Introducing: Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer

I have a deep appreciation for a well-curated cheese board or antipasti platter, especially when adorned with marinated cheeses. It’s a simple and effective way to infuse your appetizer spread with a burst of flavors. Frequently, I find myself reaching for jars of marinated bocconcini or goat cheese at my local grocery store, and I’ve even experimented with Ottolenghi’s recipe for marinated feta. Inspired by these experiences with marinated cheeses, I decided to create my own Indian version— Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer, featuring fresh Indian cottage cheese. This delightful twist introduces a touch of spice and Indian flair to elevate your appetizer repertoire.

Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer

The Indian Cheese: Paneer

Paneer is a type of fresh, non-matured, non-melting Indian cheese that’s made by curdling cow or buffalo milk with an acid like lemon juice or vinegar. Once strained and pressed, it forms a firm block of cheese that looks very similar to tofu.

Paneer is cherished for its versatility and is used in both savory and sweet dishes. It’s a staple in Indian vegetarian cuisine, providing a protein-rich alternative to meat. It is a key ingredient in classic Indian dishes like Palak Paneer (paneer cooked in a spinach-based gravy), Paneer Tikka (marinated and grilled paneer) and Paneer Biryani (paneer in spiced layered rice dish). It is also used in desserts like Rasgulla and Sandesh. Its mild taste makes it an excellent canvas for absorbing flavors, making it adaptable to various regional cuisines across India.

Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer

Paneer is a staple in my kitchen. I always have a block sitting in my refrigerator or freezer. I also make it at home quite often and have a recipe for making the plain version along with the flavored Pepperjack Paneer in my cookbook.

My Recipe

My recipe for making my signature Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer is simple and straightforward: soft paneer cheese bathed in a flavorful extra virgin olive oil. The oil is spiced with black Tellicherry peppercorns and vibrant Kashmiri red chili powder, infused with aromatics like garlic, lemon peel, herbs, and chilies.

Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer

I love the freshness that cilantro and green onions add to the garlic, lemon, and the mellow spices. But you can use any other herbs that you love—parsley, chives, etc., will work equally well. The combination of spicy Thai or bird’s eye and milder Fresno chiles gives it a balanced kick of heat. With the vibrant colors of the different ingredients, it is also a feast for the eyes.

Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer

It takes about 15 minutes to infuse the oil. When its ready, simply pour it over the cubes of paneer and toss it all together. You can let it marinate on the counter for a couple of hours or pop it into the refrigerator overnight.

Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer

The recipe is quite versatile and you can play with almost all the ingredients used. You can even substitute the main ingredient, paneer, for goat cheese discs, feta cubes or bocconcini or ciliegine mozzarella balls.

Serving Ideas

My Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer is insanely delicious and makes for a crowd-pleasing appetizer. It’s a festive addition to your holiday table and also perfect for easy entertaining at any time during the year!

My absolute favorite way to enjoy it is spooned over crostini or naan crisps – its so good! You can also serve it alongside party picks for people to savor its deliciousness straight up. Everyone is going to love it and keep coming back for more! It’s also great tossed in with pasta and veggies, topped over a salad, or tucked into a wrap or naan/pita pocket.

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Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer

Spicy Olive Oil Marinated Paneer


  • Author: Vasanti

Description

An easy appetizer featuring Paneer, the Indian cottage cheese, marinated in olive oil infused with herbs and spices.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 lb paneer, cut into 1/2- inch cubes (see FAQs & Notes + Variations)

For the Spicy Olive Oil

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 78 black peppercorns
  • 810 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon; skin peeled into strips and halved for juicing
  • 1 Fresno (orange) chili, thinly sliced (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 1 Thai or bird’s eye (red) chili, thinly sliced (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 1 tsp salt, or as needed
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 45 sprigs of cilantro, leaves and tender parts of stems, chopped (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 23 medium green onions, thinly sliced

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat.
  • When it starts shimmering, add the black peppercorns and let them sizzle for 30 seconds.
  • Add in the sliced garlic, lemon peel and the sliced chilies and let them sizzle for a minute.
  • Turn the heat down to low and add in the salt and Kashmiri red chili powder.
  • Swirl the saucepan around to combine everything well and let it continue to heat for 30 seconds.
  • Take it off the heat and squeeze in the juice of half the lemon.
  • Add in the chopped cilantro and sliced green onions and give the pan another swirl to combine everything well.
  • Pour the warm oil over the paneer cubes in a heat proof glass container.
  • Toss well, making sure the paneer is evenly coated with the infused oil.
  • Let the paneer marinate in the spicy olive oil over the counter for a couple of hours or refrigerate covered, until you are ready to serve (see FAQs & Notes for storing information)
  • Serve it as an appetizer with party picks or spooned over crostini. (see FAQs & Notes for additional serving ideas). 

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat.

Step: 2

When it starts shimmering, add the black peppercorns and let them sizzle for 30 seconds.

Step: 3

Add in the sliced garlic, lemon peel and the sliced chilies and let them sizzle for a minute.

Step: 4

Turn the heat down to low and add in the salt and Kashmiri red chili powder.

Step: 5

Swirl the saucepan around to combine everything well and let it continue to heat for 30 seconds.

Step: 6

Take it off the heat and squeeze in the juice of half the lemon.

Step: 7

Add in the chopped cilantro and sliced green onions and give the pan another swirl to combine everything well.

Step: 8

Pour the warm oil over the paneer cubes in a heat proof glass container.

Step: 9

Toss well, making sure the paneer is evenly coated with the infused oil.

Step: 10

Let the paneer marinate in the spicy olive oil over the counter for a couple of hours or refrigerate covered, until you are ready to serve.

Step: 11

Serve it as an appetizer with party picks or spooned over crostini.

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

What type of paneer to use?

For this recipe, homemade paneer is the best but store-bought also works! Both whole milk and low-fat paneer are good in this recipe. For store-bought paneer, if you find it to be too firm and dry, immerse the block in salted hot water for 15-30 minutes to soften it and then use it in the recipe.

Can't find Fresno or Thai chilies?

You can use any combination of medium and mild chilies like Serrano, jalapeño, etc. that you like. If you can handle habanero, go for it!

No Kashmiri red chili powder?

Use mild Hungarian paprika or regular paprika in its place.

Don't do cilantro?

Use parsley, instead!

How long does it last?

Marinated paneer lasts for up to a week in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight glass container. It’s flavors actually get better the longer it sits in the refrigerator, making it a great make-ahead appetizer, especially for entertaining. Please remember to take it out of the refrigerator about an hour or so before you want to serve it to allow the oil to come back up to room temperature and soften.

How to serve it?

It’s great spooned over crostini or naan chips, tossed in with pasta and veggies, topped over a salad, or tucked into a wrap or naan/pita pocket.

Panner over and quite a bit of oil left?

The oil is very flavorful and leftover oil can be used as a dipping oil for warm bread or naan, added to vinaigrettes and drizzled over daal as tadka!

Recipe Variations

Substitute paneer with cubed feta cheese to add an Indian flair to the Mediterranean classic Marinated Feta!

Use the bocconcini or ciliegine mozzarella balls to put an Indian spin on the Italian antipasto.

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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