If you’re not familiar yet, Paneer is a classic Indian cheese produced from curdled milk mixed with a choice of citrus fruit for additional acidity. It’s a type of soft cheese that doesn’t need any aging process and can be consumed immediately.
It’s perfect for special gatherings as a starter, snack, or just for regular meals. However, if paneer is not available in your location, you can substitute it with mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, ricotta cheese, Mexican queso Blanco, cottage cheese, brie, and camembert.
Substitutes for Paneer
1. Mozzarella Cheese
Local cheese in Italy, now a worldwide popular cheese, mozzarella is one of the many favorites of any eater. You know why that’s the case. It is one of the many soft kinds of cheese that has the ability to stretch out and create that gooey flavor on every bite.
For the record, paneer doesn’t melt nor stretch no matter how soft it is. That’s why substituting it with mozzarella will highly make a difference. Try using mozzarella instead of paneer when making your gravy for malai kofta curry. This will bring a different effect of the gravy as you dip the kofta to the curry.
Also, since kofta is already flavorful, the addition of mozzarella wouldn’t clash with the taste of the dish since it’s more mellow and less aromatic as well.
2. Feta Cheese
I bet the majority is a fan of feta cheese when it comes to salad toppings, especially when trying to cut from calories. Just like paneer, feta cheese is one of the many healthy dairy products you can consume without having to feel guilty every time.
It’s lesser in calories, fat, and carbs, but high in nutrients that your body definitely needs. When paneer is unavailable use feta cheese to make your classic favorite makhani.
This will offer almost the same creaminess, richness, and that salty flavor that will complement the sauce. Just like paneer, it doesn’t melt so easily that makes the sauce too gooey or watery.
3. Ricotta Cheese
Another excellent paneer substitute on the list is no less than ricotta cheese. It has quite the same qualities as feta cheese so when using either of the two, treat it the same way.
It’s another healthy substitute that you can find in the market that has also gained a lot of popularity in recent years. You can also use ricotta cheese when making makhani.
It’s also suitable for achari paneer gravy, paneer Manchurian, garlic paneer, and paneer pakora. Instead of using paneer, replace all of it with ricotta and use the same content.
4. Mexican Queso Blanco
If you prefer a type of cheese that melts easily to achieve that richness and creaminess, then the Mexican queso Blanco is your best bet.
This cheese is not only popular in Hispanic dishes for making cheese dips, it has also been used in other cuisines when other types of cheese are scarce.
Although it melts compared to paneer, it makes a great substitute especially when making tikka masala, cheese toast, paneer do pyaza, and paneer jalfrezi.
Mexican queso Blanco is also more flavorful. Thus, expect a more savory, salty take. If you prefer the taste to be lighter, just adjust the cheese content and make it to your liking.
5. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese, also a cousin of both feta and ricotta, works as a substitute for paneer. Its curds quite resemble the paneer’s and even the taste is almost identical.
If you prefer a lighter soft cheese, try using cottage cheese instead. Rest assured that it will not mess with the flavor of the dish but add extra creaminess and richness.
The perfect dish to try it with is methi paneer, paneer palak bhurji, rasmalai, and even the classic curry gravies. Unlike ricotta and feta, cottage cheese melts well which makes cooking a whole lot easier. After it’s cooked, you won’t see any curds of cheeses but just the creaminess and its low-key taste.
If you’re a fan of anything French cheese, pretty sure you will approve of using brie over paneer. It’s also a type of soft cheese that’s quite light in color and with a white rind from its mold.
Mind you the mold can also be consumed safely. Therefore, don’t get too intimidated if it’s your first time trying it. Its earthy and nutty flavor adds more flavor to any dish.
It’s not only good for salads, desserts, pasta, or pizzas but also for different Indian dishes. Add this cheese when making pakoras, Dahi kabab, cutlet, and bread rolls. Its unique flavor will step up your ordinary dish to a much more defined taste profile.
Last but not least is the doppelganger of brie, camembert. If brie is unavailable, camembert is the safest substitute for making paneer-based dishes.
Just like brie, it’s also a type of soft cheese with a hint of funky aroma that’s totally tolerable. The texture, taste, and way of producing it are the same as brie. It’s one of the most loved cheeses in France and even the rest of the world.
Since it has the same makeup as brie, treat it the same when using it as a substitute for paneer. This is a great backup in case nothing else is available in the market.
If you’re worried about its strong aroma, there’s no need to worry. The spices on the dish can successfully cover up the funkiness.
Does paneer come from cow’s milk?
Paneer is extracted from fresh whole cow’s milk. The unique thing about paneer is that it doesn’t use rennet just like other cheeses but instead adds a citrus fruit which explains its tangy taste.
Is paneer cheese and cottage cheese the same?
They are both a soft type of cheese and they’re almost identical in both appearance and texture. The only difference is that paneer is unsalted while cottage cheese is more on the salty side.
Is paneer the same as for mozzarella?
Although both kinds of cheese fell in the soft type category, they are totally different. Mozzarella is a stringy or stretchy cheese while paneer is not. Paneer might be a softer cheese but it doesn’t melt as easily as mozzarella. However, they both have a mellow taste and aroma.
Is there a vegan substitute for paneer?
Yes, you can substitute paneer with a healthier vegan alternative such as tofu. It resembles both the texture and taste of paneer. And works just as good in any recipe that asks for paneer.
Do vegans eat paneer?
Paneer is loved by many vegetarians, but not by vegans because it is an animal product made of cow milk. So paneer is not the best milk substitute if you’re vegan.
What are your favorite Indian recipes that use paneer? Try the types of cheese we’ve shared in today’s article and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.