This simple, easy to make paneer makhani recipe features succulently cooked cottage cheese cubes in a smooth tomato cream sauce that is lightly spiced with a hint of tang and sweetness. Learn how to make this delicious, buttery paneer dish with my easy step-by-step instructions!
Table of Contents
About This Recipe
Paneer Makhani is a delectable, traditional Indian dish made with cubes of cheese cooked in a rich and creamy tomato based sauce.
The word makhani means “buttery,” and is derived from the word makhan which means “homemade butter.” This dish is the vegetarian version of Murgh Makhani, which is commonly known outside of India as “Butter Chicken.”
Butter Chicken was invented by Mr Kundan Lal Gujral in his Moti Mahal Restaurant in Delhi and has since become one of the most beloved Indian dishes across the globe. Turning the original recipe into one suitable for vegetarians by swapping in paneer, mushrooms or lentils is very common practice.
This creamy, tangy homestyle gravy is made mostly with tomatoes, cream and spices. While very similar to my Paneer Butter Masala and Paneer Makhanwala, this tasty recipe has a slightly different proportion of spices. I also believe that a traditional makhani gravy should be made without onions, which is how I make mine.
I should also note that in this recipe, I have avoided the use of cashew paste. While makhani gravies often include cashew paste (which gives these gravies a lovely consistency), I have received many requests to make traditional Punjab dishes without using expensive ingredients. This paneer makhani recipe is a result of those requests!
The recipe is easy enough to make on a weeknight and tasty enough to be made for a small party or get together. You can opt to use ready-made tomato purée and paneer to shorten the cook time. (That said, I always prefer to make paneer at home.)
Now let’s get cooking, shall we??
How to Make Paneer Makhani
1. First rinse and chop the tomatoes (250 grams or 4-5 medium ripe red tomatoes).
2. In a blender or grinder make a smooth puree of the chopped tomatoes. No need to add any water while blending the tomatoes.
TIP: To make this easy dish even faster, simply use store bought tomato purée. But try to buy tomato puree without preservatives or make your own tomato puree.
3. In a mortar-pestle, crush the ginger & garlic to a paste (1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste, or ½ inch ginger + 3-4 small garlic cloves).
Make Makhani Gravy
4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a pan. Add 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf) and then the crushed ginger-garlic. Sauté for some seconds or till the raw aroma of the crushed ginger-garlic goes away.
5. Add the prepared tomato purée.
6. Stir well and add ½ tsp red chili powder (or cayenne pepper or paprika). Keep on sautéing till the fat leaves the sides of the tomato paste.
7. Meanwhile chop 200 grams cottage cheese into bitesized cubes, squares or triangles.
8. After 15 minutes on a low flame, the tomatoes and spices have sautéed well and the fat leaving the sides of the mixture is clearly seen. The masala will look glossy, will leave the sides of the pan and will come together.
9. Now add 1.5 cups water.
10. Stir very well and let the gravy/sauce come to a gentle simmer.
11. Simmer the gravy till it reduces and thickens a bit.
12. Add ½ to 1 inch ginger julienne and 1 to 2 slivered green chilies. Simmer for a minute.
13. Stir and then add salt as required, ½ teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar. Also add the paneer cubes. Mix gently and switch off the heat.
No need to cook the paneer cubes as sometimes they become hard or chewy even after cooking for 1 to 2 minutes.
14. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons cream. NOTE: I used Indian brand of amul cream, but any will do with 25 to 35% fat.
You can reduce the proportion of cream if you want.
15. Stir gently but thoroughly, so that the cream is mixed uniformly with the gravy without breaking the paneer cubes. Switch off the flame.
NOTE: Some of my paneer cubes broke while stirring because I used homemade paneer whose milk I cooked for too long. Oh, well! If a few of your paneer cubes break, rest assured that it will still taste absolutely delicious.
16. Lastly sprinkle ¼ teaspoon garam masala and again stir gently. Check the seasonings and add more salt or sugar if required.
18. Serve paneer makhani hot with roti, paratha or naan, or with steamed rice or jeera rice if you’re avoiding gluten. Enjoy!
Tips + FAQs
I happen to believe that paneer makhani is best served with roti, paratha or with naan. I served with naan and a side veggie salad. You can also serve paneer makhani with jeera rice or steamed basmati rice if you’re avoiding gluten.
While many recipes of paneer makhani use cashew paste in the gravy, mine does not. I use cream instead, making this a safe recipe for nut allergies!
For this recipe, I used amul (low fat) cream that is a light cream. Heavy cream or double cream can also be used. If you have neither on hand, you can opt to use curd, or swap in ½ to 1 tablespoon milk powder to replicate some of the creaminess.
Just be sure to taste as you add milk powder – it can sometimes make the gravy overly sweet. I also caution against adding milk as it can curdle from the acidity of the tomatoes.
Paneer can be swapped for firm tofu and you can use coconut cream in place of the dairy cream. Just note that the flavor will be a bit affected.
Want more Paneer Recipes?
Check out some of my other favorites:
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- 200 grams Paneer (Indian cottage cheese)
- 250 grams tomatoes or 4 to 5 medium-sized
- 2 to 3 tablespoons light cream (low fat 25%) or whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
- 1 teaspoon Ginger-Garlic Paste or ½ inch ginger + 3 to 4 small garlic crushed to paste in a mortar
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder or kashmiri red chilli powder or cayenne pepper or paprika
- 1 to 2 green chillies slit or sliced
- ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder or tandoori masala powder
- ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar – add as required* check notes
- ½ to 1 inch ginger – julienned
- ½ teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves – kasuri methi, crushed
- 1.5 cups water
- salt as required
Making tomato puree
- First rinse and chop the tomatoes. Use the tomatoes that are ripe with a sweet tangy taste and not overly sour.
- In a blender or grinder make a smooth puree of the chopped tomatoes. No need to add any water while blending the tomatoes.
- Keep the tomato puree aside.
Making paneer makhani
- Melt butter in a pan. First add the tej patta (Indian bay leaf) and saute for a few seconds till aromatic.
- Then add the crushed ginger-garlic paste and saute for a few seconds or till the raw aroma of the ginger-garlic goes away.
- Add the tomato puree and stir well.
- Now add the red chili powder and saute this mixture till the fat begins to leave the side of the tomato paste. Takes about 14 to 15 on a low heat. Keep on stirring often.
- When you see the tomato mixture clumping together and the fat leaving the sides, then add water.
- Stir and simmer till the gravy or sauce thickens a bit. Takes about 7 to 8 minutes on a low flame.
- Then add the slit green chilies and ginger julienne. Stir and simmer for a minute.
- Add sugar, salt as required and crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves).
- Stir and then add the paneer cubes.
- Mix gently and switch off the heat. No need to cook the paneer as then they can get hard or chewy and won't taste good.
- Lastly add cream and gently stir. Switch off the flame and then sprinkle with garam masala. Give a gentle stir again.
- Serve the paneer makhani with roti, naan, paratha or jeera rice or saffron rice or biryani rice or plain steamed basmati rice.
- * Addition of sugar depends upon your taste as well as the tanginess present in the tomatoes. Add more if required.
- The recipe can be doubled or tripled.
- Use tomatoes that are not sour. The tomatoes should be fresh, ripe and with a slightly sweet taste.
- You can use whipping cream or heavy cream in place of light cream. But add as needed according to your taste preferences.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Paneer Makhani Recipe from the blog archives (March 2014) has been republished and updated on 29 May 2021.