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Paneer (Indian cottage cheese)
Panir Paneer Indian cheese fresh.jpg
Alternative namesPoneer, Fonir, Indian cottage cheese
Place of originIndian Subcontinent
Main ingredientsStrained curdled milk
Other informationRich source of milk protein

Paneer (pronounced [/pəˈnɪə(r)/]), also known as ponir (pronounced [po̯ni̯r]) or Indian cottage cheese, is a fresh acid-set cheese common in the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) made from cow or buffalo milk.[1] It is a non-aged, non-melting soft cheese made by curdling milk with a fruit- or vegetable-derived acid, such as lemon juice. Its acid-set form (curd) before pressing is called chhena.


The word paneer entered English from Persian panir (پنیر) 'cheese', which comes from Old Iranian.[2][3] Armenian panir (պանիր), Azerbaijani pəndir, Turkish peynir and Turkmen peýnir, all derived from Persian panir, also refer to cheese of any type.[4]


A gravy-based dish with many thick cheese cubes together with some vegetables and spices is shown. In the lower parts of the image, some coriander leaves have been added on top as a garnish.
Shahi paneer, a dish from the Indian subcontinent with paneer as a primary ingredient.

The origin of paneer is debated. Ancient Indian, Afghan-Iranian and Portuguese-Bengali origins have been proposed for paneer.[5][6]

Vedic literature refers to a substance that is interpreted by some authors, such as Sanjeev Kapoor, as a form of paneer.[5] According to Arthur Berriedale Keith, a kind of cheese is "perhaps referred to" in Rigveda 6.48.18.[7] However, Otto Schrader believes that the Rigveda only mentions "a skin of sour milk, not cheese in the proper sense".[8] K. T. Achaya mentions that acidulation of milk was a taboo in the ancient Indo-Aryan culture, pointing out that the legends about Krishna make several references to milk, butter, ghee and dahi (yogurt), but do not mention sour milk cheese.[9]

A widely accepted theory is that like the word itself, paneer originated in Persianate lands and spread to the Indian subcontinent under Muslim rule.[10] Paneer, according to this theory, was developed and molded to suit local tastes under these rulers, and the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire is when paneer as currently known developed. Another theory states that paneer is Afghan in origin and spread to India from the lands that make up Afghanistan.[10] National Dairy Research Institute states that paneer was introduced into India by Afghan and Iranian invaders.[11] Based on texts such as Charaka Samhita, BN Mathur wrote that the earliest evidence of a heat-acid coagulated milk product in India can be traced to 75-300 CE, in the Kushan-Satavahana era.[12] Sunil Kumar et al. interpret this product as the present-day paneer. According to them, paneer is indigenous to the north-western part of South Asia, and was introduced in India by Afghan and Iranian travellers.[1] Manasollasa, a Sanskrit-language text by the 12th century king Someshvara III, describes Kshiraprakara, a similar sweet food prepared from milk solids after separating boiled milk using a sour substance.[13]

Another theory is that the Portuguese may have introduced the technique of "breaking" milk with acid to Bengal in the 17th century. Thus, according to this theory, Indian acid-set cheeses such as paneer and chhena were first prepared in Bengal, under Portuguese influence.[9][14][15] The first cottage cheese is of Indo-Portuguese origins and is known as Bandel cheese.


Paneer, from cow milk
Nutritional value per 100 g
Energy1,108.76 kJ (265.00 kcal)
1.2 g
20.8 g
18.3 g
208 mg
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: What is the nutritional value of paneer? - Doctor NDTV

Paneer is prepared by adding food acid, such as lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or dahi (yogurt),[16] to hot milk to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are drained in muslin or cheesecloth and the excess water is pressed out. The resulting paneer is dipped in chilled water for 2–3 hours to improve its texture and appearance. From this point, the preparation of paneer diverges based on its use and regional tradition.

In North Indian cuisines, the curds are wrapped in cloth, placed under a heavy weight such as a stone slab for two to three hours, and then cut into cubes for use in curries. Pressing for a shorter time (approximately 20 minutes) results in a softer, fluffier cheese.

In Bengali, Odia and other east Indian cuisines, the chhena are beaten or kneaded by hand into a dough-like consistency, heavily salted and hardened to produce paneer (called ponir), which is typically eaten in slices at teatime with biscuits or various types of bread, deep-fried in a light batter or used in cooking.

In the area surrounding the city of Surat in Gujarat, surti paneer is made by draining the curds and ripening them in whey for 12 to 36 hours.

Use in dishes[edit]

Mattar paneer, a vegetarian dish from India
Saag paneer or palak paneer, a spinach-based curry dish
Paneer butter masala
Paneer tikka masala from India
Chili paneer in Kolkata

Paneer is the most common type of cheese used in traditional cuisines from the Indian subcontinent. It is sometimes wrapped in dough and deep-fried or served with either spinach (palak paneer) or peas (mattar paneer). Paneer can be sweet, like the shahi paneer, or spicy, like the chilli paneer.

The well-known rasgulla features plain chhena beaten by hand and shaped into balls which are boiled in syrup. The chhena used in such cases is manufactured by a slightly different procedure from paneer; it is drained but not pressed, so that some moisture is retained, which makes for a soft, malleable consistency. It may, however, be pressed slightly into small cubes and curried to form a dalma in Maithili, Odia and Bengali cuisines.

Paneer dishes[edit]

Some paneer recipes include

A pizza with paneer and vegetable topping from India
  • Paneer pasanda (shallow-fried stuffed paneer sandwiches in a smooth, creamy onion-tomato based gravy)
  • Paneer lababdar
  • Paneer Do Pyaaz (named so because 2 onions are used in this recipe).

Similar cheeses[edit]

Anari, a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus, is very similar in taste and texture to fresh Indian paneer. Circassian cheese is produced using a similar method and is close in consistency to paneer, but is usually salted. Farmer cheese (pressed cottage cheese) and firm versions of quark are similar except that they are made from cultured milk and may be salted. Although many Indians translate "paneer" into "cottage cheese", cottage cheese may be made using rennet extracted from the stomach of ruminants, and when such varieties are pressed into farmer cheese are firmer than paneer. Queso blanco or queso fresco are often recommended as substitutes in the Americas and Spain as they are more commercially available in many American markets. Queso blanco can be a closer match, as it is acid-set while queso fresco frequently uses rennet at a lower temperature. Both are generally salted, unlike paneer. It is also similar to unsalted halloumi.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kumar, Sunil; Rai, D.C.; Niranjan, K.; Bhat, Zuhaib (2011). "Paneer—An Indian soft cheese variant: a review". Journal of Food Science and Technology. Springer. 51 (5): 821–831. doi:10.1007/s13197-011-0567-x. PMC 4008736. PMID 24803688. People during the Kusana and Saka Satavahana periods (AD75–300) used to consume a solid mass, whose description seems to the earliest reference to the present day paneer
  2. ^ Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. "The American Heritage Dictionary entry: paneer". Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  3. ^ "Rastala or the Under-world". The Indian Historical Quarterly. Ramanand Vidya Bhawan. 2 (1–2): 236. 1985.
  4. ^ Davidson, Alan (2006). Jaine, Tom (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Food (2 ed.). Oxford: OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0191018251. panir and peynir, the Persian and Turkish words for 'cheese' (...)
  5. ^ a b Kapoor, Sanjeev (2010). Paneer. Popular Prakashan. p. 3. ISBN 9788179913307.
  6. ^ Roufs, Timothy G.; Smyth Roufs, Kathleen (2014). Sweet Treats around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 168. ISBN 9781610692212.
  7. ^ Keith, Arthur Berriedale (1995). Vedic Index of Names and Subjects. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 209. ISBN 9788120813328.
  8. ^ Schrader, Otto (1890). Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples. C. Griffin. p. 319.
  9. ^ a b Walker, Harlan, ed. (2000). Milk - Beyond the Dairy: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 1999. Oxford Symposium. pp. 53–57. ISBN 9781903018064.
  10. ^ a b The Technology of Traditional Milk Products in Developing Countries, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1990, p. 169, ISBN 9789251028995
  11. ^ Robinson, R. K.; Tamime, A. Y. (1996). Feta & Related Cheeses. CRC Press. p. 231. ISBN 9780747600770.
  12. ^ Rao, K.V.S.S. (1992). "Paneer technology — A review". Indian Journal of Dairy Science. Indian Dairy Science Association. 45: 281.
  13. ^ Ena Desai (2006). "Gastronomy of Bengal". In Lotika Varadarajan (ed.). Indo-Portuguese Encounters: Journeys in Science, Technology, and Culture. Vol. II. Indian National Science Academy / Centra de Historia de Alem-Mar, Universidade Nova de Lisboa / Aryan Books International. p. 668.
  14. ^ Chapman, Pat (2009). India: Food and Cooking: The Ultimate Book on Indian Cuisine. New Holland. p. 33. ISBN 9781845376192.
  15. ^ Wiley, Andrea S. (2014). Cultures of Milk. Harvard University Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780674369702.
  16. ^ Adiraja Dasa. The Hare Krishna book of Vegetarian Cooking. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1989, ISBN 0-902677-07-1