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definition - Paneer

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Paneer tikka from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Alternative name(s) Chhana, chhena
Place of origin India
Region or state South Asia
Type Cheese
Main ingredient(s) Milk
Variations Palak Paneer, Mutter Paneer

Paneer (Hindi: पनीर panīr; Urdu: پنير from Persian: پنير panir) is a fresh cheese common in South Asian cuisine. It is of Indian origin often referred in the Vedas dating back to 6000 BC. In eastern parts of India, it is generally called Chhena. It is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids.

Unlike some cheeses in the world, the making of paneer does not involve rennet as the coagulation agent,[1] thus making it completely lacto-vegetarian and providing one of the sources of protein for vegetarians in India. It is generally unsalted.



To prepare paneer, food acid (usually lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or yogurt) is added 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 give it a good texture and appearance.

From this point, the preparation of paneer diverges based on its use and regional variation.

In most cuisines, the curds are wrapped in cloth and placed under a heavy weight, such as a stone slab, for 2–3 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 Eastern Indian and Bangladeshi cuisines, the curds are beaten or kneaded by hand into a dough-like consistency called ছানা sana in Assamese, ছানা chhana in Bengali, or େଛନା chhena in Oriya, Maithili & Bihari. In these regions, sana/chhana/chhena is distinguished from ponir, a salty semi-hard cheese with a sharper flavor and high salt content. Hard ponir is typically eaten in slices at teatime with biscuits or various types of bread, or deep-fried in a light batter. In Nepal, Paneer sekwa is a very popular item.

In the area surrounding the Gujarati city of Surat, surti paneer is made by draining the curds and ripening them in whey for 12 to 36 hours.[2]


  Mattar paneer, a vegetarian dish from India
  Cubes of paneer in a salad served in an Indian restaurant in Mumbai
  Saag paneer or palak paneer, a spinach-based curry dish

Dating back to ancient India,[3][4] paneer remains the most common type of cheese used in traditional South Asian cuisines. The use of paneer is more common in Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh due to the prominence of milk in their cuisine. It is very popular when wrapped in dough and deep-fried or served with either spinach (palak paneer) or peas (mattar paneer).

The well-known rasgulla features plain chhana beaten by hand and shaped into balls which are soaked in syrup. The sana/chhana/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 dalna in Maithili,Oriya and Bengali cuisines.

Some common paneer dishes:

  As fast food

At least three fast food restaurants offer paneer. McDonalds India serves the McSpicy Paneer[5] and Paneer Wrap.[6] In the United Kingdom, Subway has started serving a saag paneer patty. Tamatanga (Urban Indian Cuisine) restaurant also serves a Paneer Wrap[7] Taco Bell India serves the paneer and potato burrito.[8]

  Similar cheeses

Queso blanco or queso fresco are often recommended as substitutes in the Americas as they are commercially available in many American markets but paneer is not. Both are generally salted, unlike paneer.

Farmer cheese and dry curd cottage cheese, are similar except that they are made from cultured milk and often salted.

Anari is very similar in taste and texture to fresh Indian Paneer. Anari is a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus.


  1. ^ External link
  2. ^ Reference.com-Paneer section-surti paneer
  3. ^ World Food History- History of Cheese
  4. ^ My Bangalore-History of fromage (cheese)
  5. ^ "McDonald's launches McSpicy products". The Hindu. April 3, 2011. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-downtown/article1595661.ece?css=print. 
  6. ^ http://www.mcdonaldsindia.com/pdf/McSpicy-press-release-final.pdf
  7. ^ Mitra, Kushan (June 12, 2011). "Say (Cottage) Cheese: McDonalds paneer burger for the Indian palate". businesstoday.intoday.in. http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/mcdonalds-paneer-burger-mcspicy-paneer-mccurry-pan/1/15778.html. Retrieved July 1, 2011. 
  8. ^ Place, Investor (March 30, 2011). "Taco Bell paneer and potato burritos are a hit". MSN. http://money.msn.com/top-stocks/post.aspx?post=00000065-0000-0000-616b-1a0000000000&_blg=398. Retrieved July 1, 2011. 

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