Paneer is one of the most popular and versatile ingredients in Indian cooking. It is called Indian cottage cheese in English. It does not have any taste but it takes the flavor of the spices and ingredients to which it is added.
Paneer can be made at home easily in an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot or on the stove top. It is made from milk and an acidic agent (citric acid or acetic acid). When milk is heated and citric acid or acetic acid is added, it separates into milk solids and a liquid. The milk solids make the paneer and the liquid is called whey.
Instant Pot paneer is easy to make and can be used to make curries like palak paneer, matar paneer, appetizers like paneer tikka, paneer paratha, and even desserts like rasgulla, rasmalai, cham cham, and kalakand.
I prefer using vinegar over lemon juice to avoid a lot of squeezing. Lemon juice may introduce a few of its fibers which may be difficult to rinse off. So it is better to use vinegar.
It is best to use pasteurized full-cream milk to get a good yield of paneer. Low-fat milk will work as well but it will make less quantity of paneer. Ultra-pasteurized milk does not work well for making paneer.
It is very easy to make paneer in an Instant Pot as there is no need to monitor the milk while it gets boiled.
Pour milk into the Instant Pot liner, just make sure it does not cross the maximum quantity line. Close and lock the lid. The pressure release valve position does not matter as we are not pressure-cooking the milk. Press the "Yogurt" cycle a few times until it shows "boil".
Once the milk is boiled open the lid, and stir in the vinegar. It is important to stir in the vinegar to ensure all of the milk splits. The milk solids will get separated in a few minutes.
Let the milk stand for a few minutes. This will allow maximum milk solids to separate out and give a good quantity of paneer.
Filter the whey using a strainer and rinse the milk solids thoroughly with cold water to remove any sourness from the vinegar. Squeeze out the excess water using from the paneer by pressing it with a spatula or a spoon.
Wrap the paneer in cheesecloth and put additional pressure or a small weight over it to further squeeze out the excess water to make it more firm. You can also use a tofu press to squeeze out excess water.
Keep the weight on the paneer for 2-3 hours and then remove the cheesecloth and refrigerate the paneer to make it more firm.
After a few hours, once the paneer is set and chilled, you can make paneer cubes of desired size.
Paneer is gluten-free and can be easily made at home. It is best to use whole milk and vinegar.
Low-fat milk - you can use low-fat milk instead of full-fat milk but the quantity of paneer will be less compared to what you will get with whole milk.
Lemon juice - instead of vinegar, you can use lemon juice or lime juice. It is best to strain the juice using a fine tea strainer to avoid any fibers from getting into the milk. They are difficult to rinse off.
Recipes that use paneer can be made vegan by using tofu instead.
Homemade paneer can be refrigerated for about 4-5 days. Paneer can also be frozen for up to a month. If you plan on freezing it, cut them into cubes and then freeze it, that way you can use what you need.
When you are ready to use frozen paneer, just put it in the fridge overnight to thaw it or allow it to come to room temperature.
Homemade paneer can be used to make a variety of curries, our family favorite is veg paneer wraps. Some yummy delicious desserts like rasgulla, ras malai, cham cham, and kalakand are made using paneer and easily made in the Instant Pot.
What can I do with whey from paneer?
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Instant Pot Paneer
- ½ gallon Milk (8 cup, whole milk, not ultrapastuerized)
- 4 tablespoon Vinegar
- Pour milk into the Instant Pot liner and close the lid.
- Select the "Yogurt" cycle till it shows "Boil".
- Once the milk is boiled, the Instant Pot will show "Yogurt". Press "Cancel".
- Add and stir vinegar to the milk and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. The whey and milk solids will get separated.
- With the help of a strainer, filter out the whey and milk solids will remain in the strainer.
- Rinse the milk solids thoroughly under cold running water until all sourness of vinegar is gone.
- Press the paneer using a spoon to squeeze out all excess water until it is firm.
- Additionally, wrap the paneer in cheese cloth and apply some weight for 1-2 hours to squeeze out excess water and to make it firm.
- Paneer is ready for use.
- Taste the paneer after rinsing with water to ensure all sourness from the vinegar is gone.
- If there is excess water after squeezing, cover the paneer with cheesecloth and put some weight on it. Let it rest for about an hour or two to drain out any excess water.
- Paneer can be refrigerated for 4-5 days.
- Boil milk on medium flame and then turn it off.
- Add vinegar, mix well and allow to settle for about 5-10 minutes.
- Follow the remaining steps from above.