11 Best Paneer Substitutes for Cooking
In India, paneer is considered a staple ingredient. This Indian cheese is often served at breakfast or lunch along with rice and roti (Indian flatbread).
Top 2 Substitutes
- Feta Cheese – Cream and a slight tart taste – good for baking a flavor of casseroles
- Mozzarella Cheese – firmer and more neutral – good alternative when you want the texture of paneer cheese.
It is usually prepared using fresh cow milk. In the United States, it is more common to substitute tofu for paneer in Indian dishes.
In this article, we will discuss the best substitutes for paneer and the factors to consider when choosing one.
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What are the Things to Consider When Choosing Paneer Substitute
Paneer is a famous Indian cheese made from curdled milk. It is often eaten with rice and Rotis. When it comes to its flavor or distinct taste, paneer is quite bland. However, it has some unique properties that make it suitable for different uses. For example, paneer is very versatile in Indian cuisine because it can be cooked like any meat or vegetable. Hence, it always comes with a mixture of spices and herbs such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, fenugreek seeds, etc.
Paneer has a soft and creamy texture. Unlike most cheeses, paneer doesn’t melt well. Therefore, you need to cook it before adding it to a dish. If you don’t do so, your food may taste dry. The reason why paneer doesn’t melt quickly is due to its high moisture content. Its fat content also helps keep it extra firm and moist.
So, when choosing a substitute for paneer, you have to consider some factors, such as the texture, flavor, and moisture.
When choosing a paneer substitute, the main thing to look out for is its texture. You should select something that closely resembles the paneer’s texture. Know that it has a creamy and soft texture, unlike most cheeses. So, if you want to use a paneer substitute, you should try to find something with a similar consistency.
When selecting a paneer substitute, you must pay attention to its flavor. A good paneer substitute should have a mild aroma and amazing flavor. You should avoid anything that tastes too strong or bitter. Also, it should not contain artificial flavors or sweeteners.
Another essential factor to consider when choosing a paneer replacement is its moisture level. Since paneer is mostly water-based, you should select a product that contains less than 10% moisture. Anything above this amount could affect the overall quality of your Paneer-based recipes.
What are the Best Paneer Substitutes
Here are some of the finest substitutions for paneer in your dish.
1. Feta Cheese
Feta cheese is a Greek specialty that is commonly used as a substitute for paneer. It is commonly used as a topping on salad toppings, appetizers, and even pizza. It is also available in cubes or slices. Most people think of feta cheese as having a salty taste. But it isn’t. Instead, it has a tangy flavor.
It is made by combining sheep’s milk with whey. Once combined, it undergoes a process called salting. During this stage, the sodium content is added to the mixture. Then, it is left to rest for about 24 hours. This allows the salt to draw out excess moisture from the cheese.
Why is Feta Cheese a good substitute for Paneer?
Feta cheese is usually served with pieces of bread and vegetables and other Greek dishes like paneer. It is also used as an ingredient in many dishes. Because of this versatility, it makes an excellent substitution for paneer. When added to your meal, Feta cheese will offer you virtually the same richness, creaminess, and flavor complementing your sauce. Furthermore, this cheese has a “never-melt” quality, so you won’t have to worry about making your sauce too watery or gooey.
2. Mozzarella Cheese
It is one of the most famous types of Italian cheese. It is a fresh cheese that is made using cow’s milk. It is usually sold in blocks or wheels. There are several varieties of mozzarella cheese. All these different kinds of mozzarella can be found in supermarkets worldwide. They all have their distinct taste and texture.
Why is Mozzarella Cheese a good substitute for paneer?
As mentioned earlier, mozzarella cheese is very versatile. It can be used in pasta dishes, pizzas, sandwiches, etc. The best part about mozzarella cheese is that it melts quickly. In other words, it doesn’t get hard as different cheeses do. Therefore, it is perfect for sauces that require a smooth consistency or is fine with a crumbly texture.
3. Queso Panela
Queso Panela is a type of Mexican cheese. It is made by mixing cow’s milk with rennet. Rennet is a substance that helps curdle the milk into cheese. Afterward, the cheese is drained and pressed. Finally, it is cut into small pieces.
Queso Panela comes in two forms: soft and semi-hard. Soft panela cheese is softer than the semi-hard variety. Both types of panela cheese are white, perfect for most Mexican cuisine.
Why is Panela Cheese a good substitute for Paneer?
Just like paneer, panela cheese is often paired with Indian cuisine. However, it is also used in tacos, quesadillas, and nachos. It goes well with spicy sauce and foods because of its mild flavor. Additionally, it gives off a creamy texture. So if you’re looking for a dairy alternative for paneer, then panela cheese would be a good choice.
4. Halloumi Cheese
The cheese known in French as Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese made from goat and sheep’s milk, or occasionally a mix of the two. In rare cases, cow’s milk is utilized to produce cheese. Because it maintains its form and grills nicely when grilled, it is highly popular as a grilling cheese. Goat’s milk contains less fat content than cow’s milk. As a result, this French cheese produces a lighter cheese.
Why is Halloumi Cheese a good substitute for Paneer?
Halloumi cheese is a firm cheese that is typically eaten on its own. It does not melt as much as paneer. However, it is still delicious and flavorful. When cooked, it takes on a golden brown color.
5. Ricotta Cheese (Well-drained)
Well-drained Ricotta cheese is a low-fat, high moisture, unripened cheese that originated in Italy. It is commonly used in lasagna, ravioli, and baked goods. It is produced by heating whole milk until the proteins coagulate and separate from the liquid. Then, the mixture is strained through a cloth to remove any remaining whey. Afterward, the cheese is salted and left to drain overnight.
Why is Ricotta Cheese a good substitute for Paneer?
Because well-drained ricotta cheese has a higher water content compared to paneer, it tends to crumble rather than melt. This makes it an excellent dairy replacement for paneer. If you want to use ricotta cheese instead of paneer in your recipes, make sure to drain the excess water before using it.
6. Mexican Queso Blanco
Queso Blanco is a fresh, white Mexican cheese similar to feta cheese. It is usually used as a substitute for paneer and is served as a spread on pieces of bread, crackers, and tortilla chips. It is sometimes referred to as “Mexican farmer cheese.”
Why is Mexican Queso Blanco a good substitute for paneer?
Similar to paneer, Mexican Queso Blanco is a great dairy substitute. It is slightly salty and tangy, so it pairs so well with Mexican dishes. You can add it to salsa verde, guacamole, and enchiladas.
7. American Cottage Cheese
American cottage cheese is a low-cost, non-homogenized product that is sold in plastic tubs. The name cottage cheese derives from where it was originally manufactured: cottages. These were wooden buildings that housed cows. Cottage cheese is a soft, white cheese that is usually consumed uncooked.
Why is Cottage Cheese a good substitute for paneer?
Like paneer, cottage cheese is a staple at Indian restaurants. It goes well with curries, dals, and other Indian dishes. It melts quickly, making it a perfect dairy substitute for paneer.
8. Brie Cheese
Brie cheese is a semi-soft, mild, creamy cheese that originated in France. It is often served as a dessert cheese. It is also one of the most expensive cheeses available.
Why is Brie Cheese a good substitute for paneer?
Brie cheese melts very well. It is also quite creamy and rich flavor. Therefore, it is a great dairy alternative to the taste of paneer. You can enjoy this cheese with desserts like cheesecake and chocolate cake.
The most popular cheese in France, camembert is made from raw cows’ milk. It is a soft cheese that melts easily and has a mild flavor. Camembert is available in two varieties: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun. Both types are wrapped in foil and tied with string.
Why is Camembert Cheese a good substitute for paneer?
Camembert cheese melts easily with a rich creamy flavor. Therefore, it is a great dairy alternative to the taste of paneer. It adds a slightly tart taste. You can enjoy this cheese with a wide range of recipes.
Furthermore, if you have lactose intolerance, you may find that Camembert is easier to digest than paneer.
10. Goat Cheese
Goat cheese is a soft cheese that originates in Europe. It is made from goat’s milk and has a strong, sharp flavor. It is usually eaten as a snack food or appetizer.
Why is Goat Cheese a good substitute for Paneer?
Goat cheese is a delicious tasty alternative to paneer. It is not too hard and does not require much cooking time. It melts nicely and tastes great with salads.
11. Gouda Cheese
Aged gouda is another popular option for those who want to enjoy the taste of cheese without all the fat. The flavor profile of aged gouda is slightly different from regular gouda, but both types of cheese are made by adding cultures to milk and letting them ferment.
What Type of Cheese Is Paneer?
Paneer is a type of Indian cheese made from cow’s milk. It is a popular ingredient in many Indian dishes, such as chaat masala, aloo gobi, and bhaji.
What Exactly Does Paneer Taste Like?
Paneer tastes like mozzarella or cream cheese. It is a firm, smooth cheese that is typically seasoned with salt and spices.
What Is the Vegan Alternative for Paneer?
Vegans should look for healthy non-dairy products that are suitable for their diet. Some common options include tofu, tempeh, seitan, and soy yogurt in vegan recipes.