Many of us might consider paneer to be a “restaurant cheese;” we love to eat it, but unless you make Middle Eastern or South Asian cuisine in your own kitchen, it’s not a cheese that most home cooks think to use. But don’t underestimate the power of paneer in everyday cooking! You might not be a master curry-maker, but paneer isn’t limited to your favorite Indian foods. While we’ll never get tired of the classics – like Palak Paneer – it can be fun to experiment with this lovely cheese by incorporating it into non-traditional recipes.
Paneer goes by many regional names and variations. In the West, however, we are most familiar with this cheese when it’s served as non-melting cubes in many curry or rice dishes. Being a fresh cheese, paneer isn’t made with rennet, making it a beloved delicacy among vegetarian diners. It’s packed with protein, and is consumed regularly throughout the world as a nutritional meat substitute. Grilled, sautéed, or even baked, paneer is not a cheese to shy away from!
Winter has finally set in, and we’re craving a bowl of cheese-laden soup to help keep us warm after a long, cold day. French onion is always a crowd pleaser, in part because of the hearty and rich onion flavor, but mostly because of the cheesy croutons. (Admit it, that’s your favorite part.) This recipe for French Onion Soup takes the croutons to a whole new level by using paneer instead of bread. Cooked and coated in spices, these Paneer croutons add an extra layer of cheesy flavor to the soup.
Cooking with paneer isn’t limited to what you can do with the common cube! It works wonders when crumbled, and although it doesn’t melt the way other cheeses do, crumbly paneer adds great texture to any dish. This recipe for Paneer Stuffed Butternut Squash is not only full of flavor, it’s healthy, too. Instead of tucking into a buttery baked potato with all the fixings, roasted butternut squash with spiced yogurt sauce can help satisfy that starchy craving.
Unpressed paneer is similar to ricotta. In fact, many recipes that call for paneer will state that ricotta can be used as a substitute. Like its cheesy counterpart, paneer is one of the easiest cheese to make at home. So why not incorporate some homemade paneer into your next baking session? This recipe for Paneer and Asparagus Tart includes a layer of creamy blended paneer, which adds a delightful fluffiness to the decadent potato and asparagus.
Sautéd paneer is perhaps the simplest way of enjoying this cheese, but the easy preparation is what makes paneer such a versatile ingredient. On its own, Paneer is mild and slightly acidic, and when used in spicy dishes, this fresh cheese helps to balance out strong flavors. If you love spice, then this recipe for Chimichurri Soba Noodles is one example of how paneer can hold its own against the kick of jalapeño peppers. Pair this cheese with any other hot pepper to help tone down the spice intensity.
When your next pizza night comes up on the calendar, ditch the cardboard-like delivery crust. Making your own mozzarella-topped pizza is usually our go-to pie, but why not switch things up and make a Naan and Paneer Pizza instead? Pile it high with your favorite veggies and add a layer of grated Paneer. Especially when combined with other classic pizza cheeses, this Indian-influenced flatbread is the perfect “junk food” for a lazy weekend night.Photo Credit: Featured image courtesy of aishcooks.com