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water buffalos relaxing in the grass

Using water buffalo milk (for the best paneer & ice cream ever)

Water buffalo milk, in the Netherlands? Do water buffalos actually live in the Netherlands? Don’t you guys just have those black and white milk cows? Yes and no. In the Netherlands there are plenty of milk cows (way more than a million), that also give plenty of milk. Cow’s milk is what the Dutch will refer to when talking about milk. There’s quite a big dairy industry set up in the Netherlands.

But, water buffalo can live in the Netherlands (proof sits in the photo above). They don’t live here naturally, but nowadays there are a few farms that have water buffalos. They’re mostly kept for their milk. Whereas the water buffalo isn’t very common in the Netherlands, nor in most other European countries, that can’t be said of certain regions within Asia. About 95% of all water buffalo on this world live in Asia!

That said though, just a few water buffalo are enough to provide us with a few liter of water buffalo milk, to test of course. We drank it and used most of it for making paneer, an Indian cheese type and some of it for making ice cream. Honestly, it was the best paneer we’d ever made to so far. It was so rich in flavour and texture compared to all previous paneer we made (from store bought milk). Why did the water buffalo milk turn out so good? What distinguishes these two types of milk? Let’s dive into the science of water buffalo milk.

Water buffalo vs cow’s milk

Apart from the fact that these two milks come from two different animals, there are several other differences with regards to their composition. The main difference being the fat content. Cow’s milk contains about 3-4 percent fat, whereas that of buffalo milk is about twice that amount! A higher fat content will make for a richer milk upon drinking (if you know the difference between skimmed and full-fat milk this will probably be comparable). But a higher fat content will also impact products made from the milk, such as cheese, or ice cream!

Besides the fat content the other important difference between water buffalo and cow’s milk is the calcium content. When making cheese the ratio of calcium:casein is important. Relatively more calcium is advantageous for cheese making. Water buffalo has this higher ratio of calcium vs casein.

Using water buffalo milk

Water buffalo milk can be used in the same way as cow’s milk when drinking or using it for other foods. However, the final product consistency will be very different when using the water buffalo milk due to that difference in composition. Ever wondered where buffalo mozzarella came from? Indeed, that’s also made with the water buffalo’s milk.

Making paneer from buffalo milk

Water buffalo milk is ideal for making Indian style paneer. Due to its high fat content it will give a super rich, smooth and well tasting cheese. The way to make paneer is very similar, if not identical to the method we described in our post on making paneer.

The short version of making paneer is to bring the milk to the boil, add lemon juice until it starts to clumps and then strain through a cheese cloth. Last but not least, press the cheese cloth until you’re planning on eating to press out excess moisture. When making water buffalo paneer you will have to look for the same signs to know whether your paneer making is going to plan. The milk will be white at the start, but once you start adding lemon juice you will notice the liquid to turn yellowish with white curds floating around. Add enough lemon juice in order for the liquid itself to be way more yellowish than white. Then you know most of your curds have formed. If it’s still whitish, add more lemon juice to get more of those delicious curds!

freshly made paneer from water buffalo milk
Freshly made, very plump, water buffalo cheese curds in a cheese cloth, ready for pressing.

Making water buffalo ice cream

Water buffalo paneer gives a super rich paneer and water buffalo ice cream gives a super creamy and smooth ice cream! Again, the water buffalo milk can really be used in a very similar way to regular milk. We’ve used it to make this two ingredient ice cream, but it will work just fine for a regular vanilla ice cream or more adventurous coffee ice cream.

If you do not want your final ice cream to be creamier than normal you might want to add a little more milk and a little less cream. However, we’d advice you to use the same ratios, it just tastes really good.

Using raw vs. pasteurized milk

This water buffalo milk we bought was raw milk, bought directly at the farm (see below, in the Netherlands raw milk can only be bought directly at the farm). The reason for buying this raw version is really because it was fresher and easier to get a hold of than the pasteurized version. Honestly, as a food scientist I fully believe in the huge benefits pasteurization has brought us, but in this case raw milk was perfect.

Non-homogenized milk for paneer

That said, there is one other advantage of using raw milk for making paneer. Pasteurized commercially available supermarket milk has been both pasteurized and homogenized. Homogenization means that the fat particles within the milk have all been made smaller and into a similar size. Without homogenization milk fat would float to the top of milk because of its low density (the reverse of sedimentation). However, by breaking up the fat in smaller particles, it won’t do so so easily.

This is great for manufacturers and consumers who don’t want their milk to split (and that’s a large percentage of consumers). When making cheese though, this homogenization can result in softer curds and a less coherent structure. Large fat globules will form larger structures more easily than small ones do.

Using non-homogenized milk definitely contributed to the quality of the paneer we made, but it certainly isn’t the only reason it turned out so good.

homemade cheese press for paneer
A homemade cheese press

Buying raw milk (in the Netherlands)

In the Netherlands raw milk can only be bough at the farm where the cow (or water buffalo) has been milked. Also, you have to bring your own pots or storage bin to take the milk home. Regulations are quite strict for a reason. Raw milk often contains pathogenic micro organisms, those that can make your sick. Supermarket milk has be pasteurized or sterilized to kill these off. However, for raw milk that is not the case. The milk will have to be boiled before drinking or using it at home.

By only allowing the sale of raw milk at the farm, only those people will buy it that specifically look for it and know what to do with. That should prevent foodborne illnesses that could have been easily prevented.


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Whenever using raw milk, always be sure to properly bring the milk to the boil before consuming it to kill any possible pathogenic bacteria. For pregnant women and other risk groups it is better to avoid raw milk.


Interested in learning more about water buffalo (milk) in the Netherlands?

Data on water buffalo presence and water buffalo milk composition are from the FAO 1 and 2.

Data on number of cows in the Netherlands.

More information on using (ultra-)pasteurized and homogenized milk for cheese making.

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  1. It’s great to see water buffalo milk gaining popularity around the world. Unfortunately raw water buffalo milk is hard to get in some countries, law and regulations differ greatly not just between countries, but between even the individual states or jurisdictions. If you’re in US , looking for water buffalo milk, and happen to be in Pennsylvania, you can find it at a Buffalo Valley Pastures farm – one of a very few places with a permit to sell raw water buffalo and cow milk to customers in the state. Water buffalo meat though is available to ship anywhere! Hope this helps someone looking for this nutritious, yet hard to find product.

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