No need to panic if you are in the middle of preparing a recipe and realise you don’t have any cheesecloth on hand. Cheesecloth may be used for making cheese, paneer or jelly. It is frequently called for when assembling a bouquet garni--a small bag containing the spices you want to simmer in your soup, stew or even tea. Several other household items can serve the same purpose as cheesecloth with equally good results.
Several layers of sterile gauze will function much like cheesecloth. Gauze tends to have a looser weave than cheesecloth, so expect to use more layers for the same effect.
Check your fabric stash for muslin, a sturdy, plain-woven cotton fabric. Muslin with a slightly loose weave works best. Just cut a piece of muslin the size needed for the task.
Paper coffee filters work well for things like straining yoghurt, making paneer or tying up a bouquet garni. Interestingly, this substitution works both ways; if you have no coffee filter, substitute layers of cheesecloth.
Tear off a clean scrap of a pillowcase or bed sheet that has seen better days. Or pull out a well-used kitchen towel that has thinned somewhat. Well-worn linens work well as a cheesecloth substitute.
Consider using string if you just need cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni. Tie large spices together with the string. Or place the spices called for in the recipe on a piece of green leek, place another piece on top and tie it securely to hold the spices inside the leek pieces. Keep the string long enough so you can tie one end of the string to the pot for easy removal; be sure to keep it clear of the heat source.
Use a clean sock instead of cheesecloth. This is probably not the method you’d select if you were cooking with your mother, but it will work in a pinch. If you only need it for something small, cut off the toe portion to use.