Paneer is a popular cheese in Indian cuisine, featuring in many dishes from that part of the world.
It is similar to cottage cheese and Anari cheese, with a crumbly texture and mild taste – it can be used in masalas, biryani, jalfrezis, and many other curries.
Alternatively, you can fry it on its own to make paneer cubes, use it for paneer skewers, stuff your naans with it or simply eat it without any preparation. In fact, paneer is the most common cheese in Indian food, because it is so versatile and well-loved.
A block of paneer will stay fresh for only a few days in the fridge, and it is not recommended to store it any longer than around 3 days. Even then, you have to keep it moist by submerging it in water or wrapping it in a damp cloth.
This means it’s necessary to prepare well and only buy as much as you’ll be able to use. If you’re not confident you can use all your paneer in the short time before it goes bad, is there another way of storing it, so it will keep longer?
Here, we will explain whether it’s fine to freeze your paneer and tell you the best method for doing so.
Is Freezing Paneer Safe?
Yes, it is absolutely safe to freeze your paneer for up to 6 months.
In fact, freezing certain foods may even be safer than not doing so.
It prevents more harmful bacteria from growing on the surface (conditions are too cold for many bacteria to thrive, so any existing ones are inactivated for the duration of the freezing).
It doesn’t actually kill them, though, so you still need to be careful – make sure it hasn’t passed its expiry date before you freeze it.
What’s more, you can freeze paneer once it has been cooked in a curry or other dish, as long as it doesn’t contain any ingredients that aren’t suitable for freezing.
Possible examples include cooked egg whites, cucumber, cooked rice, or anything that has been fried, so check for these first if you want to freeze your paneer dish.
Canned goods and raw eggs are actively unsafe to freeze, while the suggestions on this list will simply not be appealing anymore after freezing.
Will Freezing Paneer Affect the Texture?
As you will know, certain foods can lose some of their signature texture and taste once they are frozen.
This happens a lot with fruits and vegetables, particularly ones with a high water content – the water in them freezes and expands, rupturing the cell walls and softening the overall texture.
They also undergo chemical changes that cause their natural enzymes to stop working. The enzymes contribute heavily to the flavor, color, and nutritional value of fresh produce, so these things will be altered if the enzymes are inactive.
It is a good idea to try to limit the amount of time you freeze your paneer for, so you only leave it in the freezer until you can really use it all in one go.
We do not recommend refreezing the paneer once it’s already been thawed, so only remove as much as you’re likely to need and keep the rest in there if you know you won’t use all of it.
Refreezing paneer will turn it into a mushy substance that loses its usual shape, rendering it unrecognizable from the familiar cheese you know and love.
What Is The Best Way To Freeze Paneer?
Paneer is best frozen if you cut it into small chunks beforehand. Put them in the freezer for a short time, just long enough to harden the outside of each piece.
Then place the chunks in a ziplock bag, letting as much of the air escape as possible before sealing. Return them to the freezer and leave them there for up to 6 months until you need them.
If you want to, you can freeze the block whole; we suggest only doing this if you know that you will require all of it at once.
Wrap it in plastic food wrap and a layer of aluminum foil, so that it is able to retain all its moisture and won’t become dehydrated.
Exposed foods can suffer from freezer burn, which causes discoloration, shriveling, and the formation of ice crystals. Your paneer will still be safe to eat if this happens, but it will no longer be in an optimal condition.
You can also cook your paneer before freezing it, either on its own or as part of a prepared dish that is suitable for freezing.
Cooking it first can help to maintain the ideal texture, whereas putting raw paneer straight into the freezer may cause it to lose some of its shape or softness.
Freeze cooked paneer pieces in the same way as raw pieces, but you can skip the first step of part-freezing them. Just make sure to let your paneer cool thoroughly to room temperature before placing it in the freezer.
How Do I Use Frozen Paneer?
To thaw your paneer, take it out of the freezer and place the whole ziplock bag (or a smaller bag containing as much as you need at that point) into a bowl of warm water.
It is easier to do this than putting pieces directly in water and having to drain them afterward. If you have enough time, allow your paneer to sit in its bowl in the fridge for 24 hours, so it can thaw slowly and evenly.
If you have frozen your entire paneer block intact, you can use the same process.
Make sure you have taken it out of the foil and plastic wrap and transferred it into its own ziplock bag before submerging it in water – not doing so could get very messy!
Thawing it in this way should make it easy to cut up or shred.
It is very possible to freeze paneer, and a lot of people do this, so they can extend the useful life of their paneer dramatically. It doesn’t last long at all just in the fridge, so freezing it is usually the best bet unless you’re going to use it immediately.
Be aware that your paneer will change slightly in terms of its texture since it is a soft cheese that doesn’t have much structural integrity, to begin with.
However, this can be easily disguised by cooking it in your favorite dish anyway, mixed in with lashings of sauce and plenty of other ingredients.
Frozen paneer is best used within 3 months, although it can stay in the freezer for up to 6 months, leaving you with plenty of time to decide exactly what you want to do with it.