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I have used Nigari to make tofu and it works great. Can it be used to make non-cultured dairy cheese as well (mozzarella, feta, paneer, etc.)? I looked online and didn't find examples.

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I tried it and it worked out. This is cheese I made. I dissolved the nigari in water to add to the warm milk similar to making tofu. Though note that the cheese had a noticable bitterness from the nigari.

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  • Good to see that it works - exactly as predicted in my answer. It's not paneer, as that is made by acid precipitation of the milk and is specifically unsalted.
    – bob1
    Feb 4 at 21:02
  • Is Nigari not a acidic? Feb 6 at 16:11
  • No, it is basically concentrated salt derived from seawater. These are all things like sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, potassium iodide etc. None of these are acidic or basic.
    – bob1
    Feb 6 at 19:02
  • I could add regular salt to hot milk and it would coagulate? Feb 7 at 6:01
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    Yes. This is a process called "salting out" in biochemistry - add enough salt and the water availability for the proteins goes down and the proteins precipitate. Heat helps as it causes denaturation (unfolding) of the proteins. Salting out is exactly the role of nigari in making tofu
    – bob1
    Feb 7 at 20:04
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Unlike tofu, cheese curds aren't normally precipitated by the addition of salt. They are normally produced by acidification of the milk using a bacterial culture, which grows, producing acids as it does so. The acids then cause the milk solids (proteins) to denature and precipitate.

Salt is often added to the mix at some point, and this can/could help to precipitate the milk solids - in fact you can entirely precipitate milk solids with salt without curdling (this is a process called "salting out" in biochemistry), but this would not make cheese. The salt in cheese is actually added to regulate the types of bacteria that grow in the cheese

You could add the Nigari as the salt content when making cheese (i.e. use it in the place of salt in the recipe, still adding culture) as its very similar to sea-salt (it's produced from sea water after all), and I would be very surprised if no-one has ever used sea salt to make cheese, given that the sea is a pretty handy source of salt for many cultures.

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  • Thanks for the answer. I edited the question to specify for non cultured cheeses like feta, paneer etc. Jan 31 at 23:00
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    @VictorFeagins Feta and paneer still produced by acidification of the milk. Feta is traditionally a cultured cheese too. Mozarella by addition of rennet, which is made of digestive enzymes that break up the protein into small non-soluble chunks. I don't know of any that aren't made by acidification or rennet addition
    – bob1
    Jan 31 at 23:14
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Nigari contains calcium chloride and magnesium chloride, both of which are coagulants used in things like tofu. Calcium chloride is also used for this purpose in cheesemaking.

It would seem like a very salty way of delivering those 2 compounds, but it's not surprising that it works - if you use enough of it - and it's likely that much of the (NaCl) salt ends up in the whey so your final product may not be too salty.

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