This masala paneer combines tangy paneer cheese and an exquisitely spiced curry cream sauce. Authentic Indian comfort food.
This is hands-down my kids’ favorite paneer (a pressed cheese common in India). They happily eat it with chapatti, naan, or rice, for lunch or dinner. The ingredients are simple and the paneer gives just the right amount of sourness and creaminess—awesome.–Chetna Makan
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 2 medium (6 1/2-ounce) onions finely chopped
- 1 green chile finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 4 medium (4-ounce) plum tomatoes finely chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 14 ounces paneer cut into 3/4-inch (18-mm) chunks or larger
- 1 tablespoon heavy or double cream
- Cilantro leaves for serving (optional)
- In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and cook until deep golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes.
- Add the green chile and garlic and cook for another minute, then stir in the tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the tomatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes.
- Let the vegetables cool slightly, then carefully transfer to a blender and blitz the mixture until smooth.
☞TESTER TIP: If you have an immersion blender, save yourself some dishes and blend the sauce directly in the skillet.
- Return the vegetable mixture to the same skillet over low heat and add the water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes more.
- Stir in the salt, sugar, and all the spices and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the paneer and cook for 2 minutes more. Finally, stir in the cream and serve. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Heat through before serving.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a very versatile recipe. The recipe is very forgiving and flexible. You can adjust the spice level in your choice of chili and curry. It even improves in the fridge overnight.
We have made it twice and with a few tweaks. We omitted the sugar, increased to 4 cloves of garlic, and the double cream to 1/4 cup. We have eaten this masala paneer as a main with chapati, naan, and rice and as a side with white bean burgers. In the future, we’ll double the recipe and make it a pantry staple.
Paneer or no paneer, meat or no meat, I adore all kinds of curries. My eyes just close when I take in their aroma and their incredible flavor—just hand me a piece of bread and I’m ready to dig in. But I tend to “outsource” Indian dinners, so I was a happy camper when I was able to make this tasty masala paneer at home. This recipe was already straightforward and fast, and I had cooked basmati rice and naan in my freezer, so putting dinner on the table was very easy. (If I had no naan on hand, I would have made the Zanzibar Sesame Bread).
It was easy to strategize the steps, too. While the onions browned, I measured and prepped the other ingredients, and while the masala was simmering, I popped the rice in the microwave and naan in the oven.
My go-to tomatoes for any kind of sauce are plum tomatoes as they’re meatier and less watery, and they worked great in this recipe. With more basmati and naan in my freezer, I decided to make a second batch of just the sauce to freeze. When I’m ready for another Indian dinner, all I need to do is add paneer, chicken, or whatever vegetables I have.
The only thing I changed the second time around was that I added the spices with the onions to fry them in oil. (That’s what’s typically done in Indian cooking, yes?) It gave the curry a more complex and deeper flavor for sure. If you love a richer sauce, you could replace the oil with butter or ghee. No heavy cream? I think it can be skipped, or replaced with plain yogurt. Oh, another thing that I noted for next time: making the curry in my 3-quart pan and using an immersion blender eliminated the need to transfer the sauce to another container.
This is a bowl full of comfort. The fluffy cubes of paneer float in a richly spiced sauce you swear must have been cooked for hours. I was concerned adding the spices so late in the process would result in a weak flavor, but one taste proved those worries unfounded. Vegans shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to add this to their repertoire, which I think would be quite successful using tofu in place of paneer and using coconut cream in place of the double cream. I served it with cinnamon and clove pilau with cashew nuts from Meera Sodha’s “Made In India.”
I used 1 tablespoon sambal oelek to stand in for green chile pepper. Everything worked exactly as written, with the exception the onions, which needed much longer to achieve anything close to this color, though a higher heat could probably be used to slightly pan-fry the onions for a golden exterior in that time.
I had some the day it was cooked and some 5 days later. It reheats very well in the microwave. The flavors mellowed a little and I had to correct salt on reheating.
Originally published January 14, 2021