Ask Evan: What’s the Difference Between Paneer and Ricotta recipes?

Every Tuesday I answer a question from a Good Food listener. You can email me a question, leave one on Facebook or add one in the comments section here. This week’s came from Anita:

What’s the Difference Between Paneer an Ricotta recipes? I Thought Ricotta Requires Rennet.

Rennet is not used in ricotta making. Traditional ricotta is made from whey that’s left over from the cheesemaking process in which rennet or lactic acid has been used to create the formation of curds.  No additional rennet or acid needs to be added to the whey because the original cheesemaking process already innoculated the milk. All that’s needed is heat to create more curd formation. Most of us don’t have that kind of whey hanging around (unless we’ve made mozzarella), so instead we make ricotta from the milk itself instead of from whey. Strictly speaking acid precipitated cheese from milk is paneer (once it’s compressed).

When you get whey from making ricotta using milk and an acid (such as vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid) it’s a one time deal. In other words, that resulting whey will not yield more ricotta because the heat and acid used to make ricotta uses up all the protein and there is none left.