Paneer Butter Masala is one of India’s most popular paneer gravy recipe. This recipe with Indian cottage cheese cubes in a creamy tomato sauce is one that I have been making for a long time. With my video and step-by-step guide you can easily make this restaurant style paneer butter masala at home!
Table of Contents
About this recipe
This Paneer Butter Masala recipe 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.
With my easy, quick and delicious recipe you can prepare this restaurant style paneer butter masala recipe within minutes.
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. Obviously being so popular it is served in many Indian restaurants.
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 cooking school days.
Later I adapted the same recipe for making paneer butter masala. Plenty of improvisations have happened throughout the years.
This Paneer Butter Masala 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 reviews from our readers and fans.
Ingredients you need
- Ripe red juicy tomatoes: Tomatoes are a key ingredient here which form the base of the makhani sauce or gravy. 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. 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 this paneer butter masala recipe. Butter makes the curry a bit rich and buttery. Though you can go overboard by adding some more butter.
- Paneer: A quality of paneer can make or break your dish. What you want are succulent soft paneer cubes gently coated with a smooth, buttery tomato sauce. So make sure to use either homemade paneer or good quality store brought paneer. Follow the instructions on the package before using paneer.
- Spices & herbs: The list of spices is not much. For that brilliant orange color, you need to add kashmiri red chilli powder. You can sub it with cayenne pepper or paprika. You will also need garam masala powder. Kasuri methi which are dried fenugreek leaves also add a good flavor. Just skip them if you do not have. For garnish cilantro (coriander leaves) are added.
Swaps for a vegan version
If you are a vegan don’t worry! You can easily substitute the dairy ingredients with vegan alternatives and still get a delicious dish.
- Tofu: To make a vegan recipe, replace tofu, seitan, tempeh with paneer.
- Vegan butter or oil: Add a neutral-tasting oil or vegan butter and skip cream altogether.
- Coconut cream: You can even use coconut cream, but with coconut cream, the flavors of coconut will be felt in the final dish.
How to make Paneer Butter Masala
You will have to do some prep work before you begin making this delicious recipe. It starts with soaking your cashews, making tomato puree and blending soaked cashews.
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 mixer-grinder. Also, add 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh water or as required.
5. Blend to a smooth paste without any tiny bits or chunks of cashews. Remove the cashew paste in a bowl and set aside.
6. In the same blender add 2 cups of diced or roughly chopped tomatoes. No need to blanch the tomatoes before blending.
7. Blend to a smooth tomato puree. Set aside. Don’t add any water while blending the tomatoes.
Making tomato gravy
8. 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. You can even add 3 to 4 tablespoons butter for a rich buttery version. Both salted or unsalted butter can be added.
9. Keep the flame to a low. Add 1 medium-sized tej patta (Indian bay leaf). Fry for 2 to 3 seconds or till the oil becomes fragrant from the aroma of the tej patta.
10. Add the prepared crushed ginger-garlic or 1 teaspoon ready ginger-garlic paste.
11. Fry for some seconds till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic disappears.
12. Pour the prepared tomato puree. Be careful while adding the puree as it may splutter.
13. Mix it very well with the butter.
14. Begin to cook the tomato puree on a low to medium-low flame. Stir at intervals.
15. The tomato puree mixture will start simmering.
16. 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.
17. Do stir at intervals.
18. Simmer the puree for 5 to 6 minutes.
19. 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.
20. Mix well and continue to stir and sauté the tomato puree.
21. Sauté 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 sautéing 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.
Adding cashew paste
22. Now add the prepared cashew paste.
23. Mix the cashew paste very well with the cooked tomato puree and continue to stir and sauté on a low to medium-low flame. Stir non-stop after adding cashew paste.
24. Sauté 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.
25. Next add 1.5 cups water.
Making paneer butter masala
26. 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.
27. Let the curry simmer and come to a boil. Stir occasionally.
28. 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.
29. After 3 to 4 minutes, add 1 or 2 slit green chillies.
30. 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.
31. Mix very well and simmer for a minute.
32. 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 a few 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.
33. Stir and mix the paneer cubes gently in the gravy. You can switch off the heat at this point.
If you find that the paneer cubes are still raw to taste, then switch off heat after adding cream.
34. Now quickly add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi leaves (dry fenugreek leaves) and 1 teaspoon garam masala to the gravy.
Addition of crushed kasuri methi gives a restaurant flavor. Kasuri methi is optional and can be skipped.
35. Next add 2 to 3 tablespoons of low-fat cream or 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream.
36. Stir gently but well and switch off the heat.
37. Serve Paneer Butter Masala hot garnished with 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and the remaining ginger julienne. You can also drizzle some cream or dot with butter while serving.
What to eat with Paneer Butter Masala
- Eat 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 to go with roti or chapati.
- With other Indian breads: Another great combination for this dish is naan bread or tandoori roti or paratha or roomali roti or Malabar paratha.
- With rice: It also goes well with steamed basmati rice or jeera rice (cumin rice).
- 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 sautéed tomato puree. If the tomato puree 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 blend 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 blend to a fine consistency with little water.
- Taste and flavor: If the 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 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, it is 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.
Butter paneer is another name for Paneer Butter Masala. They are one and the same dish.
Paneer Butter Masala is a creamy and mildly sweet gravy made with butter, tomatoes, cashews, spices and paneer. Paneer Tikka Masala is a robust dish made with grilled yogurt marinated paneer cubes in a spicy, aromatic tomato-onion gravy.
Onions are not at all required in this recipe as they change the taste of the gravy. But if you still want to add them, just add about ¼ to ⅓ cup finely chopped onions.
You can add ½ cup onion paste. Add paste after adding tej patta and then sauté the onion paste till light golden.
In Indian recipes where cashews are ground to a paste, raw cashews are used always and not the roasted variety.
You can use cashew butter (unsweetened) or add almonds. Soak almonds in hot water for 30 minutes. Remove the peels and blend to a smooth consistency in a blender or mixer. You can also use almond powder or almond meal.
Yes, you can use canned tomato puree. But add sugar in the gravy if required if the puree is too tangy.
Yes, you can blanch tomatoes before pureeing them. If you prefer you can strain the tomato puree.
Yes this will reduce the cooking time, but the taste will be same.
Yes you can use canned tomatoes.
In the recipe, use tomatoes which are not very tangy or sour. The tomatoes should be ripe but firm. They should be red in color and not yellow or white. Roma tomatoes are a good choice. If you live in India, use the large salad tomatoes or larger sized tomatoes and not the small Indian desi variety of tomatoes.
Just skip adding it.
You can add milk powder, but you have to be careful as it makes the dish excessively sweet. I would suggest to add ½ tablespoon initially and do a taste check. If gravy is not creamy or sweet enough, then add an extra ¼ to ½ tablespoon but avoid adding more than a total of 1 tablespoon. Do not add milk, as it may curdle from the acidity of tomatoes.
Simply skip the cream in my paneer butter masala recipe. The cashews do give a creaminess to the gravy.
Kasuri methi are dried fenugreek leaves. They are highly aromatic and give a subtle aroma in any dish. You can skip them or sub with a light pinch of ground fenugreek seeds powder.
Try adding some more cream and a bit more sugar. This will balance the sourness in the gravy
Honey becomes toxic when heated, so better to avoid it. Or you can add honey, when the paneer butter masala is warm. Don’t add when hot.
You can use ghee (clarified butter) or neutral tasting oil.
If you omit adding rich ingredients like cream or butter, then paneer butter masala is healthy.
Paneer becomes rubbery and dense when they are overcooked. Try not to cook them for a long time in a gravy or curry. Simply mix them with the gravy and switch off the heat or you can cook them in the gravy for a few seconds.
Yes you can fry the paneer, before you add them in the gravy. You can either pan fry or shallow fry paneer cubes until light golden. Do not fry them for a long time – they become dense and rubbery.
If your homemade paneer has too much moisture, it will break and crumble while cooking.
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Paneer Butter Masala
For cashew paste
- 18 to 20 whole cashews
- ⅓ cup hot water for soaking cashews
For tomato puree
- 2 cups diced tomatoes or 300 grams tomatoes or 4 to 5 medium size – pureed
For ginger-garlic paste
- 1 inch ginger
- 3 to 4 medium -sized garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons Butter or 1 tablespoon oil + 1 or 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf) – optional
- ½ to 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder or deghi mirch or ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika
- 1.5 cups water or add as required
- 1 inch ginger – julienned, reserve a few for garnish
- 1 or 2 green chili – slit, reserve a few for garnish
- 200 to 250 grams Paneer (Indian 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 half & half or 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream – optional
- ¼ to 1 teaspoon sugar – optional, add as required depending on the sourness of the tomatoes
- salt as required
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro ) – optional
- a few ginger julienne
- 1 tablespoon low fat cream or 1 tablespoon heavy cream – optional
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Butter – optional
- Soak 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 mixer-grinder.
- Add 2 to 3 tablespoons water and blend to a smooth paste without any tiny bits or pieces of cashews.
- In the same blender add the 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 tomato gravy
- Melt butter in a pan on a low flame. Add tej patta and fry for 2 to 3 seconds or till the oil become fragrant.
- Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté 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 sauté 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. Sauté 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 slit green chillies. also add salt as per taste and ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar (optional).
- You can vary the sugar quantity 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.
- 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 blend 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.
Nutrition Info Approximate values
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This paneer butter masala recipe post from the archives (April 2013) has been republished and updated on 28 December 2020.