This easy 30-minute Butter Paneer recipe is one of my half-Indian family’s most cherished dishes. Rich, creamy and totally rivals an Indian restaurant.

Butter Paneer in pan

Filled with sumptuous mild spices and fresh ginger, this is one Indian dish that will have even picky eaters coming back for seconds, thirds, and fourths. My kids are obsessed.

  • Love Butter Chicken? Butter Paneer is the vegetarian version. In fact, most Indian restaurants use the same rich sauce for both dishes. This is arguably one of the most delicious vegetarian Indian recipes
  • The rich, silky sauce has a restaurant-worthy (to-die-for) flavor and creamy texture.
  • It is quick, easy and can be easily prepared at home with simple spices that you probably have on hand.
  • The paneer is spiced separately while the sauce is prepared, to soak up maximum rich, delicious flavor.

Serve it with a batch of warm, buttery homemade naan and prepare to fall in love.

Butter paneer in a pan with naan.

Here’s What You Need

Gathering the right ingredients and tools is the first step to making delicious butter paneer. Let’s break it down.

Ingredients for Butter Paneer on the counter.

Butter Paneer Ingredients

Let’s make sure our ingredient list is up-to-date with the perfect mix for our butter paneer recipe. Here’s the revised list:

  • Paneer: The star! These cheese cubes add texture and protein. If you’re feeling adventurous, homemade paneer is the way to go! It’s not that hard to make, and it tastes so much yummier than store-bought paneer. Plus, it’ll make your dish that much more impressive to your guests.
  • Vegetable Oil: Used for marinating paneer and cooking, it’s a neutral base.
  • Lemon or Lime Juice: Adds a bright, acidic touch to the marinade.
  • Garlic: Adds a sharp, aromatic flavor that’s essential.
  • Ginger: Brings a warm, spicy kick. (You could swap in ginger garlic paste for the garlic and ginger)
  • Garam Masala: The heart of the dish, providing warmth and complexity.
  • Turmeric: Offers a beautiful color and a hint of earthiness.
  • Cayenne (or Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder): Adds a spicy kick.
  • Coarse Salt: Balances and enhances all the flavors.
  • Onion: 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.
  • Paprika: Offers a mild, sweet heat and color. You could use a little red chili powder if you like heat.
  • Cinnamon: A hint of this adds a subtle, sweet spiciness.
  • Diced Tomatoes: I chop up some fresh cherry or grape tomatoes because I always have them on hand. Easier than saving half a can of tomatoes, but either works.
  • Heavy Cream: (Aka 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.
  • Butter: A few tablespoons make this recipe silky and lush.
  • Cilantro: Optional, for a fresh garnish.
Whole fresh cayenne peppers, cayenne pepper powder and a jar of ground cayenne pepper.

Note on Indian Spices Used

  • 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 for a spicy kick.
  • Feel free to add a few whole spices, like a few cardamom pods, a bay leaf, a few cloves and/or a whole cinnamon stick if you’ve got them on hand.
  • Adding bit of Kasuri methi made from dried fenugreek leaves lends additional authentic flavor to this paneer butter masala recipe.

Grab these Tools

Having the right tools on hand makes the cooking process smoother. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Mixing Bowl: For marinating the paneer.
  • Large Saucepan or Dutch Oven: Ideal for making the sauce and cooking the dish.
  • Immersion Blender: (Optional) For blending the sauce to a smooth puree. A regular blender works too, just be careful with hot liquids. If I’m feeling lazy, I don’t bother with the pureeing step. I don’t mind the texture of the onions.
Diced onions in food chopper.

Variations and Substitutions

A few tweaks to consider.

  • Coconut Milk: Swap for cream for a lighter option.
  • Halloumi or Firm Tofu: Great substitutes for paneer. They cater to different diets and preferences. Reduced the salt in the recipe if using halloumi, as it’s quite salty. Tofu and cashew cream in combination would make a vegan version.

How to Make Butter Paneer Masala: An Easy Guide

Making restaurant style paneer butter masala is simpler than you might think. Here’s a step-by-step guide to nailing this creamy, comforting dish.

Preparing the Paneer

First up, let’s get our paneer ready.

Showing how to marinate paneer.

In a bowl, combine vegetable oil, lemon or lime juice, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne, and salt.

Toss the paneer cubes in this mix gently. Aim for an even coat without breaking the cheese.

Marinating paneer like this adds incredible depth before it even hits the sauce.

Don’t be put off by this extra bit, it only needs to marinate while you do the other recipe steps.

Prep Your Base

First things first, melt the butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat.

Cooking onions, garlic and ginger for the butter paneer gravy.

Then, add the onions.

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.

Cook them slowly until they’re golden. This takes about 20 minutes. If they start to crisp or brown too quickly, just lower the heat.

Add Aromatics and Spices

Once the onions are ready, it’s time for garlic and ginger.

Cook them until they’re fragrant, about 1 minute.

Adding spices to butter paneer sauce.

Then, stir in the spices. Cook for another minute.

Warming the Indian spices gently for a few moments develops them more deeply and makes them more fragrant.

Blend in Tomatoes

Next up, add the diced tomatoes.

Let everything simmer together for 2 minutes. This step allows them to soften and the flavours to meld.

After that, add the cream.

Adding tomatoes and cream to butter paneer sauce.

Carefully puree the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.

Puréeing the sauce creates a creamy, dreamy smooth and rich gravy.

If you’re using a standing blender, do it in batches to avoid any accidents with the steam.

Blending butter paneer sauce with immersion blender.

Simmer and Serve Your Butter Paneer

Return the sauce to your saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer.

This is when you add the butter and paneer cubes.

Let it cook until just heated through, about 2 minutes.

Finally, top your Butter Paneer with cilantro if you like. Now, it’s ready to serve.

A package of paneer.

Notes about 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.

Marinate Paneer Ingredients

How to Make Store-Bought Paneer Taste Better

Sometimes, store-bought paneer can be a bit bland or rubbery. But don’t worry, I’ve got some tricks to enhance its flavor and texture.

Marinate for Flavor

Give your paneer a quick marinade. Use spices like turmeric, chili powder, and salt mixed with a bit of oil. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the sauce. This step infuses the paneer with extra flavor and a hint of color.

Here’s my guide to How to Marinate Paneer.

Adding marinated paneer to butter paneer sauce.

Pan-Fry for Texture

Here’s an optional extra step that I don’t always do, but you certainly can.

Pan-frying adds a wonderful texture.

Heat a bit of oil in a pan. Once hot, add the paneer cubes. Fry until they’re golden on all sides. This method gives the paneer a crispy exterior with a soft interior.

Soak in Warm Water

If the paneer feels too firm, try soaking it in a cup of water. Do this for about 20 minutes before cooking. It helps make the paneer softer and more absorbent for flavors.

Psst! Don’t miss these 52+ delicious Paneer Recipes.

Butter paneer with palak paneer and naan.

What to serve with Paneer Butter Masala

To make this meal extra special, start with a batch of crispy homemade potato samosas (or my favorite chicken samosa recipe, if you’re not vegetarian).

Make Ahead Butter Paneer 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.
Drizzling cream on finished butter paneer masala.

FAQs About Butter Paneer

Just skimming through? Here are some quick answers to the commonly-asked questions.

What is Butter Paneer made of?

Butter paneer is made of paneer cubes in a creamy tomato sauce with butter, cream, and spices. It’s a rich and flavorful dish.

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.

What is paneer made of?

Paneer is made from curdled milk and an acid, like lemon juice. It’s pressed to remove the whey, resulting in a firm block.

Is paneer tikka masala the same as butter paneer?

No, paneer tikka masala and butter paneer are different. The former involves grilled paneer in a masala sauce, while the latter has paneer in a creamy tomato-based sauce.

What American cheese is similar to paneer?

There’s no exact American cheese like paneer, but farmer’s cheese is the closest in texture and taste. Both are mild and can be used similarly in recipes.

Can I make butter paneer without heavy cream?

Yes, you can make butter paneer without heavy cream. Substitute with full-fat coconut milk or yogurt for a lighter version.

How can I make vegan butter paneer?

For vegan butter paneer, use firm tofu instead of paneer and coconut cream in place of dairy cream. Also, ensure the butter is plant-based.

Is it necessary to marinate paneer before cooking?

Marinating paneer isn’t necessary, but it enhances the flavor significantly. Even a short marination time makes a difference.

What is Butter Paneer?

Butter Paneer (or Paneer Butter Masala), is a delicious North Indian curry packed with paneer cubes in a tomato cream sauce with a blend of traditional Indian spices.

Adding butter to butter paneer.

More Favorite Creamy Indian Recipes

My husband is Indian, so exploring India and Indian food has been a long-time passion. Here are a few more of my love-filled, and flavour-packed creations I think you may like:

Don’t miss Amma’s Authentic Homemade Indian Chai to sip on while you cook.

Butter paneer in a pan with naan.

The Best Butter Paneer Recipe (Restaurant Flavor!)

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 6
Dinner
Indian
Keyword Paneer Butter Masala, Paneer Makhani

Ingredients
  

For the Paneer:

  • 12 oz package paneer
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic or ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne or kashmiri red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp salt

​For the Butter Masala Sauce:

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 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
  • ​1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cup heavy cream aka whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp butter

Instructions
 

​Marinate the Paneer:

  • In a bowl, mix the oil, lemon juice, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne powder and salt.
  • Add the paneer cubes to the bowl.
  • Gently toss them with the marinade, making sure each piece is well coated. Be careful not to break the paneer. I find it easiest to use my hands.

​Make the Sauce:

  • Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven.
  • Add onions and slowly cook until golden, 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 cook 2 minutes.
  • 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. Stir in butter. Add up to 4 tbsp of water if the sauce is too thick.
  • Gently stir in paneer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

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. If using halloumi, cut the salt in half to account for the saltiness of the cheese.
  • 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
Keyword Paneer Butter Masala, Paneer Makhani

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

3.8 14 votes
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Deb
Deb
11 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

amberpagewrites
amberpagewrites
11 years ago

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

Debbie Kelly
11 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

Kizz Robinson
Kizz Robinson
11 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.

Reciperenovator
Reciperenovator
11 years ago

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

Tildatoo
Tildatoo
11 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. 

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