Paneer (pronounced [/pəˈniːr/]), also known as ponir (pronounced [po̯ni̯r]), is a fresh acid-set cheese common in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent made from full-fat buffalo milk or cow 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.

Alternative namesPoneer, Fonir, Indian cottage cheese
Place of originIndian subcontinent
Main ingredientsFull-fat milk (mostly buffalo)
Other informationRich source of milk protein



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


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 origins have been proposed for paneer.[5][6]

Acidulation of milk was taboo in the ancient Indo-Aryan culture, making an Indian origin unlikely; legends about Krishna make several references to milk, butter, ghee and dahi (yogurt), but do not mention sour milk cheese.[7] According to Arthur Berriedale Keith, a kind of cheese is "perhaps referred to" in Rigveda 6.48.18.[8] However, Otto Schrader (1890) believes that the Rigveda only mentions "a skin of sour milk, not cheese in the proper sense".[9] Vedic literature refers to a substance that is interpreted by some authors, such as K. T. Achaya, Om Prakash and Sanjeev Kapoor, as a possible form of paneer, but without definitive evidence.[5]

Catherine Donnelly, author of The Oxford Companion to Cheese (2016), mentions that Vedic literature refers to cheese production made with the aid of barks of palash tree (Butea monosperma), fruits like jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana) and creeper like putika with coagulating enzymes, "as well as Dadhanvat, a cheese-like substance made with and without pores". According to Catherine Donnelly, these plant substances may have contained rennet-like enzymes and notes that the "Vedas may include some of the earliest known references to rennet-coagulated cheeses".[10] Lokopakara text dated to the 10th century gives two recipes for coagulated cheeses made from buffalo milk for making sweets using plants and roots. According to the text, buffalo milk was coagulated using roots of amaranth plant or leaves of marsh barbel (Hygrophila auriculata); the soft cheese produced in this manner was called Haluvuga. In the second recipe, buffalo milk was coagulated with Indian mallow (Abutilon indicum) or country mallow (Sida cordifolia) and was made into balls for sweets.[11] 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.[12]

Another theory is that like the word itself, paneer originated in Persianate lands and spread to the Indian subcontinent under Muslim rule.[13] Paneer, according to this theory, was developed and moulded to suit local tastes under these rulers, and the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire are 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.[13] National Dairy Research Institute states that paneer was introduced into India by Afghan and Iranian invaders.[14] 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.[15] Sunil Kumar et al.(2011) 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]

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.[7][16][17] A type of smoked cheese called Bandel cheese was introduced by the Portuguese in Bengal, which is distinct from paneer.[18]

Nutrition and preparation

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy1,251 kJ (299 kcal)
23.3 g
Sugars22.5 g
15.5 g
15.9 g
Vitamin A equiv.
155 μg
34 μg
597 mg
0 mg
58 mg
490 mg
728 mg
185 mg
2.04 mg
Percentages estimated using US recommendations for adults,[19] except for potassium, which is estimated based on expert recommendation from the National Academies.[20]

Paneer is prepared by adding food acid, such as lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or dahi (yogurt),[21] 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


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 dishes can be sweet, like shahi paneer, or spicy/hot, like chilli paneer.

Paneer dishes


Some paneer recipes include:

  • Paneer pulao (paneer with rice)
  • Mattar paneer (paneer with peas)
  • Shahi paneer (paneer cooked in a rich Mughlai curry)
  • Paneer tikka (a vegetarian version of chicken tikka, paneer placed on skewers and roasted)
  • Paneer tikka masala
  • Chilli paneer (an Indo-Chinese preparation with spicy chilies, onions and green peppers, usually served dry and garnished with spring onions)
  • Kadai Paneer
  • Paneer pakora (paneer fritters)
  • Palak paneer
  • Khoya paneer
  • Paneer momo
  • Paneer butter masala
  • Paneer pasanda (shallow-fried stuffed paneer sandwiches in a smooth, creamy onion-tomato based gravy)
  • Paneer lababdar
  • Paneer Do Pyaza (named so because twice the normal amount of onions are used in this recipe).

Similar cheeses


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 curds) 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 is made using rennet extracted from the stomach of ruminants, and cow's skim milk. 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



  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. 51 (5). Springer: 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. "paneer". The American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  3. ^ Nundolal Dey (1985). "Rasātala or the Under-world". The Indian Historical Quarterly. 2 (1–2). Ramanand Vidya Bhawan: 236–237. Panir is a Persian word, though derived from the common Sanskrit words Pai (Payas = milk) and Nir (nīra = water) meaning milk without water.
  4. ^ Davidson, Alan (2006). Jaine, Tom (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Food (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 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. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Keith, Arthur Berriedale (1995). Vedic Index of Names and Subjects. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 209. ISBN 9788120813328.
  9. ^ Schrader, Otto (1890). Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples. C. Griffin. p. 319.
  10. ^ The Oxford Companion to Cheese, 2016. p. 373.
  11. ^ Ramachandran, Ammini. "Lokopakara – Part III Recipes". Peppertrail. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  12. ^ 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. ISBN 9788173053023.
  13. ^ a b The Technology of Traditional Milk Products in Developing Countries, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1990, p. 169, ISBN 9789251028995
  14. ^ Robinson, R. K.; Tamime, A. Y. (1996). Feta & Related Cheeses. CRC Press. p. 231. ISBN 9780747600770.
  15. ^ Rao, K.V.S.S. (1992). "Paneer technology — A review". Indian Journal of Dairy Science. 45. Indian Dairy Science Association: 281.
  16. ^ Chapman, Pat (2009). India: Food and Cooking: The Ultimate Book on Indian Cuisine. New Holland. p. 33. ISBN 9781845376192.
  17. ^ Wiley, Andrea S. (2014). Cultures of Milk. Harvard University Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780674369702.
  18. ^ Tamang, Jyoti Prakash (2 March 2020). Ethnic Fermented Foods and Beverages of India: Science History and Culture. Springer Nature. p. 676. ISBN 978-981-15-1486-9.
  19. ^ United States Food and Drug Administration (2024). "Daily Value on the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels". FDA. Archived from the original on 27 March 2024. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  20. ^ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Committee to Review the Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium (2019). Oria, Maria; Harrison, Meghan; Stallings, Virginia A. (eds.). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health. Washington, DC: National Academies Press (US). ISBN 978-0-309-48834-1. PMID 30844154. Archived from the original on 9 May 2024. Retrieved 21 June 2024.
  21. ^ Adiraja Dasa. The Hare Krishna book of Vegetarian Cooking. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1989, ISBN 0-902677-07-1