Kadai Paneer is a popular and delightful spicy Indian curry. Here paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and bell peppers are cooked in onion tomato gravy with a spicy masala known as ‘Kadai masala’. Tastes best with naan or paratha.
This recipe makes the best restaurant style Kadai Paneer which has a unique flavor blend and aroma from freshly ground whole spices like coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom, and dried red chilies.
This foolproof step-by-step video recipe would help you make the best restaurant style Kadai Paneer every single time.
What is Kadai Paneer?
Kadai Paneer is a popular and delicious paneer recipe where paneer and bell peppers are cooked in a spicy Kadai masala made with freshly ground whole spices.
Kadai Paneer is one of the most favoured paneer recipes ordered at Indian restaurants worldwide. You would always spot it on the menu.
This curry is called Kadai Paneer because this dish is authentically prepared in a ‘Kadai’ (Karahi, kadhai), an Indian wok. This Indian cookware ‘Kadai’ has steeper sides and thick bottom. Kadai is one of the most basic kitchen essentials of Indian cuisine as it is regularly used in everyday Indian cooking.
Kadai is such a versatile cooking utensil where you can cook almost everything from stir-frying to roasting to deep-frying.
However, you don’t necessarily need a Kadai for making Kadai Paneer recipe, you can simply use any other wok or a regular cooking pan the way I cooked it.
What is Kadai Masala?
Kadai Masala is a blend of freshly roasted ground whole spices. This adds a uniquely distinctive spiciness to any dish. Kadai masala is used in all the dishes named with Kadai.
How to make Kadai Masala?
Kadai masala is generally made using coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chilies, and a few other whole spices. These whole spices are dry roasted to bring out the aroma and then ground to a powder.
Making Kadai masala is super simple and easy. You can easily make Kadai Masala at home using simple spices. The addition of Kadai masala makes any dish so flavorful.
Below are the ingredients I have used in my Kadai masala:
- Coriander seeds
- Cumin seed
- Dried red chilies
- Green cardamoms
- Fennel seeds
You simply dry roast all the spices for 3-4 minutes on medium heat or until they are fragrant and release the aroma. Let them cool down. Once cooled, transfer to spice grinding jar and grind to make a fine powder.
Your homemade aromatic Kadai masala is ready to use. Use it or store it.
Kadai masala is used in many Indian recipes. So the good thing is that you can make it in a large batch and store it for up to 1 month in an airtight container at room temperature.
Having Kadai masala ready at hand certainly makes things faster. That way you don’t have to do an extra step and you can use it whenever you are making kadai dishes such as kadai paneer, vegetable kadai, , or kadai tofu.
What are the ingredients used in Kadai Paneer?
Kadai paneer is made using simple kitchen ingredients that are easily available at any Asian grocery store. Here is what you’ll need to make Kadai Paneer at home:
- Green bell peppers (capsicum)
- Ginger Garlic Paste
- Green chilies
- Spices (kadai masala, Kashmiri red chili powder, cumin seeds, salt, kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), turmeric powder)
- Cashew nuts
How to make Kadai Paneer
Making a good Kadai paneer depends on the Kadai masala. If your masala is perfect then your kadai paneer would come out delicious. This is how to make your favorite kadai paneer at home:
Step 1: Make Kadai masala: Add dry spices to a Kadai or a pan and dry roast spices until they are fragrant. Let them cool and grind to a fine powder.
Step 2: Make onion-tomato puree: Heat oil in a large Kadai or any other pan. Add cumin seeds, onions and saute for a minute. Add tomatoes and mix well. Add salt, turmeric powder and cashews. Mix well and cook until tomatoes are soft. Let the mixture cool. Transfer onion tomatoes to a blending jar along with some water and blend into a puree.
Step 3: Sauté veggies: In a large kadai or a pan, heat butter and oil. Add Kashmiri red chili powder and sauté 1 for a few seconds. Next, add bell peppers and onions and sauté on high heat for 2-3 minutes.
Step 3: Make the gravy: Add onion tomato puree and mix well. Add Kadai masala and mix well again. Cook for 2 minutes. Add kasuri methi and green chilies and mix well. Add cream and sugar. Also, add some salt if needed. Mix everything well. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes.
Step 4: Add paneer: Add paneer and mix everything well. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes on medium-low heat. Add cilantro leaves and turn off the heat. Serve Kadai paneer with naan or paratha.
Check out the full recipe in the recipe box on this page.
How to make dry Kadai paneer?
Kadai paneer can be made to a dry or a gravy dish. This recipe is a restaurant-style gravy version of Kadai Paneer which goes well with naan, paratha or rice. If you are planning to make the dry version of this dish, then omit the water part, and you will get the dry version of Kadai Paneer.
How to serve Kadai Paneer?
Delicious and flavorful Kadai paneer can be served with any flatbread or rice dish. Serve it with paratha, roti, , or with paneer pulao.
Paneer dishes are so versatile, you can pair them with almost anything. Here are some meal ideas to enjoy your simple yet delicious Kadai paneer:
Meal idea 2: Kadai paneer, , Brown Rice With Corn.
Tips and Variations to make best Kadai paneer:
With these simple tips and tricks, you can simply turn a simple Kadai paneer into an elegant show stopper.
- Coriander seeds are the main ingredient of Kadai masala, so when making Kadai masala at home remember to add coriander seeds in higher quantity.
- There is a traditional way of making Kadai masala where you dry roast all the spices and ground them to make a fine powder. There is also an easier way of making kadai masala using garam masala powder. This way you can make Kadai masala by blending garam masala powder and coriander seeds and dried red chilies together. For 2 tablespoons coriander seeds you can use 3 dried red chilies and 1 teaspoon garam masala powder.
- Using a good variety of fresh paneer creates a lot of difference in the dish. This is because Homemade Paneer is best for making paneer dishes. So if possible, use fresh homemade paneer. If you are using a store-bought paneer and you think it is a bit firm, then soak it in warm water for about 15 minutes. Drain and then cut into cubes and add it to the gravy. Immersing would make paneer softer.
- Kadai masala does not require any garam masala, because the kadai masala itself is so flavorful and creates a huge difference. However, if you want to use garam masala powder then surely you can add it.
- I have used fresh tomatoes to make puree because this way it is tastier. If you want to use store-bought tomato puree, then simply omit the tomato while sauteing onions for puree.
- The addition of little sugar helps in supporting the spicy flavors in the gravy, but it is entirely optional. You can skip the sugar or add some honey to it.
- Dry roasting the whole spices before pounding is important as it brings out the flavors in kadai masala.
- You can either grind masala into a fine powder or a coarse powder. I personally like it fine.
- I did not add too much dried red chilies to this masala blend. If you want it a bit hotter, then you can increase the number of dried red chilies.
- Frying kashmiri red chili powder direct in oil + butter gives a nice color and delicious flavor to kadai paneer.
- For a spicy variation, you can also coat paneer with salt and red chili and then lightly toast in the oil.
- Kadai paneer has a moderately smoky flavor. So it is recommended to sauté onions and bell peppers on high heat for about 2 minutes. This tossing and sauteing in chili spiced ghee + butter mixture lends a little smoky aroma to this dish.
- To make a vegan version of Kadai paneer, use tofu instead of paneer and replace cream with cashew cream and butter with vegan butter, margarine, or oil.
Serving Suggestions for Kadai Paneer:
Kadai Paneer (Step-by-step photo instructions)
How to Make Kadai Masala //
- Add dried red chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, cardamoms, and peppercorns to a pan or Kadai.
- Dry roast on medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until they are fragrant and release the aroma. Let them cool.
- Remove roasted seeds from the pan and transfer them to a grinder jar.
- Grind the dry roasted seeds to make a smooth powder. Kadai masala is ready for use. This recipe makes about 4 tablespoons of Kadai masala. If you want to make it in a large then, you can easily double or triple this recipe. You can also make this Kadai masala ahead of time and store it in an airtight container.
How to make onion tomato puree //
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan or Kadai.
- Add cumin seeds and let them splutter.
- Once the seeds start to sizzle, add the onions to it and saute for 1 minute.
- After 1 minute, add chopped tomatoes and mix well. Sauté for another minute.
- Next, add cashews, salt, and turmeric powder. Mix everything well to combine.
- Cook on medium heat for 5-6 minutes or cook until tomatoes turn soft.
- Let them cool a bit. Then transfer sautéed onions and tomatoes to a mixer jar along with 1/8 cup of water.
- Grind everything well to make a smooth puree. Onion tomato puree is ready. Set it aside.
How to make Kadai Paneer //
- In a large Kadai or a pan, melt 1.5 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat.
- Add 1 teaspoon of red chili powder and sauté for a few seconds on minute on medium-low heat.
- Add 2 teaspoons ginger and garlic paste and stir well. Sauté for 2 minutes on medium-low heat.
- Add cubed bell peppers (capsicum) and cubed onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes on high heat.
- Add prepared onion tomato puree and mix well.
- Now, add 1/4 cup of water and mix everything well to combine.
- Next, add 4 teaspoons Kadai masala and mix everything well to combine. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add green chilies, and Kasuri methi and mix well. Cook for another minute.
- Add cream, sugar, and salt if needed.
- Mix well and cook covered for 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
- Add paneer pieces and mix everything well.
- Cover with the lid and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
- Uncover the pan and add cilantro. Mix well and turn off the heat.
- Serve Kadai paneer hot with naan or roti.