Kadai paneer recipe – Indian cottage cheese or paneer cooked in onion tomato gravy with kadai masala. This dish gets its name karahi or kadhai paneer since it is cooked in a special Indian wok called kadai which is one of the most basic kitchen essentials of Indian Cuisine.
What is kadai paneer?
Kadai paneer is a simple yet amazingly flavourful paneer recipe made by cooking paneer and bell peppers with fresh ground spices known as kadai masala. It is called as kadai paneer since it is cooked in a kadai, an Indian wok.
However the dish can be prepared without a kadai just like the way I cooked it in a regular pan.
Variations of kadai paneer
Kadai paneer can be made to a dry or a gravy dish. I have shared both the methods in this post.
- First one is a restaurant style kadai paneer gravy that turns out to be very flavorful and delicious. It stands out among the other restaurant style paneer dishes for its simplicity and taste. This kadai paneer gravy is good when you are home for a meal.
- Second one is a quick kadhai paneer dry that I often make for the lunch box along with jeera rice & simple vegetable salad. I have shared that recipe in the video below.
How is kadai masala made?
Kadai masala is usually made of coriander seeds, red chilies, cloves, fennel seeds and few other spices. These are dry roasted to bring out the aroma and then ground to a slightly coarse powder.
To make kadai masala, coriander seeds are used in higher quantity than it is used for garam masala. So the simple trick is to use coriander seeds, red chilies & garam masala. In this recipe I went the easy way and used coriander seeds, red chilies & garam masala.
Most garam masala powders have fennel included if yours doesn’t have then use it as well in the recipe.
How to make the best kadai paneer
1. Kadai masala is the key to making a good kadai paneer. So use it as mentioned in the recipe. Do not substitute it with any normal garam masala. This will not yield a good dish.
2. Red chilies : Using good quality dried red chilies that are not too spicy or pungent is important. I usually use kashmiri or byadgi red chilies. Otherwise the dish may turn very spicy with bitter tones.
3. Always saute the powdered kadai masala in oil until it turns fragrant. This is the key to an aromatic kadai paneer.
4. Adding ginger julienne towards the end of cooking infuses a great aroma to the dish. Do not skip this.
5. Using good quality fresh paneer makes a lot of difference to the dish. If you prefer to make your own paneer at home, you can follow this post on How to make paneer. If using store bought immerse the paneer for 15 mins in warm water. Drain and use it.
6. Lastly kadai paneer served in some restaurants get a mild smoky flavor as the bell peppers & onions are tossed on a high flame on large burners. To get similar flavors toss the veggies on the highest flame as mentioned in the recipe. This lends a mild smoky aroma to the dish.
Kadai paneer recipe
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
Ingredients for kadai masala
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds or daniya (can reduce to 1.5 tbsp)
- 4 dried red chilies Kashmiri (or less spicy variety) deseeded
- ½ to ¾ tsp fennel seeds or saunf (optional)
other ingredients for kadai paneer recipe
- 1 cup onions (sliced or chopped, 2 large)
- 1 cup tomatoes (chopped & deseeded 2 large)
- 8 cashew nuts (can substitute with 3 tbsp cream)
- 1 tsp ginger garlic paste or crushed
- ½ tsp red chili powder (optional, just for color)
- ½ to ¾ tsp garam masala
- ¾ tsp kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves
- ¼ tsp salt as needed
- 1 onion Optional (medium, cubed, layers separated)
- ½ cup capsicum or bell peppers cubed
- 250 grams paneer or Indian cottage cheese (roughly 230 to 250 grams)
- ½ to 1 tsp ginger julienne
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves or cilantro chopped finely
- 2 tbsp oil
How to make the recipe
- First powder 4 red chilies,½ to ¾ tsp fennel seeds (optional) and 2 tbsps coriander seeds in a blender. You can blend finely or slightly coarse to suit your liking. Set this kadai masala aside. If using store bought paneer, soak it in 1½ cups hot water for 20 mins. Drain and set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Next saute 1 cup chopped onions & 8 cashew nuts until the onions turn transparent or pink. Add 1 cup chopped tomatoes and saute until completely mushy. Cool this and blend to a smooth paste or puree. Set this aside.
- To the same pan, add 1 tsp oil and heat it. Saute 1 cubed onion and ½ cup capsicum on the highest flame until half done. They must be slightly tender and yet crunchy. This step will give you a restaurant flavor. Add 250 grams cubed paneer and toss for 1 to 2 mins. Set all these aside.
How to make kadai paneer
- Add 1 tbsp oil and heat up the pan again. Saute 1 tsp ginger garlic paste until the raw smell goes off. Next transfer the ground kadai masala and saute for 1 min until it turns fragrant.
- Add the ground onion tomato paste and saute for 2 mins. Next add ½ to ¾ tsp garam masala and ½ tsp red chili powder (optional) If desired. Saute for another 2 mins until the masala turns fragrant.
- Pour ½ to ¾ cup water and salt. Allow it to boil until the gravy thickens and traces of oil appear on top. Then crush and add ¾ tsp kasuri methi. Stir well again.
- Add the sauted paneer, capsicum and onion. Stir well & finally add ½ to 1 tsp ginger juliennes and 2 tbsps chopped coriander leaves. Cover and rest for 2 mins. Transfer to a serving bowl and rest for at least 15 mins to absorb the flavors.
- Enjoy kadai paneer gravy with roti, paratha or jeera rice.
Recipe notes for kadai paneer recipeKadai masala is usually made of coriander seeds, red chilies, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, jeera, saunf, pepper and a small piece of bay leaf. But coriander seeds are used in higher quantity when compared to any garam masala. Kadai masala can be made using all the above mentioned ingredients or can be substituted with any garam masala Plus additional coriander seeds and dry red chilies.
I have shared 2 methods of making kadai paneer. Here is the dry version.
Method 2 – Video of kadai paneer dry recipe
Cube 1 heaped cup onions, chop 1 cup deseeded tomatoes. Cube 1 more onion and half cup capsicum preferably the same size as of paneer. You can use red or green or both. Measure 2 cups cubed paneer approximately about 230 to 250 grams.
1. If you have a ready kadai masala you can skip this one & the next step. Add 2 tbsp coriander seeds and 3 to 4 deseeded red chilies to a blender. Refer notes in the recipe card below to know more about the masala.
2. Pulse it to make a coarse or fine powder to suit your taste. Kadai masala is usually ground to a coarse powder. In this recipe, the it gets cooked well in the gravy, so it does not come in the mouth even if it is made to a slightly coarse powder. Set this aside.
Make onion tomato masala for kadai paneer recipe
3. Heat a pan with little oil on a high flame. Saute 1 heaped cup of cubed onions along with 6 to 7 split cashews until they turn lightly golden.
4. Add 1 cup chopped tomatoes and continue to saute on a medium heat until tomatoes turn mushy and soft. If needed add little salt or cover and cook to fasten the cooking.
5. Cool this completely. Meanwhile you can cube half cup capsicums and 1 more onion. Separate the layers of onions. Set these aside.
6. Add the cooled onion tomatoes to a mixer jar.
7. Blend it to smooth paste without adding water.
How to make kadai paneer recipe
9. Add a tbsp of oil to the pan and heat up on a high flame. To get the restaurant style smoky flavor, use the same pan used for sauteing onion tomatoes earlier. Add capsicum and onions, saute on a high flame just until half cooked (must remain crunchy). Constantly toss to prevent burning.
10. Add paneer, make sure it is not moist before you add. Toss it in the hot pan for 60 to 90 seconds on a medium heat. Less than 2 mins. Do not overcook else the paneer turns hard. Transfer all these to a plate.
11. Add little more oil, saute ginger & garlic paste until the raw smell goes.
12. Add the blended kadai masala and saute it well. We have not roasted the spices earlier so we need to do it well here until it turns aromatic.
13. Add onion tomato puree.
14. Saute it well for about 2 mins. Add half tsp garam masala. I have added half tsp red chilli powder just to bring a good color and this is optional.
15. Next saute well for 2 mins again. Since we have sauteed onions and tomatoes well in the earlier steps, we don’t need to cook till the masala leaves the sides of the pan.
Making kadai paneer gravy
16. Add ½ to ¾ cup water and stir well. Bring this to a boil. I used ¾ cup water.
17. Allow the gravy to bubble well and thicken. Make sure the gravy doesn’t look runny or watery. After boiling it well, you will be able to see traces of oil on top of the gravy. Next towards the end add ¼ tsp crushed kasuri methi.
18. Add the sauteed onion, capsicum and paneer that we has set aside. Turn off the stove.
19. Mix well. Add ginger juliennes and chopped coriander leaves. Cover and set aside for 2 mins. Do not leave on the hot stove since it will continue to cook further. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Allow kadai paneer to rest for at least 15 mins for the paneer to absorb flavors.