Paneer cheese is a type of cottage cheese that features in Indian cuisine and is made by treating milk that has been curdled.
Paneer cheese is safe during pregnancy as long as the paneer is made from pasteurized milk. Many popular brands of paneer have been pasteurized and are safe to eat, but do check when eating at a restaurant.
There are many different ways to eat paneer, as it is a highly versatile food.
Paneer can be eaten as a protein substitute or in addition to vegetables and other foods as a delicious way to add cheese to a dish.
Here, we’ll run through all the safety information you need to know, as well as some pregnancy recipe suggestions, too.
Is Paneer Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?
Paneer – also called ‘farmer’s cheese’ or ‘curdled cheese – is safe to eat while pregnant, as long as the milk has been pasteurized.
Most cheeses made from pasteurized milk avoid the risk of listeria growth (Source: NHS).
Listeria is one of the main causes of food poisoning in the US (and elsewhere) and it can be fatal. It is dangerous for pregnant women because it carries an increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.
Pasteurizing milk means heating the milk to a temperature that is high enough to kill bacteria including listeria (Source: CDC).
When buying paneer cheese, check the label to be sure that your paneer is made from pasteurized milk. Most commercial versions are – and we list some of these later in this article.
A clean environment is also crucial since any type of dairy products or other foods that have been prepared in environments that are unclean could lead to contamination with listeria even if using pasteurized milk (Source: CDC).
Can Pregnant Women Eat Raw Paneer? Should it Be Cooked?
Although many people eat raw paneer, you are better off cooking paneer before eating while pregnant.
Raw paneer can contain bacteria that is unsafe for pregnant women and can lead to listeriosis or gastroenteritis (Source: IJMM).
When ordering paneer from takeaways or other types of restaurants, check that the paneer is piping hot and has been made from pasteurized milk.
It is worth noting that there are more types of paneer now than ever before, and the safety advice above applies to all of them.
In addition to traditional paneer, you can also find:
- Conventional paneer. This type of paneer is made from buffalo milk which is rich in fat content.
- Low-fat paneer. This paneer is made from lowfat milk (3%), which sometimes has soy added. Check the label if you are allergic to soy.
- Recombined and reconstituted milk paneer. The milk supply goes down drastically in India during the summer, so this variety of paneer has been developed using milk powder and a fat source. For example, whole or skim milk powder combined with butter oil.
- Soy paneer. This paneer combines soy milk with buffalo milk to produce paneer that is high in nutritional value but low in cost. You might want to read our soy milk during pregnancy article for more safety information.
- Vegetable impregnated paneer. Adding vegetable content such as coriander and mint leaves (from 5 to 30%) to buffalo milk provides a highly nutritious paneer.
- Filled paneer. Skimmed milk is blended with vegetable oils or coconut milk (10%).
- Dietary fiber-enriched, low-fat paneer. This low-fat paneer uses soy fiber and inulin to improve texture while providing a low-fat product with added fiber to help improve digestion (Source: JFST).
All the above types of Paneer are safe if they’re made with pasteurized milk, have been produced in a sterile environment, and have been stored properly.
Is Paneer Cheese Always Pasteurized?
Now that you know paneer cheese is safe if pasteurized, you’re probably also wondering if that’s always the case – and which you should buy.
Most cheeses are pasteurized in the United States, since the FDA banned the sale of raw milk. Raw milk carries possible contamination from e.coli, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter (Source: CDC).
If you frequent farmer’s markets, check with the producer if the paneer you want to purchase has been made from pasteurized milk.
Some homemade paneer may not be pasteurized, or it may have been made in less than ideal hygiene conditions. Always check first.
Most cheeses are also pasteurized in Australia and in the UK. In India, where paneer is widely consumed, most commercial and factory-made brands are pasteurized, but check the label to be sure.
Here are some popular brands of paneer that are pasteurized and therefore are safe during pregnancy:
- Sach, Paneer Original Organic
- Gopi Paneer (low sodium)
- Appel Farms Paneer
- Nanak Paneer Cubes
- Vadilal Paneer Blocks
Does Paneer Have Pregnancy Benefits? Is It a Healthy Cheese?
One cup of crumbled paneer has 365 calories, with 29 grams of fat. It also has a fairly high level of sodium – 916mg per serving.
Overall, like many cheeses, Paneer shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities all the time, not from a safety perspective, but because it can be high in fat, calories and sodium.
Paneer does contain several nutrients, however, so adding small amounts of it to your pregnancy diet is fine.
Calcium is a key nutrient in pregnancy as it helps develop the skeleton of your baby, particularly from the middle of the second trimester onward.
You want to ensure that your daily calcium intake is at least 1171 mg while you’re pregnant, particularly since calcium intake increases throughout the second half of the pregnancy. Calcium intake can go up to 72% in the last trimester (Source: Springer).
Calcium also helps lower the risk of preeclampsia as well as hypertensive problems during pregnancy which are associated with maternal deaths and preterm births (Source: JOGI).
Paneer Dishes and Pregnancy Safety
Many pregnant women want to know if certain ‘types’ of paneer is safe, so we’ll run through the most popular ones here:
- Chili paneer. Chili paneer is safe in pregnancy, and is often eaten as an appetizer that is made by frying paneer cubes and then tossing them in a spicy sweet and sour sauce. Contrary to some myths, spicy food is safe when pregnant.
- Saag paneer. Saag paneer is also safe for pregnant women. Saag paneer usually comes as paneer cubes that are cooked with greens (spinach or other greens) in a cream-based sauce. Make sure the cream as well as the paneer have been made with pasteurized milk and are served piping hot.
- Palak paneer. Palak paneer has the same cubes of paneer that are prepared with a creamy spinach base and a mix of spices. Again, palak paneer is pregnancy-safe, but check the pasteurization and temperature of the cream as well as the paneer.
Pregnancy-Friendly Paneer Recipes
Here are some other recipe ideas for healthy ways to enjoy paneer during pregnancy:
Paneer bhurji. Paneer bhurji is prepared in much the same way as you would make a tofu scramble, but with paneer cheese instead. You can combine your scrambled and crumbled paneer with spices and vegetables such as onions and peppers for a delicious breakfast.
Paneer tikka. Paneer tikka is made by marinating cubes or thick slices of paneer in a savory sauce and then baking them in the oven or on the grill on skewers with sliced peppers, mushrooms and other vegetables.
Paneer, tomato and red onion salad. Combine paneer cubes with sliced red onion, tomatoes and olives for a deliciously light salad with your favorite vinaigrette. You could serve this salad over a bed of lettuce for an ultra-light side salad or main salad.
Paneer veggie wraps. Wrap up a mixture of paneer cubes or slices with julienned carrots, cucumber and other veggies inside of a tortilla or other type of wrap. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce for a quick portable lunch.
Paneer stir-fry. Stir fry a mixture of your favorite veggies such as bean sprouts, mushrooms and greens with paneer cubes for a stir fry with an Indian slant.
Overall, paneer cheese can be a delicious addition to your pregnancy diet, as long as you buy pasteurized paneer. There are many easy ways to enjoy paneer to have savory dishes ready in a snap!