Shahi Paneer

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This Shahi Paneer is deliciously rich and creamy, making it one of the most popular recipes in Mughlai cuisine. Fresh, unmelting cheese is married with a creamy gravy, perfect for serving with naan or roti. “Shahi” means “royalty,” and I can promise this dish is fit for a King!

shahi paneer topped with some saffron strands served in a white bowl with a spoon inside the bowl on a white marble surface

If you are looking for a warming, comforting vegetarian dish to serve for supper, look no further. Shahi Paneer is one of my very favorite dishes and is sure to become one of yours, too.

What are you waiting for? This delicious dish that is fit for royalty can be on your table tonight. Go ahead and treat yourself! Now, more than ever, comfort foods are in order. This Shahi Paneer is sure to fill your bellies and warm your souls. Until next time, friends. I hope you remain safe, happy and well fed.

What is Shahi Paneer?

Shahi Paneer can literally be translated to “royal cottage cheese.” 

Paneer is a fresh cheese that is popular in Indian cuisine. It is made by curdling milk with a food acid (often lemon juice), then pressed into cubes. The most notable thing about paneer cheese is that it does not melt, providing a texture similar to tofu.

TIP: If you are a vegan, you can easily substitute tofu for the paneer.

Some Shahi Paneer recipes use tomatoes and butter. I have opted not to use these ingredients, instead using yogurt to lighten up the dish considerably. 

TIP: If you prefer a richer version, feel free to add more cream or butter to the recipe where notated.

The Shahi gravy is full of aromatic flavors including onion, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder, saffron and cardamom. Balanced out with thick, creamy yogurt, this lightened up version of Shahi Paneer is perfect for special occasions.

shahi paneer topped with some saffron strands and served in a white bowl on a white marble surface
Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Shahi Paneer

While the list of ingredients for Shahi Paneer recipe is quite long, you don’t need to be intimidated. The process for making this dish isn’t particularly technical or difficult.

Preparation

1. Take the nuts and seeds – 2 tablespoons chopped cashews, 1 tablespoon almonds, 1 tablespoon melon seeds or magaz in a bowl and rinse them a couple of times with water. Drain all the water and set aside.

nuts and melon seeds rinsed in a bowl

2. Simmer ½ cup chopped onions, cashews, almonds, melon seeds or magaz, ½ teaspoon ginger and ½ teaspoon garlic in 1.5 cups water for 8 to 10 minutes on medium-low heat.

onions, nuts, seeds, garlic and ginger being simmered in water

3. Continue to cook until the onions become soft, then strain the stock and set aside for later use.

softened onions, nuts, seeds etc being strained

4. When cooled, place the softened onions, nuts, seeds, ginger, garlic in a blender or mixer jar. You can peel the almonds if you prefer.

softened onions, nuts, seeds etc added in a blender jar

5. Make a fine paste of the cooked onion mixture, adding 2 to 4 tablespoons of the strained water or as needed.

blended to a smooth puree

6. Beat ½ cup fresh curd (yogurt) till smooth and set aside.

yogurt whisked till smooth

Sautéing onion paste

7. Heat 3 tablespoons ghee in a pan over medium-low to medium heat. Let the ghee melt. You can even use oil or butter in place of ghee.

ghee being melted

8. Fry all the whole spices until they release their aroma in the ghee. The whole spices are 1 tej patta (indian bay leaf), 2 to 3 cloves, 2 to 3 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 1 inch cinnamon, ½ teaspoon caraway seeds (shah jeera).

TIP: Be very attentive here, as spices are delicate and can burn quickly if you aren’t paying attention.

whole spices being fried

9. Add the onion and nuts paste.

ground paste added

10. On a low to medium-low heat mix until the paste is uniform. Then sauté for 7 to 8 minutes or until the fat separates at the sides of the paste.

You will see that on further cooking the paste will thicken and become glossy. Keep stirring non-stop for even cooking. This will also prevent the paste getting burnt from the bottom.

paste being sautéed

11. Now add ½ teaspoon red chilli powder or cayenne pepper, ¼ teaspoon garam masala powder and 1 teaspoon coriander powder. You could even replace red chilli powder with ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper powder.

spice powders added

12. Stir to mix well.

spice powders mixed with the paste

Adding curd (yogurt) and simmering further

13. Reduce heat to a low or switch off the heat. Add the whisked yogurt, 1 to 1.5 cups of the strained stock and additional water, ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar and salt as required.

whisked curd and water added

14. Stir well and simmer on a low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the gravy thickens. You can always alter the consistency of gravy by adding less or more water.

shahi gravy being simmered

15. Add ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder and crushed 15 to 20 saffron strands.

cardamom powder and saffron strands added

16. Stir and add the paneer cubes (200 grams) and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Add 1 teaspoon of kewra water and stir (optional step). If adding butter, you can add it here. Mix well and switch off the heat.

paneer cubes added

17. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves or mint leaves or some saffron strands and enjoy with rice or flatbread.

shahi paneer topped with some saffron strands and served in a white bowl on a white marble surface
Tips

Tips

  1. Rich version: A very rich version of Shahi Paneer recipe is made with adding butter and more cream. In this recipe, I have added less cream. Feel free to add more cream or use butter if you prefer.
  2. Tomatoes: I have not added tomatoes to this dish since I have used yogurt (curd). But you can substitute yogurt with tomato puree in the same proportions. If adding tomatoes, then do add 2 to 3 tablespoons cream as it balances the acidity and tanginess of the tomatoes.
  3. Freshness: Since a major part of the gravy is made from nuts and yogurt, do make sure that these ingredients are fresh. The nuts and seeds should not be rancid and the curd (yogurt) must not be sour.

FAQs

What is Mughlai cuisine?

From the 1400s to the 1800s, Mughals (“moo-galls”)  ruled India. The food that resulted from their rule was very rich, often incorporating nuts, dried fruits and warming spices. Some other dishes you might recognize that can be attributed to Mughlai (“moog-lie”)  rule are biryani, paratha, tandoor and pulao.

How should I serve Shahi Paneer?

You can serve it with roti, naan or paratha. You can also serve it with rice-based dish like cumin rice, veg pulao or ghee rice.

What is kewra water?

Also known as kevda, keora or kewda, kewra water is a fragrant essence similar to rose water that is extracted from the male flower of the screwpine. If you do not have access to kewra water, you can either omit it, substitute a drop of pandan extract, or use an equivalent amount of rose.

What is magaz?

Magaz is a blend of pumpkin, watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumber seeds. It is an ingredient used in Indian cuisine and can be found in Indian grocery stores.

What if I don’t have access to magaz?

Don’t worry! If you don’t have access to melon seeds, you can add a total of 2 tablespoons almonds instead.

Can I make this dish without onions and garlic?

While you can make the dish without alliums, please note that the flavor of the gravy will change. You can substitute a pinch of hing (asafoetida) to the recipe to help mimic the flavors of both the garlic and onion.

Can I make this with low-fat yogurt?

I recommend that you only use whole milk dairy curd in this recipe. Using low-fat milk may cause the gravy to break.

Can I make this dish ahead?

While this dish will store in the refrigerator for a few days, it is best served fresh from the stove. I also don’t understand how someone could make this delightful dish and not want to eat it straight away!

Is it possible to make this vegan?

Yes! Vegans can substitute tofu for the paneer and cashew or coconut yogurt for the curd. I don’t advise using soy or peanut yogurt for this dish. If using cashew yogurt, then you don’t need to add cashews while making the paste. Alternatively, you can use tomato purée and coconut cream in place of the yogurt. Use a neutral tasting oil in place of ghee.

More Paneer Inspiration!

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shahi paneer topped with some saffron strands and served in a white bowl with a spoon

Shahi Paneer

4.94 from 60 votes
This Shahi Paneer is deliciously rich and creamy, making it one of the most popular recipes in Mughlai cuisine.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins

Cuisine Indian, Mughlai
Course: Main Course
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Difficulty Level: Easy

Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

For cooking onions and nuts

  • ½ cup chopped onions or 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cashews
  • 1 tablespoon almonds
  • 1 tablespoon magaz or melon seeds without the skin
  • ½ teaspoon chopped garlic or 3 to 4 small to medium-sized garlic
  • ½ teaspoon chopped ginger or 1 inch ginger
  • 1.5 cups water

Other ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter) or oil or butter
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
  • ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup Curd (yogurt), 125 grams – whisked till smooth
  • 1 to 1.5 cups strained stock (got from boiling the onions with nuts) + water or 1 to 1.5 cups water
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar or add as required
  • salt as required
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 15 to 20 strands saffron – crushed lightly
  • 200 grams Paneer (cottage cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream or add as required – optional
  • 1 teaspoon kewra water (screwpine water) or rose water – optional

whole spices

  • 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 2 to 3 green cardamoms
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon (caraway seeds) shah jeera

Instructions

Preparation

  • Take the nuts and seeds in a bowl and rinse them a couple of times with water. Drain all the water and set aside.
  • Cook onions, cashews, almonds, magaz or melon seeds, ginger and garlic in 1.5 cups water for 8 to 10 minutes until the onions soften.
  • Strain the stock and set aside. Let the onions cool at room temperature.
  • Make a fine paste of the cooked onions, ginger, garlic along with the dry fruits adding 2 to 4 tablespoons of the strained water.
  • Whisk fresh curd (yogurt) till smooth and set aside.

Sautéing onion paste

  • Heat ghee in a frying pan on medium-low to medium heat.
  • Fry all the whole spices (listed in the above ingredients) until they release their aroma in the ghee. Be very attentive here, as spices are delicate and can burn quickly if you aren’t paying attention.
  • Add the ground onion paste and mix very well. On a low heat sauté stirring non-stop for 7 to 8 minutes or until the fat starts to leave the sides of the paste.
  • Add red chilli powder or cayenne pepper, garam masala powder and coriander powder. Mix well.

Adding curd and simmering further

  • Reduce heat to a low or switch off the heat. Add the whisked yogurt, 1 to 1.5 cups of the strained stock and additional water, sugar and salt as required.
  • Mix very well and simmer gravy for 10 to 12 minutes until it thickens.
  • Add the cardamom powder and crushed saffron.
  • Stir and add the cubed paneer and cream.
  • Mix gently and switch off heat.
  • Add the kewra water and stir. You can even add rose water.
  • Garnish Shahi Paneer with some coriander leaves or mint leaves or a few saffron strands. Serve the Mughlai Shahi Paneer with cumin rice or roti, naan or paratha.

Video

Notes

  • Making a richer version: In this shahi paneer recipe, I have not used butter and added less cream. Feel free to add more cream or use butter if you prefer. 
  • Tomatoes: I have not added tomatoes as I have used yogurt (curd). But you can substitute yogurt with tomato puree in the same proportions as mentioned in the recipe. If adding tomatoes, then do add 2 to 3 tablespoons cream to balance the tang from tomatoes. 
  • Vegan options: Use tofu and cashew yogurt. I won’t suggest using soy or peanut yogurt. If using cashew yogurt then you don’t need to add cashews while making the paste. Use a neutral tasting oil in place of ghee. 
  • Freshness: Since a major part of the gravy is made from nuts and yogurt, do make sure that these ingredients are fresh. The nuts and seeds should not be rancid and the curd (yogurt) must not be sour.
  • Consistency: You can make a thicker consistency or a medium consistency of the gravy by adding less or more water. 
  • Fats: For the fats, you can use any neutral tasting oil or butter or ghee. Though butter or ghee will make the gravy richer. 

Nutrition Info Approximate values

Nutrition Facts
Shahi Paneer
Amount Per Serving
Calories 331 Calories from Fat 252
% Daily Value*
Fat 28g43%
Saturated Fat 15g94%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 69mg23%
Sodium 46mg2%
Potassium 204mg6%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 11g22%
Vitamin A 294IU6%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin B12 1µg17%
Vitamin C 5mg6%
Vitamin D 1µg7%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 3µg3%
Calcium 304mg30%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 12µg3%
Iron 1mg6%
Magnesium 40mg10%
Phosphorus 93mg9%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This recipe post from the archives (January 2013) has been republished and updated on 10 October 2020.

Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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187 Comments

  1. Hi, this is not related to this recipe, but I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time. I started cooking 4 years ago and my very first recipe independent of my mom’s was your capsicum jhunka, and you have been my go-to site for almost every dish since then. I was away in hostel for 3 years hence couldn’t cook much but in the lockdown I’ve rediscovered cooking again, and even though I now follow lots of other people on instagram and all, this site is still my first choice for everything. Thank you so much for your homely and uncomplicated and beautiful cooking, and even more thanks for putting it out there and making cooking so accessible to a (back then) very reluctant 24 year old!

    1. Thank you so much Sindhuja for taking the time to write such a beautiful feedback. So glad to know and read. I wish you all the best for your future. Take care.

  2. Hai mam,
    What difference between Malai paneer and paneer?
    Which one is more protein and healthier?
    Can you tell me the nutritional info for both?
    Deepika

    1. Hi Deepika, malai paneer is made with the addition of some cream in the milk. While paneer is made with only milk. This obviously means that malai paneer is more richer and has a better texture. Malai paneer will be more heavy than paneer. The fat content will be more in malai paneer than in paneer.

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