Paneer butter masala 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 all around the world. Learn to make the best paneer butter masala at home using my easy and simple recipe.
If you are looking for more restaurant-style paneer curries, then here are some of my other favorites – Lahsooni Methi Paneer, Shahi Paneer, Punjabi Saag Paneer, Mughlai Paneer Korma, Paneer Jalfrezi, Palak Paneer, and Paneer Masala.
About This Recipe
Paneer butter masala 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 around the world. 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, onion, tomatoes, cashew nuts, etc, and comes together in under 30 minutes.
It is best served with butter naan, garlic naan, tandoori roti, or jeera rice. When I make it for my everyday meals, I like to serve it with hot phulka smeared with some ghee
Paneer – Paneer is easily available in Indian grocery stores. I have also seen it in some Costco and Whole Foods. 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 on top which might change the taste of the dish if not washed well.
If the paneer is old and has become hard, boil it for 2-3 minutes in water. Discard the water and then use the paneer. It is a simple trick but it magically refreshes the old chewy paneer.
If you are using frozen paneer, thaw it over the kitchen counter until it comes to room temperature. Cut it onto cubes and then soak it in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain and use.
Butter & Oil – You will need butter and a little vegetable oil to start the recipe. Oil is added so that the butter doesn’t burn while cooking. Butter adds a rich taste, so do not miss on the same. 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, green cardamoms, and black cardamoms adds a very nice flavor to this curry. Do not skip.
Spice Powders – Spice powders like coriander powder, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, garam masala spice mix are added to enhance the taste of this gravy.
Tomato Puree and Tomato Ketchup – Store-bought tomato puree (or tomato paste) and tomato ketchup is a must to make this recipe. Since they are much concentrated than homemade ones, they give a very characteristic restaurant-like taste to the dish.
Cashews – This adds a very rich taste and creamy texture to the gravy. You can also use blanched almonds instead of cashews.
Heavy Cream – It gives a very creamy and rich flavor and texture to the curry.
Others – I have used very little onion, you can choose to skip it. Other than that, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and green chili peppers go into making the gravy. Make sure to choose the ripest of tomatoes because it’s them that give the taste and color to the final dish.
Finally, do not forget to add honey and lime juice to balance the flavors. Kasuri methi is a must too.
How To Make Paneer Butter Masala
Heat 1 tablespoon butter (salted or unsalted) and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Once the butter is hot, add 2-3 cloves, 1 whole black cardamom, and 2-3 whole green cardamoms and fry for 3-4 seconds.
Add ¼ cup chopped onions and saute for 2-3 minutes or until they turn translucent.
Add 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes, 1-inch piece of fresh ginger (chopped), 5-6 cloves of garlic (peeled and chopped), and 2 green chili peppers (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. Add 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, and salt to taste 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. Add ½ teaspoon garam masala spice mix, ¼ cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoon honey, and 2 tablespoon Kasuri methi. Cook for another minute.
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, just skip adding onions, ginger, and garlic to the recipe. All the other ingredients are allowed in Jainism and since we have added very little onions and garlic in the recipe, it will not affect the taste much.
The addition of milk will make the curry thinner and there is a chance of curdling too when mixed with acidic ingredients such as tomatoes. If you want to make it richer, you can increase the number of cashews in it.
You can substitute cashews with 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 instead.
Instant Pot Paneer Butter Masala
To make it in an instant pot, add onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chili peppers, 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, then add the mixture to a 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 along with 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 in 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 much intense which 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 cooking. If you plan to freeze the gravy, skip adding honey and cream and add them at last when you are ready to serve.
You can also give a smoky flavor to this curry by keeping a piece of red hot 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 into the curry instead of adding it raw.
If you are making this curry for your everyday meals, you can avoid adding cream for a comparatively healthier version.
This curry will last in the fridge for 2 to 3 days when stored properly in an airtight container. If you feel the gravy has become a little thick, then add in a little water and adjust the consistency.
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, just heat the gravy, add in cream and paneer cubes, cook for a minute and your dish is ready to serve.
You can freeze this gravy in a freezer-safe container for 2-3 months. Just thaw over the countertop for 3-4 hours and then heat again in a pan and add paneer cubes and cream before serving.
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Paneer Butter Masala Recipe
- 4 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted, divided)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 to 3 cloves
- 1 whole black cardamom
- 2 to 3 whole green cardamoms
- ¼ cup chopped onions
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger (chopped)
- 5 to 6 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)
- 2 green chili peppers (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 tomato puree (or 2 tablespoon tomato paste)
- 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- salt to taste
- 1 pound paneer (500 g, cut into cubes)
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- ¼ cup 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 chili peppers 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.
- Transfer the curry to the serving bowl. Garnish with heavy cream swirls and serve hot.