This easy Paneer Butter Masala recipe makes a quick and tasty Indian curry. Paneer cheese is simmered in a creamy cashew-based sauce. It is coconut-free and flavored with a few simple Indian spices. It's ready in just 25 minutes.
Paneer Butter Masala is a creamy, tasty and not-too-spicy Indian dish.
It's ready in just 25 minutes with no long list of spices. Just garam masala, ground cinnamon and mild chili powder, plus dried fenugreek if you have some!
The pan-fried paneer cheese is enveloped in a bed of thick, creamy and lightly spiced sauce. This results in a fragrant and tasty dinner the whole family will love.
Masala curry is typically a creamy gravy that’s thick, tomato-based and pairs perfectly with proteins and vegetables.
It’s one of the most popular dishes for Indian takeout (also called Paneer Makhani and very similar to Shahi Paneer).
It gets more flavorful over time making it a great restaurant-style dinner to make in a large batch.
This recipe uses Paneer as its main protein source. The pan-fried Indian cheese adds a wonderful taste and texture to the quick curry recipe.
This is a vegetarian curry recipe that even meat-eaters will love, due to the delicious sauce and the wonderful texture of the paneer.
What Is Paneer Cheese?
Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese that’s made using cows milk (or sometimes buffalo milk), that's curdled using vinegar or lemon juice. The liquid is then pressed out leaving a dense cheese that is used in Indian cooking.
It has a mild taste and doesn't melt when heated, so it's perfect for adding to a curry. You can make your own Paneer cheese or you can purchase it from an Indian shop, larger grocery store or Indian corner store.
Now, if you're wondering what to cook with paneer, it's this incredible curry!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Making Paneer Butter Masala from scratch at home allows you to control the ingredients keeping them healthy and free of any MSG or preservatives.
Paneer Butter Masala is a tasty vegetarian curry.
It's an easy restaurant-style curry that's ready in just 25 minutes!
This curry has a rich deep flavor without it being too spicy. You can customize the spice level to your liking by choosing how much chili powder you use which makes it suitable for kids.
This dish can easily be made vegan by using coconut milk and tofu instead of the paneer.
Cashews blended into the sauce make a thick sauce with a nutty and naturally sweet flavor.
Cheese curry sounds unusual, but is super tasty!
All of the spices in this dish are ones you can find at any regular grocery store. This makes it a great option to add to your weeknight dinner rotation.
When combined, the spices and flavours of the paneer masala get deeper over time which makes wonderful leftovers for lunches throughout the week.
Sure, there are Paneer Masala recipes from Hebbars Kitchen and Sanjeev Kapoor. However, my version is just as tasty but has less butter to make it a little healthier, as well as simpler ingredients that are easier to find in American, Australian and UK grocery stores. Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is wonderful in this dish, but can be hard to find so feel free to leave it out.
For the Paneer Masala:
- Raw Cashews - Soaked raw cashews make a beautifully creamy sauce when blended which adds a silky smooth texture to the curry.
- Paneer Cheese - You’ll need to make this or purchase it and cut into bite sized squares which adds flavor, texture and protein. Find it in the dairy section of major grocery stores.
- Ginger, Garlic & Onion - These 3 aromatic vegetables infuse the dish with spicy and savory flavor.
- Butter - Use this to saute the onion, ginger and garlic. It helps bring out the flavour of the veggies and gives the curry a buttery flavour.
- Ripe Tomatoes - Give the curry it’s classic red/orange colour as well as acidity.
- Spices - You’ll need some garam masala, cinnamon, chili powder and salt to flavor this curry and add authentic Indian taste. Dried fenugreek (kasuri methi) is tasty added at the end, but leave it out if you can't find it.
- Sugar & Salt - Help balance out all the flavors in the dish.
- Heavy Cream - Swirl some on top of the final sauce and simmer for additional creamy texture and flavor.
To Garnish (optional):
- Freshly Chopped Cilantro - Adds freshness and flavor.
- Onion Seeds - Gives the dish a light onion flavor that compliments the onion and garlic in the sauce.
- Chili Flakes - Adds additional spice if necessary.
Step By Step Tutorial
Wondering how to make this paneer butter masala recipe? Follow this step by step photo tutorial, then scroll down to the recipe card for the full ingredients list and method.
SOAK: Prepare the cashews by soaking them in hot water for 15 minutes. If using store-bought paneer, soak cubes of it in hot water for 15 minutes.
FRY: Heat the butter in a large lidded frying pan, then add the onion and saute for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and fry, stirring, for a further 1 minute.
BLEND: Add the onion mixture (and any cooking butter left in the pan) to a food processor or blender, along with the soaked cashews and tomatoes. Process until smooth.
FRY PANEER: Drain the paneer, then heat the oil in the same pan (no need to clean first) over a medium heat. Add the paneer and fry for a few minutes until golden on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
HEAT: Add the blended cashew/tomato sauce to the pan over a medium heat. Stir in the garam masala, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.
SIMMER: Stir in ½ cup water and bring the sauce back to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the cream and paneer and simmer for 5 minutes.
When purchasing cashews, make sure you use raw unsalted as cashews that are already roasted will not absorb water and soften properly.
If your paneer is homemade, there is no need to soak as it will be a soft enough texture to use.
A high speed blender is preferred to blend up the cashews and sauce ingredients to make sure it is creamy without any lumps.
Make sure the cream is the last ingredient added as you don’t want it to separate when the sauce is cooking at a higher temperature.
Traditionally, this dish is finished with a little dried fenugreek (kasoori methi), but if you don't have any, it still tastes incredible without it!
Serve it over a steaming serving of Turmeric Rice.
Make this Easy Naan Bread Recipe in just 15 minutes with 4 simple ingredients. Yeast-free.
If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can use a can of crushed tomatoes in this recipe.
Use tofu, chickpeas or white beans as a Paneer cheese substitute for vegan or vegetarian protein.
You can substitute the cashews with peeled and soaked almonds, however the texture will be less thick.
Ghee can be used in place of both the butter and canola oil.
Gluten-Free: This recipe is gluten free as written but make sure to check your labels on any spices for wheat containing ingredients.
Make It Vegan: This recipe can be made completely vegan by using vegan butter, tofu (instead of paneer) and replacing the heavy cream with coconut cream or coconut milk.
Storing: Store any leftover cheese curry in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Freezing: Paneer butter masala can be frozen in an airtight container or freezer safe bag with the air removed for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
You can keep paneer cheese for 2-3 days if it’s sealed properly. Always inspect before serving.
Yes! You can substitute the heavy cream for the milk of your choice in this curry recipe.
These are all very similar paneer curries. Here are the small differences:
Paneer Butter Masala and Paneer Makhani are essentially the same, with Paneer cheese cooked in a creamy curry sauce made of butter (makhan), tomatoes, cashews, cream, chili powder and garam masala.
Paneer Tikka Masala has a similar gravy, that's a bit less sweet, but the paneer is marinated, put on a skewer and grilled (in a tandoor or home oven) before being added to the sauce.
Shahi Paneer can have saffron, nuts and dried fruit added to the curry gravy and is sometimes made with oil instead of the butter that's found in the Paneer Butter Masala and Paneer Makhani.
Indian Dishes You’ll Love
Paneer Masala (aka paneer makhani) is one of my family's go-to curry night recipes. I hope you love it as much as we do! Check out these other Indian recipes too!
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Paneer Butter Masala
- ¼ cup 35g cashews (unsalted, raw)
- 9 oz 250g paneer, cut into ¾ inch pieces (a firm Indian cheese)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 yellow onion diced
- Thumb-sized piece of ginger peeled and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 4 large ripe tomatoes roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon canola oil or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon mild chili powder or to taste
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream (double cream)
- ½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) Just leave it out if you can't find it in the store.
- Fresh cilantro (coriander), cream, onion seeds, chili flakes
- Soak the cashews in hot water for 15 minutes.
- If using store-bought paneer, soak the cubes in hot water for 15 minutes (no need if using homemade as it’s softer).
- Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large lidded frying pan, then add the onion and fry for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and fry, stirring, for a further 1 minute.
- Add the onion mixture (and any cooking butter left in the pan) to a food processor or blender, along with the soaked cashews and tomatoes. Process until smooth.
- Drain the paneer, then heat the oil in the same pan (no need to clean first) over a medium heat. Add the paneer and fry for a few minutes until golden on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the blended cashew/tomato sauce to the pan over a medium heat. Stir in the garam masala, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.
- Stir in ½ cup (120ml) water and bring the butter masala sauce back to the boil and simmer for 1 minute.
- Stir in the cream, dried fenugreek and paneer and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve the Paneer Butter Masala garnished with a swirl of cream and cilantro/coriander leaves, with rice, naan or roti.
- When purchasing cashews, make sure you use raw unsalted as cashews that are already roasted will not absorb water and soften properly.
- If your paneer is homemade, there is no need to soak it as it will be a soft enough texture to use.
- A high-speed blender is preferred to blend up the cashews and sauce ingredients to make sure it is creamy without any lumps.
- Make sure the cream is the last ingredient added as you don’t want it to separate when the sauce is cooking at a higher temperature.
- Traditionally, this dish is finished with a little dried fenugreek (kasoori methi), but if you don't have any, it still tastes incredible without it!
- Serve it over a steaming serving of Turmeric Rice.
- Make this Easy Naan Bread Recipe in just 15 minutes with 4 simple ingredients. Yeast-free.
- A great dish next to a side of Bombay Aloo Potatoes or some easy baked Vegetable Pakora.
- If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can use a can of crushed tomatoes in this recipe.
- Use tofu, chickpeas or white beans as a Paneer cheese substitute for vegan or vegetarian protein.
- Ghee can be used in place of both butter and canola oil.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors, so is not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietician for special diet advice.