Kadai Paneer - the name that we all drool on! Soft paneer cooked with bell peppers, onion, tomato and freshly ground homemade kadhai masala. This restaurant style kadai paneer recipe is delicious, spicy and pairs best with naan and parathas.
Paneer is one of the most common ingredient that goes in most Indian recipes. And to me, it's best companion is capsicum and then green peas.
Now, you can imagine how frequent I am in cooking paneer with both of them. 🙂
What is Kadai Paneer?
Kadai Paneer is a delicious dish of paneer or Indian cottage cheese cooked in onion, tomato gravy with bell peppers and karahi masala.
It is one of the most popular paneer recipes and my favorite! It is that one dish many people frequently order at all Indian restaurant and dhaba.
You must be wondering why the dish name with kadai?
Because, the dish is cooked in special Indian wok called kadai or Karahi.
We use it mainly for stir fries, deep frying, tossing or basic Indian cooking.
However, if you do not have one, not to worry. You can cook it in a simple wok or a regular pan.
Kadai paneer gravy makes an awesome meal menu for weeknight dinners. Pair it with delicious Garlic Naan bread, phulkas or parathas.
Most of the paneer gravies like Paneer Butter Masala, Matar Paneer, Palak Paneer and Paneer Bhurji pairs best with naan bread and makes perfect weeknight as well as weekend dinners.
Homemade Kadai Masala Powder
The key to cooking good kadai paneer is this special spice powder - the kadhai masala.
The unique mix of whole spices give the best of the flavors and aroma to the dish.
This masala has the blend of certain spices. They are whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, dried red chillies and a piece of cinnamon stick.
The ratio of these whole spices plays a key role in giving the unique flavour to the kadai recipes.
You can use this masala for kadhai sabzi, chicken or karahi gosht (mutton or beef) as well.
Do keep in mind that coriander seeds have to be in high quantity. Whereas cumin seeds has to be in ¼ quantity that of coriander seeds.
The amount of dried red chilies is totally up to you to add. But, I would highly recommend you to go for the mentioned quantity for the best result.
Believe me, if you follow this ratio, you will a have fool proof homemade kadai masala recipe with you forever.
Some people like to add fennel seeds to the kadhai masala. So, you can add it if you want to.
But, ideally, it doesn't need fennel seeds at all.
Dry roast the spices until it releases lovely aroma. Then, grind it to a coarse powder.
You can make a big batch of it. Store it in clean airtight container up to a month on counter. It stays good up to 6 months in freezer.
So, to make big batch of kadai masala, increase the ratio in folds and go on ahead.
I always store it in my freezer. So, the extra step of making masala saves so much of time.
Then, cooking kadai paneer takes no time to get to the table, only 20 minutes. 🙂
Tips and Substitutions
Using fresh homemade paneer always makes a huge difference to any dish. The same goes here!
But, you can use the store bought also, no harm! Just remember to do the following.
Either microwave the paneer cubes dipped in water for 2- 3 minutes. Or, soak it in hot water for 5-7 minutes.
For vegan version, consider using tofu instead.
Please do not substitute this masala to any regular masala powder or even garam masala powders.
I would insist on you to make this masala at home and use it. Freshly ground spices adds so much aroma and taste to the Kadai Paneer.
Use good quality dried red chillies to make kadai masala. I prefer using either Kashmiri red chilies or byadgi red chilies.
Try not to use very spicy variety of chilies here. It will ruin the dish adding too much of heat.
As I am using Kashmiri chilies here because it gives both, subtle heat and the bright colour.
I have added green chilli here, but if you want to, you may add 1 or 2 as per the liking.
Bell Peppers, Tomatoes and Onion Cubes
Bell peppers gives life to the karahi paneer. It makes the dish super flavourful and gives a lovely crunch.
Tomatoes and onion cubes gives perfect balance. So, do not miss on any of these things.
The another main element to any kadai dishes. They are incomplete without ginger juliennes.
So, do not skip on this. It adds up to further elate the flavour and the aroma.
Tomato Puree or Paste
Addition of tomato puree gives intense restaurant and Dhaba flavor to kadai paneer. Try adding it!
You can also use tomato paste as well. 1.5 teaspoon of tomato paste is good to go with 300 grams of paneer.
Sugar or Honey
Any of the two elements gives perfect balance of sweetness.
Cream makes the gravy rich doing only good to the dish. For vegan variation, use cashew cream or coconut cream.
Butter or Ghee
Tiny bit of either of two enhances whole aura of the dish. Skip in case if you are vegan.
A secret to restaurant or dhaba style flavor - Charcoal dhungar
Do you love to enjoy curries at home that tastes exactly like your favourite restaurant or dhaba?
Give the charcoal dhungar to infuse smoky flavor to the dish. And you will never ever regret doing it.
The two simple variations are kadai paneer gravy and kadai paneer dry.
All you have to do is add water as per the amount of gravy you need.
For dry version, skip adding water toss everything on high until every thing mixes well. That's it!
Step by step instructions
Making Kadai Masala
In a pan, add coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks and dried red chilies. Dry roast until it slight brown and releases nice aroma. Do not burn. Photo 1 and 2
Transfer the dry roasted spices into mixer jar and grind it to a coarse powder. Set it aside. Photo 3 and 4
To begin with, an a kadai or pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil. Add onion cubes, tomato cubes, capsicum cubes and fry on high for 1 minute only.
Then, transfer them onto a plate. Set it aside.
Making the gravy
Now, heat oil and butter or ghee together.
Add cumin seeds and then fry for 20-30 seconds.
Then, add finely chopped onions and sauté until soft and pink.
Add ginger garlic paste and ginger juliennes. Fy for few seconds until raw smell goes off.
Then, add the ground or grated tomato and mix. Cook for 2-3 minutes on high heat.
Now, add Kashmiri red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, karahi masala powder and tomato puree. Sauté for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
Add water, and salt. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Or until it starts releasing oil.
Then, add cream and mix, cook for 1-2 minutes.
Now, add the roasted vegetable cubes and paneer cubes, mix.
Add little sugar or honey and cook for 1 minute only.
To give charcoal smoke (Dhungar)
Place small steel bowl or a piece of foil over the gravy. Put hot charcoal in the bowl. Photo 1
Pour a teaspoonful of ghee or oil over the hot coal. Photo 2
Immediately cover the kadai with tight fitting lid and let it rest for 4-5 minutes. This will help in infusing the lovely smoky aroma to the gravy. Photo 3
Finally, open the lid, discard the coal and sprinkle some more ginger juliennes. Photo 4
Dish out and serve kadai paneer with hot naan, phulkas or parathas.
Kadai Paneer Recipe
For Kadai Masala
- 2 tablespoons Coriander Seeds
- ½ teaspoon Black Peppercorns
- ½ tablespoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 inch Cinnamon Stick
- 4-5 Dried Red Chilies (You can reduce it for lesser heat)
- 4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil (divided)
- ¼ cup Onion
- ¼ cup Tomato
- ½ cup Capsicum
- 1 tablespoon Butter Or Ghee
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- ½ cup Onion
- 1½ teaspoon Ginger Garlic Paste
- 1 teaspoon Ginger Juliennes
- ¾ cup Tomato
- 1½ teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
- 1½ teaspoon Coriander Powder
- ¾ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 3 tablespoons Tomato Puree
- 100 ml Water (You may add more for extra gravy or reduce for dry version)
- Salt To Taste
- 3 tablespoons Cream
- 300 gms Paneer
- 1 teaspoon Sugar or Honey
To make kadai masala
- In a pan, add coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks and dried red chilies.
- Dry roast until it slight brown and releases nice aroma. Do not burn.
- Transfer the dry roasted spices into mixer jar and grind it to a coarse powder. Set it aside.
Frying the vegetables
- To begin with, in a kadai or pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil.
- Add onion cubes, tomato cubes, capsicum cubes and fry on high for 1 minute only.
- Then, transfer them onto a plate. Set it aside.
How to make kadai paneer
- Now, heat oil and butter or ghee together.
- Add cumin seeds and then fry for 20-30 seconds.
- Then, add finely chopped onions and sauté until soft and pink.
- Add ginger garlic paste and ginger juliennes. Fy for few seconds until raw smell goes off.
- Then, add the ground or grated tomato and mix. Cook for 2-3 minutes on high heat.
- Now, add Kashmiri red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, kadai masala powder and tomato puree. Sauté for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
- Add water, and salt. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Or until it starts releasing oil.
- Then, add cream and mix, cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Now, add the roasted vegetable cubes and paneer cubes, mix.
- Add little sugar or honey and cook for 1 minute only.
To give charcoal smoke (Dhungar)
- Place small steel bowl or a piece of foil over the gravy. Put hot charcoal in the bowl.
- Pour a teaspoonful of ghee or oil over the hot coal.
- Immediately cover the kadai with tight fitting lid and let it rest for 4-5 minutes. This will help in infusing the lovely smoky aroma to the gravy.
- Finally, open the lid, discard the coal and sprinkle some more ginger juliennes.
- Dish out and serve hot kadai paneer with naan, lachha parathas or phulkas. Serve some onion rings or salad on the side.
Hi, can I make this recipe a day in advance? Thank you…
Yes, you can make it a day in advance.
Tried the recipe. It turned out delicious and the whole family loved it. I adjusted the chillies. Thank you for sharing.
Hi Farrukh, thanks for sharing this recipe, Kadahi paneer , my all time favorite , your recipe made it so special, every body loved it and I received so much appreciation ❤all thanks to you dear 😊
This is absolutely the best! I made the kadai masala using 4 dried chipotle (smoked jalapeño) peppers, to give a little smoky flavor, but I could have used 5. The ingredients for the gravy lists capsicum, which I translated to mean sweet pepper; I used a green bell pepper. There is no amount specified for the kadai masala, and I used 1 1/2 teaspoon. And instead of cream I used evaporated milk. I love the paneer soaked in hot water first, this makes it very tender. Thank you!
I tried kadai paneer,it turned out amazing, thanks for sharing your recipes.
I couldn’t find the Shahi Paneer recipe page, few months back I tried it and it was the best paneer I ever had. Would you please share it again🙏🏻
Thank you very ,much for your lovely feedback.
Yes, I have taken down the shah paneer post as I will be updating it again with the video and post soon In Shaa Allah. 🙂
This recipe came out so well. Everyone loved it, in my family. Thank you. 🙂
Puneet kumar kain
It was really amazing, now I am one great chef at home. She loved the spices and mild sweets in the kadai paneer!
Thanks for sharing it!
This reminds me of my mothers food. Going to make this soon and enjoy with family.
Thank you so much, your words made my day.:)
i must say, its indeed a fail proof recipe, everybody loved it. my go to recipe now. Saving it !