Paneer Lababdar is an easy-to-prepare, restaurant-style dish of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) in a creamy, mildly tangy and faintly sweet gravy. Onions, tomatoes, cashews and spices make this a rich, flavorful and delicious recipe. This vegetarian Paneer Lababdar recipe is also naturally gluten-free.
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About Paneer Lababdar Recipe
It is a popular paneer gravy dish and can be found on the menu of many Indian restaurants.
My paneer lababdar recipe is more Punjabi style than Mughlai style with the addition of onions, tomatoes, cashews and spices. It does not rely heavily on the usage of plenty of nuts, dry fruits or seeds. Cashews are the only nuts added in the recipe.
Paneer lababdar is truly a dish that you will always love to make for special days or festival days. Its richness, creaminess and deliciousness will wow you every time. Perfectly apt to make for festive or special occasions.
What is Paneer Lababdar made of?
Paneer lababdar gravy is made from a spiced tomato and cashew paste that is then sautéed with onions, more spices and herbs, has a lovely tang to it and is full of flavor. The addition of sugar and cream give the dish a creamy and faintly sweet taste.
You need your regular Indian pantry staple ingredients to make this restaurant style paneer lababdar recipe.
- Paneer (Indian cottage cheese): This is the main ingredient in the dish and it is important to use a good quality paneer. In fact, as with all my paneer recipes, I recommend using Homemade Paneer. This ensures freshness and avoids any hidden ingredients and preservatives found in store-bought paneer.
- Tomatoes: Giving the dish a bit of tang, tomatoes are an important ingredient in the gravy. Be sure to choose tomatoes that aren’t too tangy or sour.
- Cashews: The creamy consistency in paneer lababdar comes from cashews. The cashews are ground to a paste with the tomatoes. Cashews also add a lovely sweetness to the dish.
- Cream: Adding cream also adds to the sweetness and richness in the gravy making it a restaurant style dish.
- Onions: In the curry, onions are not pureed, but chopped and lightly caramelized. Thus they add some sweetness and a slight sharp flavor to the curry.
- Spices and Herbs: Most of the spices and herbs used in this recipe are common and you probably already have them in your kitchen. The garam masala powder can be purchased, but is also a great spice to make from scratch and have on hand. Here I share the recipe for making Garam Masala Powder.
How to make Paneer Lababdar
1. To a small pan add the following listed ingredients:
- 1.5 cups chopped tomatoes (Use tomatoes that are not too tangy or sour)
- 10 to 12 cashews
- 1 inch chopped ginger
- 2 to 3 chopped garlic cloves (medium-sized)
- 1 green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- ½ cup water
2. Switch on the stovetop and simmer this mixture on a low heat.
3. Cook until the tomatoes are softened. If the water dries up and the tomatoes are not softened, then add about 2 to 3 tablespoons water and continue to cook. When I cooked, almost all the water had evaporated.
4. Allow this mixture to become warm or cool completely at room temperature. Transfer all of the ingredients to a grinder or blender jar.
5. Grind or blend to a smooth paste. There should not be any cashews or tomato chunks in the paste.
You may add some water if required while grinding or blending. Set this ground tomato-cashew-spices paste aside.
Sautéing onions and tomato paste
6. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a pan, kadai or wok. You can also use ghee (clarified butter) or a neutral-tasting oil.
Heat the butter on a low to medium heat ensuring that it does not burn.
7. Add 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf) and saute for a couple of seconds.
8. Add ½ cup finely chopped onions.
9. Stir and mix well.
10. Then continue to saute as well as stir and cook until the onions become light golden or golden on medium-low to medium heat.
11. Then add the tomato-cashew-spices paste. The mixture will splutter if there is water in it, so be careful.
12. Stir and mix thoroughly.
13. Add the following ground spice powders:
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder (ground cumin)
- ½ teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
14. Stir the ground spices. Saute this masala on low to medium-low heat. You will see the masala clumping and gathering around itself.
15. Sauté until you see fat leaving the sides of the masala paste. The masala will also look glossy and shiny.
Making Paneer Lababdar
16. Then add 1 cup of water to the perfectly sauteed masala.
17. Mix very well.
18. Add 1 or 2 slit green chilies.
19. Stir and allow the gravy to come to a simmer on medium-low to medium heat.
20. Then season with salt according to your taste preferences.
21. Add sugar. I added ½ teaspoon of sugar but you can add as per your taste.
21. Add 200 grams paneer which has been cut into cubes or squares. Also add 2 tablespoons grated paneer.
Here I used fresh homemade paneer. If using frozen paneer, then keep it in warm water for some minutes and then slice as well as grate it.
22. Gently mix and switch off the heat.
23. Then sprinkle 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) which have been crushed along with ¼ teaspoon garam masala powder. Mix very well again.
24. Add ¼ cup low fat cream or 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream.
25. Mix again gently very well taking care that the paneer cubes do not break. You can also add 1 tablespoon of butter at this step or dot the gravy with butter while serving. This is optional.
26. Garnish paneer lababdar with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and ginger julienne.
Paneer labadar goes very well with Indian flatbreads, including roti, naan, or pudina paratha. Also, this creamy gravy can be served with jeera rice or vegetable pulao.
FAQs for Paneer Lababdar
Yes definitely. Add 1.5 cups of canned tomatoes while blending cashews. You do not need to cook the canned tomatoes with cashews. For tomato puree, add ¾ cup of it directly when sautéing with the cashew paste. You just need to make the cashew and spices paste if you use tomato puree.
Kasuri methi are dried fenugreek leaves. If you don’t have them, just skip them.
Yes of course! To get the mild flavors of onion and garlic without actually using them in the recipe, add 1 pinch of asafetida or hing (that is if you have it) when sautéing the tomato-cashew paste.
Yes you can easily skip adding cream.
Malai which is the clotted cream that collects on the top of boiled milk has to be whipped to a smooth flowing consistency before you add it to the gravy.
Add almonds which have been blanched in hot water for 30 minutes with their peels removed.
Yes sure you can do that. Dhungar method will make your paneer lababdar have truly smoky restaurant style flavors.
Replace firm tofu, seitan, tempeh with paneer. Skip adding cream altogether or replace it with coconut cream. Add a neutral tasting oil instead of butter.
Yes you can definitely do that. My recipe can be easily scaled. If freezing, paneer lababdar gravy stays well for about a month. In the refrigerator, it stays good for a couple of days.
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For tomato-cashew paste
- 1.5 cups chopped tomatoes (ripe and red), 250 grams
- 10 to 12 cashews
- 1 inch ginger – chopped
- 2 to 3 garlic (medium-sized) – chopped
- ½ cup water
- 1 green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
- ½ cup finely chopped onions – 100 grams
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder (ground cumin)
- ½ teaspoon Coriander Powder (ground coriander)
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or kashmiri red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- 1 or 1.25 cups water or add as required
- 1 or 2 green chilies or serrano peppers – slit
- salt as required
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon sugar or add as required
- 200 grams Paneer (cottage cheese)
- 2 tablespoon grated paneer
- ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) – crushed
- ¼ cup low-fat cream or 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon Butter added later – (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro leaves)
- 1 inch ginger – julienne
Preparing tomato-cashew paste
- Take chopped tomatoes, cashews, chopped ginger and garlic, green cardamom, cloves and water in a small pan. Use tomatoes which are not too tangy or sour.
- Switch on the flame and simmer this mixture on a low flame.
- Cook until the tomatoes are softened. If the water dries up and the tomatoes are not softened, then add about 2 to 3 tablespoons water and continue to cook.
- Allow this mixture to become warm or cool completely and add to a grinder or blender jar.
- Grind to a smooth paste without any cahsews or tomato chunks or pieces. You may add some water if required while grinding. Keep this ground tomato-cashew-spices paste aside.
Sautéing onions and tomato-cashew paste
- Heat butter in pan or kadai or wok. Add the tej patta and sauté for a couple of seconds.
- Add finely chopped onions. Stir well.
- Then continue to saute as well as stir and cook till the onions become light golden or golden.
- Then add the tomato-cashew-spices paste. The mixture will splutter if there is water in it, so be careful. Stir very well.
- Add cumin powder, coriander powder and red chili powder.
- Stir and saute this masala. You will see the masala clumping and gathering around itself.
- Saute till you see fat leaving the sides of the masala paste.
Making paneer lababdar
- Then add water. Mix very well.
- Add the slit green chilies.
- Stir and allow the gravy to come to a simmer. Then season with salt and sugar.
- Add paneer cubes and grated paneer.
- Gently mix and combine.
- Then sprinkle kasuri methi which has been crushed with the garam masala powder. Stir very well again.
- Lastly add the low-fat cream or heavy whipping cream. Switch off the heat & combine very well. You can also add 1 tablespoon butter at this step. This is optional.
- Garnish paneer lababdar with chopped coriander leaves and ginger julienne. Serve with chapati, tandoori roti or naan. It also goes well with cumin rice or veg pulao.
- Tomatoes: In place of fresh tomatoes, use 1.5 cups of canned tomatoes while blending cashews. You do not need to cook the canned tomatoes with cashews. You can also use ¾ cup tomato puree and add it when sautéing with the cashew paste. You only need to make the cashew and spices paste if you are going to use tomato puree.
- Kasuri Methi: Skip dried fenugreek leaves if you do not have them.
- Paneer: Use extra firm or firm tofu in place of paneer.
- Cream: You can skip cream or use coconut cream. Malai which is the clotted cream that collects on the top of boiled milk can also be added after it has been whipped to a smooth flowing consistency.
- Without onion and garlic: Add 1 pinch of asafetida or hing (if you have it) as a substitute when sautéing the tomato-cashew paste.
- Dhungar Method: Giving dhungar will make the paneer lababdar have a truly smoky restaurant style flavor.
- Make ahead and storage: You can easily scale my paneer lababdar recipe. In the freezer, it keeps well for about a month. In the refrigerator, it stays good for a couple of days.
- Vegan options: Add a neutral tasting oil instead of butter. Replace firm tofu, seitan, tempeh with paneer. Skip adding cream altogether or replace it with coconut cream.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Paneer Lababdar Recipe post from the blog archives first published in Feb 2015 has been republished and updated on 21 June 2022.