Having grown up in Southern California, I was privileged enough to live among many different ethnic cultures; I literally didn't know any better. In particular, I lived near one of the biggest Little Indias in the United States and was lucky enough to experience different dishes like palak paneer.
Paneer is an Indian cheese, referred to as Indian cottage cheese, made by combining curdled milk and an acid. A 100 gram or 3.5 oz serving of paneer has an average of 5 grams of net carbohydrates, making it ok to consume in moderation while on a keto diet.
One of my favorite Indian dishes, besides chicken tikka masala, is palak paneer, basically “Indian cottage cheese.”
In this article, I'll go over how you may include paneer in your diet, what to be mindful of, what paneer is made of, the carb count, and even some keto-friendly paneer recipes.
Is Paneer Allowed In The Keto Diet?
Growing up with many Indian friends, I'd always be eating at a friend's house or with a friend in Little India every week. There were three dishes I always had to order:
- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Aloo Gobi
- Palak Paneer
And if we kept it strictly vegetarian, we'd opt for the paneer tikka or paneer tikka masala instead of the chicken tikka or chicken tikka masala.
If you haven't had good Indian food, you're missing out.Paneer, though a little higher in carbohydrates than your average American or European cheese may still be eaten on a ketogenic diet.
Also, for whatever reason, likely due to the manufacturing and aging process, store-bought paneer will generally have fewer carbohydrates than fresh-made paneer.
But definitely won't taste as good as fresh-made paneer, that's for sure.
Additional information on paneer
Relative to other cheeses, they don't have cultures added that breakdown the lactose (carbohydrates) and/or aged, which reduces the carbohydrate content, though some store-bought ones do.
Is paneer tikka keto friendly? Paneer tikka is keto friendly, but should still be enjoyed in moderation due to the higher carb content of paneer relative to other cheeses.
Is paneer tikka masala keto friendly? Paneer tikka masala is less keto friendly due to the added tomato sauce and possible added sugars. However, paneer tikka masala can be made keto friendly in the comfort of your own home with a few ingredient swaps.
Is Paneer Considered A Carbs, Fat, Or Protein?
Paneer is made similar to other cheeses, meaning it's traditionally made using whole milk. Whole milk is a mix of fat, carbs (lactose), and protein.
If you were to categorize cheese as only one macronutrient, I would gravitate towards considering it primarily a source of fat, though it does contain some protein as well due to the dairy.
How Many Carbs Are In Paneer
As I alluded to earlier, freshly made paneer will have a little more carbohydrates than store-bought paneer. This is likely due to the way manufacturers have to make paneer to keep it shelf-stable.For your average store-bought paneer, after compiling over half a dozen brands, you are looking at between 3 and 6 grams of net carbohydrates per 100-gram serving (~3.5 oz).
Freshly made paneer will have as many carbs as the whole milk used in the recipe.
To find out how many carbs your homemade paneer has, take the amount of whole milk used in the recipe and divide that into how many servings you will break it up into.
How To Make Paneer
How is paneer made you may be asking? You'd be quite surprised how easy it is to make paneer at home if you haven't tried.
- Milk is boiled in a large pot
- Once boiling, lemon juice is added, and the milk begins to curdle
- The curdles are placed on a cheesecloth and rinsed
- The rinsed curdles are then drained or squeezed
- The cheese is then shaped (into a disc usually) then chilled to firm up
When it comes to paneer, I make my own at home now using the freshest milk possible.
The difference is night and day! You can even make it lower carb by using half and half instead of only whole milk.
Is Paneer Healthy?
Paneer is as healthy as milk is healthy; after all, paneer is just whole milk.
This means paneer is a good source of the following:
- Vitamin D
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Vitamin B12
- Great balance of fats, including omega-3's
- 11 essential vitamins and eight essential minerals
Essential vitamins and minerals
Many adults lack vital electrolytes such as potassium and calcium, especially while following a ketogenic diet. Also, along with potassium and calcium, many adults lack B12 and Vitamin D, and you can get all four from paneer. 1
Source of protein
While I wouldn't necessarily consider cheese a “protein,” cheeses like paneer do have a good amount of protein. Many individuals following a ketogenic diet are led to believe that protein is bad for you, and that couldn't be any further from the truth.
When it comes to protein, too much is better than too little. I would always err on the side of more than less when it comes to protein consumption.
Protein speeds up your metabolism through what's called the thermic effect of food, is considered the most satiating macronutrient, and helps preserve muscle while attempting to diet. 2 3
Helps prevent weight gain?
A study in Latino children found that whole milk consumption was associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity. 4
Another study in older women showed that those who consumed high-fat dairy products had less weight gain and a lowered risk of obesity. 5
Keto Friendly Indian Paneer Recipes
So you bought or made some paneer, what should you do now? Here are some keto-friendly recipes to help you spice things up in the kitchen.
I have to start with my favorite paneer dish, palak paneer!
Keto Paneer Makhani
This buttery gravy is super creamy and super delicious. If you're wondering how to make a paneer butter masala, this recipe is for you.
Saag paneer is a North Indian recipe with some creamy spiced greens. This recipe is a little different than palak paneer since it's made with a combination of leafy greens, such as mustard greens.
They both get a thumbs up in my book, though.
Even though paneer may have a few more carbohydrates than traditional American or European made cheeses, it's still very low in carbohydrates, making it keto friendly.
You still have to be mindful of paneer dishes if you choose to eat out at an Indian restaurant since you don't know the exact ingredients of each dish.