Last Updated on December 1, 2022 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

Paneer Butter Masala, also often called Shahi Paneer, Butter Paneer Masala or Paneer Makhaniis honestly one of the most delicious recipes and is an absolute favourite in our house. Make this restaurant-style paneer butter masala and surprise yourself with how incredibly well it rivals your go-to takeout.

Homemade Paneer Butter Masala in a bowl topped with cilantro and almonds.

Paneer Butter Masala is a rich North Indian curry packed with paneer cubes in a tomato cream sauce with traditional Indian spices.

It is really just a vegetarian version of Butter Chicken. Most Indian restaurants even use the same rich, creamy tomato-y sauce for both dishes.

Filled with sumptuous aromas of fresh ginger and the fabulous flavor of cinnamon and mild spices, this is one Indian dish that will have you coming back for seconds, thirds, and fourths.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Is there a more comforting Indian meal? This is arguably is one of the most delicious vegetarian Indian recipes
  • It can be easily prepared at home with simple ingredients.
  • My recipe includes ground almonds, which impart richness and flavour (and even a pleasant texture). 
  • The paneer pulls in the rich, buttery sauce and makes the world a better place. It melts in your mouth.
Ingredients on a countertop for the Paneer Butter Masala.

Ingredients you’ll need

Paneer – If you’re feeling adventurous, homemade paneer is the way to go! It’s not that to make, and it tastes so yummy than store-bought paneer. Plus, it’ll make your dish that much more impressive to your guests.

Butter – It doesn’t matter if you use salted or unsalted – a few tablespoons make this recipe silky and lush.

Tomatoes – Red, ripe tomatoes not only make the paneer butter masala more visually appealing with their vibrant color, but they also add a slightly tangy flavor to the curry. Always use red, ripe tomatoes in this dish; unripe tomatoes will change the flavor of the curry for the worse, so it’s best to avoid them altogether. Substitute canned tomatoes if you can’t find good fresh tomatoes.

Onions – Onions are the star ingredient in this Paneer Butter Masala recipe, but you don’t even know they’re in there. They cook down to golden and mild and provide a natural sweetness to the sauce. They essentially melt right down and become the sauce itself.

Heavy Whipping Cream – Heavy whipping cream has a lush texture and can quickly thicken a sauce. It also adds a decadent richness, making it a key ingredient in this delicious recipe.

Herbs and Spices – I have used a spice blend of ginger, garlic, garam masala, coarse salt, and chopped cilantro for topping. The garam masala is a blend of spices that replaces the need to source individual coriander powder, turmeric, cinnamon, etc. You can also add red chillies or red chilli powder for a spicy kick.

Frying the onions until golden.
stirring the spices with the onions.

How to make Paneer Butter Masala

Making this homemade Paneer Butter Masala really only requires a few simple steps. Cooking is sure to be a breeze with this tried-and-tested recipe.

  1. Caramelize onions in a saucepan or dutch oven over a medium flame. This is where an important part of the flavour is developed, so take your time.
  2. Stir in garlic, ginger and some Indian spices. Warming the spices gently for a few moments develops them more deeply and makes them more fragrant.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and almonds and simmer. This step allows them to soften and the flavours to meld.
  4. Add cream and blend the mixture. Puréeing the sauce creates a creamy, dreamy smooth and rich gravy.
  5. Add sauce back to pan to simmer and add paneer. It only takes a few minutes to simmer gently and before you know it, the paneer will be full of creamy rich flavour.
Homemade paneer being strained in a colander with cheesecloth.

Where to Find Paneer

Paneer is simply a fresh Indian cheese very similar to strained ricotta. It’s also called Indian cottage cheese. It is chewy, milky, bouncy, and super addictive.

Paneer is quite easy to make at home – it’s made simply by adding lemon juice to boiled milk, then straining and pressing.

If you want to DIY, you can hop on over to my homemade paneer recipe here – How to Make Paneer at Home: My Foolproof Step-by-Step Guide.

If you’re looking for a quicker option, not to worry – it’s pretty easily accessible in most well-stocked grocery stores, and definitely any Indian grocer.

If not making it myself, I look for a package with minimal additives (like carrageenan, guar gum, etc.).

Stirring cream with the butter paneer mixture.

What to serve with Paneer Butter Masala

Roti or chapati (Indian flatbread), fluffy naan, or simple basmati rice (cooked according to my viral video on how to cook rice) are both an excellent choice for dipping in this yummy masala sauce.

Tandoori chicken, saag paneer, or any favourite Indian meat dish with more sauce would complement butter masala well, if you’re hosting a bigger dinner.

Serve with Yogurt cucumber salad for a complete meal.

Adding almonds and tomatoes to butter paneer masala.

Make ahead instructions

Make this entertaining-worthy dish ahead of time with this time-saving tip:

  • Prepare the sauce up to 3 days in advance without adding cream or paneer and refrigerate it in an airtight container.
  • On the day of serving, reheat it until it comes to a gentle simmer then add the paneer cubes and heavy whipping cream.

Variations and substitutions

  • To make a vegan-friendly Paneer Butter Masala recipe, substitute paneer with tofu. Extra firm tofu is similar to paneer in taste and texture, making it an excellent replacement for a plant-based option. Swap the cream and butter for your fav vegan alternatives.
  • For a lightened-up or dairy-free recipe, you can replace it with coconut milk to achieve richness and consistency.
  • The restaurant-y flavor can be enhanced even more by adding a whole spices like a few cardamom cloves, a bay leaf, and a few cloves.
  • Adding bit of Kasuri methi made from dried fenugreek leaves lends additional authentic flavor to this paneer butter masala recipe.
  • Use cashews in place of almonds if you like.
Adding paneer to the paneer butter masala mixture.

FAQs

What is Paneer Butter Masala made of?

Paneer Butter Masala is a delicious and popular Indian dish. It is a combination of paneer (cheese) and butter curry. Paneer butter masala is a rich & creamy curry made with paneer, spices, onions, tomatoes, and butter.

Would it be okay if I used canned tomato puree?

Yes, indeed. Canned tomato purée is usually thicker than fresh tomato puree so it even imparts a preferred consistency to the sauce. If it’s too tangy for your taste, add a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the sourness.

Why does paneer break while cooking?

Paneer breaks when the dairy’s protein bonds unravel. It can happen because of heat, cooking acid, or overstirring. Keep the heat low, stir minimally and just heat through once the paneer is added to the sauce.

What is the difference between Paneer Butter Masala and Paneer Tikka Masala?

Paneer Butter Masala is a creamy, saucy dish whose sauce is prepared using butter and tomatoes and enriched with melt-in-your-mouth paneer. Paneer butter masala is usually accompanied by plain rice or naan. Paneer Tikka Masala is a spicier, lighter dish whose sauce is prepared using crushed tomatoes, onions and paneer cubes that were pre-marinated with yogurt and spices.

Can you freeze Paneer Butter Masala?

You can freeze this paneer butter masala recipe with no problem at all. Cool it thoroughly and then transfer it to an airtight container. You can store the paneer butter masala in the freezer for up to six months. When you’re ready to reheat it, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and then microwave it until heated.

More Vegetarian Indian Recipes

If you haven’t noticed, love vegetarian Indian food.  You know this already if you’ve been hanging around here for a while (and if you have, thank you! I <3 you!).  My hubby is Indian, so exploring India and Indian food has been a long-time passion. To that end, here are a few more of my love-filled, and flavour-packed creations I think you may like:

Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani) Recipe

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Servings 4
Dinner
Indian

Ingredients
 
 

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup blanched almonds plus more for topping
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 400 grams paneer cut in cubes
  • cilantro optional, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Heat butter over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add onions and slowly cook until golden, about 20 minutes, reducing heat if they are getting crispy or browning quickly. This is an important flavour-building step, don’t rush it!
  • Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in garam masala, paprika, cinnamon and salt; cook 1 minute more. Add tomatoes and almonds; cook 2 minutes, then add cream and carefully puree using an immersion blender (or standing blender, but do it in batches or the steam will blow the top off).
  • Return sauce to saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Gently stir in paneer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Top with cilantro and additional almonds, if desired.

Video

Notes

  • To make it ahead: Prepare the sauce up to 3 days in advance without adding cream or paneer and refrigerate it in an airtight container. On the day of serving, reheat it until it comes to a gentle simmer then add the paneer cubes and heavy whipping cream.
  • For a lightened-up or dairy-free recipe, you can replace it with coconut milk to achieve richness and consistency.
  • You may substitute the paneer with cubed halloumi or firm tofu.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 657kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 20gFat: 58gSaturated Fat: 33gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 147mgSodium: 1311mgPotassium: 469mgFiber: 4gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 1652IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 591mgIron: 2mg
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Becks
10 years ago

What a touching story! Kind people always warm my heart. There aren’t that many of them left. I also lol’d at 
his head bobbling in the peaceful Indian gesture that means “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “hello”

Is that the ambiguous head nodding “outsourced” described?

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Becks

That would be the same bobbling 🙂

DawnK
DawnK
10 years ago

Wow, that must have been so scary! I’m glad everything turned out all right in the end!

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  DawnK

Thank you, Dawn!

Dani
10 years ago

that is one adorable dog you have. I’m glad it all turned out okay. 

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Dani

Thanks, Dani.

Kristina
10 years ago

I am holding my dachshund Basil SO TIGHT right now, as I read this story. I am so glad you are all safe! the unwavering and instant help from a stranger gives me hope.

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Kristina

Give him a squeeze from me too! 🙂 

@lynneux
@lynneux
10 years ago

I’m so glad you’re both Ok! Reading this brought me to tears, and brought back the terrifying day I watched my @ZooeyNuggs bounce off the front tire of a car and bolt into rush hour traffic on West Georgia Street. Something spooked her, she yanked, her leash slipped my hands and off she went. She was only six months old, in complete shock and I don’t know how I didn’t get hit by a car as I chased her, screaming, through traffic. In this case, my ‘Happy’ was a trio of VPD officers who happened to be making an arrest at Thurlow and Georgia. Hearing my screams, they turned, saw Zooey coming and all three seemed to dive for her. Somehow one of them came up with her leash.

I so feel for you–I have never felt such terror, and this was before we’d been together years like we have been now. I couldn’t imagine losing her. So, so thankful that everything turned out Ok. *hugs*

bee zettl
bee zettl
10 years ago

I only came here for the cinnamon bun recipe but I read this and I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I am so glad Oliver is fine and that there are people out there willing to help, to get their hands dirty and take risks for strangers. 

And what a handsome fella he is – it makes me laugh, though, I have a 1 year old Cocker girl and always get asked whether she’s a setter: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beezzzkneez/6987018277/ Looking at that second photo she could be Oliver’s short-legged sibling!

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  bee zettl

Forget sibling, that could be oliver himself when he was a puppy! So cute! I’ve never seen a redheaded cocker! She is adorable 🙂

Aubrey
10 years ago

I only just read this post (usually your blog is a daily read for me!) I am so glad for you that someone rescued Oliver! Our fur-babies really do mean the world to us don’t they? Hugs for you and wet-nose kisses for Oliver! Have a great Canada Day!

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Aubrey

Thank you so much, Aubrey – for both the daily read and for the hugs!! :’-)  

Cjvegas
Cjvegas
10 years ago

just saw your post and cried the whole time I read it. I was so hoping at the end only good things were going to come of this. The brave person you are inspired Happy to help you. So good to hear that all ended so well and the deed of another helping  another is to make one believe in kindess and goodness.

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Cjvegas

Thank you, Cjvegas 🙂

Kris
Kris
10 years ago

What a terrifying ordeal! I was in tears reading this story and thinking of my own little munchkins at home. I’m so glad your little guy is ok. A toast to Happy tonight.

aprilaakre
aprilaakre
10 years ago

wow this was really hard to read without crying. I am so glad you are both ok.

Tildatoo
Tildatoo
10 years ago

Wow, we’re still crying here. You never know who will step in to help. Thank goodness (& Happy) that you and Oliver are safe. 

Reciperenovator
Reciperenovator
10 years ago

So very glad this had a happy ending, and that an angel appeared when you needed him.

Kizz Robinson
Kizz Robinson
10 years ago

I hope all kinds of wonderful things happen for that man. I’m blubbering here at my desk and so glad you got your boy back.

Debbie Kelly
10 years ago

 Obviously he knew as you & I .a dog is mans best friend and worth everything to save,So glad your pup is ok!!!! What a story!!! Glad it had a happy ending

amberpagewrites
amberpagewrites
10 years ago

Wow. I’m fighting back tears here. That is a wonderful story. It’s nice to know good humans still exist.

Deb
Deb
10 years ago

thank God for Happy, if karma is real his is golden.  My heart was in my mouth reading your story, again, thank God for sending you Happy

Becks
10 years ago

What a touching story! Kind people always warm my heart. There aren’t that many of them left. I also lol’d at 
his head bobbling in the peaceful Indian gesture that means “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “hello”

Is that the ambiguous head nodding “outsourced” described?

DawnK
DawnK
10 years ago

Wow, that must have been so scary! I’m glad everything turned out all right in the end!

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  DawnK

Thank you, Dawn!

Dani
10 years ago

that is one adorable dog you have. I’m glad it all turned out okay. 

DawnK
DawnK
4 years ago

Wow, that must have been so scary! I’m glad everything turned out all right in the end!

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  DawnK

Thank you, Dawn!

Deb
Deb
10 years ago

thank God for Happy, if karma is real his is golden.  My heart was in my mouth reading your story, again, thank God for sending you Happy

Tildatoo
Tildatoo
10 years ago

Wow, we’re still crying here. You never know who will step in to help. Thank goodness (& Happy) that you and Oliver are safe. 

Debbie Kelly
10 years ago

 Obviously he knew as you & I .a dog is mans best friend and worth everything to save,So glad your pup is ok!!!! What a story!!! Glad it had a happy ending

Becks
10 years ago

What a touching story! Kind people always warm my heart. There aren’t that many of them left. I also lol’d at 
his head bobbling in the peaceful Indian gesture that means “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “hello”

Is that the ambiguous head nodding “outsourced” described?

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Becks

That would be the same bobbling 🙂

bee zettl
bee zettl
10 years ago

I only came here for the cinnamon bun recipe but I read this and I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I am so glad Oliver is fine and that there are people out there willing to help, to get their hands dirty and take risks for strangers. 

And what a handsome fella he is – it makes me laugh, though, I have a 1 year old Cocker girl and always get asked whether she’s a setter: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beezzzkneez/6987018277/ Looking at that second photo she could be Oliver’s short-legged sibling!

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  bee zettl

Forget sibling, that could be oliver himself when he was a puppy! So cute! I’ve never seen a redheaded cocker! She is adorable 🙂

Kristina
10 years ago

I am holding my dachshund Basil SO TIGHT right now, as I read this story. I am so glad you are all safe! the unwavering and instant help from a stranger gives me hope.

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Kristina

Give him a squeeze from me too! :-) 

@lynneux
@lynneux
4 years ago

I’m so glad you’re both Ok! Reading this brought me to tears, and brought back the terrifying day I watched my @ZooeyNuggs bounce off the front tire of a car and bolt into rush hour traffic on West Georgia Street. Something spooked her, she yanked, her leash slipped my hands and off she went. She was only six months old, in complete shock and I don’t know how I didn’t get hit by a car as I chased her, screaming, through traffic. In this case, my ‘Happy’ was a trio of VPD officers who happened to be making an arrest at Thurlow and Georgia. Hearing my screams, they turned, saw Zooey coming and all three seemed to dive for her. Somehow one of them came up with her leash.

I so feel for you–I have never felt such terror, and this was before we’d been together years like we have been now. I couldn’t imagine losing her. So, so thankful that everything turned out Ok. *hugs*

Aubrey
4 years ago

I only just read this post (usually your blog is a daily read for me!) I am so glad for you that someone rescued Oliver! Our fur-babies really do mean the world to us don’t they? Hugs for you and wet-nose kisses for Oliver! Have a great Canada Day!

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Aubrey

Thank you so much, Aubrey – for both the daily read and for the hugs!! :’-)  

aprilaakre
aprilaakre
4 years ago

wow this was really hard to read without crying. I am so glad you are both ok.

Cjvegas
Cjvegas
4 years ago

just saw your post and cried the whole time I read it. I was so hoping at the end only good things were going to come of this. The brave person you are inspired Happy to help you. So good to hear that all ended so well and the deed of another helping  another is to make one believe in kindess and goodness.

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  Cjvegas

Thank you, Cjvegas 🙂

Dani
4 years ago

that is one adorable dog you have. I’m glad it all turned out okay. 

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Dani

Thanks, Dani.

Reciperenovator
Reciperenovator
4 years ago

So very glad this had a happy ending, and that an angel appeared when you needed him.

Kris
Kris
4 years ago

What a terrifying ordeal! I was in tears reading this story and thinking of my own little munchkins at home. I’m so glad your little guy is ok. A toast to Happy tonight.

Kizz Robinson
Kizz Robinson
4 years ago

I hope all kinds of wonderful things happen for that man. I’m blubbering here at my desk and so glad you got your boy back.

amberpagewrites
amberpagewrites
4 years ago

Wow. I’m fighting back tears here. That is a wonderful story. It’s nice to know good humans still exist.

DawnK
DawnK
4 years ago

Wow, that must have been so scary! I’m glad everything turned out all right in the end!

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  DawnK

Thank you, Dawn!

Dani
4 years ago

that is one adorable dog you have. I’m glad it all turned out okay. 

Becks
4 years ago

What a touching story! Kind people always warm my heart. There aren’t that many of them left. I also lol’d at 
his head bobbling in the peaceful Indian gesture that means “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “hello”

Is that the ambiguous head nodding “outsourced” described?

Tildatoo
Tildatoo
4 years ago

Wow, we’re still crying here. You never know who will step in to help. Thank goodness (&#38 Happy) that you and Oliver are safe.&#160

Kristina
4 years ago

I am holding my dachshund Basil SO TIGHT right now, as I read this story. I am so glad you are all safe! the unwavering and instant help from a stranger gives me hope.

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Kristina

Give him a squeeze from me too! :-)&#160

Debbie Kelly
4 years ago

&#160Obviously he knew as you &#38 I .a dog is mans best friend and worth everything to save,So glad your pup is ok!!!! What a story!!! Glad it had a happy ending

DawnK
DawnK
4 years ago

Wow, that must have been so scary! I’m glad everything turned out all right in the end!

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  DawnK

Thank you, Dawn!

Deb
Deb
4 years ago

thank God for Happy, if karma is real his is golden. &#160My heart was in my mouth reading your story, again, thank God for sending you Happy

Becks
4 years ago

What a touching story! Kind people always warm my heart. There aren’t that many of them left. I also lol’d at&#160
his head bobbling in the peaceful Indian gesture that means “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “hello”

Is that the ambiguous head nodding “outsourced” described?

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  Becks

That would be the same bobbling 🙂

@lynneux
@lynneux
4 years ago

I’m so glad you’re both Ok! Reading this brought me to tears, and brought back the terrifying day I watched my @ZooeyNuggs bounce off the front tire of a car and bolt into rush hour traffic on West Georgia Street. Something spooked her, she yanked, her leash slipped my hands and off she went. She was only six months old, in complete shock and I don’t know how I didn’t get hit by a car as I chased her, screaming, through traffic. In this case, my ‘Happy’ was a trio of VPD officers who happened to be making an arrest at Thurlow and Georgia. Hearing my screams, they turned, saw Zooey coming and all three seemed to dive for her. Somehow one of them came up with her leash.

I so feel for you–I have never felt such terror, and this was before we’d been together years like we have been now. I couldn’t imagine losing her. So, so thankful that everything turned out Ok. *hugs*

Aubrey
4 years ago

I only just read this post (usually your blog is a daily read for me!) I am so glad for you that someone rescued Oliver!&#160Our fur-babies really do mean the world to us don’t they? Hugs for you and wet-nose kisses for Oliver!&#160Have a great Canada Day!

Jennifer Pallian
10 years ago
Reply to  Aubrey

Thank you so much, Aubrey – for both the daily read and for the hugs!! :’-) &#160

Dani
4 years ago

that is one adorable dog you have. I’m glad it all turned out okay.&#160

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  Dani

Thanks, Dani.

bee zettl
bee zettl
10 years ago

I only came here for the cinnamon bun recipe but I read this and I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I am so glad Oliver is fine and that there are people out there willing to help, to get their hands dirty and take risks for strangers.&#160

And what a handsome fella he is – it makes me laugh, though, I have a 1 year old Cocker girl and always get asked whether she’s a setter:&#160http://www.flickr.com/photos/beezzzkneez/6987018277/ Looking at that second photo she could be Oliver’s short-legged sibling!

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  bee zettl

Forget sibling, that could be oliver himself when he was a puppy! So cute! I’ve never seen a redheaded cocker! She is adorable 🙂

Cjvegas
Cjvegas
4 years ago

just saw your post and cried the whole time I read it. I was so hoping at the end only good things were going to come of this. The brave person you are inspired Happy to help you. So good to hear that all ended so well and the deed of another helping&#160 another is to make one believe in kindess and goodness.

Jennifer Pallian
4 years ago
Reply to  Cjvegas

Thank you, Cjvegas 🙂

aprilaakre
aprilaakre
4 years ago

wow this was really hard to read without crying. I am so glad you are both ok.

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