Why It Works
- Marinating the paneer prior to cooking, helps the paneer absorb salt and other flavors.
- Using oil in the marinade acts as a second layer of protection against sticking on the grill.
- Grilling the paneer without moving it until it is ready allows for the paneer to cook properly and form a “non-stick” crust that helps it come off the grill.
Paneer can be prepared a number of ways: simmering in a stew, fried until crispy, or grilled like a kebab. I turn to the last method for this recipe, pairing grilled paneer with a mixed green salad for a light but satisfying summer meal.
Much like halloumi, paneer is a cheese that doesn't melt, which makes it perfect for putting on the grill. However, unlike a lot of other cheese, paneer is unsalted and has a relatively mild flavor. It's quite similar to tofu in that it's an excellent, protein-rich vehicle for other flavors. As a result, if you're going to put it on the grill, it's best to turn to a very flavorful marinade.
For the marinade, I chose to use full-fat yogurt, which I mix with salt, toasted and ground cumin, sweet paprika, some turmeric for color, a little cayenne pepper for a slight hint of heat, as well as some grated ginger. The full-fat yogurt, aside from being quite flavorful, both helps prevent the paneer from sticking to the grill grates and takes on a little char as the paneer cooks, enhancing its smoky flavor.
Sticking is a real problem with grilled paneer since it is composed almost entirely of protein, which sticks to metal surfaces during cooking. To further ensure that the paneer doesn't stick, I add some oil to the marinade, preheat and oil the grilling grates thoroughly, and once the paneer goes on the grill I don't touch it at all until it takes on a little char. You can use a grill pan or an outdoor grill; for outdoor grills, I'll thread the paneer on skewers so I can flip them more easily. You can also cook the paneer in oil on the stovetop, or under a broiler, both of which will result in far less sticking.
Even though paneer doesn't melt, it is best served warm, when it's still tender and soft. If it cools off too much before serving, it becomes a little tough. If for whatever reason you have to let your cooked paneer sit for a while, sprinkle a few drops of water over it and stick it in the microwave in a covered bowl for a minute or two; alternatively, you can sprinkle it with water and heat it in a covered skillet on the stovetop.
Served with a simple salad of mixed greens, hearty chickpeas, crunchy and juicy cucumbers, and fresh herbs, this is a dish that's perfect for a quick and easy light lunch or dinner.
- For the Paneer:
- 1 cup (240ml) plain yogurt or kefir (full-fat or 5%)
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or neutral oil with a high smoke point, plus extra for grilling
- 4 garlic cloves, grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground smoked sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 (4.5g) teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt; if using table salt, use half as much by volume or same weight
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 8-ounce (226g) block of firm paneer, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup (60ml) neutral oil, like grapeseed
- 1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lime or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) honey
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon smoked ground sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, such as Aleppo (see note)
- For the Mixed Green Salad:
- 11 ounces (310g) mixed greens
- 1 large English cucumber (480g), trimmed, peeled, and sliced
- One 15-ounce (425g) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup (10g) fresh mint leaves, torn
- 1/4 cup (10g) fresh cilantro leaves
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Black pepper
For the Paneer: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, and salt until smooth. Fold in the paneer pieces, cover the bowl with a lid or cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour, maximum overnight.
When ready to cook, brush the grates of a grill pan with oil. Line a plate or tray with absorbent paper towels or a wire rack. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, grill the marinated paneer pieces in batches. Don’t be hasty to remove the paneer, wait until the edges start to brown the paneer releases from the pan with ease, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked paneer pieces to serving platter and keep warm.
For the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lime juice, honey, allspice, paprika, and red pepper flakes until combined.
For the Salad: Place the mixed greens, cucumber, chickpeas, mint, and cilantro in a large mixing bowl. Lightly season the salad with salt and toss to combine. Pour the dressing over the mixed greens in the bowl, and toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve alongside grilled paneer, with wedges of lime alongside.
If using spicy hot red pepper flake, reduce the quantity by half.