Paneer Kofta is a rich, creamy paneer recipe. It is also known as Malai Kofta. The mouth-melting paneer kofta balls served in a silky smooth, Indian gravy is what this paneer kofta recipe is all about. It is a soul-satiating paneer dish – one that teases your sense, tingles your nostrils, and leaves your taste buds craving for more.
The Indian Kofta
In Indian Cuisine, we have kofta curries made with vegetables, lentils, soya, paneer, meat, and many other plant-based products. The kofta is an integral part of rich and indulgent Mughlai-style Indian dishes (vegetarian and non-vegetarian).
The Indian Kofta is very similar in shape and texture to the Middle Eastern or Central Asian meatballs (kefta).
A paneer kofta is one of the most popular Indian main-course dishes. Also, known as malai kofta.
The word ‘malai’ is used in Indian Cuisine to describe the smooth, rich, and creamy texture of the dish – literally melts in the mouth types.
The koftas for this gravy are made with crumbled cottage cheese (paneer), boiled potato, cornstarch, and spices. Later, these paneer koftas are doused in a finger-licking, borderline sinful gravy of cashew nuts and onions.
Are malai kofta and paneer kofta same?
Malai Kofta and paneer kofta are often referred to as synonyms. In both of these Indian dishes, fried paneer meatballs (kofta) are dunked in a rich and creamy gravy.
Both of these Mughlai-style dishes are almost similar except for the color and taste of the gravy. Across the Indian subcontinent, there are many versions of this kofta curry recipe popular.
Making of Paneer Kofta
Making malai kofta is a three-step process. Once you understand the nuances of making the perfect kofta, it is not at all a time taking recipe.
Step 1 (Make Kofta): Mix your ingredients together nicely, shape them into round balls, and deep-fry in small batches. The kofta is ready.
Step 2 (Prepare Gravy): Malai Kofta Gravy is a rich, indulgent kinda curry made with onion, tomato, cashews, and cream. The highlight of this gravy is the smooth texture and the sweet and spicy taste. There is no paneer added to the gravy.
Step 3 (Assemble): Once steps 1 & 2 are complete, it’s time to dip the kofta in the gravy sauce. I simmer the kofta in the gravy for 5 – 6 minutes so that they absorb the flavor of the sauce.
Watch Paneer Kofta Recipe Video
My Tried & True Tips
The Kofta: Make sure the boiled potatoes and the paneer do not have water. Please keep them in the refrigerator overnight; this ensures a lot of time-saving and a non-sticky mixture.
Always grate both the ingredients (paneer and potatoes) for the kofta mixture.
Before adding other ingredients to the kofta mixture, knead the grated paneer and potatoes with the pressure of your palm for 5 – 6 minutes to get a smooth dough. This process ensures the fine texture of the kofta, and they will never break apart.
For binding, I add all-purpose flour to the kofta mixture. The cornstarch also gives a crisp, golden exterior to the kofta.
I do not recommend shaping kofta more than the size of a lemon – too big kofta do not soak the gravy sauce very well and often deflate after adding in gravy.
Fry kofta in small batches, over medium-high heat. It is best not to rush the frying process. We need a golden exterior of the kofta without breaking them apart.
The Gravy: The silky smooth, mouth-melting texture is the key feature of the malai kofta gravy. Hence, it is essential to sieve the masala after blending.
The bright orange color in the gravy comes from Kashmiri Red Chili Powder, tomatoes, and saffron. There is no artificial color added to the gravy.
An interesting addition to this gravy is cashew nuts. As sinful as they sound, cashew nuts add a nice thickness, creaminess, and nutty taste to the malai kofta gravy.
Paneer Kofta Recipe Variation
There are many versions of the paneer kofta recipe available over the internet. Here are a few of the recipe variations that you might find useful:
Gluten-Free: Use gram flour, rice flour, tapioca starch, or any other gluten-free flour to bind the kofta mixture. The gravy of this kofta curry is gluten-free.
White Gravy: The malai kofta is often served in white cashew and cream-based gravy. You can follow my white gravy recipe for the same.
Stuffed Kofta: Many kofta recipes suggest stuffing the kofta with dry fruits such as raisins, broken cashews, or almonds. It is totally optional and a matter of personal choice. In my paneer kofta recipe, I have not stuffed the kofta with dried fruits or nuts.
Baked Kofta: Baking or air frying the kofta does not give the same results as deep-frying. However, you can cook them in an appe (paniyaram) pan to save a few calories.
The paneer kofta gravy is an indulgent Indian main course. It tastes best with a variety of Indian flatbreads – naan, lachha paratha, or tandoori roti.
You can serve it with steamed basmati rice, saffron rice, turmeric rice, or peas pulao as well.
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Paneer Kofta Recipe
- Heavy Bottom Kadhai
- Deep Frying Pan
Ingredients For Paneer Kofta:
- 250 gram paneer (cottage cheese), grated
- 1 cup potato, hard boiled and grated
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (maida)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 2 cup vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Ingredients For Gravy:
- 1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 cup onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 dry Kashmiri Red Chili
- 1/4 Cup cashew nuts
- 1 cup tomato, chopped
- 1/4 cup tomato puree
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup fresh cream
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron (soaked in 1 tablespoon milk)
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
- Mix all the ingredients for the kofta except oil in a bowl. Knead the mixture for 5 – 6 minutes with the pressure of your palm to get a smooth, non-sticky dough. This step ensures mouth melting kofta balls.
- Make small, even bite-size balls of the mixture. Keep in the fridge while oil is heated.
- Heat oil for frying the kofta in a deep-frying pan to a medium-high temperature.
- Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to low and fry the koftas in small batches. Do not overcrowd the pan. Once golden, crisp drain the kofta on a plate and set aside.
- Soak saffron in 1 tablespoon of milk and set aside.
- Heat ghee in a heavy bottom pan. Add the chopped onion, ginger, garlic, red chilli, cashews and fry till onion starts turning brown.
- Next, add chopped tomato, puree, spices, salt and fry till tomatoes are mushy. Once the oil starts separating from the masala add 1 Cup water. Stir and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer for 3 – 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Grind the masala to a smooth paste in blender.
- Once again, heat the same pan. Using a seive filter the masala paste for a smooth gravy. Discard the thick residue left in the seive.
- Add fried kofta balls, kasuri methis, cream, and stir to mix. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer the gravy over low heat for 5 – 6 minutes. Adjust the consistency of gravy by using water/milk if it seems too thick.
- Once you are ready to serve, add soaked saffron and fresh coriander. Stir gently to combine. Turn off the heat.
- Serve Paneer Kofta with naan or lachha paratha.
- If the kofta mixture is way too sticky, add 1 – 2 tablespoons more flour to get a smooth dough.
- Keeping uncooked kofta in the fridge while preheating the oil is an essential step.
- Filtering the gravy masala is an optional step. It ensures a smooth, silky texture of the gravy like a makhani sauce.
- If the gravy seems too thick adjust the consistency by adding more water or milk.