Tofu vs Paneer [The Differences and Which One To AVOID]

Looking for the differences between tofu vs paneer? You've come to the right place. This article will cover everything you need to know...

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Here's everything you need to know...

  • The basic differences between the two.
  • How tofu and paneer are made.
  • A side by side nutritional comparison and which one is healthier.
  • The culinary applications of each.
  • Which one to eat and which to avoid.

Let's get to it!

What's the Difference Between Tofu and Paneer?

Basic Differences

Let's start by saying that tofu and paneer are not the same thing.

They may have a similar look and culinary applications, but are made from completely different ingredients. 

Paneer is a fresh curdled cheese while tofu is coagulated soybeans. Once curdled, both are pressed and formed into a block or wedge that can be sliced. (1)(2)

The term "fresh cheese" implies that it's not fermented, aged or cultured in any way. It can be made in 30 minutes or less.

Taste Differences

Being vegan, I haven't had paneer in quite a number of years - however I distinctly recall the taste and texture.

Paneer tastes slighty sour, and well... milky. After all, it is curdled milk that's been formed and sliced. The texture is slightly chewy, yet soft. Not much different than tofu (although tofu can take on a variety of textures).

I've noticed paneer's flavor to stand out, even when it's in a dish that's heavily seasoned.

Tofu on the other hand tastes bland with a slight hint of "beany-ness".

But when properly pressed and marinated, tofu can take on a world of different flavors.

The texture of tofu can range from soft to crunchy and anything in between. It all depends on how you prepare it.

Use a tofu press to get the water out before you marinate to maximize the amount of flavors tofu absorbs.

How is Tofu Made?

Tofu has been enjoyed for over a thousand years and has always been made the same way.

Making tofu is a simple three step process...

  • Make soy milk and get rid of all the pulp using a fine mesh or cheesecloth.
  • Add a coagulant to your soy milk to begin the curdling process.
  • Take the curds that have been created and press them into a block.

Some tofu presses are designed so that you can form and drain tofu. Others have an open-design and only allow you to presses and drain.

How is Paneer Made?

Making paneer follows a very simple process to tofu, except that it requires whole milk rather than soy milk.

Here are the simple steps:

  • Heat up whole milk until it forms a low boil.
  • Add lemon juice to coagulate the milk and form curds (separating out the whey).
  • Squeeze out the excess water.
  • Use weight and pressure to form the milk curds into a block.

Tofu and Paneer Nutritional Comparison

Macronutrients

Macronutrient

Tofu  Firm (1 oz)

Paneer (1 oz)

Calories

29.4 

104

Fat

1.6g (2%)

8.7g (13%)

Saturated Fat

0.3g

5.5g 

Cholesterol

0.0 mg

25.5 mg

Trans Fats

0.0 g

0.5g

Carbohydrates

1.1g (1%)

05.g (0%)

Fiber

0.3g (1%)

0.0g (0%)

Protein

3.4g (6%)

6.1g (11%)

Vitamins

Vitamins

Tofu (1 oz)

Paneer (1 oz)

B1 (Thiamine)

0.0 mg (2%)

0.0 mg (1%)

B2 (Riboflavin)

0.0 mg (2%)

0.2 mg (13%)

B3 (Niacin)

0.0 mg (0%)

0.2 mg (1%)

B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

0.0 mg (1%)

0.5 mg (10%)

B6 (Pyridoxine)

0.0 mg (2%)

0.0 mg (3%)

B12 (Cobalamin)

0 µg (0%)

0.2 µg (8%)

Folate

7.2 µg (2%)

13.9 µg (3%)

Vitamin A

0.0 IU (0%)

295.8 IU (10%)

Vitamin C

0.1 mg (0%)

0.0 mg (0%)

Vitamin D

0.0 IU (0%)

2.6 IU (0%)

Vitamin E

0.0 mg (0%)

0.1 mg (0%)

Vitamin K

0.9 µg (1%)

0.6 IU (0%)

Minerals

Minerals

Tofu (1 oz)

Paneer (1 oz)

Calcium

75.8 mg (8%)

187.7 mg (19%)

Copper

0.1 mg (9%)

0.0 mg (1%)

Iron

0.6 mg (8%)

0.2 mg (2%)

Magnesium

14.0 mg (3%)

8.5 mg (2%)

Manganese

0.2 mg (10%)

0.0 mg (0%)

Phosphorus

45.6 mg (7%)

111.1 mg (16%)

Potassium

55.8 mg (1%)

25.8 mg (1%)

Selenium

3.7 µg (7%)

4.1 µg (7%)

Sodium

4.5 mg (0%)

30.9 mg (2%)

Zinc

0.3 mg (3%)

0.6 mg (5%)

Analysis

On a surface level, it's clear that tofu has far fewer calories per ounce than paneer does. As a result, it has less macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat). Fat has 9 calories per gram while protein and carbohydrates each have 4.

Paneer also contains trans fat, cholesterol and saturated fat. This will be touched on in the next section. 

Finally, tofu generally has more vitamins and minerals per calorie.

Which One is Healthier?

Although it may be a hard pill to swallow for cheese lovers, consuming dairy products such as paneer isn't really good for you.

But you shouldn't take my word for it...

Instead, double check the statements and sources below to learn for yourself...

  • Dairy products contain cholesterol and saturated fat which is proven to not be good for heart health (3). It's true that newer population studies have gotten a lot of press for showing no such relationship, but these were in essence set up to fail. There's an important distinction between survey-based studies and metabolic ward experiments (4).
  • Milk has been shown to contain Bovine Leukemia Virus (5) which is suspected to increase the risk of breast cancer in humans (6).
  • Paneer contains trans-fats which are generally acknowledged to bad bad for heart health (7). Trans-fats are commonly associated with being in processed vegetable oils (which are also unhealthy). Many people don't know that they're also in dairy and meat products. Plug it into Cronometer.com to see for yourself (8).

Tofu also isn't a perfect whole food. After all, the pulp from the soybeans is extracted removing much of the fiber.

But either way, it still hasn't been shown to have such a detrimental impact as the dairy in paneer.

  • Soy is a staple among certain Blue Zone folks (really long living populations) like the Okinawans (9).  
  • Many studies have shown that consuming soy products results in lower incidences of certain cancers such as prostate (10).
  • Other research has has shown that it also probably protects against breast cancer as well (11).

And no, soy hasn't been shown to have feminizing effects when you're consuming normal quantities. This false rumor started from a rare case of a man consuming 3 quarts of soy milk per day. These effects ceased after he stopped drinking such an obscene amount of soy milk (12).

One important note....

Consuming GMO soy may be problematic because of pesticide use (13). Organic tofu is always non-GMO, so that's what I always pick up at the supermarket.

Luckily, most tofu that you'll find in the store is organic and non-GMO. GMO soy crops are mainly fed to animals.

Which One Should You Avoid?

As you've probably already guessed, I'm going to recommend that you avoid paneer and stick to tofu.

One reason is the health implications of dairy consumption that I've already discussed.

But second (and most importantly) are the ethical concerns of consuming dairy products (14).

  • Female dairy cows are continuously artificially inseminated so they're constantly pregnant and producing milk.
  • The mother cow's calf is taken from her usually within 36 hours so that the milk can be extract for humans -- a traumatic experience to say the least. The mother cows usually scream out for days in search of their calf.
  • If it's a female cow, it will suffer the same fat as it's mother.
  • The males will be killed or raised for veal.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

If you have a more ethical choice in front of you -- why not make it?

Go for the tofu!

References

  1. https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-paneer-cheese-in-30-minutes-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-57008
  2. https://thrivecuisine.com/lifestyle/tofu-basics/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2125600/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9006469
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6267692
  6. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-role-of-bovine-leukemia-virus-in-breast-cancer/
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114
  8. https://www.Cronometer.com
  9. https://www.bluezones.com/press/okinawas-longevity-lessons/
  10. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-role-of-soy-foods-in-prostate-cancer-prevention-and-treatment/
  11. https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/eat-to-live-blog/137/dont-fall-for-the-myths-about-soy
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18558591
  13. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/gmo-soy-and-breast-cancer/
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/30/dairy-scary-public-farming-calves-pens-alternatives

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