Kadai Paneer is a spicy, gluten-free Indian style stir fry made with paneer (cottage cheese), onion, tomato, and peppers. Serve karahi paneer with piping hot naan smeared with ghee and pickled onion for a perfect Indian restaurant-style meal at home.
About Kadai Paneer
Kadhai paneer is one of my top five favorite paneer dishes.
Because it requires little effort, comes together quickly, and best of all – the distinctive spicy-smoky flavor of the masala infused with the pieces of tender paneer, makes you go cleaning the bowls one after the other.
The name Kadai Paneer comes from the commonly used cooking utensil in India – kadhai (wok).
It is a dish loved by meat-eaters and vegetarians alike and one that almost every Indian family adores.
Unlike some other paneer recipes, kadhai paneer does not require a hefty preparation, nor does it need an extensive span of time to get ready.
This Kadai paneer recipe is quite simple and straightforward.
Difference between Kadhai 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 -full of bold flavors.
But both of these paneer dishes can be enjoyed with naan, paratha, or tandoori roti.
The Secret Kadai Masala
The taste in restaurant style Kadai paneer comes from the kadhai masala. I have tried tons of packaged kadhai paneer masala, but none of them taste better than the homemade one.
Unlike, other spice powders Kadai masala has only five whole spices – Kashmiri red chili, peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel.
Dry roast the spices till aromatic, next, coarsely ground. Store the leftover spice mix in an airtight container at room temperature, and use it to season other vegetable curry and stir fry.
My Tried & True Tips
Soft Paneer: I’m going to take a moment here to speak about how important the paneer is, to the Kadhai paneer recipe. Soak paneer in lukewarm water for 5 – 6 minutes before adding to the curry. It will be soft and mouth-melting.
Do not over-cook: The dish requires you to retain the crunchy texture of the vegetables. 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 ingredients: The dried fenugreek leaves and the thinly sliced ginger strips are the two must add finishing ingredients for perfect kadhai paneer. These two create some kinda magic in the final dish making it lip-smacking.
Kadhai Paneer Gravy: 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.
Watch Kadai Paneer Recipe Video
Leftover Storage & Usage
Store leftover Kadai Paneer in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days. Reheat in a microwave or in a pan on stovetop.
The leftover Kadhai Paneer masala can be used as a sandwich or wrap stuffing. Or you can make delicious paneer pulao using the leftover vegetables and paneer.
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Kadai 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)
- ½ 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
- ½ 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 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 ¼ 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.
- 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 very spicy.
- I highly recommend using mustard oil for cooking kadai paneer. It gives a unique pickle like flavor and aroma to the dish.
- 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.
- To make vegan Kadhai Paneer, use fir tofu, mushroom, or bean curd instead of paneer (cottage)