Kadai Paneer (Kadhai Paneer, Karahi Paneer) is a popular Indian curry made using paneer, onions, and green bell peppers cooked in spicy and flavorful gravy made using freshly ground kadai masala. It is one of the most popular dishes ordered in any Indian restaurant. Learn to make it at home using my easy recipe.
Here are some more paneer recipes that you may like – Paneer Tikka Masala, Lahsooni Methi Paneer, Paneer Masala, Restaurant Style Palak Paneer, Paneer Pasanda, and Restaurant Style Paneer Tikka Masala.
About This Recipe
Kadai Paneer (Kadhai Paneer, Karahi Paneer) is one of the most popular paneer recipes from the northern part of India.
Kadai = a large and shallow cooking pot and paneer=Indian cottage cheese. Kadhai paneer is basically paneer, onions, and green bell pepper cubes cooked in a spicy onion-tomato-based gravy flavored with a freshly ground homemade kadai masala spice mix.
This special spice powder gives this curry a very unique flavor.
You will find this delicious recipe on the menu of almost every North Indian Restaurant. But let me tell you, this is a super simple recipe that takes minimal everyday ingredients and can be made in the comfort of your home.
You can make it with gravy, dry or semi-dry, that’s totally up to you. This dish can also be made without onion and garlic. I am sharing the methods below, so keep reading.
I am also sharing a technique to make the curry super smoky, just like the one you get at your favorite restaurant.
So paneer lovers, waste no time and make this restaurant style kadai paneer recipe at home using my super easy recipe.
Kadai Masala – The curry gets its flavor from the freshly ground kadai masala. You will need whole spices like whole coriander seeds, whole dry red chillies, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, black cardamoms, black peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks to make it.
Paneer – Paneer is the star ingredient of this recipe. It is Indian cottage cheese that is very different from the regular cottage cheese that you get commonly.
It is readily available in any Indian grocery store in their refrigerator or freezer section. It is also available in many large grocery stores in the refrigerator section.
If using frozen paneer, make sure to thaw it until it is soft.
Instead of buying the paneer, you can also make it at home.
Green Bell Peppers – These add a lovely crunch to the gravy. You can also use mixed bell peppers.
Onions – Onions are required in 2 different ways, cubed and finely chopped.
Spice Powders – You will need Kashmiri red chilli powder and garam masala powder. You can also a little turmeric powder for a brighter color of the curry.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes add a lovely tang to the curry You will need finely chopped ripe tomatoes and canned tomato puree. You can replace tomato puree with tomato paste but reduce its quantity as it is more concentrated.
Oil – Use any cooking oil to make the curry. A little ghee is added at the end to give it a rich flavor
Others – Apart from the above-mentioned ingredients, you will also need green chilies, ginger-garlic paste, and lime juice.
You can also add some Kasuri Methi at the end for extra taste and flavor.
If you want to make it richer, add in some heavy cream at the end and give it a mix.
How To Make Kadai Paneer
Rinse 8 oz (250 g) paneer, 1 large green bell pepper, and 1 large onion and cut them into 1-inch cubes.
Note – If using frozen paneer, make sure to thaw it.
Finely chop 1 medium red onion and 1 large tomato and slit 2-3 green chilies into half.
Gather the remaining ingredients.
Make Kadai Masala
Add 2 tablespoon whole coriander seeds, 3-4 Kashmiri dry red chilies, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 2-3 cloves, 2 whole black cardamoms, 5-6 whole black peppercorns, and a 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick to a small skillet.
Dry roast on medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant (3-4 minutes).
Remove the skillet from the heat and let the spices cool slightly.
Add them to a grinder or a food processor and grind to make a fine powder. Your kadai masala is ready.
Tip – You can also make a big batch of this masala and keep using it for up to a month.
Make Kadai Paneer Gravy
Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a pan over high heat.
Once the oil is hot, add 1 cup cubed onions and 1 cup cubed green bell peppers and saute until they are slightly charred (3-4 minutes). We want them to be slightly crunchy.
Remove on a plate and set aside.
In the same pan, add the remaining 3 tablespoon oil and heat it on medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, add ½ cup finely chopped onions and fry until they are lightly browned (4-5 minutes), stirring frequently.
Add 2-3 green chilies (slit into half) and 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste and fry until onions turn golden brown in color (6-8 minutes). Stir frequently while frying.
Now add ¼ cup tomato puree and ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes and fry for 2-3 minutes.
Add the ground kadai masala powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder, and 1 teaspoon garam masala powder.
Add half a cup of water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir at regular intervals.
Finally, add 8 oz (250 g) paneer (cut into 1-inch cubes), and the sauteed onions and bell peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add some hot water if the gravy is too thick.
Cook until oil starts to separate from the sides (2-3 minutes).
Check for salt and add more if needed.
Add 1 tablespoon ghee and 1 tablespoon lime juice and mix well. Serve hot.
Secret Technique For Smoky Flavor
You can give a smoky flavor to your kadhai paneer by using the dungar method.
Do not skip this smoking step if you want that restaurant-like taste in your homemade Kadai Paneer curry. But if you are in a hurry and want to make it without smoking, go ahead. It will still taste very good.
Heat a piece of coal or a whole cinnamon stick for 5-6 minutes over direct flame until it is red hot. Keep rotating it using a tong so that it heats evenly on all the sides.
Keep a piece of aluminum foil over the curry and keep the piece of hot coal over it. Pour 1 tablespoon ghee on the hot coal and immediately close the lid for 15-20 minutes. Open the lid, discard the coal, and give the curry a stir.
Pro Tips By Neha
This recipe always tastes best when kept for one day. So you can make it one day in advance and reheat it when you are serving it.
Smoke the finished curry to get the restaurant-style smoky taste. If making it for everyday eating, you can skip smoking the gravy. Reserve the flavor for special occasions.
You can make the kadai masala powder in a big batch and store it for later use.
You can add more water if you like the gravy thin. Bring it to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes. Then cover and let it rest for at least an hour before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kadai paneer is a spicy gravy recipe that uses a lot of spices to give it a robust bold flavor.
However, paneer butter masala is sweetish creamy cashew nuts and tomato-based curry which uses mild spices and nuts. The gravy is much subtle and rich and is slightly on the sweetish side.
Karahi paneer has bell pepper added to the gravy along with paneer to give it that crunchy bite however in paneer butter masala, it’s only the paneer.
Shahi paneer as the name suggests is a rich and creamy curry that is made using almonds and cashews without the use of tomatoes which is flavored with everyday spices, whereas kadai paneer is made using a freshly roasted masala that adds a unique flavor to it.
Also, kadhai paneer has bell pepper as one of the main ingredients, which is not used in shahi paneer.
Kadai Paneer Gravy – To make karahi paneer with gravy, add a cup of water to the final curry and bring it to a boil.
Kadai Paneer Dry – To make the dry version, just cook the masala as mentioned in the recipe and don’t add any water while cooking. Just add the veggies and paneer to the masala and give it a good mix.
Vegan – To make vegan kadhai paneer, you can replace the paneer with tofu and avoid adding ghee to the recipe.
No Onion No Garlic – Just skip adding these two ingredients and keep the rest of the recipe the same.
With Other Veggies – You can add sliced mushrooms, peas, cauliflower, etc to this curry along with paneer.
This curry will last in the fridge for 2 to 3 days when stored in an airtight container. Reheat it in a pan or microwave, until nice and hot.
If you are planning to freeze it, I will recommend you freeze the gravy without adding paneer to it. When ready to serve, thaw the curry, heat it well, add paneer cubes, cook it for 2-3 minutes, and serve.
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Restaurant Style Kadai Paneer Recipe
For Kadai Masala
- 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
- 3-4 whole Kashmiri dry red chilies (stalks removed)
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2-3 cloves
- 2 whole black cardamoms
- 5-6 whole black peppercorns
- 1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
For The Curry
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
- 1 cup cubed green bell peppers (1-inch cubes)
- 1 cup cubed onions (1-inch cubes)
- ½ cup finely chopped onions
- 2 green chilies (slit into half)
- 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
- ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes
- ¼ cup canned tomato puree (or 2 tablespoon tomato paste)
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
- 8 ounce paneer (250 g, cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
Make Kadai Masala
- Add all the ingredients to a small skillet.
- Dry roast on medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant (3-4 minutes), stirring frequently.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and let the spices cool slightly.
- Add them to a grinder or a food processor and grind to make a fine powder. Your kadai masala is ready.
Make Kadai Paneer
- Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a pan over high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add cubed onions and cubed green bell peppers and saute until they are slightly charred (3-4 minutes). Stir frequently while frying. We want them to be slightly crunchy.
- Remove on a plate and set aside.
- In the same pan, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and heat it on medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot, add chopped onions and fry until they are lightly browned (4-5 minutes), stirring frequently.
- Add green chilies and ginger-garlic paste and fry until onions turn golden brown in color (6-8 minutes). Stir frequently while frying.
- Now add tomato puree and chopped tomatoes and fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the ground kadai masala powder, salt, Kashmiri red chili powder, and garam masala powder. Add half a cup of water and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Finally, add paneer and the sauteed onions and bell peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add some hot water if the gravy is too thick.
- Cook until oil starts to separate from the sides (2-3 minutes).
- Check for salt and add more if needed.
- Add ghee, and lime juice and mix well. Serve hot.