A dish that is a must order when at an Indian restaurant or dhaba is Paneer Butter Masala. A luscious tomato-cashew-cream gravy with chunks of soft paneer pieces is pure joy. It’s on the heavier side but feels absokutely worth every dunk with the butter naan on the side.
This recipe is my postcard to the city of Delhi, a place I have lived many lives in, since the last decade. Because I have been living in the capital for so long, I have also started to love the food eaten here. This love did not happen overnight. It took many months (maybe years) for Delhi and I to accept each other. But we eventually made it. Ten years is a long time and within this time I have learned to love most of the things I detested as an 18 year old who first moved here. From someone who could not imagine the idea of eating rajma with plain rice, I am someone who finds utmost comfort in it now. Several other similar developments have taken place in the course of time. In fact, most things I cook are an amalgamation or a mix of all the kinds of food I’ve been exposed to in these 30 odd years. It’s probably a part of my unending quest to explore where do I really belong. With bits and pieces of my mind and soul scattered in so many places (real and imaginary), I guess that’s a question I should add to my list of life’s mysteries.
This Paneer Butter Masala recipe has been perfected over many failed attempts. So I can assure you this one if fail-proof. And for an Indian household, the ingredients that go into this amazing recipe might already be lying around. That’s the beauty of Indian cooking. Kitchens are mostly stocked with the basic masalas and vegetables. This is a version that tastes as good as your favourite restaurant. Trust me, there is absolutely no exaggeration there. The makhni gravy is TO DIE FOR and you will be astonished to know how easy it to put together.
Cooking this Paneer Butter Masala – 3 Stages
This paneer butter masala us cooked in three stages.
- The first stage is marinating the paneer cubes in salt and red chilli powder and shallow frying them till they are brown and crispy on the edges. Doing this ensures that the paneer cubes in the gravy do not taste bland and have enough flavour on their own.
- In the second stage, we make the makhni paste. This requires slow cooking onions, tomatoes, cashews, whole spices and Kashmiri dried red chillies (for the colour) for some time and blending it till it is super smooth. If you do not have Kashmiri red chillies, you can use normal dried chillies too. The Kashmiri chillies help give the gravy that wonderful orange colour.
- The final stage is when we combine the makhni sauce with the fried paneer, and add some spices and garnishing.
Let’s take a detailed look at the recipe.
Preparation time – 30 minutes
Cook time – 40 minutes
Serves – 4
- 200-250 grams paneer, cut into cubes
- 1/2 tsp salt (to marinate the paneer cubes)
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (to marinate the paneer cubes)
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 Kashmiri dried red chillies
- 4 cardamoms
- 1 thick cinnamon stick (1 inch)
- 2 cloves
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 4 medium ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 12 cashews
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp oil (for the gravy)
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup fresh cream
- 1 tbsp kasuri methi
- Cut the paneer into cubes. Gently absorb any excess water with a paper towel.
- Season the paneer cubes with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp red chilli powder. Mix gently.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a kadhai or skillet. Shallow fry the paneer cubes till edges brown and become crispy. Set aside for later.
- In the same pan, add 1 tbsp oil. Temper the oil with a bay leaf and four Kashmiri dried red chillies.
- Temper with the whole spices – cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Lightly roast it till they release their aroma.
- Add in the roughly chopped onions, roughly chopped tomatoes and cashews. Mix well. The idea is to cook this till the tomatoes and onions release their juices and soften. Season with salt and sugar. Cover and cook on low flame for ten minutes.
- Remove cover, give one last stir and let the mixture cool completely.
- Once cool, transfer the mixture to a blender and add three tablespoons of water to it. Now blend for as long as you need to get a super smooth and glossy paste. This is the makhni sauce.
- In the same skillet or kadhai, add the butter and one teaspoon oil. Let it melt. Now add the fresh ginger garlic paste and let it release its aroma. Keep the flame at medium to low because you don’t want to burn the paste. Saute for about a minute or two till the raw aroma of the ginger and garlic completely disappears.
- Roast some spices in the oil – coriander powder, red chilli powder, cumin powder and garam masala. Roast them on low flame with the rest of the ingredients for a minute.
- Once everything looks cooked, add the blended makhni sauce to the pan. Add half a cup of water. Stir and let the sauce come to a boil.
- Let the sauce simmer for another five minutes.
- Add the cream and stir well. It will get thicker. You can add more water if you like. But the sauce should preferably be a thick one.
- Garnish with kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves.
- Get the fried paneer and add it on the top. Save a few pieces for later.
- Once you reach your desired consistency, transfer the paneer butter masala to a bowl. Garnish with some extra fried paneer cubes and just a few coriander leaves.
- Serve hot with naan or paratha. Enjoy!
I hope you try out this delicious and fail proof paneer butter masala for yourself. It’s absolutely divine. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me with a comment or connect with me on Instagram or Facebook. For all my videos, you can subscribe to me on YouTube.
Here’s another favourite north Indian recipe – Rajma Masala