Paneer is a dairy product. It’s a type of fresh cheese which is extremely popular in the Indian subcontinent. It can be chewy or crunchy depending on how it’s prepared; this is why there are many paneer dish varieties. It is made by curdling milk with an acidic substance like lime juice. The curds are drained and pressed into a block to form white cheese. Paneer is referred to as cottage cheese in other cuisines.
It has the nutrients of dairy products and has a mild nutty flavour. It is very versatile and soaks in the gravy it’s in very well. It goes well for spreads, curries, pastes, stir-fries and desserts.
Popularity of Paneer
Paneer is famous for a variety of reasons. It’s a dairy product, which means it’s a good source of protein, calcium and other nutrients. Paneer is also inexpensive for this reason. It can be found in grocery stores or even general dairy stores. It can be made at home or store-bought.
And most importantly, paneer is easy to work with. It soaks in the gravy it’s in beautifully and doesn’t have many limitations. Paneer can be cut up in cubes, blended in, scrambled, etc. It’s got way too much potential to not be famous.
Paneer is an ingredient in your kitchen which will wear a lot of hats and look good in all of them. A culinary diva, if you will – she’s here to amaze you in all kinds of dishes.
Curries – paneer curry dishes are here to make your meals a fun escape into the land of flavour. Indian curries like paneer butter masala, paneer tikka masala, palak paneer, shahi paneer, etc, are crowd favourites. They take vegetarian cuisine and make it protein-rich and flavourful.
Stir-fried – paneer tastes well when fried. The edges go crunchy, and the centre remains chewy – a marshmallow but nutty flavoured. Paneer can be added with vegetables into a stir fry, a little sauce, and you’re ready to devour this chewy cheese. Paneer Manchurian and Paneer 65 will have you licking your fingers.
Desserts – paneer is also used in desserts. The texture just allows a lot of culinary experimentation. Desserts like rasmalai and gulab jamun make use of this very characteristic.
Spread – Paneer can be blended easily. Instead of cashew or avocado, you can add some paneer, add in flavours strong enough to do it justice, and you’ll have yourself a spread that is both flavourful and creamy. You can use it as a paste and add it to your curries to make them creamier – this helps switch out cream, which would have more fats.
Paneer dish Varieties
Paneer butter masala: paneer butter masala is creamy and decadent. It’s a tomato-based curry packed with aromatic flavours that bring out a taste that’ll have you ordering more rotis to go with it very quickly.
Paneer tikka masala: this is a spicy yogurt-based curry. Here, the paneer is marinated with yogurt and spices to seep in the flavour. It is then grilled and roasted. It’s often served as an appetiser or a dry gravy.
Palak paneer: Palak paneer is a dish that brings in the nutrition of spinach and hides the overpowering green with the creaminess of the paneer cubes.
Paneer Manchurian: an Indo-Chinese dish that deep fried paneer balls. It’s then soaked in a sweet and spicy sauce that it soaks in to give you a burst of flavour in your mouth.
Shahi paneer: another decadent paneer dish variety; this has some creaminess that comes from cashews. It’s creamy, slightly sweet and cooked with aromatic spices.
Malai kofta: this is a dish that requires the paneer to be turned into balls, which are deep fried and then cooked with a creamy gravy.
Paneer burji: This is a paneer scrambled dish cooked with a generous amount of spices. It works as a side dish, spread and dip.
Paneer is a delicious and versatile dish that you can lean into when you’re looking for an easy meal to digest that is packed with flavour and nutrients. It is filling and a good energy source. It’s got the goodness of dairy, the taste of Indian spices (in the dishes) and the chewiness of cheese. Try out paneer dishes and find new ways to increase your plant-based nutrition.
A food enthusiast and a blogger – someone who likes to eat and write about it. I’m passionate about exploring different cuisines and challenging my palette. I give into my food craving regularly and am often on the hunt to find my new favorite food place in town.