Incredibly simple, right? So why am I complicating it with sous vide? Because heating a gallon of milk to nearly-but-not-quite boiling takes ages, and even the lowest setting on my gas range will sometimes scald the milk and crust it onto the bottom of the pot. Super-easy cheese becomes much less satisfying when you have to scrape burnt milk off your cookware. Sous vide lets us heat the milk to the perfect temperature with zero cleanup, making the extra equipment more than worth it.
At the most basic level, we’re creating curds and whey. Heating the milk to 190°F prepares the milk proteins to react well with the citric acid in lemon juice. Using whole milk is important; you could get away with 2%, but you’ll end up with about two-thirds of the cheese and a much denser, rubbery texture. Trust me that wasting your time with fat-free milk will just make you sad.
If you’re concerned about heating plastic bags, check the limit provided by the manufacturer. Most commonly produced plastic bags, including Ziploc, are made of polyethylene which will begin to soften at 195°F. Using them below this temperature is considered safe, so decide if you’re personally comfortable with this – I obviously am.
One gallon of whole milk creates about 19 oz. of paneer, which I usually stretch across two curry dishes. After it chills in the fridge, you can also slice and grill it like halloumi.
As an extra bonus, whey is packed with nutrients and protein, so save the leftovers! It’s practically liquid gold for gardens or composting, or you can add it directly soups, stock, or shakes.
Sous Vide Paneer Cheese
- 1 gallon whole milk
- 2 1-gallon resealable plastic bags
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- cheesecloth about 18" x 18"
- Divide milk evenly between the plastic bags and remove as much air as possible using the water displacement method.
- Attach your sous vide to a large pot. Lower milk into the pot, fold the sealed tops over the edge of the pot, and secure with a clip. Fill pot to the brim with water.
- Set your sous vide machine to 190°F / 88°C. Let it come to temperature, then continue cooking for 30 minutes.
- Reset the sous vide machine for 170°F / 77°C to cool the milk. Alternatively, turn off the sous vide machine and use the sous vide temperature display as a guide.
- When the milk reaches 170°F / 77°C, pour the milk into another large bowl or pot. Slowly add lemon juice, stirring constantly, until curds begin to separate from the greenish whey. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Line a colander with cheesecloth and set inside a large bowl or pot. Pour the curds and whey into the colander and stir to drain as much whey as possible.
- Tie the cheesecloth around the curds to form a ball. Set a plate on top and weigh it down with a pot or gallon jug filled with water to create a cheese press. Let rest and continue draining for 15 minutes.
- You've made paneer! Fresh paneer can be stored in the fridge, sealed tightly, for 4-7 days.