Kadai Paneer is a delicious and spicy restaurant style paneer dish popular across India. The name Kadai Paneer comes from the commonly used cooking utensil in India – kadhai (wok). Serve karahi paneer with piping hot naan smeared with ghee and a lot of pickled onion for a perfect restaurant-style meal at home.
The Kadai Paneer…
Kadhai paneer is one of my top five favorite paneer dishes to make. This is because it is simple to make, requires little effort, comes together quickly and best of all – it is very hard to go wrong when making this dish.
Kadhai Paneer comes as a delightful treat for the people like me, who prefer a not-so-thin– spicy– crunchy gravy with their paneer. It’s a semi-dry dish with Kasuri Methi lending it’s an oh-so-pleasant aroma to the gravy while the capsicum adds the perfect crunch.
The distinctive spicy-smoky flavor of the thick gravy infused with the pieces of tender paneer, makes you go cleaning the bowls one after the other.
Kadai Paneer is somewhat like the party of flavors and colors on a plate. If a meal could translate to a celebration, I’d make sure karahi paneer would be part of it.
I think just the thought of kadhai paneer takes me back to those rare restaurant treats as a child. It is a dish loved by meat-eaters and vegetarians alike and one that almost every Indian family adores. And even to date karahi paneer has not gone out of fashion.
Unlike some other paneer recipes (also read: 10 Best Paneer Recipes), kadhai paneer does not require a hefty preparation, nor does it need an extensive span of time to prosper. This kadai paneer recipe is quite simple and straightforward.
The Secret Kadai Masala…
The taste in restaurant style kadai paneer comes from the secret kadai masala made from scratch. I have tried tons of packaged kadhai paneer masala, but none of them taste better than the homemade one.
That tantalizing taste and the outburst of flavors in kadai paneer at your favorite restaurant come from the not so secret kadai masala.
Unlike, other spice powders kadai masala has only five whole spices – Kashmiri red chili, peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel. All you need to do is dry roast the spices for a few minutes and coarsely ground. The best part about kadai masala is the leftover can be easily stored and used for making other dishes as well.
Here are some tips to make the perfect Kadai paneer:
Use good quality paneer: I’m going to take a moment here to speak about how important the paneer is, to the recipe. Using paneer that is fresh, and creamy is one of the essential ways to get this dish spot on. You can use homemade paneer too. Regardless of the source, the quality of the paneer is what matters. Nothing ruins a paneer dish than dry, rubbery paneer.
Do not over-cook: The dish requires you to retain the natural textures of the vegetables without overcooking everything and making it mushy. It is best to chop and keep everything ready by your side before you start making the karahi paneer. It is a crime to over-cook capsicum, onion, and tomato in kadhai paneer.
Must add kasuri methi and ginger: The dried fenugreek leaves and the thinly sliced ginger strips are the two must add finishing ingredients for a perfect kadai paneer. These two create some kinda magic in the final dish making it lip-smacking. The aroma of kasuri methi and the sharpness of ginger perfectly balance the heat of spices and give kadai paneer pickle like a notch.
What is the difference between kadai paneer and shahi paneer?
As the name suggests, shahi paneer is a typical Mughlai dish with a rich and creamy texture. Whereas, the kadhai paneer has a more dhaba like rustic appeal to it. The shahi paneer or paneer butter masala has a hint of sweetness to it while the kadai paneer is just the opposite and full of bold flavors. But both of these paneer dishes can be enjoyed with naan, paratha, or tandoori roti.
Which are the best paneer recipes?
It is hard to pick one best paneer recipe when there are a variety of paneer recipes in Indian cuisine. Here are a few of my best paneer recipes that you might like:
Watch Kadai Paneer Recipe Video:
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Karahi Paneer Recipe
- Heavy Bottom Kadhai
Ingredients for Kadai Masala:
- 4 whole kashmiri red chilli
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- 3 tablespoon coriander seeds (sabut dhaniya)
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns (sabut kali mirch)
Ingredients for Kadai Paneer:
- 500 gram paneer (cottage cheese)
- 1 Cup fine chopped onion
- 2 medium-size tomato (make paste in mixer)
- 1 Cup diced capsicum
- `1 Cup diced onion
- 1 Cup diced tomato (remove the pulp and seeds)
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
- 4 tablespoon mustard oil (sarson oil)
- Salt to taste
How To Make Kadai Masala:
- Grind the roasted spices into a coarse powder in a mixer grinder. Transfer to a bowl and set aside till required.
How To Make Kadai Paneer:
- Heat the mustard oil in a wok/kadhai (buy here) over medium flame. Once the oil starts fuming reduce the flame to low.
- Add the chopped onion and fry over low heat till onion turn light brown in color.
- Next, add the tomato paste along with spices (turmeric, red chili powder, salt). Stir to combine and fry till the oil separates from the masala.
- Now add the paneer cubes, diced capsicum, onion, tomato and the kadai masala prepared earlier. Mix nicely.
- Add approximately 1/4 cup of water to the kadai paneer. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 3 – 5 minutes for paneer to soften and absorb the flavor of spices.
- Sprinkle crushed kasuri methi and ginger strip. Combine and the kadai paneer is ready to serve.
- Sprinkle fresh coriander leaves just before serving. Serve Kadai Paneer warm with Naan ( see recipe here ).
- Do not cook Kadai paneer for too long after adding diced capsicum, onion and tomato. Otherwise, vegetables will lose the crunchiness.
- Adjust the amount of red chili powder according to your taste as the Kadai masala is also very spicy.
- If you want to make, kadai paneer gravy, add approximately 1 Cup of water after frying tomato masala and allow it to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes before adding paneer.