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Paneer is quite the cheese. Unlike the cheeses that most people are familiar with, paneer boasts its own unique appearance and flavor. As such, you might be wondering if it’s possible to substitute paneer with anything else.
What Is Paneer?
The Indian cheese, paneer, is made from a combination of veggie or fruit acid and curdled milk. Paneer has some rather unique characteristics that make it stand out from other cheeses. First, it is a non-melting, unaged cheese. It’s also quite soft.
You can eat paneer as a snack or serve it with breakfast or dinner. It’s true that paneer doesn’t look like traditional cheeses. But if you can get past the unconventional appearance, you’ll find one of the tastiest of its kind.
There are many different theories about the origin of this cheese. Perhaps the most popular is the longstanding story that can be traced back to 16th century Southeast Asia. It’s then that the rulers of Persia and Afghanistan first introduced this cheese to the Asians.
Regardless of its origins, paneer is an essential part of India’s delicious culture. And that is largely due to paneer’s mild yet milky taste. It’s true that paneer’s flavor is comparable to many other fresh kinds of cheese. It often gets compared to cottage cheese or ricotta. But because paneer is usually salt-free, some people think it’s a bit too bland to be consumed by itself.
If you want the absolute best paneer possible, you should try making it on your own. Most everyone agrees that homemade trumps store-bought any day of the week. But regardless of how you get paneer, once you do, you should be sure to soak it in hot water before you attempt eating it. In doing so, you will make the paneer less elastic and much softer.
We’re excited to share our favorite paneer substitutes with you. We found the following options to provide exceptional taste and texture on par with paneer. Enjoy!
This soft cheese is a mixture of sheep and goat milk and actually comes from whole sheep milk. In Greece, feta is cured in salty brine. Known as pickled cheese, as it ages, its taste becomes stronger and saltier while the cheese becomes firmer.
Feta has small holes and a fragile texture, which is milky white. It is usually a square, skinless cake, but you can also find pre-packaged feta in an airtight container that’s already been crumbled for your convenience.
Here, no saltwater is added, and it may or may not have seasonings. It’s worth mentioning that feta can get a little pricey. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to add to recipes or dishes.
Mozzarella cheese originated in Italy and is a sliced curd. It is a good substitute for cheese. Its delicate, milky taste is highly valued and is usually made from the milk of buffalo (not North American buffalo or bison that many people mistakenly believe).
Fresh mozzarella cheese boasts low sodium and fat content and is considered one of the healthiest cheeses. Buffalo milk mozzarella is a more nutritious option compared to mozzarella made with cow milk. Not only do you benefit from more calcium, but also iron, protein, and lower cholesterol levels.
Halloumi is a white layered cheese similar to mozzarella cheese, usually made from goat and/or sheep milk from the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus.
It is a slightly hard cheese with a spongy texture. What’s more, it has a strong and salty taste, with no skin. Halloumi is occasionally made from cow’s milk and may or may not be pasteurized. You can eat halloumi raw. But because this cheese has a high melting point, it’s even better when used in cooking.
Panela is a young, white, mild cheese. Its texture can be better described as firm ricotta cheese. Traditionally, panela cheese is formed in a basket, which is why in some areas you will hear it called basket cheese.
Today, the panela cheeses you find in the store are round. In English, it does not have a separate name because there is no corresponding American name. The cheese most similar to panela is actually paneer cheese.
As such, we’re quite pleased with the results penela offers as a paneer substitute. The taste and texture work well in recipes that call for paneer, too. So you can be sure that penela will translate well in your cooking.
Vegans often turn to tofu as a good cheese alternative. That’s because tofu is derived from condensed soybeans and pressed into blocks — very similar to the process of making cheese. What’s more, tofu includes nigari, the liquid that remains after the removal of the salt from the seawater, which is used to help maintain tofu in its container.
Nigari helps to give tofu its classic shape and texture, and it is also rich in healthful minerals. Tofu is a good substitute for paneer, especially if you’re vegan. Vitamins and minerals can also be added to tofu, including vitamin B12 and calcium. But what’s included depends on which brand you buy, so make sure you examine the label to ensure that you get the right one for your needs.
It’s common knowledge that vegans and vegetarians lack the nutrition found in many non-vegan foods. Since crops of soybeans are often polluted by pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and many crops are genetically modified, it’s recommended that you purchase organic tofu.
Discover More Great Substitutes at Cook Gem
These excellent paneer substitutes will ensure that you get the delicious flavor and texture while making your cooking ventures easier. If you would like to learn about more handy alternatives, be sure to check out the rest of our food substitutes page.