If you’re a vegetarian or just looking for a new way to spice up your cooking routine, this blog post is for you.
You see, paneer is an Indian cheese that’s popular in dishes like palak paneer and tikka masala. The problem with paneer is it can be hard to find – at least where I live!
Luckily, there are so many paneer substitutes out there that you can experiment with and use in your cooking!
In this article, I’ll share some popular paneer substitutes such as Tofu, Mozzarella cheese, Feta cheese, Ricotta cheese, and Cottage cheese. I’ve also included some lesser-known but equally delicious paneer substitutes such as Queso Blanco, Brie, Camembert, and Panela cheese.
Read till the end as I show you how to substitute these options and talk about vegan alternatives.
- What is Paneer?
- 9 Best Paneer Substitutes
- What Does Paneer Taste Like?
- Is Paneer Cheese and Cottage Cheese the Same?
- Is There a Vegan Substitute for Paneer?
- How to Make Homemade Paneer: Step-by-Step
- My Favorite Indian Recipes That Use Paneer
- Final Words
What is Paneer?
Paneer is a vegetarian cheese, which is popular in many Indian dishes. It’s usually made of curdled cow’s milk, but there are vegan versions available.
Paneer is a cream-like Indian cheese, often used in making curries and other savory dishes. It is one of the most popular cheeses used worldwide in many countries.
It is made by using fresh Cows’ milk that has been boiled along with some lemon juice or vinegar (to give that sour taste).
It’s a common misconception that paneer is the only option when it comes to cheese in Indian cooking.
Traditional paneer takes hours to make, so you’ll have to try some other options if you’re trying to cook it quickly!
But that’s okay because there are many great paneer substitutes out there – and you can use them in your cooking!
9 Best Paneer Substitutes
Let’s get right into it. Here is the best list of popular panner substitutes.
1. Mozzarella Cheese
Forget about the pizza – this is a great paneer substitute for dishes such as lasagna and pasta. It’s soft, so it melts really well in the skillet.
Plus, its bacony flavor will work well with savory sauces to make something delicious! Did we mention that you can use it to make a quick and easy paneer kofta?
Mozzarella cheese can be used in place of paneer in any number of paneer dishes. Mozzarella has a pretty similar taste to paneer, and so it can be used instead of paneer to make a variety of delicious recipes.
2. Feta Cheese
If you’re not into the bacony flavor of mozzarella cheese, feta will do the trick! It’s tangy–like most cheeses – and adds a great amount of flavor to any dish.
This works well in dishes like this paneer tikka masala recipe, and adds some spice to your food!
Feta cheese also works well with rice or roasted veggies, it’s super easy and delicious.
If you’re looking for an even healthier version of paneer, try tofu! Tofu is hands down the easiest option on this list – it’s so simple that you probably already use it!
Tofu is made of curdled and pressed soybeans into blocks, which can be used to make a variety of dishes. It’s simple and easy to make, so it’s the perfect option if you’re looking for something quick!
You’ll find tofu in almost every grocery store nowadays–it’s packed in water and only needs your own seasoning and food coloring (if you want!).
You can use it to make a variety of vegan dishes like this Aloo Mutter. It’s high in protein so it tastes great with veggies, and is super simple to make. I totally recommend trying out these delicious paneer recipes made with tofu.
4. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is soft, smooth, and low-fat cheese. This makes it a great option for those who are looking to cut down on calories.
A lot of people poolside cottage cheese for its similarities to paneer and how it’s used in everyday recipes. It tastes good, and works well with curries!
It’s not as high in protein as tofu or mozzarella cheese, but if you’re trying to watch your calorie intake – this is a great option.
Cottage cheese is a very simple ingredient to use when you’re making Indian dishes. Its mild flavor will allow it to blend in nicely with most recipes, and its soft texture will work well with other flavors like the spices in curry!
You can use cottage cheese to make this paneer tikka masala recipe, or you can fill up on it as a snack – it’s delicious either way!
I would recommend giving this paneer egg curry recipe a try if you’re looking for an easy dish to make with cottage cheese.
5. Ricotta Cheese
I would suggest using it to make this delicious shrimp korma recipe because it works so well with the spices and bold flavors there.
It tastes great in pasta dishes too – like Veggie Bolognese.
6. Queso Blanco
Queso Blanco is a very mild flavored cheese that has a similar texture to paneer and is used in a variety of dishes. You can use this popular cheese to make scrambled eggs, or add some spice to your recipes with it!
It has a firm and crumbly texture, so it’s perfect for a variety of dishes. The cheese is extremely simple to make at home – it’s easy and tastes delicious!
Try using it to make these delicious paneer kebabs, or use it as an easy substitute for paneer in any number of recipes that you have on hand. It’s simple to get your hands on and will help you make delicious Indian dishes like this shahi paneer curry.
I’d recommend making a veggie burger using this cheese such as Paneer Quesadilla. It’s simple, delicious, and works well with other recipes.
Brie is a soft cheese that melts easily. It has a similar texture to paneer, so it makes the perfect substitute for dishes like Egg or Paneer Bhurji.
It’s not as high in protein as some of the other cheeses on this list but tastes great with vegetables and sides – like crunchy cauliflower poppers or make a tasty Paneer Bhurji with tomatoes.
Alternatively, put your own unique spin on things with a delicious paneer pizza.
Camembert is a soft, creamy cheese that would make the perfect paneer substitute in many dishes. It’s delicious on its own as well!
Try using it to create this tasty paneer masala, or simply enjoy it with some pita bread.
It’s great for those who are looking to add a little spice to their cheese. Simply use it to make these delicious paneer kebabs, or try adding some of this cheese to your favorite omelet recipe for some extra flavor!
9. Panela Cheese
Panela cheese is an Indian alternative to paneer that’s used in a variety of dishes. It’s simple to make at home and would be a great substitute for this dish from your favorite restaurant!
It has the texture of paneer, so it will work nicely in recipes like palak paneer. You can use it as a topping for a variety of dishes like paneer pizza or try adding it to your favorite pasta dish.
It has the consistency and flavor of paneer, so you can use it in any recipe that calls for that ingredient. Try using it to make these delicious paneer wraps, or mix it with some veggies for a unique snack.
What Does Paneer Taste Like?
This is a question that’s often asked, and the answer depends on what kind of paneer you’re talking about. The taste could be categorized as mildly salty, slightly sour, or fresh, and that’s it.
If you make your own paneer at home from scratch, then you’ll get just the right amount of saltiness to satisfy your taste buds.
However, if you’ve tried it before in many different forms (fresh vs frozen vs store-bought) then, by far, the store-bought ones hold the taste that most people enjoy.
Is Paneer Cheese and Cottage Cheese the Same?
People often describe paneer as cottage cheese when they’re used interchangeably in menus. But paneer is actually made from the curds of milk that have been heated and pressed in a cold manner (unlike regular cottage cheese).
Paneer is also more crumbly and firm as compared to cottage cheese, but the taste is similar. It’s actually a very good source of calcium.
Is There a Vegan Substitute for Paneer?
If you’re a vegan, then you use tofu as a substitute intentionally because of its similar taste and texture. Otherwise, there are several other substitutes you can use when making classic Indian dishes that call for the use of paneer.
These include tofu, potatoes, or carrots depending on what ingredients work best in your recipe.
But if you’re looking for a low-calorie vegan substitute for paneer to use in your meals, then tofu is recommended because it’s far lower on the scale.
How to Make Homemade Paneer: Step-by-Step
Making homemade paneer at home is easy and quick! It doesn’t require a lot of time or ingredients, so try it out today and enjoy the delicious taste of your own homemade paneer in a variety of recipes.
To make paneer from scratch at home, you’ll need these simple ingredients:
- 1-gallon milk (whole or 2% is recommended because it produces softer and tastier results)
- 2 cups of lemon juice or vinegar (try to use natural ingredients, if possible)
- 1 tea towel or cheesecloth (to drain the curds)
Depending on how much you want to make, adjust all the ingredients accordingly. If you have a lot of milk on hand, just simply double up the ingredients to get more paneer.
But if you only want a small portion, then simply halve the ingredients to get the right amount of paneer for your recipe.
Add the milk and lemon juice or vinegar into a heavy-bottom large saucepan.
And heat it over medium-high heat until it comes to a gentle boil and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Wait about half a minute, then add 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to curdle the milk further.
Allow it to cook at low flame and thicken for a few minutes as you stir gently. Once you see that the curds have gathered at the top (separating from the whey) and it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, then it’s done.
If you’re going for a soft cottage cheese-like paneer, then stop cooking here because it is perfect! If not, then keep reading.
Pour the curds into a cheesecloth or tea towel and let all the whey drain out completely. Tie up the ends of the cloth and hang it from something to let all the excess whey drain out (set a heavy bowl on top if you need to.)
Now, put your collected paneer into a bowl and add salt as per taste. Make sure to knead it for a minute or two so that it becomes slightly firm.
My Favorite Indian Recipes That Use Paneer
Now that you know more about paneer and how to make it at home, try out one of these dishes:
- Palak Paneer: Spinach cooked in a creamy spice blend served with soft homemade paneer cheese cubes
- Shahi Paneer: Cornflour based gravy filled with smooth soft paneer chunks
- Mutter Paneer: Cottage cheese and peas cooked in a light onion-tomato gravy
- Vegetable Pulao: Rice cooked with vegetables, cashews and paneer chunks
- Kadai Paneer: Tasty Indian dishes made by cooking paneer in spicy sauce.
The 9 best paneer substitutes might be easier to find than you’d think! From tofu, cottage cheese, or Panela cheese in Indian dishes to homemade paneer and vegan options – these are all great ways to get your fix without the guilt.
How do you substitute paneer in your favorite recipes? If I missed any of your favorites, please let us know so that I can add them here for other readers looking for an alternative recipe.