Paneer

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Dairy
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

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a block of paneer on a white background ready to be prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat paneer?

Paneer may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Traditional paneer contains no or low amounts of sodium, but make sure to read ingredient labels, as sodium is added to some commercial varieties and early and excessive exposure to sodium is thought to play a role in the possibility of hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life.1

Where does paneer come from?

Paneer is a fresh cottage cheese from the fertile lands that connect Europe, Africa, and Asia, where paneer (also called panira, penêr, pendir, peynir, and ponir) is made with the milk of buffalo, camel, cow, goat, sheep, or yak. Some versions are salted, others are not. Plant-based acids coagulate some types of paneer, while others contain rennet (animal-derived enzymes). In kitchens, markets, and restaurants worldwide, paneer often flavors dishes with roots in South Asia, where the fresh, unripened cheese is traditionally made from buffalo or cow milk curdled with lemon juice or vinegar. Its curds, called chhena, can be crumbled into fritters, grains, and salads, just like fresh goat cheese, fresh ricotta cheese, and queso blanco.

Julian, 12 months, eats saag paneer.
Hawii, 12 months, eats paneer.
Aarav, 13 months, eats paneer bhurji.

Is paneer healthy for babies?

Yes. Paneer is traditionally made from whole water buffalo milk, which is higher in fats and many other nutrients than cow’s milk.2 Even commercial varieties of paneer are often made from a combination of buffalo and cow milk, which reduces fat content but still provides plenty of the fats that babies need to build healthy cells and brain tissue at this early stage of life.3 By definition, paneer must be 50% fat.4 Paneer also contains a good amount of protein to build cells, tissues, organs, and more.5 Similar to other cheeses, paneer also offers significant amounts of calcium, folate, as well as some B vitamins, a bit of vitamin D, phosphorus, and zinc.6 7

For more information on how much cheese babies can eat and other frequently asked questions, see our cheese page.

While many people make paneer at home, if you’re buying paneer to share with babies and toddlers, look for

  • Pasteurized
  • Made from whole milk (ideally)
  • Low sodium (less than 100 milligrams per serving)

★Tip: For those following vegetarian diets, check the label on paneer to see how it is made. Paneer is most often made with plant-based acid but can sometimes be made from animal-derived rennet.

Is paneer a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes, it can be. Cheese, especially in cube form, is a common choking hazard for babies and children.8 To reduce the risk, slice thinly, crumble, and avoid serving paneer in small cubes. If a dish already has cubed paneer, simply cut the cubes in half so they are thinner or mash with a fork. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is paneer a common allergen?

Yes. Paneer is usually made from a blend of water buffalo milk and cow milk. Cow’s milk is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about one-fifth of all childhood food allergies.9 Although allergies to water buffalo milk are less commonly reported, the allergenic proteins in buffalo milk are likely to cross-react with those in cow’s milk.10 Buffalo milk allergy in the absence of cow’s milk allergy is exceedingly rare.11 12 Keep in mind that dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products.13

If your baby is allergic to cow’s milk, be reassured that it is an allergy that often disappears with time. Research shows that the majority of children with cow’s milk allergy will outgrow it by age 6 and many babies with milder symptoms of milk protein allergy (which can show up as painless blood in stool) are able to successfully reintroduce cow’s milk as early as their first birthday, with the guidance of their doctors.14

While cow’s milk is recognized as a common cause of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), it is also recommended for babies with FPIES to milk to also avoid milk of other ruminants, such as buffalo.15 FPIES is a delayed allergy to food protein which causes the sudden onset of repetitive vomiting and diarrhea to begin a few hours after ingestion. Left untreated, the reaction can result in significant dehydration. Thankfully, like other forms of milk allergy, FPIES which presents early in life is generally outgrown by the time a child has reached 3-5 years of age.16

While cheese is generally better tolerated by those with lactose intolerance, note that paneer can contain a moderate amount of lactose, so individuals with lactose intolerance can be sensitive to paneer.17 18 19 Keep in mind that lactose intolerance is uncommon for infants and toddlers. If your child is lactose-intolerant, it’s important to find calcium-rich foods to consume regularly to ensure a balanced diet and support bone health. Search for naturally low-lactose cheeses and dairy products labeled “lactose-free.”

If you suspect your baby may be allergic to dairy products, consult an allergist before introducing paneer. Based on your baby’s risk factors and history, your allergist may recommend allergy testing, or may instead advise dairy introduction under medical supervision in the office. If the risk is low, you may be advised to go ahead and introduce paneer in the home setting. As with all common allergens, start by serving a small quantity on its own for the first few servings, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.

Can paneer help babies poop?

In general, cheese is relatively high in fat and low in fiber, qualities that slow the processes of digestion and pooping. Significant consumption of cheese and milk can be a contributing factor in constipation. That said, some paneer varieties contain probiotics which may help promote bowel regularity. Remember, pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function.

How do you introduce paneer to babies with baby-led weaning?

an infographic with the header "how to cut paneer for babies": a long, thin slice for 6 months+, bite-sized pieces from a thin slice for 9 months+, no modifications for 12 months+

6 to 9 months old: Serve paneer sliced into long rectangles about the size of two adult fingers pressed together or mash for hand scooping. You can also serve paneer cooked into curries, dals, or stewed vegetables as long as the cheese is crumbled, cut into thin pieces, or pulled into shreds. Avoid paneer cut into small cube shapes, as they present a higher choking risk. Alternatively, fold chhena or crumbled paneer into foods that are easy for baby to grab and munch, like bean balls, fritters, idli, or kofta. Hold off on sugar for now and wait to serve sweets made with chhena and paneer until after the first birthday.

9 to 12 months old: At this age, babies start to develop their pincer grasp, where the thumb and pointer finger meet. When you see signs of this development, try moving down in size to bite-sized pieces of paneer (about the size of a large adult knuckle) or crumbled paneer. Offer paneer on its own, or in curries or dal seasoned with your family’s favorite spices.

12 to 24 months old: Paneer offers a great texture for utensil practice for toddlers. Serve cubes or matchsticks of paneer with an age-appropriate fork and let the child try to self-feed, pre-loading the utensil if the child needs help. When offering these larger pieces of paneer, stay close in case help is needed and model how to take bites by eating your meal alongside the child. If larger pieces of food make you nervous, continue to offer bite-sized pieces or crumbled paneer, using the cheese as a gateway to new flavors from seasonings and spices. At this age, you can share sweets made with chhena or paneer with toddlers. Just aim to serve them in small amounts and on occasion to minimize added sugars in the child’s diet.

a hand holding a thin slice of paneer for babies 6 months+
A thin slice of paneer about the width of two adult fingers pressed together for babies 6 months+
a hand holding six bite-sized pieces of paneer cut from a thin slice for babies 9 months+
Bite-sized pieces of paneer cut from a thin slice for babies 9 months+

For more on which cheeses are best for babies—and which should be avoided—see our Cheese page.

What are recipe ideas for cooking with paneer?

Paneer does not melt, which makes it a great cheese to use in soups, stews, and other hot dishes. It can be sliced into cubes to bake, grill, or skewer; crumbled over grains or vegetables; and mixed into eggy dishes, salads, stews, and stuffing. Bake paneer into bread, naan, or idli—the steamed lentil and rice cakes of India and Sri Lanka. Pair paneer with bold flavors in the wide array of dishes that bridge the diverse cultures of Eastern Europe and South and West Asia, from dals, curries, masalas, and pakora, to kibbeh, kofte, and pilafs. You can also use paneer in recipes that call for other cottage cheeses, like queso blanco crumbled on chili, elotes, and tacos, or ricotta cheese in crepes, pierogi, or stuffed pasta.

Recipe: Palak Paneer for Babies

Yield: 2 c (480 ml)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 4 oz (112 g) paneer
  • 10 oz (283 g) spinach
  • ½ large onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1-inch knob ginger
  • 2 tbsp (28 g) ghee
  • ½ tsp (1 g) garam masala (optional)
  • ⅓ c (80 ml) heavy cream
  • salt to taste for adults and older children (optional: 12 months+)

This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (cream, paneer). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Cut the paneer into long, thin strips. Set aside.
  2. Rinse the spinach. Set aside.
  3. Peel and finely chop the onion, garlic, and ginger. Set aside.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of ghee (or butter if you prefer) in a pot set on medium heat, then add the spinach and ½ c (120 ml) of water. Stir until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a high-powered food processor. Blend into a puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl and adding another splash or two of water as needed to ensure the spinach is fully blended. Set aside.
  6. Return the pot to medium heat (you do not need to clean it) and add the remaining 1 tbsp (14 g) of ghee. Once the ghee has melted, add the onion and stir to coat. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the garlic and ginger, then cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  8. Stir in the garam masala. Traditionally, palak paneer is made with a medley of seasonings like cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek, and fiery heat from hot chili peppers. Omit seasonings if you prefer–or use any combination of spices to taste.
  9. Add ½ c (120 ml) of water and cook uncovered until the water reduces and the onions are very soft, about 10 minutes more.
  10. Add the pureed spinach and the heavy cream. Stir to combine. Cook until the mixture warms, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. If you like, you can blend the mixture again to create a smooth texture.

Serve the Palak Paneer

  1. Lay some paneer strips on baby’s plate and drizzle with some of the spinach mixture.
  2. Add the remaining paneer to the pot with the spinach mixture. Keep warm while baby’s food cools to room temperature.
  3. Before serving adults and older children, season their portions of palak paneer with salt to taste.
  4. Serve and let the child try to self-feed. If baby struggles to pick up the paneer strips, pass one in the air for baby to grab from you.

To Store: Palak Paneer for Babies keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Flavor Pairings

Paneer pairs well with the flavors of barley, chicken, chickpea, lentil, millet, and rice.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist.

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist.

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist.

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

[April 15, 2022]

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  6. Ahmad, S., Anjum, F.M., Huma, N., Sameen, A., Zahoor, T. (2013). Composition and physico-chemical characteristics of buffalo milk with particular emphasis on lipids, proteins, minerals, enzymes and vitamins. Journal of Animal and Plant Science 23 (1 Suppl), 62-74. Retrieved March 1, 2022
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