Butter Paneer Masala (Cheese Cubes Smothered in a Spicy Tomato Gravy)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
butter paneer masala

I've made a few versions of this classic spicy and buttery north Indian paneer cheese dish and I never tire of it. Next to mattar paneer, it's one of my favorite ways to serve paneer when the craving hits and a good way to judge the quality of Indian restaurant offerings. I was inspired to make this as part of a weekend meal for my husband and best friend Basil after getting my hands on some locally made water buffalo paneer which is the next best thing to making your own cheese.

Take care not to overcook the paneer when frying it up because you want a fairly soft texture that will absorb the spices and have that melt-in-your-mouth sensation. As much as I enjoy vegan meals, cheese is not something I am willing to give up, though I do eat it in moderation.

butter paneer masala

Butter Paneer Masala (Cheese Cubes Smothered in a Spicy Tomato Gravy)Butter Paneer Masala (Cheese Cubes Smothered in a Spicy Tomato Gravy)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on June 2, 2013

Tender pieces of golden fried paneer cheese cubes simmered in a thick, spicy, creamy and buttery spiced tomato and onion gravy — a vegetarian version of the classic Indian butter chicken

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 14 oz (400 g) paneer cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 to 4 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used Kashmiri chili powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional)
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 3 large plum tomatoes, finely chopped or puréed
  • handful of dried fenugreek leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • a few handfuls of fresh parsley or coriander, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream or water
  • juice from 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Begin by frying the paneer cheese cubes. Heat 1 inch of olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. When hot, add the cubes to the pan and fry, stirring and turning often, until the paneer is lightly browned on all sides. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

  • Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. When hot, toss in the cumin seeds and onion and fry, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the onion begins to brown.

  • Add the green chilies and garlic and continue to stir for another minute. Now add the ground coriander, turmeric, chili powder, ground cumin, amchoor powder if using, and cayenne. Stir for another 30 seconds and then add the tomato, fenugreek leaves, sea salt and half of the the parsley or cilantro. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken.

  • Stir in the fried paneer cheese cubes, butter and cream or water. Cover and simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more cream or water to achieve your desired consistency.

  • Now stir in the lemon juice and garam masala and gently simmer for another few minutes, then stir in the remaining chopped parsley or coriander. Turn of heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
butter paneer

More ideas for paneer from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Shredded Paneer with Tomatoes, Chilies, Mushrooms and Chickpeas
Indian-Style Macaroni and Paneer Cheese with Spinach
Saffron-Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds
Paneer Mushroom Masala

On the top of the reading stack: Russians

Audio Accompaniment: Sasha


AJ said...

Looks tempting!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I am quite sue that you turned me on to paneer in the first place,

Lisa Turner said...

Thanks Val. I never can resist that goodness.

Aimee {violetfemme.co.uk} said...

I must try this recipe soon, I've not tried paneer yet but can't wait. Sounds delicious!

CleverGirl said...

You've probably been asked this before, but where do you get your paneer from? Do you make your own? I can never find it to buy here in Ottawa.

Lisa Turner said...

I must admit that though I am always cooking Indian food, I have yet to make my own paneer, though it is fairly easy to do. You can buy it ready made at pretty much any Indian or Asian grocery store.

Ronda said...

Takes some time but worth every minute of the prep! Absolutely outstanding!

Unknown said...

Guess what's for dinner tonight....lol.....YUM!!!!