Paneer is a kind of cheese that is originally from India.
It has a unique flavor that makes it perfect for Indian cuisine.
In terms of texture, it can range from soft and crumble to firm and sliceable.
Today, Indian dishes that do not contain paneer are almost unheard of.
Unfortunately, there is a good reason why these dishes are rare: paneer is very expensive in most places outside of India.
Fortunately, there are many substitutes for paneer cheese available. In this article, we will cover five of them.
Many of these substitutes can be easily found in most supermarkets or grocery stores, so you should have no trouble getting your hands on them.
What is Paneer Cheese?
First of all, Paneer cheese is a dairy product made by curdling milk and then separating the whey (cheese) from the curds.
This process is a soft, sweet-tasting cheese that can be used in any dish that calls for regular cheese.
For example, paneer cheese can be used to make paneer butter masala – which is a rich and creamy curry that tastes just as good as any other Indian dish that calls for regular cheese.
When paneer cheese is added to dishes like these, it provides a welcome change that isn’t too dissimilar from the original.
This helps to make paneer cheese very versatile and easy to use in many different recipes.
It’s important to remember that paneer cheese doesn’t melt like traditional cheeses, so it is best to add the paneer cheese towards the end of cooking to soak up some of the flavors of whatever you are cooking.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Paneer Cheese
Sometimes you may not find paneer cheese and don’t want to go out and buy some if you can avoid it.
There are five great substitutes that you can use for these instances instead of the real thing.
They are just as versatile in recipes as paneer cheese but have their flavors that they bring to the dish:
1 – Halloumi Cheese
This cheese is typically made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.
In addition, this cheese is also quite popular in the Balkans and parts of North Africa.
The texture of Halloumi is rather hard compared to other cheeses typically used in the kitchen.
Moreover, it has an oily texture that provides a distinct flavor. In general, Halloumi cheese is typically kept in the fridge.
This cheese has a very high melting point. It can be fried or barbecued and added to numerous dishes, including baked potatoes and salads.
In addition, this cheese is relatively easy to cook with as it takes on the flavor of the ingredients that it is cooked with.
The taste is a little salty and a bit sour, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact flavor.
2 – Feta Cheese
Even though this cheese has been around since ancient times, it hasn’t lost any of its appeals.
In general, feta cheese is very tangy and salty even though it’s made from cow’s milk.
In addition, this cheese is made in Greece and Bulgaria even though it’s also made in parts of Spain and Italy.
In general, there are two different types: one of which is soft and crumbled, while the other type has a firm texture and is sold in cubes or blocks.
It typically has a strong and sour flavor. The color is light or white.
In general, feta cheese has a milder taste than other cheeses that you typically use in the kitchen. This is due to its tangy and fresh flavor.
In addition, this type of cheese is most popular with dishes such as pastitsio and moussaka rather than Mediterranean salads.
3 – Mascarpone Cheese
This is an Italian cheese made by adding cream to the ricotta.
This process makes it very light, sweet, and extremely smooth texture.
The taste of this cheese is rather delicate, making it perfect for items such as cakes and cookies or even pies and tarts.
Furthermore, this cheese contains a considerable amount of protein and calcium, making it an excellent post-workout food as it helps restore the body’s electrolytes.
In addition, Mascarpone cheese is rather simple to cook with as its flavor doesn’t take on other flavors too well.
You can use this cheese to substitute for cream or butter in many dishes.
While mascarpone has been around since the 16th century, it’s only recently become popular enough to have its devoted following.
This cheese is even used in desserts nowadays.
4 – Ricotta Cheese
This type of cheese is made from either whey or milk that has been curdled.
In general, ricotta cheese was originally made from sheep or cow’s milk.
However, it can also be made from a mixture of both kinds of milk.
In addition, one rather common way to serve this type of cheese is in a dessert called cannoli.
This Italian dish is typically filled with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips.
When you think about it, the texture of this cheese is rather similar to cottage cheese.
The taste is even milder than other cheeses such as cheddar.
Some people mistake ricotta for a type of cottage cheese instead.
In general, ricotta cheese has a soft and crumbly texture.
In addition, the taste is slightly sweet with a hint of saltiness to it.
This type of cheese is very versatile and easy to cook with.
You can use this cheese in sweet and savory dishes, like sour cream or yogurt.
You can also substitute ricotta for cream cheese if you don’t have any of that either.
5 – Queso Fresco
This is a type of cheese that is made from cow’s milk.
This cheese has been around since the times of the Aztecs.
This type of cheese is still used in various dishes in Mexico, including enchiladas.
In general, queso fresco tastes similar to mozzarella.
It has a mild and salty taste, perfect for use in tacos and other dishes.
In addition, this cheese is very versatile as you can use it for both sweet and savory dishes alike.
This type of cheese is even popular when used with fruit such as peaches or mangoes.
For example, the Mexican dish known as chiles en nogada includes cheese, ground beef, and pomegranate seeds.
While the taste is similar to mozzarella, queso fresco has a much saltier flavor.
This is due to its high tartaric acid, which gives it distinctive tanginess.
Paneer cheese is by far the most popular type of cheese used in dishes common to Indian cuisine.
Unfortunately, not everyone lives near an Indian grocery store, and many cannot afford this type of cheese either.
Therefore it’s important to know about some substitutes for paneer cheese so that you can still enjoy your favorite dishes even if you’re away from home.
The substitutes listed above are not only easy to find, but they also have a very similar texture and taste to paneer cheese.
You may even be surprised by how close these cheeses can get in terms of flavor and consistency to real paneer cheese.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What can I substitute for paneer cheese?
Paneer cheese can be substituted with various dairy-based cheeses and other vegan alternatives.
For a dairy-based substitute, ricotta or queso blanco are the closest matches in terms of texture and flavor.
If you’re looking for a vegan alternative, tofu is a great substitute for paneer.
You can also try to use veggie burgers, which are made from a variety of ingredients like beans and grains.
Is feta cheese similar to paneer?
No, feta cheese is not similar to paneer. Feta cheese has a much stronger flavor and saltier taste than paneer.
Paneer is a very mild cheese with a softer texture, while feta has a crumbly texture and salty taste.
What is the English equivalent of paneer?
The English equivalent of paneer is cottage cheese. Both cheeses have a similar texture, with paneer being slightly softer than cottage cheese.
Paneer also has a mild flavor, while cottage cheese has a slight tang to it.
Is paneer healthier than other dairy-based cheeses?
Yes, paneer has a number of health benefits that other dairy-based cheeses do not have.
Paneer is low in fat, contains no cholesterol and is high in calcium and protein, making it an excellent source of nutrition. It also has probiotics, which can help aid digestion.
Additionally, paneer provides essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, Vitamin A and Vitamin B12. All of these benefits make paneer a healthier alternative to other dairy-based cheeses.