Paneer Butter masala is one of the most loved paneer recipe by readers. A mildly spiced restaurant style dish of paneer cooked in tomatoes cashews butter and cream. It’s different and super tasty recipe than the other butter paneer recipes out there, so make it now and enjoy!
Indian dishes like I can surely say that paneer considered as the king in veg dishes at eating joints and restaurants, isn’t it?
After all, any paneer dishes are all time love for we Indians. Like matar paneer, saag paneer, paneer jalfrezi, shahi paneer and so much more. We all love to eat them occasionally or frequently at home.
What is Paneer Butter Masala?
Paneer Butter Masala is also known as Butter Paneer. It is a delicious, rich and buttery dish of Indian cottage cheese tossed in creamy tomato cashew sauce.
This paneer dish is the one of the most demanding vegetarian curry. And, it tastes exactly like the one that is served in Indian restaurants.
The tender paneer cubes are dunked in tomatoes and cashews based mildly sweet gravy. A dash of kasuri methi and fresh cream makes it simply tempting.
This paneer butter masala recipe will never ever fail you. Be it for a quick family meal, dinner parties, or a weekend brunch.
Many people do refer to it as paneer makhani also. There is a very slight difference in the recipe as it is not exactly the same.
But, they both are still similar. They both are cooked in butter or makhan and has the makhani gravy base.
The butter paneer gravy has the base of tomatoes cooked with spices, cashew nuts, which is then pureed.
While paneer makhani has the base of onions, whole spices, seasonings and tomato puree. Whatever is the difference, it really does not matter as far the dish is rich and totally finger licking.
Isn’t it? 🙂
What is Paneer Made Of?
Paneer is a fresh cheese commonly used in South Asian countries like Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is an un-aged curd cheese also known as Indian Cottage Cheese.
The process of making paneer is very simple and we can easily make it at home. We make it by heating the whole milk and then curdle it using other lemon juice or vinegar.
Some people also use curd to curdle the milk. Here is the link to make it at home.
What are the ingredients of paneer butter masala?
Dairy – Paneer, butter and cream
Fresh spices – Tomato, green chilies, ginger and garlic.
Whole Spices – Caraway seeds (Shajeera), cinnamon sticks, bay leaves.
Spice powders – Turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder.
Other ingredients – Kasuri Methi, Salt, Sugar.
Main Tips to make the best Paneer Butter Masala
Use best quality fresh Malai Paneer
Here, I have used fresh homemade paneer cubes. Usually, I make it at home. I understand that it is not always doable, so you can use store bought ones.
Before adding paneer to the gravy, do the following. In a bowl, cover the cubes with water and microwave it for couple of minutes.
Do not have microwave with you? No worries!
You can add paneer to the boiling water and switch off the heat. Let it rest for a 2 minutes, drain the water and use.
Never cook paneer for too long. This will make it chewy and rubbery. So, do not cook it for more than a minute or 2 max.
Chef tip: In restaurants, they never cook too much or for too long time in the gravy.
Once the gravy is cooked, they add the paneer and mix everything, cover the pot and switch off the heat. Always proceed with this step to make any paneer gravy.
Butter and Cream
Add lots of butter, yes! and do not compromise on this. As the name says, make it in BUTTER ONLY.
However, you can use the mix of oil and butter to cook this curry. But, when cooked in butter, it gives authentic, rich the real butter paneer at home.
Both, unsalted as well salted butter will do great, but should be of good quality.
Cream, packed as well as homemade fresh ones can also be used. Do not compromise on or skip it.
The below mentioned measure for both cream and butter works absolutely perfect. Which is really not too much or too little.
As we are in India, usually, I use Amul brand cream only for the gravy purpose. But, you can use any brand cream that you like.
You can also opt to use homemade cream (which we call as malai) as well for the recipe.
Use firm Red Tomatoes
Always, pick up the firm red tomatoes for the best taste. This will give more intense restaurant style flavor to the dish.
You can also choose to add 2 teaspoon of store bought tomato puree as well while cooking the masala.
Any restaurant style rich Indian dishes calls for the addition of nuts. And it can be anything from cashew nuts to almonds, coconut or walnuts etc! Nuts, gives nice rich base to the gravy.
Having said that, never go over board on nuts in the gravy ever. But, do not add it too little to loose the richness of the dish.
Here, we are using cashew nuts in makhani masala gravy.
But, if you are allergic to cashew nuts, then simply swap it with almonds or melon seeds.
If you see, some people use onion in this recipe. I never use onion in paneer butter masala gravy. Whereas, I always use it to make paneer makhani.
But, if you want to, you can use small onion for the below measure. Toss it along with tomato and cashews, then grind it.
If you do not have caraway seeds, you can simply use cumin seeds (jeera) instead.
Green chilies, of course, can be adjusted according to your taste.
Some people add little cardamom also. But I have not used it here.
Never add too many spices. Why? Because, it is a mildly spiced dish. Too much of spices can ruin the taste and essence of the dish.
How to get nice bright orange colour in the dish? Okay! So here, I would strongly insist you to use Kashmiri red chilli powder. This will also help you in abstaining from the use of red food colour.
Finally, comes the Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves). Do not skip on kasuri methi, it gives lovely aroma and flavor to the dish.
Adding little sugar to the gravy gives mild sweetness as well as spark to the gravy.
While making the masala paste, ensure to blend it smooth. This will result in smooth and silky gravy.
Smoking or giving charcoal dhungar
Personally, I love the smoky flavour in my butter paneer gravy. So, at the end once the dish is ready, without fail, I give charcoal dhungar to it.
For the real restaurant or dhaba style version, this step is a must. Proceed with the charcoal dhungar following the steps that I have shown below.
Some of the common FAQ’s
Can we add milk instead of cream in paneer butter masala?
As it is an indulgent dish, cream is an important element here. However, for less richer version, you can add milk instead of cream.
Can we use other cheese in this recipe?
Yes, I love halloumi cheese and it goes great in the gravy. If you do not have paneer available in your part of the world, then swap it with halloumi cheese to make this dish.
Can we make it without onion and garlic ?
For Jain version no onion no garlic paneer butter masala gravy, here is what you need to do.
Just skip garlic from the recipe and proceed with the rest.
Anyway, we have NOT used onion here. So, just skipping the garlic will solve the purpose easily.
How to make it vegan?
Just substitute the paneer with tofu or vegan paneer, and dairy butter with vegan butter.
Also substitute fresh cream with cashew cream or coconut cream. And, vegan tofu butter masala ready for you to enjoy.
Can we freeze it?
The answer is, Yes!
You can freeze paneer butter masala gravy in a clean airtight box in portions. But, then remember not to add cream before you freeze it.
The gravy stays very well for good 4 months in freezer. Before serving, I thaw it well on the counter. Then, reheat it in microwave or on stove top.
Finally, add cream and sugar to give final touch to the dish.
How To Make Paneer Butter Masala
Method 1 – making it on stove top
To begin with, in a pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. While the butter melts, add shahjeera and fry for few seconds. (photo 1)
As the shah jeera is getting fried, then add green chili, ginger and garlic, for few seconds. (photo2)
Once the raw small of garlic goes off, its time to add cashews. So, now add cashew nuts and fry for 30 seconds. (photo 3)
Then, add tomatoes and sauté on for a minute. (photo 4)
Cook until tomatoes are soft. Once the tomatoes are soft and everything cooks well, take it off the heat and cool completely. (photo 5)
After the cooked tomato masala cools off completely, add it to the grinder and blend it a fine paste. (photo 6)
making paneer butter masala gravy
Firstly, heat remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan or kadhai. While the butter melts, add bay leaf and cinnamon stick, fry for few seconds. (photo 7)
Then, lower the heat and add turmeric powder, coriander powder and red chili powder. (photo 8)
Once the spices powders cooks well and raw smell goes off, add kasuri methi, fry for few seconds. Be sure to avoid the burning of masalas. (photo 9)
Now, add the prepared tomato cashew masala paste and salt, saute on high for a minute until everything mixes well. (photo 10)
Cook for 2-3 minutes or until masala starts releasing the oil. (photo 11)
Then, add 1/3 water, salt and then bring it to a boil. Do not add too much water at a time. (photo 12)
Once the gravy start boiling, add cream and mix. Cook for a minute. (photo 13)
Finally, add paneer cubes, garam masala and sugar. Mix well. Cook for only a minute. So if you wish, you may add some kasuri methi if you prefer. It is ready to serve. (photo 14)
Method 2 – Making it in Instant Pot
Switch on the IP and press sauté mode. After the Instant pot displays ‘hot’, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Then, add caraway seeds (or cumin seeds) and fry for few seconds. (photo 1)
Add roughly chopped green chillies, ginger and garlic. Sauté for 30 seconds. (photo 2)
Now, add cashew nuts and sauté for few seconds. (photo 3)
Add roughly chopped tomatoes and fry 30 seconds. (photo 4)
Then, Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, turmeric powder, coriander powder and red chili powder, mix. (photo 5 and 6)
Add kasuri methi, 3-4 tablespoons of water and mix. (photo 7 and 8)
Cancel sauté mode, cover the pot with lid and turn the pressure valve to sealing position. Press ‘manual’ or ‘pressure cook’ and cook for 6 minutes on high. (photo 9)
Once the cooking cycle is complete and IP beeps, carefully turn the valve to venting to do the quick release. Open the pot and discard bay leaves and cinnamon stick. (photo 10)
Blend the masala to a smooth paste using immersion blender. You can also transfer the tomato cashew masala into a blender jar and blend it to a smooth paste.
Switch on the sauté on low, add 1/4 cup water, salt and cream, mix well. Cook for 30 seconds. (photo 11 and 12)
Finally, add remaining 2 tbsp of butter, paneer cubes, garam masala powder and sugar. Gently mix and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute only.
To give charcoal dhungar or smoke
Switch off the IP and unplug it.
Place a small bowl or a piece of aluminium foil on the gravy. (photo 1)
Keep a live charcoal into the bowl.(photo 2)
Add a teaspoon of ghee or oil on live charcoal. (photo 3)
Immediately cover the pot with lid. Let it rest for 5 minutes so that smoky flavours infuses in the gravy well. (photo 4)
After 5 minutes, discard the charcoal. It is ready to serve.
Serve this restaurant style paneer butter masala with any Indian flatbread. i.e. Roti/Phulka, Garlic Butter naan regular or Butter Tandoori Roti, butter Naan, laccha paratha and Roomali Roti.
Without a doubt, the dish goes best with zafrani pulao, plain rice, peas pulao or Jeera rice. Serve some salads on the side or just sliced onion rings and lemon slices.
Some of the best Paneer Recipes you might want to try:
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The recipe has been updated from the archives, it was first published in March 2018.
Paneer Butter Masala
- 4 tablespoons Butter divided
- 1 teaspoon Caraway Seeds (Shajeera) (You can also use cumin seeds)
- 1 Green Chili chopped
- ½ inch Ginger chopped or grated
- 3-4 Garlic Cloves chopped or crushed
- 9-10 Cashew Nuts
- 4 Tomatoes medium sized, ripe and firm, roughly chopped
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 inch Cinnamon Stick
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon Red Chili Powder (I haved used Kashmiri lal mirch)
- 1 teaspoon Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- Water as needed
- Salt To Taste
- 2 tablespoons Cream
- 200 grams Paneer cut in 1 inch cubes
- ¾ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
To give smoke
- Live charcoal or lump coal (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Ghee or Oil
How To Make Paneer Butter Masala on Stove Top
- In a pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add caraway seeds (shajeera) and fry for few seconds. Add green chilies, ginger and garlic, fry for few seconds.
- Add cashew nuts and fry for 30 seconds. Then, add tomatoes and sauté on for a minute.
- Cook until tomatoes are soft. Take it off the heat and cool completely. Grind this tomato cashew masala to a very fine paste.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan or kadhai. Add bay leaf and cinnamon stick, fry for few seconds.
- Lower the heat and add turmeric powder, coriander powder and red chili powder. Add kasuri methi and mix.
- Add ground tomato cashew masala paste, saute on high for a minute. Stir in between. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until masala starts releasing the oil.
- Add 1/3 cup of water, salt and then bring it to a boil. Do not add too much water at a time.
- Add cream and mix, cook for 1 -2 minutes only. Add paneer, garam masala powder and sugar. Mix well. Cook for only a minute.
- Proceed with the step of giving charcoal dhungar for the smoky flavour restaurant or Dhaba like flavour.
Making Paneer Butter Masala in Instant Pot
- Switch on the IP and press sauté mode. After the Instant Pot displays 'hot', melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Then, add caraway seeds (or cumin seeds) and fry for few seconds. Add roughly chopped green chilies, ginger and garlic, sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add cashew nuts and sauté for another few seconds. Add roughly chopped tomatoes and fry 30 seconds.
- Then, add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, turmeric powder, coriander powder and red chili powder, mix. Add kasuri methi along with 3-4 tbsp of water.
- Cancel sauté mode, cover the pot with lid and turn the pressure valve to sealing position. Press 'manual' or 'pressure cook' and cook for 6 minutes on high.
- Once the cooking cycle is complete, carefully turn the valve to venting to do the quick release. Open the pot and discard bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
- Blend the masala to a smooth paste using immersion blender. (You can also transfer the tomato cashew masala into a blender jar and blend it to a smooth paste. And then transfer the masala back to the pot.)
- Switch on the sauté on low, add 1/4 cup of water, salt and cream, mix well. Cook for 30 seconds.
- Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, paneer cubes, garam masala powder and sugar. Gently mix and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute only.
How to smoke or give charcoal dhungar
- Place a small bowl or a piece of aluminium foil on the gravy. Keep a live charcoal into the bowl.
- Add a teaspoon of ghee or oil on live charcoal. Immediately cover the pot with lid. Let it rest for 5 minutes so that smoky flavours infuses in the gravy well.
- After 5 minutes, discard the charcoal.
How To Serve Paneer Butter Masala
- Dish out the the creamy gravy in bowl.
- Garnish with some fresh cream, amd some crushed kasuri methi. You can also sprinkle some fresh corinader leaves.
- Serve it hot with plain or butter tandoori roti, phulka, laccha paratha or naan. plain rice or pulao like jeera rice, peas pulao and even with zafrani pulao.
- It pairs very well with plain rice or pulao like jeera rice, peas pulao and even with zafrani pulao.
- Serve some onion slices, lemon wedges and cucumber carrot salad on the side.