Paneer vs Mozzarella: What’s the Difference?

Written By Acacia Crossley


There are so many types of cheese in the world, spanning across continents and cultures. It can be confusing to know what cheese is comparable to another. Paneer and mozzarella and two of the most commonly used cheeses. But are the cheeses really that similar? Or are they entirely different from each other? 

The biggest difference between paneer and mozzarella is how the cheese’s milk curds are formed. For paneer, heat and acid are used, creating a very firm cheese. Mozzarella relies on whey and rennet, creating an elastic, soft cheese. 

What is Paneer?

Paneer uses torn milk which is essentially cows milk (or, more traditionally, buffalo milk) that has been boiled and then had its curds separated by either vinegar, lemon juice or another acidic ingredient. 

Not much flavour is usually added to the curds themselves, which are drained and left to solidify. As such, paneer is predominantly milky and only very slightly sour. 

The overall flavour of paneer is mild, but the milk taste is strong enough to help soothe the harshness of spicy dishes. That is why you will often find paneer used in Middle Eastern dishes, especially curries.

Paneer Curry

Texturally, paneer cheese is very dense and crumbly, with an extremely high melting point. You can add it to a hot dish and it will stay together, similar to tofu. 

Can You Melt Paneer?

Due to the use of heat and acidic ingredients in its production, paneer cheese is practically impossible to melt as the milk’s chemical structure has changed. However, if heated for long enough or at a high enough temperature, the cheese will start to melt a little. 

What is Mozzarella?

Traditionally made using water buffalo milk in Southern Italy, mozzarella is an extremely accessible soft cheese used all over the world. Though it is most commonly made using regular cow’s milk today. 

Its soft, mildly milky flavour is very versatile. This mild flavour is due to the cheese foregoing any ageing time. It is eaten or sold as soon as the cheese is made. 

Also, because of its non-existent ageing, mozzarella is extremely soft. Its silken, elastic texture comes from whey and rennet added to milk which is then heated until the resulting curds turn elastic-like. 

Is All Mozzarella the Same?

Several types of mozzarella exist depending on the milk that is used. In Italy, fresh mozzarella is the most common, made using traditional water buffalo milk (Mozzarella di Bufala), which is slightly sweeter. Most mozzarella found in supermarkets (fior di latte mozzarella) will be made using cow’s milk. 

Differences Between Paneer and Mozzarella

It only takes a look at paneer and mozzarella to see some clear differences between the two kinds of cheese. Such as: 

  • Shelf Life  – Because paneer is essentially just milk curds that have been left to solidify, it will not last long in your fridge. 2-3 days is the general recommended refrigerated time. Mozzarella is usually sold in a water or whey by-product, which can make it last up to 4-6 weeks in the fridge. Though mozzarella should be eaten within a week once opened. 
  • Suitable For Vegetarians – Paneer uses 2 simple ingredients, milk and an acidic ingredient of choice, so it is suitable for vegetarians. However, mozzarella relies on the use of rennet to form milk curds. Traditional rennet is the stomach lining of a cow. Many mozzarella manufacturers have moved to use a lab-produced vegetarian rennet, but traditional mozzarella is not suitable for vegetarians.
  • Texture/ Meltability – Due to the use of heat when forming its curds, paneer is a very firm cheese and is extremely difficult to melt. Mozzarella is popularly used because it is so easy to melt. The cheese’s silky texture remains even when the cheese is melted, creating a stringy effect. 
Mozzarella Melting
  • Use – Such a firm cheese like paneer is better used in cheese platters or dishes similar to tofu. Mozzarella cheese is extremely meltable and should be used as a topping or as a stuffing for various fried and meat dishes. 

Similarities Between Paneer and Mozzarella

Depending on how you plan to use the cheese, you may be able to use paneer in place of mozzarella and vice versa, which is especially helpful given the price for either traditional paneer or mozzarella.

Here are some similarities between the two kinds of cheese:

  • Colour – Aesthetically, the only thing mozzarella and paneer tend to have in common is their colour. Neither cheese use annatto nor additional ingredients bar the basics needed to form their milk curds. There is nothing to change the cheese’s colour from a natural, milky white colour.  
  • Type Of Milk Used – Traditional paneer and mozzarella are made using buffalo milk. Though modern iterations of the cheeses now rely on cows milk, creating a similar flavour. 
  • Non-Aged – Paneer naturally develops its firm texture once the milk curds have been allowed to cool, so it does not need to be aged. Likewise, mozzarella does not need to be aged as that would ruin its silken flavour. Both paneer and mozzarella will be sold as soon as the cheese is made. 
  • Mildness – Due to neither cheese needing an ageing process, mozzarella and paneer and mild cheeses. Their predominant flavour is milk which is obvious when you eat either cheese but is by no means overwhelming. 

Paneer vs Mozzarella: Which Wins?

Let’s put these two cheeses against each other: It’s paneer vs mozzarella! But which one is going to come out on top? Have your say below:

Do You Prefer Paneer or Mozzarella?

Paneer and Mozzarella FAQs

Want more answers about paneer and mozzarella? Then check these FAQs out:

Can You Substitute Paneer for Mozzarella?

No, paneer would not be a good substitute for mozzarella as their textures are completely different. Instead, tofu can be used in place of paneer and cheddar can be used in place of mozzarella.

Is Paneer or Mozzarella Cheaper?

Mozzarella is far cheaper than paneer in most supermarkets. It has become a staple cheese across the globe which is why it can now be picked up for such a low price.

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