Kadai Paneer is a vibrant, tangy, deeply spiced paneer recipe that is perfect for enjoying all year round. Made with Indian pantry staples like onions, tomatoes, capsicum (green bell peppers) and Indian spices, this bright dish comes together in 30 minutes. I share two ways to make this curry – a semi dry restaurant style version and a spicy home style gravy.
Table of Contents
More on Kadai Paneer
As the name suggests, Kadai Paneer is a recipe using Indian style cottage cheese. Paneer is a fresh cheese made by curdling milk with lemon juice or vinegar. Unlike American style cottage cheese that is loose and has individual curds, paneer is firm (like tofu), non-melting and can be easily cut into cubes.
The word kadai refers to a humble piece of Indian cookware; a kadai is similar to a Chinese wok, but with steeper sides and more depth. This entire dish is made in the kadai, and thus the dish is named “Kadai Paneer” or “Karahi Paneer”.
Ingredients You Need
Aside from the paneer itself, the three quintessential ingredients added to kadai paneer are: onions, capsicum (green bell peppers) and tomatoes.
A freshly ground spice mixture made from coriander seeds and dry red chillies – known as kadai masala is also added. If you do not have these whole spices to grind at home, you can simply add ground spices like turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala and coriander instead.
That said, the freshly pounded kadai masala does lend a beautifully bold flavor to the recipe – if possible, I recommend you make it fresh.
Kadai Paneer Restaurant Style
Kadai Paneer is one of the easiest and most delicious paneer recipes around. It is a perfect recipe for when you have unexpected guests, or you are too tired or in no mood for an elaborate dish. Seriously, this is one of those recipes you should keep on hand for hectic weeknights!
This restaurant style kadai paneer recipe makes for a semi-dry and mildly spiced curry. It uses a freshly ground kadai masala that is made with whole spices. While many spices are used in the masala, coriander seeds and Kashmiri chiles are the most notable.
I adapted this simple kadai paneer recipe from the cookbook “Prashad – Cooking with Indian Masters” by Jiggs Kalra.
How to Make Kadai Paneer
Make Kadai Masala
1. In a spice-grinder, mixer-grinder or mortar-pestle, take 1.5 tablespoons coriander seeds and 5 to 6 Kashmiri red chilies.
TIP: Tear or break the dry chillies and remove the seeds before you make the kadai masala. Also ensure that your spices are fresh and without any molds or insects.
2. Grind to a semi fine powder or a fine powder if you prefer. Set aside.
Sauté onions, tomatoes & spices
3. In a kadai, heat 3 tablespoons oil. Add ⅓ to ½ cup finely chopped onions.
4. Sauté onions on medium-low to medium heat until they soften and turn translucent.
5. Then add 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste.
6. Sauté for a few seconds till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.
7. Now add 2.5 to 3 cups finely chopped tomatoes. The tomatoes have to be ripe, red and sweet. If tomatoes are not in season, I recommend using canned tomatoes that you pulse in a food processor or finely chopped cherry tomatoes.
8. Mix well and sauté tomatoes for 3 to 4 minutes on a medium-low to medium heat.
9. Then add the ground kadai masala to the tomatoes.
10. Mix well. Sauté the tomatoes till the whole mixture turns into a paste and starts separating from the oil. (This method is called ‘bhunao’ in Hindi.) This tomato kadai masala paste will also begin to thicken and become glossy.
11. Now add ¾ to 1 cup capsicum julienne (thin slices).
12. Sauté the capsicum for 3 to 4 minutes on medium-low to medium heat.
NOTE: You can use red, orange, yellow or green colored capsicum, or a mix of various colored bell peppers can also be added.
13. Add 1 to 2 green chilies or 1 small serrano pepper (slit) and about ½ cup water. Add less or more water as required.
14. Mix very well and sauté until the capsicum is al dente. If you prefer, you can cook the capsicum completely, but I prefer a bit of crunch to the dish.
15. Once the capsicum is cooked to your liking, add garam masala powder and salt as required. Mix these with the rest of the masala.
Assemble Kadai Paneer
16. Now add the paneer cubes (250 grams).
17. Again, mix very well.
18. Lastly add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), ginger julienne (from 1 inch ginger) and 2 tablespoons coriander leaves. Mix again and turn off the heat.
NOTE: If you do not have kasuri methi, then simply omit them. Fresh ginger is a must, so do not skip; it imparts a great deal of fresh, zesty flavor to the dish.
19. Serve Kadai Paneer hot from the pan with roti, naan, Paratha or pudina paratha.
This semi-dry version of kadai paneer tastes good with any kind of Indian flatbreads like naan, roti or paratha; though you can also have it with bread or dinner rolls to sop up the sauce. Serve with a side of onion rings and lemon wedges.
A more innovative idea would be to make grilled sandwiches, toasties or a wrap or Kathi Roll with the restaurant style kadai paneer; they’ll taste awesome! Add some melting cheese to make these warm sandwiches even more tasty.
You could also make a pizza with the semi-dry kadai paneer and mozzarella cheese as toppings.
About Gravy Version
This is spicy and tasty Kadai Paneer recipe has a curry or gravy base. The curry is slightly spicy and tangy than the version of the dry kadai paneer which I have shared above.
NOTE: This kadai paneer gravy recipe uses a lot of tomatoes – so make sure they are ripe and sweet.
The curry variation also includes the kadai masala. As I have mentioned above, the kadai masala made with freshly ground coriander and dry red chillies add a lot of flavor in the dish.
Kadai Paneer Gravy is best eaten with roti, paratha or rumali roti or naan and also with plain steamed rice or cumin rice.
How to make Kadai Paneer Gravy
1. First roast 5 teaspoon coriander seeds and 4 to 5 dry Kashmiri red chilies (seeds removed) in a pan on a low heat till aromatic. Take care not to burn them.
2. When the spices cool, grind both of them in a spice-grinder or mixer-grinder to a semi-fine or fine powder.
Avoid keeping the powder coarse as then the gravy has grits and the masala comes in the mouth while eating.
3. In a pan heat 4 tablespoon butter or oil or ghee (clarified butter). Then add the ginger-garlic paste (1.5 inch ginger, chopped + 7 to 8 medium sized chopped garlic, crushed in a mortar-pestle to a fine paste). Sauté till their raw aroma disappears.
4. Then add 2 medium sized chopped onions (100 grams) and sauté till translucent.
5. Add the freshly ground coriander and kashmiri red chilli powder. Also add 1 to 2 chopped green chillies (about 1 teaspoon chopped chillies).
6. Mix and stir well.
7. Add 2 small to mediums-sized finely chopped tomatoes. Sauté until the tomatoes soften and become pulpy. You will also see oil releasing from the sides of the onion-tomato masala.
When the chopped tomatoes have softened completely, then only add the tomato puree (5 small to medium-sized tomatoes, pureed in a blender).
8. Stir well and continue to sauté till you see oil leaving the sides. About 9 to 10 mins on a low to medium-low heat.
9. Add 1 small to medium sized capsicum (green bell pepper) julienne. Stir and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes on a low to medium flame.
You could add any variety of capsicum or bell pepper – green, yellow or red. Adding a mix of different colored bell pepper look lovely as well as taste great.
10. Add ½ to ¾ cup of water and salt (as required). Continue to simmer for some 7 to 8 minutes. Once the gravy is done, you will some oil specks on the top.
11. Then add ½ tablespoon crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and ¾ to 1 teaspoon garam masala powder. Stir the gravy.
Skip if you do not have the dried fenugreek leaves.
Make Kadai Paneer Gravy
12. Then add 250 to 300 grams paneer cubes or slices. Mix gently.
13. Switch off the heat. Don’t overcook the paneer as then it will become chewy and you won’t get the desired texture in the paneer.
You can also add 2 tablespoons light cream or low-fat cream or 1 tablespoon heavy cream at this step and gently mix the cream in the gravy.
14. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, ginger julienne or grated paneer. Do not skip on either coriander leaves (cilantro) or ginger julienne.
Both add plenty of freshness, especially the ginger hits you with its warm and pungent taste.
Serve kadai paneer gravy with roti, naan, steamed rice or cumin rice or peas pulao or biryani rice.
- No Kadai? No problem. Simply use a frying pan or a wok.
- Homemade Kadai Masala: Coriander seeds and dried red chillies go in the kadai masala, making it aromatic and pungent. You can also add a bit of cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom in the masala if you like.
- Use chili peppers which have low-medium heat. Highly pungent hot chilies will make the recipe too spicy. If you can, I suggest using Kashmiri Red Chillies, as they are low in heat and impart a vibrant orange-red color in the recipe.
If Kashmiri chilies are unavailable, then use any Indian dry red chillies which have a low-medium heat quality. Change the quantity depending on the heat and pungency of the chilies. Since red chilies are added in the recipe, you do not need to add red chili powder.
- How to grind the spices: The spices for kadai masala can be easily ground in a small grinder or a spice grinder. To make the pounding easier in a mortar pestle, dry roast the red chilies and coriander seeds first.
- Use High Quality Paneer: It is always better to use Homemade Paneer whenever possible, though you can use packaged store-bought paneer in a pinch. Read the instructions on the package on how to use the paneer. Frozen paneer cubes need to be soaked in hot water before adding them in the dish.
- Choose Ripe Tomatoes: Use tomatoes which are ripe, red and sweet. Do not use tart, green or sour tomatoes.
- Any Onions Will Do: You can use either red, yellow or white onions.
- Capsicum (Bell Pepper) Color Isn’t Important: Usually, green bell pepper is added in this dish, but you can break the norm and use red or yellow bell pepper. With red or yellow bell pepper, the dish will have nice, subtly sweet tones.
- Don’t Forget a Garnish: Do not forget to garnish your finished kadai paneer with some ginger julienne and fresh coriander leaves!
- Vegan Option: Use tofu instead of paneer and use oil instead of butter or ghee.
About 1 to 2 tablespoons ought to do it, depending on your preferred level of heat.
The spiciness of the masala is directly related to the type of chili you use and the amount of capsaicin it contains. If you want to mellow out the heat, you can add a bit of heavy cream, malai, or dried milk powder to the mix – dairy helps to block capsaicin (the compound that tastes “spicy”) from your taste receptors.
I’ve also found that adding a few spoonfuls of mashed potatoes can help to mitigate the heat, though it’ll change the texture and appearance of the curry a bit.
Caring for your cookware is one of the best things you can do to save money. First, make sure your kadai is properly seasoned. Next, don’t use a scrubber on your kadai, rather use a sponge with detergent.
For very stubborn stains you can mix some baking soda, vinegar and water and heat this solution in the pan itself. Then, using a sponge, wipe the solution over stains or marks. Once the iron kadai is clean and dry, then should be no need to re-season it.
In case food starts sticking or you don’t plan on using your kadai for a while: after you have cleaned and dried the kadai, spread a thin layer of oil prior to storing it. There is no need to heat this oil.
Yes, simply add a pinch or two of asafetida to mimic the allium flavors.
Please be sure to rate this recipe in the recipe card below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Kadai Paneer Recipe (Restaurant Style)
For kadai masala
- 5 to 6 kashmiri red chilies – broken and seeds removed
- 1.5 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 3 tablespoons oil
- ⅓ to ½ cup finely chopped onions – 90 grams or 1 medium-sized
- 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
- 2.5 to 3 cups finely chopped tomatoes – 400 grams or 5 to 6 medium-sized)
- ¾ to 1 cup thinly sliced capsicum or 1 large (bell pepper)
- 1 to 2 green chilies or 1 small serrano pepper – slit
- ½ cup water or add as required
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala
- 250 grams Paneer – cubed (cottage cheese)
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi – crushed (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro leaves)
- 1 inch ginger – julienne
- salt as required
Making kadai masala
- In a spice-grinder or mixer-grinder or mortar-pestle take the coriander seeds and red chilies.
- Grind to a semi-fine powder or fine powder and set aside.
Making kadai paneer
- In a kadai or frying pan, heat oil. Add finely chopped onions and sauté them till they turn translucent.
- Then add ginger-garlic paste. Saute till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.
- Now add the finely chopped tomatoes. Saute tomatoes for 3 to 4 mins.
- Then add the ground kadai masala to the tomatoes.
- Saute the tomatoes till the whole mixture become like a paste and starts to leave oil. The mixture will also look glossy and you will see oil releasing from the sides.
- Now add the capsicum julienne. Saute the capsicum for about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Then add green chilies and water.
- Mix very well and saute till the capsicum is half-cooked.
- Add salt and garam masala powder. Mix these well.
- Next add the paneer cubes and gently stir to combine with the sautéed masala base.
- Lastly add crushed frenugreek leaves, ginger julienne and coriander leaves. Mix again.
- Serve kadai paneer, hot or warm with Indian flat breads – roti, paratha or naan. You can also serve it with a soft bread or fluffy dinner rolls. Remember to serve with a side of thinly sliced onions and lemon wedges.
- You can make grilled sandwiches, toasties or a wrap or roll with the dry kadai paneer. Add some melting cheese when making these warm sandwiches or rolls.
- Another idea is to make a pizza with the semi-dry kadai paneer and mozzarella cheese as toppings.
- Kadai: If you do not have a kadai, simply make the recipe in a frying pan or a wok.
- Kadai Masala: The kadai masala is made with coriander seeds and dried red chillies. A bit of cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom can also be added in the kadai masala.
- Dry Red Chillies: Use dry red chillies which have low to medium heat. Pungent and hot chillies will make the recipe too spicy. If possible add dry kashmiri red chillies since they are not very hot and give a nice orange-red color to the dish. If you do not have Kashmiri chilies, then use any Indian dry red chillies which have a low to medium heat quality.
- Grinding the spices: You can grind the spices for kadai masala in a small grinder or a spice grinder. To make the pounding easier in a mortar pestle, dry roast the red chilies and coriander seeds.
- Paneer: It is better to use homemade paneer. You can even use packaged store-bought paneer. Read the instructions on the package on how to use the paneer. Frozen paneer cubes need to be soaked in hot water before adding them in the dish.
- Tomatoes: Use tomatoes which are ripe, red and with a sweet taste. Do not use very tart or sour tomatoes.
- Onions: Both red onions and white onions can be added in the recipe.
- Capsicum (Bell Pepper): Usually green bell pepper is added in the dish. But you can use red or yellow bell pepper. With red or yellow bell pepper, the dish get nice subtle sweet tones. The capsicum are cut in strips or julienne. The capsicum can also be diced, but making julienne means faster cooking.
- Garnish: Do not forget to garnish with some ginger julienne and coriander leaves. Especially, the ginger julienne impart zesty, warm and pungent notes while eating.
- Vegan Option: Use tofu instead of paneer and use oil instead of butter or ghee.
- Serving Suggestions: The semi dry version of Kadai paneer tastes good with roti or naan or paratha (Indian flat breads). The gravy version pairs well with steamed rice, jeera rice (cumin rice), peas pulao and even roti or naan. Serve with a side of onion rings and lemon wedges.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
Kadai Paneer Gravy (Homestyle)
- 250 to 300 grams Paneer (Indian cottage cheese)
- 1 small to medium capsicum (green bell pepper), thinly sliced
- 1.5 inches ginger and 7 to 8 medium sized garlic- crushed in a mortar-pestle to a paste
- 1 to 2 green chilies – chopped
- 2 onions (medium-sized) – 100 grams, finely chopped
- 7 tomatoes (small to medium-sized) – 500 to 550 grams (2 tomatoes, finely chopped and 5 tomatoes, pureed in a blender)
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- ½ tablespoon crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- ½ to ¾ cup water or add as required
- 2 tablespoons light cream or 1 tablespoon heavy cream – optional
- 4 tablespoons Butter or oil or ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves – for garnish
- salt as required
For kadai masala
- 5 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 4 to 5 kashmiri red chilies – seeds removed – for other variety of dry chilies, reduce to 2 to 4 depending on their heat, pungency
- First roast the coriander and dry kashmiri red chilies in a pan on a low heat till aromatic.
- When the spices cool, grind both of them in a grinder to a semi fine powder. Keep aside.
- Finely chop the onions. Julienne (cut into very thin strips) the capscium/green bell pepper.
- Finely chop 2 tomatoes. Roughly chop 5 tomatoes and add them to the blender. Make a puree of the tomatoes. Keep the tomato puree aside.
- Crush the ginger-garlic to a fine paste in a mortar-pestle.
Making kadai paneer gravy
- In a pan heat butter or oil or ghee. Then add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till their raw aroma disappears.
- Then add the chopped onions and saute till transparent.
- Add the ground coriander and kashmiri red chilli powder that we made. Also add green chilies. mix well.
- Then add the finely chopped tomatoes and sauté till the tomatoes become pulpy and you see oil releasing from the sides of the tomato masala.
- Then add tomato puree.
- Stir well and continue to saute till you see oil leaving the sides. About 9 to 10 mins on a low flame.
- Add the capsicum/green bell pepper julienne. Stir and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes on a low to medium flame.
- Add water and salt and continue to simmer for some 7 to 8 minutes.
- Later add crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and garam masala powder and stir.
- Add paneer cubes or slices. Stir gently. Cook the paneer for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- You can also 2 tbsp of cream toward the end. Just stir the cream gently in the gravy.
- Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and Serve Kadai Paneer Gravy with rotis, naan, steamed rice or jeera rice.
- The gravy is tangy and this comes from the tomatoes. If you prefer to balance the tang, then add some cream towards the end.
- Use fresh red and ripe tomatoes in this recipe. Avoid using tomatoes which are sour.
- The recipe is slightly spicy. Reduce the quantity of red chilies if you don’t want any spiciness.
- The dry Kashmiri red chillies added here, give a nice red color to the gravy accompanied with the tomatoes. Kashmiri chilies have less heat as compared to other varieties of red chilies. If you don’t have Kashmiri chilies, then use any Indian dry red chillies. Simply reduce the quantity depending on the heat and pungency of the chilies.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This kadai paneer recipe post from the archives first published in September 2009 has been republished and updated on 4 December 2021.