*Paneer – 14oz (or 1lb block if that’s available)
*Butter – 2 tbsp
*Whipping cream – 2 tbsp
Tomato paste – 1 can
Onion – 1, diced
Ginger – 1 inch
Garlic – 3 cloves
Cashews – ¼ cup
Turmeric – ¼ tsp
**Kashmiri mirchi powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala – 3 tsp
Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) – 2 tbsp
Salt – 2 tsp
Cinnamon bark – 2 inch
Cloves – 6
Cardamom pods – 4
Bay leaf – 2
Pan with lid
- Cube paneer and let soak in warm water for 15 minutes. This helps makes the texture softer and more amenable to soaking up the sauce it will be cooked in.
- Soak cashews in lukewarm water for 15 minutes.
- Heat pan and add 2 tbsp olive oil
- Add the diced onion and saute on low flame until the onions are golden and carmelized. Be careful to not let them brown or burn.
- Heat the pan on low and add the powdered spices (1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder, and 3 tsp of garam masala) to the caramelized onions and stir well to incorporate. The key is to get the spices to “bloom” but not burn.
- Add a little more than half the can of tomato paste (about 8 tbsp) and stir to mix. Saute the tomato-onion mix until the tomato paste darkens and carmelizes.
- Drain the soaking water and add the softened cashews to the pan and stir to mix with the onion-tomato paste.
- Add half a cup of cold water to a blender. Allow the onion-tomato-cashew paste to cool a little and add a blender. Blend to a bisque-like consistency. Add more water as needed. (In all, I added 1.5 cups of water.)
- Rinse the pan and return to the stove. When pan is hot, add 1 tbsp olive oil and then 2 tbsp butter. The oil prevents the butter from burning.
- Reduce the flame to low and add the whole spices: 6 cloves, 4 cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon bark, and 2 bay leaves.
- Stir for about 3 minutes on low flame. The spices have to infuse the butter-oil mixture without burning. (Burnt spices impart a very bitter taste.)
- Remove the whole spices. This is an optional step. I prefer doing this so no one accidentally bites into a whole spice. Whole spices have an intense burst of flavor and biting into a whole cardamom pod would leave its overpowering/lasting taste.
- Crush/grind the ginger and garlic together to a paste. At low flame, add the ginger-garlic paste to the oil and butter. Saute quickly so the ginger-garlic doesn’t burn.
- Add the blended onion-tomato-cashew mixture to the pan.
- Stir well. Taste and add any salt/garam masal/chili powder, if necessary.
- Put the lid on and allow this curry to simmer until it reduces a little.
- Add the cubed paneer to the curry and stir***.
- Let the paneer soak up the flavor of the sauce, and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes on low flame. Stir frequently.
- Crush the kasuri methi between the palms of your hands and add to the curry and stir.
- Finish off the paneer butter masala by adding 3 tbsps of whipping cream and stiring to mix.
Garnish with cilantro and enjoy hot with warm basmati rice or naan.
Notes and Instructions
*While it wouldn’t quite be “paneer butter,” vegans can substitute tofu for the paneer, nutmilk cream for the whipping cream, and vegan butter.
**Kashmiri mirchi powder is dried Kashmiri red chillies (mirchi = chili). It has a milder flavor profile (less heat) while being intensely red in color. It is used in Indian cuisine for a milder-tasting curry. You can substitute with paprika (not smoked) or cayenne, if hard to procure.
***You can add cooked green peas at this step to make this paneer mutter (peas) curry.
Recipe and photo credit: Vinola V. Munyon