Paneer butter masala recipe – Learn how to make the best restaurant style paneer butter masala at home. Paneer butter masala is one of the most popular vegetarian dishes from Indian cuisine. Isn’t it fun to recreate restaurant style dishes at home? I found this best paneer butter masala recipe years ago in one of the cookbooks in a library. I tried it and then made this for years and my entire family got hooked to this dish.
I love simple recipes and easy cooking that calls fewer ingredients and fewer steps to follow. This restaurant style paneer butter masala recipe is always a winner for its simplicity & amazing taste.
What is paneer butter masala?
Paneer butter masala also known as butter paneer is a restaurant style rich, creamy and delicious paneer dish prepared using butter. It is one of the most popular dishes in Indian restaurants similar to kadai paneer, palak paneer, matar paneer and malai kofta.
Are paneer butter masala & paneer makhani same?
No, Just like Chicken butter masala and Chicken makhani (Butter chicken) are different & not the same, even paneer butter masala and paneer makhani are different. Though both are cooked in butter with similar ingredients they are not the same. But some restaurants use the terms interchangeably.
Paneer butter masala is a restaurant derived dish and there is no one particular way it is made across India. Each restaurant follows their own method & a set of ingredients. Example – onions, poppy seeds, melon seeds, cream etc. That’s why no 2 restaurants serve the same tasting paneer butter masala.
Paneer makhani on the other hand is a dish made with specific ingredients tomatoes, cashews and cream. It does not make use of ingredients like onions, poppy seeds or melon seeds. You can check the recipe of Paneer makhani here.
Can I make paneer butter masala without onion & garlic?
This paneer butter masala recipe uses onion, that’s how it is different from the paneer makhani which is usually made without onions. You can also make this paneer butter masala without onion and garlic, just skip them and follow the recipe. You will need to add in a bit more of cream.
The only thing you would miss is the amount of gravy. Yes recipes that don’t use onions yield lesser gravy.
Tips to make the best paneer butter masala
1.Always use red ripe tomatoes. Avoid unripe or tomatoes that are partially ripe since they alter the taste of the dish.
2.Onions are used to naturally sweeten the gravy. They also help to balance the tang from the tomatoes. If you prefer to skip onions, then balance the tang by adding more cashews or cream.
3.This paneer butter masala recipe needs blanching or sauteing the onions & tomatoes in oil first. Then spice powder are also added & briefly sauteed. This step is the key to make the gravy more aromatic.
4.This mixture has to be blended to a very smooth puree. If you do not have a powerful blender then it is good to pass the puree through a strainer. Remember the puree has to be smooth.
5.To get the deep red or orange color, use a good red chilli powder or paprika powder. Also choosing red ripe tomatoes will enhance the color.
6. Most times I use this homemade paneer to make paneer butter masala. Use good quality paneer from a reliable brand otherwise paneer may turn hard, chewy or rubbery.
7. If using store bought paneer, keep them immersed in hot water for 10 to 15 mins. To do this just boil 1½ cups and add the paneer to it. After 10 to 15 mins, drain the water and set aside.
8. Avoid cooking paneer in the butter masala for too long. I generally add it to the gravy. Stir and cook covered for 2 to 3 mins. Immediately remove to a serving bowl. If you have added to hot water then cooking for just a minute is sufficient.
How to make paneer butter masala ahead?
You can make the gravy ahead. Do not add paneer & cream to it. Cool completely & refrigerate as needed in a air tight glass container. When you prefer to consume it, heat the gravy with 2 to 3 tbsps water until it bubbles very well. Cook for 2 mins.
Then add paneer & cream. Cook just for 2 mins and garnish your paneer butter masala with more cream & coriander leaves.
How to make this recipe vegan?
This recipe can be made vegan easily by substituting paneer with firm tofu. Use vegan butter & vegan cream.
Can I use this recipe to make butter chicken?
I do not suggest using a vegetarian recipe to make butter chicken. The amount of spices used in vegetarian recipes is much less than what is needed to make a chicken recipe. The method also varies a lot.
Restaurant style paneer butter masala
Paneer butter masala
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
Ingredients for gravy or sauce
- 1 tbsp Oil
- 2 green cardamoms or elaichi
- 1 cup onions cubed, 3 medium (optional)
- 1½ cups tomatoes finely chopped (3 large)
- ¼ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
- ¾ tsp sugar (optional)
- 12 cashew nuts
- ½ to ¾ tsp red chilli powder kashmiri (adjust for best color)
- ¾ to 1 tsp garam masala powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder (or daniya powder) (optional)
- 1 small bay leaf (or tej patta)
- 1 inch cinnamon piece (or dalchini) (optional)
- 2 green cardamom (or elaichi) (optional)
- 2 to 3 cloves (or laung) (optional)
For paneer butter masala
How to make the recipe
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add 2 green cardamoms. Then add 1 cup cubed onions & fry stirring often until transparent or pink. Next add 1½ cup tomatoes & ¼ tsp salt. Fry for 3 minutes. Cook covered till the onion tomato mixture turns soft & mushy.
- Next add in ¾ to 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp coriander powder, 12 cashew nuts, ½ to ¾ tsp red chili powder & ¾ tsp sugar (optional). Fry this till the onion tomato masala leaves the sides of the pan. Turn off the stove.
- Cool this completely. Transfer to a blender with 1 cup water and puree to a really smooth mixture. Set this aside.
How to make paneer butter masala
- Heat 1½ tbsp butter in the same pan. Fry 1 inch cinnamon, 2 to 3 cloves, 2 green cardamoms & 1 small bay leaf for 1 to 2 minutes. On a low flame saute 1½ tsp ginger garlic paste till the raw smell goes away. Do not burn this as it will leave a bitter taste.
- Pour the blended onion tomato puree, then add ¼ tsp red chili powder (optional to adjust the color). If the onion tomato puree is not smooth, then filter it through a colander. Mix well. If needed pour ¼ to ½ cup of water good enough to make the paneer butter masala gravy.
- Cover & cook until the gravy thickens & traces of butter or oil is seen on top. Let the gravy reach the desired consistency. Lower the flame completely, then add 200 to 250 grams paneer & ½ tsp crushed kasuri methi. Mix & cook covered on a low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour 2 tbsps cream & mix.
- Transfer paneer butter masala to a serving bowl. Garnish with 1 tbsp cream & 2 tbsps coriander leaves.
Video of paneer butter masala recipe
I get queries from readers on how to keep the paneer soft in paneer butter masala so sharing the tip but I usually do not follow the step 1.
1.If using store bought paneer, then heat 1½ to 2 cups water in a small pot. Then add the paneer cubes to it. Allow to rest for about 15 to 20 mins. Then drain the water and set aside. This will soften the paneer.
2. You can either blanch the onions and tomatoes or will have to saute them. Sometimes onion paste lends a bitter taste. So blanching or sauteing is very much needed. I go ahead sauteing as it gives a nice flavor.
Frying onions & tomatoes
Add 1½ tsp oil to a hot pan. Add 2 green cardamoms. Saute 1 cup cubed onions on a medium flame until they turn lightly pink in color. This takes just 3 to 4 minutes.
If you do not have ginger garlic paste then you can fry chopped ginger and garlic for 1 min. Next fry the onions.
3. Transfer 1½ cups finely chopped tomatoes and sprinkle some salt. Again fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Then cover and cook till mushy.
4. Add ½ to ¾ tsp red chili powder, ¾ to 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp coriander powder (optional), 10 to 12 cashews and sugar if using.
5. Fry till the onion tomato mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan. You will begin to get a nice aroma of the mix. Turn off the stove.
6. Cool it completely and add it to a blender along with 1 cup of water. Blend the tomato cashews mixture to smooth puree. To speed up the process, I added ice cold water to the jar first and then transferred the mix.
7. Blend to a very smooth & silky paste, adding little more water if needed.
How to make paneer butter masala
8. Heat the pan on a low flame with 1 ½ tbsp butter.
9. Add 2 cardamoms, 1 bay leaf, 1 small cinnamon piece and 3 cloves. You can also skip the spices but they add a good aroma. Fry till they are lightly roasted just for a minute.
10. Add 1½ tsp ginger garlic paste and saute until the raw smell goes off. If the raw smell of ginger garlic doesn’t go away or it gets burnt the entire dish will spoil. So take care to fry this on a low to medium flame until the raw smell goes off.
11. Next add the pureed onion tomato mix, little more red chili powder. You can skip the chili powder since it is used only for color. If you are not using onion in this recipe, then also you can skip using red chili powder now.
If the mixture is not very smooth and silky, I suggest using a filter or colander to strain the mixture. Pass the cashew tomato puree through a colander or sieve.
12. Stir well. If needed pour ¼ to ½ cup water to bring it to the desired consistency.
13. Cover and cook on a medium flame until the gravy turns thick.
14. When the paneer butter masala gravy is done you will see traces of fats over the gravy. This is the color you may get. Open the lid and cook until the gravy turns thicker.
15. Make sure the gravy reaches the desired consistency then add paneer and kasuri methi. If you add it while the gravy is still runny, the gravy has to be cooked for longer. This will result in the paneer turning harder.
16. Stir well. On a low flame cook covered just for 1 to 3 minutes. Cooking for longer can make the paneer harder. Add 2 to 3 tbsp. cream and stir.
You should get this thick creamy texture as you see in the picture below.
Transfer paneer butter masala to a serving bowl. You can add 1 tbsp cream, also finely chopped coriander leaves or ginger julienne for garnish.
Serve paneer butter masala with Jeera rice, chapathi, roti, naan or evenw ith plain basmathi rice.