develops a nice, caramelized crust on the outside. The trick is to make sure you don’t flip the cheese too soon. Once the first side is done cooking it will naturally release from the pan. If you try to flip it and it’s stuck, keep waiting! Once her paneer is fried on both sides, Aarti serves it with a sweet date sauce that’s spiced with a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes.
The beautiful thing about paneer’s mild, milky flavor is that it lends itself to sweet recipes, too. Maneet grates paneer and adds it to her homemade carrot halwa (which she sandwiches between rounds of freshly baked carrot cake) for an over-the-top dessert that pays homage to the ones her grandmother used to bake.
Since paneer is made with just two simple ingredients, it has a delicate flavor that’s perfect for soaking up savory broths and sauces. That’s why it’s so great in this soup. All the flavors of the chicken broth, aromatic veggies and spices are infused into every delicious cube of cheese.
Paneer doesn’t melt (so don’t be surprised when it holds its shape under heat) but these flatbreads deliver all the best aspects of a traditional pizza pie. They’re loaded with flavor, can be topped with just about anything you like — and are perfect for sharing.