Paneer Jalfrezi is a vegetarian take on the “Jalfrezi”, a classic curried dish popular in the UK. This quick dish is made with paneer, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes & spices. A tempering of cumin (jeera) with sautéed aromatics and a generous sprinkling of spices completes this delicious stir-fry recipe. Paneer jalfrezi is a perfect side for your Naans, rotis, simple Jeera Rice, or even a bowl of steaming aromatic rice like basmati or jasmine.
What is Jalfrezi?
While Jalfrezi is considered the second most popular curry in the UK, the dish has a Bengal and colonial India origin story. Food historians believe that jalfrezi (the original curry) was born out of the necessity to use leftover roasted meat in the absence of refrigeration.
Jhal in Bengali means hot & spicy while Frezi is literally stir fry. This curry dish is a unique mix of Indian and Chinese cooking styles but was invented for the British homes. The dish is prepared with locally available vegetables & spices but stir fried using a high heat technique, introduced to the local Bengalis by the Chinese immigrants.
So Jalfrezi is a stir fry made with meat, fish or cottage cheese, vegetables along with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, chili and spices. A prominent feature of a good jalfrezi is the crunchiness of its vegetables.
While the modern, meat-based jalfrezi is made with fresh stir fried meat, you have vegetarian versions too. A popular one being this paneer jalfrezi.
About Paneer Jalfrezi
Paneer Jalfrezi is a quick and easy to make Indian dish that comes together in less than 30 minutes. Aromatics like onion and ginger are sautéed with cumin seeds in hot oil. The addition of pureed tomatoes follows a quick stir fry with spices, bell peppers, and any other vegetable you choose to add.
Lastly paneer and kasuri methi are tossed in the flavorsome spicy and hot stir fry. How easy right?
Paneer jalfrezi is a good mix of protein and nutritious veggies. When you combine this with a wholegrain main dish, it makes a balanced lunch or dinner meal.
This tasty dish complements any mains from flatbread to cooked grains. Serve it with cooked rice, pulao, biryani, roti, naan, paratha or chapati.
Jalfrezi is a semi-dry dish and you won’t have tons of gravy/sauce. So this also makes a great filling for your wrap and sandwiches. On occasions, I have also made kathi rolls and sandwiches with these filling. You will need some salad veggies like cucumber, zucchini, onions and carrots when you assemble them.
A versatile recipe, it can be adapted into a vegetable jalfrezi where you sub paneer with mixed vegetables. I often make a boiled egg jalfrezi when we get tired of the paneer version.
Vegans who need to avoid dairy can use tofu or try my kabuli chana jalfrezi. Use boiled chickpeas as the protein base and follow the standard recipe steps.
How to Make Paneer Jalfrezi (Stepwise Photos)
1. Wash and chop 2 large tomatoes (about 1¼ cups chopped). Add them to a blender and make a smooth puree.
2. Set aside tomato puree. Slice 1 large capsicum / bell peppers. I used 2 halves of red and green here. Also slice 2 medium onions (about 1 cup). Slit and deseeded 1 green chili. Set aside 1½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste. If using store bought paneer, soak it in slightly hot water for 10 mins. Remove and cut lengthwise to finger size (2 inches).
Temper & Stir Fry
3. Add 1½ tablespoon oil to a hot pan. Add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds to hot oil. Let them splutter.
4. Add green chilli and onions. Stir fry on a high heat just until transparent.
5. Add ginger garlic paste. Freshly ground paste works better.
6. Fry until the raw smell goes away, for 50 to 60 seconds.
7. Add tomato puree and stir fry on a slight high heat.
8. Add ⅓ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon turmeric, ½ to ¾ teaspoon red chilli powder, 1 to 1 ¼ teaspoon garam masala. If your garam masala is too strong then add ¾ teaspoon garam masala & ½ teaspoon coriander powder.
9. Mix well and stir fry until the raw smell of tomatoes goes away.
Make Paneer Jalfrezi
10. Add bell peppers.
11. Stir fry until the peppers are slightly tender, yet crunchy. Taste test and adjust salt and spice at this stage. If you want you can add 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon vinegar at this stage. Avoid adding vinegar if your curry tastes sour.
12. Add 250 grams paneer. Mix everything gently to coat the paneer with the masala. Be gentle else paneer may break. Cook covered on a low heat for just 2 minutes. I also added 1 teaspoon kasuri methi, Just a personal choice. If you don’t want skip that.
13. Add 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves.
Serve paneer jalfrezi with naan, roti or plain basmati rice.
For the best paneer jalfrezi, keep the veggies crunchy. Cook them for a few minutes on high flame until they lose rawness.
To give the dish extra flavor, add one or two tablespoons of the optional tomato paste.
Don’t overcook the paneer else it will dry out and become hard.
Skip the green chili as per your heat and taste preference.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1½ tablespoons oil
- 1¼ cup chopped tomatoes or ¾ cup + 2 tbsp. tomato puree (2 large)
- 1 cup onions , thinly sliced (2 medium onions)
- 1 green chili slit (deseeded for low heat)
- 1½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 cup capsicum (bell peppers sliced)
- 250 grams paneer (about 8 ounce)
- 1 teaspoon vinegar (white or apple cider, optional)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Kasuri methi (optional, but recommended)
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves finely chopped
- Rinse and slice the onions, tomatoes & bell pepper. Slit and deseed green chili. Puree tomatoes and set aside.
- If using store bought paneer, soak it in slightly hot water for 10 mins. Cut to finger length pieces. Set aside.
How to Make Paneer Jalfrezi
- Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds and let them crackle.
- Add onions & green chilli. Fry them until transparent. Add ginger garlic paste & fry for 2 mins until the raw smell has gone.
- Pour tomato puree and cook on a medium high heat until it thickens a bit. Add chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric and salt. Saute until the raw smell of tomatoes vanishes.
- Taste test the sauce and add more salt if needed. Optionally you may add vinegar and sugar. If your sauce is already sour, don't add vinegar, just sugar will be enough.
- Add the bell peppers & stir fry until slightly tender on a high heat. Reduce the heat and paneer.
- Gently stir in to coat the paneer with the masala/ vegetable spice mixture. Crush kasuri methi and sprinkle.
- Cover and cook on a very low heat just for 2 mins. Sprinkle coriander leaves and serve paneer jalfrezi with rice or roti.
- Most jalfrezi recipes use a small amount of tomato paste and it is considered one of the important ingredients in the preparation of this dish. I don’t use it always but there is a difference in the flavor. Tomato paste imparts more flavor. If you want you may use 1 tbsp tomato paste.
- Adjusting the quantity of spices is very important. If tomatoes are too sour, add more spices and sugar to balance the tang.
- Kasuri Methi can be skipped but it does add another layer of flavor to the dish.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Paneer Jalfrezi first published in July 2015. Updated & republished in May 2022.