Easy Dhaba Style Paneer Masala

3.91 from 31 votes

Dhaba Style Paneer Masala is an easy-to-make curry where paneer cubes are simmered in an onion-tomato-based spicy gravy. It can be paired with Indian bread or jeera rice (vegetarian, can be easily made gluten-free).

Dhaba style paneer masala served in a bowl.
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About Dhaba Style Paneer Masala

In India, the North Indian roadside eateries are called Dhaba. They have a very peculiar style of cooking recipes, and the dishes are high in spices and oil. They are super flavorful as well.

This Dhaba Style Paneer Masala is a recipe very popularly made in North Indian dhabas.

To make this Paneer Masala recipe, paneer cubes are simmered in an onion-tomato-based curry, and a few basic Indan spices are added to it to make it even more flavorful.

This paneer curry is protein-rich, creamy, and rich and pairs well with almost all Indian bread, especially with parantha and naan. I sometimes even serve it with jeera rice or a mild veg pulao.

It is a great recipe for Indian-style lunch or dinner parties, festivals, and special events like birthday parties, anniversaries, or family get-togethers.

You can easily double or triple the recipe as per your requirements.

If you are looking for more paneer recipes, here are some you can make at home

Ingredients

Dhaba style paneer masala ingredients 1
Dhaba style paneer masala ingredients 2
Dhaba style paneer masala ingredients 3
Dhaba style paneer masala ingredients 4
Dhaba style paneer masala ingredients 5

Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese)

You can use homemade paneer or store-bought paneer to make this curry.

Homemade paneer is naturally soft, but if you are using store-bought paneer which is a bit hard sometimes, add it to a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes. Squeeze and use in the recipe.

To Marinate The Paneer

Paneer is marinated with a few ingredients, such as Kashmiri red chilli powder, turmeric powder, and salt.

You will need oil to fry the paneer pieces.

For The Curry

Oil & Ghee – I have used oil and ghee to make this paneer masala curry. You can use either of these or even butter. You can also make this dhaba style paneer curry in mustard oil or olive oil.

Whole Spices – You will need a few Indian whole spices such as green cardamom (hari elaichi), cloves (laung), black peppercorns (kali mirch), cinnamon (dalchini), dry red chilies, and cumin seeds.

Spice Powders – Other than whole spices, some everyday Indian spice powders are also used. You will need coriander powder, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, cumin powder, garam masala powder, and salt.

Besan – Besan (Gram Flour, Chickpea Flour) adds great texture to this curry.

Tomato – Tomato is added to make the base, along with onions and ginger garlic paste. I like to grate the fresh tomatoes using the medium hole of a box grater, but you can also pulse them in a blender.

Kasuri Methi – Kasuri Methi adds a very dhaba touch to this curry, do not miss it.

Others – You will also need asafetida (hing), red onions, ginger garlic paste, green chiilies, freshly squeezed lime juice, and cilantro (fresh coriander leaves).

You can use Indian green chilies, Thai green chilies, Jalapeno, or Serrano peppers.

How To Make Dhaba Style Paneer Masala

Marinate The Paneer

Rinse 14 oz (400 g) of paneer slabs and cut them into 1-inch pieces.

Tip – If using store-bought paneer, then soak it in hot water for 10 minutes to make it soft.

Mix the paneer pieces with

  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder

in a large mixing bowl and keep aside for 15 minutes.

Marination ingredients added to a bowl.
Marinated paneer.

Fry The Paneer

Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a pan over medium-high heat.

Oil heating in a pan.

Arrange the paneer on the pan in a single layer and fry from all sides until browned.

Paneer pieces arranged in a single layer.

Note – Fry in batches if the paneer pieces do not fit in a single layer.

Remove the paneer from the pan and keep it aside.

Fried paneer.

Make The Curry

Add 2 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoon ghee to the same pan and heat over medium-high heat.

Oil and ghee heating in a pan.

Once the oil is hot, add

  • 2 crushed green cardamoms
  • 2-3 crushed cloves
  • 5-6 crushed black peppercorns
  • crushed 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 whole dry red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida

and fry for 5-6 seconds.

Whole spices added to the pan.

Add 1 cup of finely chopped onions and fry until it turns slightly brown (6-8 minutes), stirring frequently.

Onions added to the pan.

Add 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste and fry until the onions are nicely browned (6-8 minutes), stirring frequently.

Ginger garlic paste added to the pan.

Now add

  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 2 tablespoon roasted besan
  • 1 teaspoon salt

and fry for 10-12 seconds.

Spice powders and besan added to the pan.

Add 1 cup of grated tomatoes and 2-3 green chilies (slit into half) and cook until the oil starts to separate from the sides of the pan (3-4 minutes), stirring frequently.

Tomatoes and green chilies added to the pan.

Now add 1 cup of water, fried paneer pieces, and 2 tablespoon crushed Kasuri methi and mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times in between.

Water, fried paneer and kasuri methi added to the pan.

Finally, add 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice and 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro and mix well.

Check for salt and add more if needed.

Lime juice and cilantro added to ready paneer masala.

Serve hot with roti.

Ready dhaba style paneer masala.

Pro Tips By Neha

Use the best quality paneer to make this dish. In India, you get paneer easily, but if you live in the US, Indian stores carry it all the time. Local stores like Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc., have also started stock paneer.

Grind the masala to a fine paste to make the gravy silky smooth. Add the paneer cubes at last.

To add a smoky flavor to this curry, keep a steel bowl in the center of the pan. Keep a piece of red hot charcoal in the bowl and drizzle a teaspoon of ghee over it. Close the lid immediately and let the curry absorb the smoke for 10 minutes.

Once it is ready for a richer flavor, you can add unsweetened heavy cream (malai, fresh cream) to the paneer masala gravy.

You can also add cashew nut paste for a richer flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to make paneer at home?

To make paneer at home, bring 1 liter of whole milk (full-fat milk) to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and add 2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar to the milk.

Let it rest for 5 minutes. Now strain the curdled milk in a cheesecloth and press it with a heavyweight to drain extra water. Rest it for 1-2 hours until the paneer is set. Now cut the paneer into cubes and use it as required.

How to make vegan paneer masala?

To make a vegan curry, replace ghee with oil and paneer with tofu. All the other ingredients are vegan-friendly.

How to make this curry gluten-free?

To make this curry gluten-free, skip adding asafetida.

Is paneer masala same as paneer tikka masala or paneer butter masala?

No, they are very different from each other.

Paneer masala is a simple spicy and robust curry made using simple everyday spices, onions, and tomatoes.

Paneer Tikka Masala is a variation of the classic Chicken Tikka Masala, where marinated and grilled paneer cubes are cooked in spiced tomato-based gravy. The dish usually begins with marinating paneer cubes in a mixture of yogurt and spices like chili powder, cumin, coriander, garam masala, etc. The marinated paneer is then skewered and grilled in an oven or tandoor until it gets a smoky and charred flavor. The tikka (grilled paneer) is then added to a tomato-based gravy with onions, ginger, garlic, and spices to finish cooking. This dish has a distinct smoky and tangy flavor due to the grilled paneer.

Paneer Butter Masala, also known as Paneer Makhani, is a rich and creamy dish made with paneer cooked in a buttery tomato-based gravy. Unlike regular Paneer Masala, this dish typically contains generous amounts of butter and cream, giving it a luxurious and smooth texture. The gravy is made with tomatoes, onions, cashews, and a blend of aromatic spices. Once the gravy is prepared, paneer cubes are added and simmered until they become tender and soak up the flavors. This dish is a popular and indulgent choice in Indian restaurants.

Serving Suggestions

Serve Paneer Masala with Indian bread such as Phulka, Plain Tawa Paratha, Lachha Paratha, Naan, Tandoori Roti, or any other bread you prefer.

This curry tastes great with Steamed White Rice, Jeera Rice, Peas Pulao, or lightly spiced pulao. Serve some sliced onions and papad on the side.

Storage Suggestions

Paneer Masala will last in the fridge for 3 to 4 days when stored in an air-tight container. Reheat it in a pan or microwave.

If you think it has become a little dry, add a little water, mix it well, and heat until nice and warm.

You can also freeze this curry. Freeze the curry without adding paneer in an air-tight container for up to 2 months. Once ready to serve, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, reheat it in a pan or microwave, add freshly pan-fried paneer pieces, and serve hot.

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Dhaba Style Paneer Masala is an easy-to-make curry where paneer cubes are simmered in an onion-tomato-based spicy gravy. It can be paired with Indian bread or jeera rice (vegetarian, can be easily made gluten-free).
3.91 from 31 votes

Easy Dhaba Style Paneer Masala Recipe

Dhaba Style Paneer Masala is an easy-to-make curry where paneer cubes are simmered in an onion-tomato-based spicy gravy. It can be paired with Indian bread or jeera rice.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients 

For Marinating Paneer

  • 14 ounces paneer (400 g, cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons oil

For The Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 green cardamoms (hari elaichi) (crushed)
  • 2-3 cloves (laung) (crushed)
  • 5-6 black peppercorns (kali mirch) (crushed)
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon stick (dalchini) (crushed)
  • 3-4 whole dry red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida (hing)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 2 tablespoons roasted besan (chickpea flour, gram flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 cup grated tomatoes
  • 2-3 green chilies (slit into half)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed Kasuri methi
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (fresh coriander leaves)
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Instructions 

Marinate The Paneer

  • Rinse paneer slabs and cut them into 1-inch pieces.
  • Mix the paneer pieces with salt, chili powder, and turmeric powder in a large mixing bowl and keep aside for 15 minutes.

Fry The Paneer

  • Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
  • Arrange the paneer on the pan in a single layer and fry from all sides until browned.
  • Note – Fry in batches if the paneer pieces are not fitting in a single layer.
  • Remove the paneer from the pan and keep it aside.

Make The Curry

  • Add oil and ghee to the same pan and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Once the oil is hot, add cardamoms, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon, dry red chilies, cumin seeds, and asafetida, and fry for 5-6 seconds.
  • Add onions and fry until it turns slightly brown (6-8 minutes), stirring frequently.
  • Add ginger garlic paste and fry until the onions are nicely browned (6-8 minutes), stirring frequently.
  • Now add coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin powder, garam masala powder, besan, and, salt, and fry for 10-12 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes and green chilies and cook until the oil starts to separate from the sides of the pan (3-4 minutes), stirring frequently.
  • Now add 1 cup of water, fried paneer pieces, and Kasuri methi, and mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times in between.
  • Finally, add lime juice and cilantro and mix well.
  • Check for salt and add more if needed.
  • Serve hot with roti.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

You can easily double or triple the recipe as per your requirements.
Use the best quality paneer to make this dish. In India, you get paneer easily, but if you live in the US, Indian stores carry it all the time. Local stores like Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Food, etc have also started to stock paneer these days.
Homemade paneer is naturally soft, but if you are using store-bought paneer which is a bit hard sometimes, add it to a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes. Squeeze and use in the recipe.
I have used a combination of both oil and ghee to make this paneer masala curry. You can use either of these or even butter. You can also make this curry in mustard oil or olive oil.
To make the gravy silky smooth, grind the masala to a fine paste. Add the paneer cubes at the last.
To add a smoky flavor to this curry, keep a steel bowl in the center of the pan. Keep a piece of red hot charcoal in the bowl and drizzle a teaspoon of ghee over it. Close the lid immediately and let the curry absorb the smoke for 10 minutes.
You can add unsweetened heavy cream (malai, fresh cream) to the paneer masala gravy once it is ready for a richer flavor.
You can also add cashew nut paste for a richer flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 542kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 47g, Saturated Fat: 31g, Cholesterol: 85mg, Sodium: 433mg, Potassium: 387mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 1220IU, Vitamin C: 68.9mg, Calcium: 546mg, Iron: 2.4mg
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Recipe Rating




7 Comments

  1. Tried it pakka spicy and achieved what i looked for !! Thanks for helping to make my first paneer masala perfect.

  2. 5 stars
    Hello bhabhi,
    I love cooking but for the first time in my life i made paneer masala and the moment was so surreal for me when everybody said it’s delicious,i am glad that i followed your recipe❤️