How long does paneer last unopened?

In this article, we will answer the question “How long does paneer last unopened?”, and how to make paneer at home? 

How long does paneer last unopened?

Paneer lasts for up to 3 months if unopened. Once opened, paneer should be consumed within 1 week of refrigeration. Read on if you want to know how to cook with Paneer. 

Packaging of chemical preservatives treated paneer with and without vacuum extended its shelf life up to 35 and 50 days, respectively at 8°C. Vacuum packaging of cow milk paneer is reported to have enhanced its shelf life from 1 week to more than 30 days at 6 °C. When paneer is packaged in high barrier film (EVA/EVA/PVDC/EVA) under vacuum and heat treated at 90°C for 1 min it has a shelf life of 90 days under refrigeration (1).

According to studies, after opening, paneer can be stored for only 6 days at 10°C without much deterioration in its quality, though the freshness of the product was lost after 3 days. It has been noticed that the spoilage in paneer occurs due to growth of microorganisms on the surface. A greenish yellow slime formation on the surface of paneer and the discoloration is accompanied with off flavor (1). 

India is the largest milk producer in the world with a production of 112 MT, which increased by 3.3 per cent in the last fiscal. About 55% (61.60 MT) of the total production is buffalo milk. About half the milk produced is consumed in the liquid form and the remaining is used to prepare products such as ghee,curd, butter, khoa, paneer,cheese,chhana, ice cream and milk powders (1).

Shelf-life of dairy products 

Dairy product Shelf-life 
Pasteurized whole milk 12–14 days (skim and flavored milk expire earlier) (4)
Yogurt 4-6 weeks 
Hard and semi-hard cheesesDepending on the type, it may be kept for several weeks to months (3).
Cottage cheese, ricotta, and cream cheese1-2 weeks (3)
Butter (Salted)4 weeks 
Butter (Unsalted) 2-3 weeks 
Ice cream and frozen yogurt2-6 months in the freezer (3)

If the yogurt is properly produced (without contaminations during the process) and maintained at 4°C (40°F), the shelf life of yogurt can be significantly increased.  Studies show that plain whole and skim yogurt, as well as flavored yogurt may be kept during 9 weeks and be safe for consumption (2).

In a study, salted butter stored for 14 wk at 5°C remained high in quality according to graders, but some slight changes in flavor were observed for some packaging types (5). Salt, as well as its role in the taste, preserves the product and extends the shelf-life – the average shelf-life of salted butter is five months when refrigerated while this period is three months in unsalted butter (6).

How to cook paneer? 

Due to its firm texture, paneer can be easily used in pan-frying, grilling, barbequing, etc. On the other hand, freshly coagulated paneer won’t hold up too well during cooking and break apart easily due to a soft texture. 

Unlike the traditional cheese, paneer is curdled with acid (lemon juice) instead of rennet. As a result, paneer does not melt in curries. 

The most famous paneer curries are methi paneer (fenugreek paneer curry), paneer makhani (paneer butter curry), and paneer mutter (paneer with peas). In addition to this, paneer is used as a substitute for queso fresco  Mexican dishes such as enchiladas, quesadillas, and tamales.

Fresh homemade paneer should be refrigerated within 2 hours of curdling. The store-bought paneer can sit out as long as it is unopened. Once opened, it must be refrigerated at a consistent temperature. 

What does paneer go with?

Saag paneer is a very famous paneer dish that is made with spinach and a variety of aromatic herbs and spices. Paneer and pepper naanza is an Indian variation of a vegetarian pizza. It involves topping the naan with lots of veggies and crumbled paneer. 

How to make Paneer at home? 

Equipment 

  • Large deep saucepan
  • Mixing spoon
  • Large deep bowl for draining
  • Large sieve
  • Muslin cloth
  • Cake rack
  • Small chopping board or cake tin
  • Weights – unopened canned food can be used

Ingredients 

  • 2 Lt full cream milk
  • 250 ml cream is optional, but by adding it you get a smoother creamier paneer
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt optional
  • 250 ml iced water
  • 5 tablespoons white vinegar

Extra 

  • 2 – 3 Lt cold water with added ice cubes to keep it very cold

Instructions 

  1. Grab a deep and thick-bottomed saucepan. Fill it with milk, cream, and salt. Bring this to a rolling boil with constant stirring to prevent the milk from boiling. 
  2. When the milk has come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir the milk continuously to prevent the milk from burning. 
  3. Remove the milk from heat. 
  4. Add 1 cup of ice into the hot milk to lower its temperature. This will ensure that your paneer turns out soft.
  5. Now stir in the vinegar incrementally. The milk will start to curdle at this point. 
  6. Immediately stir 3-4 cups of ice water into the curdled milk to ensure that the paneer does not harden while sitting in the hot whey water. 

Drain the curds and whey 

  1. Grab a strainer or colander and line it with a large piece of muslin or cheesecloth. Set the strainer in a sink or above a large bowl ( if you intend to keep the whey).
  2. Filter the paneer curds by tipping the saucepan into the strainer. 

Wash the paneer 

  1. Wash the filtered paneer with ice water to get rid of the vinegar residues. 
  2. Grab the opposite sides of the muslin cloth and bring them together to squeeze the paneer. This will drain the excess water from the paneer. 

Shaping and compressing the paneer 

  1. To shape the paneer into a rectangular block, follow the steps below.
  2. Place a cake rack over a bowl or near a sink to allow the water to drain without making a mess. 
  3. Place the paneer-filled muslin cloth onto the cake rack and shape the paneer into a rectangular shape of 3 cm thickness using your hands. Make sure your hands are clean. 
  4. To preserve the rectangular shape of the paneer, cold the muslin cloth over the paneer. 
  5. To drain the maximum amount of water from the paneer, compress it by placing weights over it. For this purpose, you can use pots filled with water, canned food, or a cutting board. 
  6. Allow the cheese to compress for about 2-3 hours. Then remove the cheese block from the muslin cloth.
  7. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. 

Other FAQs about Paneer that you may be interested in.

How long does saag paneer last in the fridge?

How to fry paneer?

Conclusion 

In this article, we answered the question “How long does paneer last unopened?”, and how to make paneer at home? 

References 

  1. Kumar S, Rai DC, Niranjan K, Bhat ZF. Paneer-An Indian soft cheese variant: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2014, 51, 821-831
  2. Citta, Anna, et al. Oxidative changes in lipids, proteins, and antioxidants in yogurt during the shelf life. Food sci nutr, 2017, 5, 1079-1087.
  3. Foodkeeper. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  4. Liem, D. G., et al. Influence of labeling on Australian and Chinese consumers’ liking of milk with short (pasteurized) and long (UHT) shelf life. J dairy sci, 2016, 99, 1747-1754.
  5. Lozano, Patricio R., et al. Effect of cold storage and packaging material on the major aroma components of sweet cream butter. J. Agric Food Chem, 2007, 55, 7840-7846.
  6. Akan, Ecem, Oktay Yerlikaya, and ÖZER KINIK. Importance of salt in dairy products and sodium reduction strategies in food and dairy products. Agro Food Ind Hi-Tech, 2017, 28.