Tofu and paneer are both creamy vegetarian substitutions for meat. But what’s the difference between them? Tofu vs paneer – let’s break it all down!
Tofu vs Paneer: What’s the difference?
Are tofu and paneer the same thing? No! Not at all in fact. Though both are common vegetarian substitutions for meat, they are actually very different ingredients.
Tofu is made from soy, which is processed into the common blocks we see in stores, while paneer is a cheese derived from animal milk. It’s important to note that tofu is vegan while paneer is vegetarian. They are both often sold in white blocks and provide protein and calcium with a mild taste.
Because of their similarities, they can sometimes be swapped for each other in recipes. And while they can be mistaken for each other and sometimes used interchangeably, here are some other differences to keep in mind when cooking.
How they’re made
Tofu is made from soy milk. It is also curdled and pressed resulting in different available textures. Tofu originated in China and is the staple of many Asian dishes.
Paneer cheese is made from fresh, non-aged cheese from cow’s milk or buffalo’s milk. The milk is then curdled with acid at which point it resembles cottage cheese. In India, paneer is even known as Indian cottage cheese. The cheese can be pressed for different periods of time which result in varying textures.
Tofu is much smoother than paneer. It resembles something more like a block of mozzarella. It is usually packed in liquid, meaning it should be pressed and dried before cooking to minimize moisture releasing. The flavor of tofu is also mild, making it great to add to rice bowls, use in place of taco meat, or fry up. Because of tofu’s smooth texture, it can be broken down to resemble scrambled eggs or can be left whole to resemble a filet.
Paneer, as mentioned, is similar to cottage cheese. It is a little stiffer because it is pressed, but it has the same crumbly texture and mild flavor as cottage cheese. It is a great protein option for curries and vegetarian burgers. Paneer is best served whole or in chunks making it good to grill or put in soups.
The biggest difference between tofu and paneer is in protein. 100 grams of paneer has about 25 grams of protein while tofu has 17 grams. It is important to note that generally, people consume more tofu in a sitting than paneer. If this is the case you may still consume more protein while eating tofu than while eating paneer simply because you are eating more.
So is tofu healthier than paneer? Well, based on the protein content, no. But, paneer is also higher in fat while tofu is higher in fiber and calcium.
Speaking of tofu vs paneer calories, paneer is also higher in calories, at about double that of tofu per gram. This likely contributes to why folks consume more tofu in a sitting.
So overall, these two protein sources are pretty comparable. But if you are looking for a little more protein reach for paneer, if you are looking for less fat, reach for tofu.
Both paneer and tofu are incredibly versatile in a range of dishes due to their mild flavor. Here are just a few of my favorite ways to use them.
- Grilled Paneer
- Paneer Curry
- Fried Paneer