Paneer butter masala With video and step by step photos. Paneer butter masala is a rich and creamy dish of paneer (cottage cheese) in a tomato, butter and cashew sauce (known as makhani gravy). The dish has a lovely tang coming from the tomatoes and is slightly sweet with a creamy and velvety feel to it.
This recipe is an easy, quick and delicious method to make paneer butter masala. Within minutes you can prepare this Restaurant style paneer butter masala at home. Called by various names such as butter paneer or butter paneer masala or paneer makhani this dish is of the most popular Indian paneer dish along with Palak paneer, Malai kofta, Paneer tikka masala and Matar paneer. obviously being so popular it is served in many Indian restaurants.
About this paneer butter masala
Decades back (in some other lifetime!) I would make butter chicken and this paneer butter masala is adapted from that recipe. For the first time, I had learned how to make butter chicken during my home science cooking school days. Later I adapted the same recipe for making paneer butter masala. Plenty of improvisations have happened throughout the years.
- A tried and tested foolproof recipe: this recipe is one of the most popular paneer recipes on the blog and have been made and loved by hundreds of readers. You can read the comments at the end of the post, which has a lot of positive feedback and tips from readers as well as myself.
- Makhani sauce or gravy: the makhani sauce is prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients like tomatoes (specifically pureed tomatoes), cashews and butter. Onions can be added if you want. Though traditionally onions are never added in a makhani gravy.
- Ripe red & juicy tomatoes: Tomatoes are a key ingredient here. So do use tomatoes that are ripe and have a slight sweetness in them. Avoid adding tomatoes that are sour or too tart or unripe.
- Cashews: yet another important ingredient is cashews which imparts a lovely creaminess and sheen in the dish. The sweetness of the cashews also balances the tanginess of the tomatoes. Generally in butter chicken or butter paneer, cream is added. To give a creamy consistency and a sweet tinge, I add both cashew paste and cream.
- Cream: as mentioned above, apart from cashews I also add a bit of cream which thickens the gravy slightly and makes it rich. Though adding cream can be skipped for a less rich version.
- Butter: the amount of butter that is added is not huge but just right in the recipe. Butter makes the curry a bit rich and buttery. Though you can go overboard by adding some more butter.
Making a vegan version
1. Tofu: to make a vegan paneer butter masala, replace tofu with paneer.
2. Vegan butter or oil: add a neutral-tasting oil or vegan butter and skip cream altogether.
3. Coconut cream: you can even use coconut cream, but with coconut cream, the flavors of coconut will be felt in the final dish.
- With the staple Indian bread roti: paneer butter masala gravy has a slightly sweet taste and very mildly spiced. Thus making it an excellent gravy with roti or chapati.
- With other Indian breads: you can serve this dish with naan bread or tandoori roti or plain paratha or pudina paratha or lachha paratha (layered flatbread).
- With rice: it also goes well with steamed basmati rice or jeera rice (cumin rice).
Check out the paneer butter masala video below
How to make paneer butter masala
1. Soak 18 to 20 cashews in ⅓ cup hot water for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. When the cashews are soaking, you can prep the other ingredients like chopping tomatoes, chopping and preparing the ginger-garlic paste, slicing paneer etc.
3. Crush 1-inch ginger + 3 to 4 medium-sized garlic to a paste in a mortar pestle to a semi-fine or fine paste. Keep aside. Don’t add any water while crushing ginger & garlic.
4. After 20 to 30 minutes, drain the water and add the soaked cashews in a blender or grinder. Also, add 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh water or as required.
5. Grind to a smooth paste without any tiny bits or pieces of cashews.
6. Remove the cashew paste in a bowl and keep aside.
7. In the same blender add 2 cups of diced or roughly chopped tomatoes. No need to blanch the tomatoes before blending.
8. Blend to a smooth tomato puree. Keep aside. Don’t add any water while blending the tomatoes.
Making makhani gravy
9. Heat a thick bottomed pan or a heavy pan. Keep the flame to a low or medium-low. Add 2 tablespoons butter OR 1 tablespoon oil + 1 or 2 tbsp butter in a pan. Adding oil prevents the butter from browning too quickly.
10. If using only butter, then keep the pan on a low flame so that the butter does not melt. You can even add 3 to 4 tablespoons butter for a rich buttery version. Both salted or unsalted butter can be added.
10. Keep the flame to a low. Add 1 medium-sized tej patta (Indian bay leaf).
11. Fry for 2 to 3 seconds or till the oil becomes fragrant from the aroma of the tej patta.
12. Add the prepared crushed ginger-garlic or 1 teaspoon ready ginger-garlic paste.
13. Fry for some seconds till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic disappears.
14. Pour the prepared tomato puree. Be careful while adding the puree as it may splutter.
15. Mix it very well with the butter.
16. Begin to cook the tomato puree on a low to medium-low flame. Stir at intervals.
17. The tomato puree mixture will start simmering.
18. In case the tomato puree splutters too much while cooking then cover the pan partly with a lid or cover fully with a splatter lid (channi lid). the tomato puree might splutter if there is more water content in the tomatoes.
19. Do stir at intervals.
20. Simmer the puree for 5 to 6 minutes.
21. Then add 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder or deghi mirch. You can even add ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder or ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper or paprika or any other variety of red chilli powder.
22. Mix well and continue to stir and saute the tomato puree.
23. Saute till the butter starts leaving the sides of the pan and the entire tomato puree mixture comes together as a whole. This entire cooking and sauteing of the tomato puree take about 14 to 17 minutes on a low flame to medium-low flame. Time will vary depending on the thickness of the pan, size, the intensity of flame etc.
24. Now add the prepare cashew paste.
25. Mix the cashew paste very well with the cooked tomato puree and continue to stir and saute on a low to medium-low flame. Stir non-stop after adding cashew paste.
26. Saute till the cashew paste is cooked and again the oil will start to leave the sides of the masala. The cashew will begin to cook fast. Approx 3 to 4 minutes on a low flame. So keep on stirring non-stop.
27. Next add 1.5 cups water.
Making paneer butter masala
28. Mix the water very well with the tomato-cashew makhani masala. If there are lumps of the tomato-cashew masala, then break with a spoon. You can even use a wired whisk for mixing.
29. Let the curry simmer and come to a boil. Stir occasionally.
30. After 2 to 3 mins, add ginger julienne (about 1-inch ginger – cut in julienne (thin matchstick-like strips). Reserve a few for garnishing. The curry will also begin to thicken.
31. After 3 to 4 minutes, add 1 or 2 slit green chillies.
32. Also add salt as per taste and ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar (optional). You can add sugar from ¼ tsp to 1 teaspoon or more depending on the sourness of the tomatoes. Sugar is optional and you can skip it too. If you add cream, then you will need to add less sugar.
33. Mix very well and simmer for a minute.
34. After the gravy thickens to your desired consistency, then add the paneer cubes (200 or 250 grams). Keep in mind the consistency you want before you add paneer as you will be cooking the paneer for some seconds. You can also fry the paneer and then add the paneer once the gravy has become creamy. I keep the gravy to a medium consistency gravy.
35. Stir and mix the paneer cubes gently in the paneer makhani gravy.
36. Now add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi leaves (dry fenugreek leaves) and 1 teaspoon garam masala in the gravy. Addition of crushed kasuri methi gives a restaurant flavor. Kasuri methi is optional and can be skipped.
37. Next add 2 to 3 tablespoons of low-fat cream or 1 to 2 tablespoons of whipping cream.
38. Stir gently but well and switch off the flame.
39. Serve paneer butter masala hot garnished with 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves, the remaining ginger julienne. You can also drizzle some cream or dot with butter while serving. Good combo for this dish is naan or butter naan or tandoori rotis or plain paratha or roomali roti or Kerala Malabar paratha.
It also goes well with steamed basmati rice or jeera rice or biryani rice. I served with whole wheat roti accompanied by onion-cucumber salad. Also, do serve some lemon wedges by the side.
Tips to make the best paneer butter masala
- Tomatoes: since tomatoes are the key ingredient, make sure to use ripe, red and firm tomatoes with a slightly sweet taste. The tomatoes should not be very sour or tangy.
- Paneer (cottage cheese): always use homemade paneer if possible or a good quality store brought fresh paneer. It is best to make paneer at home and does not take much time.
- Tomato puree: Do make a really smooth puree from the tomatoes. If you want you can strain the tomato puree also.
- Cooking tomato puree: the tomato puree has to be sautéed and cooked really well. Oil or butter should leave sides of the tomato paste. If the tomato paste is not sautéed well, the raw flavor of tomatoes will be felt in the dish.
- Butter: use good quality butter. You can use both unsalted or salted butter. Both yellow butter or white butter can be added.
- Cashew paste: to grind cashews to a fine consistency, it is better to soak them in hot water for 30 minutes.
- Replacement for cashews: if you don’t have cashews then the best alternative is almonds. Soak the almonds in hot water for 30 minutes. Then peel them and make a paste of almonds with little water.
- Taste and flavor: if the butter paneer masala gravy tastes tangy or sour, then to balance the sour taste you can add a bit of sugar or cream. But do not add too much sugar as then the gravy becomes too sweet. Also, do note if you add cream then you might have to add less sugar in the butter paneer gravy.
- Frying paneer: you can fry the paneer cubes if you want and then add in the prepared gravy or sauce.
- Color: To get the bright orangish-red color, its best to use Kashmiri red chilli powder or deghi mirch instead of artificial food colors. Using deep red colored tomatoes also contribute to a lovely orange color in the gravy.
This recipe is from the archives and has been republished and updated on 21 January 2020.
Paneer Butter Masala
for preparing cashew paste
- 18 to 20 whole cashews
- ⅓ cup hot water for soaking cashews
for preparing tomato puree
- 2 cups diced tomatoes or 300 grams tomatoes or 4 to 5 medium size - pureed
for making paneer butter masala
- 2 tablespoons butter or 1 tablespoon oil + 1 or 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tej patta (indian bay leaf)
- 1 inch ginger and 3 to 4 garlic - crushed or ground in a mortar and pestle
- ½ to 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder or deghi mirch - if using any other chilli powder you can add ¼ to ½ teaspoon
- 1.5 cups water or add as required
- 1 inch ginger julienned, reserve a few for garnishing
- 1 or 2 green chili - slit (reserve a few for garnishing)
- 200 to 250 grams paneer (cottage cheese) - cubed or diced
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) - optional
- ½ to 1 teaspoon garam masala or tandoori masala
- 2 to 3 tablespoons low-fat cream or 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream - optional
- ¼ to 1 teaspoon sugar - optional, add as required depending on the sourness of the tomatoes
- salt as required - check notes below for adding sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro leaves) for garnishing - optional
- a few ginger julienne
- 1 tablespoon low fat cream 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream - optional
- 1 to 2 teaspoons butter - optional
- Soak 18 to 20 cashews in a hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. When the cashews are soaking, you can prep the other ingredients like chopping tomatoes, preparing ginger-garlic paste, slicing paneer etc.
- Then drain and add the soaked cashews in a blender or grinder.
- Add 2 to 3 tablespoons water and grind to a smooth paste without any tiny bits or pieces of cashews.
- In the same blender add 2 cups of diced or roughly chopped tomatoes. No need to blanch the tomatoes before blending.
- Blend to a smooth tomato puree. Keep aside. Don’t add any water while blending the tomatoes.
making makhani gravy
- Melt butter in a pan on a low flame. Add bay leaf and fry for 2 to 3 seconds or till the oil become fragrant.
- Add ginger-garlic paste and saute for some seconds till the raw aroma disappears.
- Add the tomato puree and stir well. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Then add kashmiri red chili powder and stir again. Continue to saute till the oil starts to leave the sides of the tomato paste. The tomato paste will thicken considerably and will start coming together as one whole lump.
- Then add cashew paste and stir well. Saute the cashew paste for a few minutes till the oil begins to leave the sides of the masala paste.
- The cashew paste will begin to cook fast. Approx 3 to 4 minutes on a low flame. So keep stirring non-stop.
making paneer butter masala
- Add water and mix very well. Simmer on a low flame.
- The curry will come to a boil.
- After 2 to 3 minutes of boiling, add ginger julienne. Reserve a few for garnishing. The curry will also begin to thicken.
- Add julienned ginger and green chillies, salt and sugar and simmer till the curry begins to thicken.
- After 3 to 4 minutes, add 1 or 2 slit green chillies. also add salt as per taste and ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar (optional).
- You can add sugar from ¼ tsp to 1 teaspoon or more depending on the sourness of the tomatoes. Sugar is optional and you can skip it too. If you add cream, then you will need to add less sugar.
- Mix very well and simmer for a minute.
- After the gravy thickens to your desired consistency, then add the paneer cubes and stir gently. i keep the gravy to a medium consistency.
- After that add crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves), garam masala and cream. Gently mix and then switch off the flame.
serving paneer butter masala
- Garnish it with coriander leaves and ginger julienne.
- You can even dot the gravy with some butter or drizzle some cream.
- Serve paneer butter masala hot with plain naan, garlic naan, roti, paratha or steamed basmati or jeera rice or even peas pulao.
- Side accompaniments can be an onion-cucumber salad or some pickle. Also serve some lemon wedges by the side.
- Butter: use good quality butter. You can add both unsalted or salted butter. Also both yellow butter or white butter can be added.
- Tomatoes: it is best to use fresh, ripe red tomatoes. Add tomatoes which have sweet-tangy taste. Do not add tomatoes which are too sour or tart.
- Tomato puree: blend the tomatoes to a smooth puree. If you want you can strain the tomato puree also.
- Sautéing tomato puree: the tomato puree has to be cooked and sautéed very well. Oil or butter should leave sides of the cooked tomato puree so that the raw flavor of tomatoes is not felt in the dish.
- Paneer: best to use homemade soft paneer or a good quality store brought fresh paneer
- Cream: the amount of cream can be adjusted as per your taste.
- Cashew paste: to grind cashews to a fine consistency, it is better to soak them in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Use a good blender to get a smooth creamy cashew paste.
- Replacing cashews: if you don't have cashews then add almonds. Blanch the almonds in hot water for 30 minutes. Then peel and blend them till smooth with some water.
- Sugar: addition of sugar depends upon your taste as well as the tanginess present in the tomatoes. So add as per taste. If you add cream then you might have to add less sugar.
- Taste and flavor: if the butter paneer masala gravy tastes tangy or sour, then to balance the sour taste you can add a bit of sugar or cream. But do not add too much sugar as then the gravy becomes too sweet. Also, do note if you add cream then you might have to add less sugar in the sauce or gravy.
- Color: to get the bright orangish-red color, its best to use kashmiri red chilli powder or deghi mirch instead of artificial food colors. Using deep red colored tomatoes also contribute to a lovely orange color in the gravy.
- Frying paneer (optional): You can fry the paneer cubes if you want and then add in the prepared sauce or gravy.