Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani, Butter Paneer) is a rich and creamy paneer curry where paneer cubes (Indian cottage cheese) are simmered in an onion tomato gravy. It is one of the most popular Indian curries served at restaurants worldwide. Learn to make the best restaurant-style paneer butter masala at home using my easy and simple recipe (vegetarian, gluten-free).
About Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani)
Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani, Butter Paneer) is one of the most popular North Indian curries where fresh and soft paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cubes are cooked in creamy, rich, and silky smooth tomato onion gravy. It is mildly sweet, spicy, and very delicious.
You will find this curry on the menu of almost all the North Indian restaurants in India and worldwide. Now you can make restaurant-style paneer butter masala at home using my easy and simple recipe.
This recipe uses pantry staples like butter, heavy cream, whole spices, onions, tomatoes, cashew nuts, etc., and comes together in under 30 minutes.
Paneer Makhani is best served with butter naan, garlic naan, tandoori roti, or jeera rice. When I make it for my everyday meals, I serve it with hot phulka smeared with some ghee.
This paneer butter masala recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free. You can easily double or triple the recipe.
If you want more restaurant-style paneer curries, here are some favorites
- Paneer Methi Masala
- Shahi Paneer
- Kadai Paneer
- Matar Paneer
- Punjabi Saag Paneer
- Mughlai Paneer Korma
- Paneer Jalfrezi
- Palak Paneer
- Paneer Masala
- Nawabi Paneer
Paneer – Paneer is easily available in Indian grocery stores. I have also seen it at a few Costco and Whole Foods outlets.
You can choose between fresh, packaged, or frozen paneer.
Always wash the paneer slab after taking it out from the packet. It has a slimy layer, which might change the dish’s taste if not washed well.
If the paneer is old and has become hard, boil it in water for 2-3 minutes. Discard the water and then use the paneer. It is a simple trick that magically refreshes the old chewy paneer.
If you use frozen paneer, thaw it over the kitchen counter until it reaches room temperature. Cut it into cubes and soak it in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain and use.
Butter & Oil – You will need butter and cooking oil to make this paneer makhani recipe. Oil is added so that the butter doesn’t burn while cooking. You can use either salted butter or unsalted one. If using salted butter, reduce the salt in the curry.
Whole Spices – Adding whole spices like cloves (laung), green cardamom (hari elaichi), and black cardamom (badi elaichi) adds a very nice flavor to this curry. Do not skip.
Spice Powders – Spice powders like coriander powder, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chilli powder, and garam masala powder are added to enhance the taste of this butter paneer gravy.
Tomato Puree and Tomato Ketchup – Store-bought tomato puree (or tomato paste) and tomato ketchup are a must to make this recipe. Since they are much more concentrated than homemade ones, they give the dish a very characteristic restaurant-like taste.
Cashews – This adds a rich taste and creamy texture to the gravy. You can also use blanched almonds instead of cashews.
Heavy Cream – Unsweetened heavy cream gives the curry a rich flavor and texture.
Others – You will also need red onions, fresh tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and green chilies.
Make sure to choose the ripest of tomatoes because they give the taste and color to the final dish.
Do not forget to add honey to balance the flavors. Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is a must too.
I used Indian green chilies, but you can use Serrano peppers, Thai green chilies, or jalapeno peppers.
How To Make Paneer Butter Masala
Heat 1 tablespoon butter (salted or unsalted) and 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Once the butter is hot, add
- 2-3 cloves
- 1 whole black cardamom
- 2-3 whole green cardamoms
and fry for 3-4 seconds.
Add ¼ cup chopped onions and cook for 2-3 minutes or until they turn translucent, stirring frequently.
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger (chopped)
- 5-6 cloves of garlic (peeled and chopped)
- 2 green chilies (slit into half)
and cook for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes are mushy. Keep stirring frequently.
Now add 20-25 whole cashew nuts to the skillet and cook for another minute.
Remove the skillet from heat and let the mixture cool completely.
Transfer the cooled mixture to a blender along with ¼ cup water and blend to make a smooth paste.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoon butter in the same skillet over medium heat.
Add the ground paste to the skillet.
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
- ¼ cup tomato puree (or 2 tablespoon tomato paste)
- 2 tablespoon tomato ketchup
- 1 teaspoon salt
and stir until combined.
Cut 1 lb (500 g) paneer into ½ inch cubes and add them to the skillet. Stir to coat the cubes with the gravy and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add some water if the gravy is too thick.
- ½ teaspoon garam masala spice mix
- ¼ cup unsweetened heavy cream
- 2 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoon Kasuri methi.
Cook for another minute.
Check for salt and add more if required.
Transfer the curry to the serving bowl. Garnish with heavy cream swirls and serve hot.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Swap paneer with tofu.
2. Butter with vegan butter or oil.
3. Heavy cream with cashew or coconut cream.
To make a Jain version, skip adding onions, ginger, and garlic to the recipe. All the other ingredients are allowed in Jainism.
It is not recommended. Adding milk will make the curry thinner, and there is a chance of curdling too, when mixed with acidic ingredients such as tomatoes.
You can substitute cashews with white poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, melon seeds, hulled white sesame seeds, or soaked and peeled almonds. If you have nut allergies, avoid almonds and cashews and use other options.
Sometimes, the texture of the store-bought paneer is chewy and rubbery, spoiling the taste of the entire dish. A simple tip to prevent this is to soak the paneer cubes in hot water for 20 minutes.
No, this dish has a lot of butter and cream and is not recommended to eat daily. Make it only for special occasions and eat it in moderation.
Instant Pot Paneer Butter Masala
To make it in an instant pot, add onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chilies, cashews, cloves, green cardamoms, and black cardamom with 1 cup of water to the instant pot.
Secure the lid and position the steam valve to the sealing position. Press PRESSURE COOK and set the timer for 6 minutes at high pressure.
Once the timer goes off, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Release the remaining pressure manually and open the pot. Let the mixture cool down a bit. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth. Transfer the paste to a bowl.
If you do not have an immersion blender, add the mixture to a regular blender and blend to make a smooth paste.
Rinse the insert and put it back. Press SAUTE. Add butter to the instant pot. Add the tomato-onion paste, tomato puree, tomato ketchup, spice powders, and ½ cup of water. Let it cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in between so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Once the gravy is cooked, add paneer cubes, heavy cream, honey, and Kasuri methi and cook for a minute. Serve hot.
Pro Tips By Neha
Use canned (tetra pack) tomato puree to make butter paneer masala. The taste of the canned puree is intense and cannot be replicated by homemade puree.
Grind the masala to a fine paste. The gravy should be silky smooth. You can even pass the paste through a fine-mesh strainer to get really creamy curry.
Add the cream and honey at the end of the cooking. If you plan to freeze the gravy, skip adding honey and cream and add them just before you are ready to serve.
You can also give a smoky flavor to this curry by keeping a piece of hot red charcoal on an aluminum foil over the curry and drizzling some ghee on it. Close the lid immediately for the curry to soak the flavor of the smoke.
You can pan-fry the paneer until golden brown before adding it to the curry instead of adding it raw.
If you make this paneer makhani curry for everyday meals, you can avoid adding cream for a comparatively healthier version.
Paner can be replaced with firm tofu, cooked chickpeas, corn kernels, or grilled veggies.
Use it to make Butter Paneer Kathi Rolls.
This curry will last in the fridge for 2 to 3 days when stored properly in an airtight container.
You can also make the gravy without adding paneer cubes & cream to it and store it in the refrigerator for about 3 to 5 days. When you want to serve it, heat the gravy, add in cream and paneer cubes, cook for a minute, and your dish is ready to serve.
Add water and adjust the consistency if the gravy has become thick.
You can freeze this gravy in a freezer-safe container for 2-3 months. Just thaw over the countertop for 3-4 hours, heat again in a pan, and add paneer cubes and cream before serving.
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Restaurant Style Paneer Butter Masala Recipe (Paneer Makhani)
- 4 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted, divided)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 to 3 cloves (laung)
- 1 whole black cardamom (badi elaichi)
- 2 to 3 whole green cardamoms (hari elaichi)
- ¼ cup chopped red onions
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger (chopped)
- 5 to 6 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)
- 2 green chilies (slit into half)
- 20 to 25 whole cashew nuts
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder
- ¼ cup canned tomato puree (or 2 tbsp tomato paste)
- 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 pound paneer (500 g, cut into cubes)
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- ¼ cup unsweetened heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 tablespoons Kasuri methi
- Heat 1 tablespoon butter and vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once the butter is hot, add cloves, black cardamom, and green cardamoms and fry for 3-4 seconds.
- Add onions and saute for 2-3 minutes or until they turn translucent.
- Add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and green chilies and cook for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes are mushy. Keep stirring frequently.
- Now add cashew nuts to the skillet and cook for another minute. Remove the skillet from heat and let the mixture cool completely.
- Transfer the cooled mixture to a blender along with ¼ cup water and blend to make a smooth paste.
- Heat the remaining 3 tablespoon butter in the same skillet over medium heat.
- Add the ground paste to the skillet. Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, tomato puree, tomato ketchup, and salt and stir until combined.
- Add paneer cubes to the skillet and stir to coat the cubes with the gravy. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add some water if the gravy is too thick. Add garam masala spice mix, heavy cream, honey, and Kasuri methi. Cook for another minute.
- Check for salt and add more if required.
- Transfer the curry to the serving bowl. Garnish with heavy cream swirls and serve hot.