Paneer pulao is a fragrant, healthy, delicious, and mildly spiced paneer rice prepared with paneer (Indian cottage cheese), basmati rice, herbs, and spices. It can be served with several accompaniments, lentils, and Indian curries.
The merger of fragranced whole spices and garam masala powder imparts lots of exotic flavors to this paneer rice recipe.
It is a gluten-free dish that can also be made vegan with a slight modification. When made from scratch, this easy paneer pulao gets done in under 25 minutes and is suitable for lunch and dinner.
When fried paneer cubes meet the fluffy and mildly spiced rice, you get an aromatic and outstandingly delectable rice dish which you would want to indulge in.
Made in one pot, it makes a wonderfully delicious and comfy meal when paired with some beans such as , , or , , and pickle. Make it for your hectic weeknight meal, or have it as a weekend lazy lunch — it would never disappoint you. You can even prepare it with an elaborate Indian meal if you have guests coming.
Make this toothsome rice dish for an upcoming get-together party, pack it in a lunch box, or just make it to enjoy with the family.
About Paneer Pulao
Paneer Pulao is an absolutely pleasant and aromatic main course dish which is prepared by frying/roasting paneer cubes in /oil and then cooking them with basmati or pulao rice. All types of pulao are super easy and quick to make. To make an ultimate luxury meal, just make some , salad, roast papads, and then pair them with any pickle of your choice.
This healthy, delicious, and easy-to-make Paneer Rice is quite a versatile dish, you can relish it as a healthy and protein-rich meal, and it is fancy enough to serve along with a party or festive meal. You can also call it matar paneer pulao, or veg paneer pulao.
There are many ways a simple paneer pulao can be made. I have tried & tested many versions of paneer pulao over many years. But the one I like the most is this one. This is because it is similar to the one I ate at home, weddings and restaurants.
Here paneer cubes are shallow fried beautifully in some pure desi ghee which not only makes it more nutritious but also adds an aromatic flavor and amplifies the overall experience of this paneer rice. The addition of colorful veggies makes it fiber-rich and vibrant. Cashews and raisins add a wonderful nutty-fruity flavor and texture, and the whole spices perform the final magic.
In this recipe, Paneer is fried first and then added only when the rice is 80% done. This way paneer retains its soft texture.
Paneer pulao should be mildly spiced so that we can pair it with our favorite paneer curry or with some dal makhani, or simple dal tadka. It should also have plenty of flavors that can be eaten alone or with some chilled raita.
Due to green chilies and garam masala powder, this pulao has a nice mildly hot taste and whole spices make it fragrant, so this is that one particular paneer pulao recipe that can be served with almost everything.
I have added some garam masala to spruce up the entire dish, but some homemade or store-bought pulao masala can also be used instead of garam masala powder. If you prefer hot-tasting pulao, then you can use green chili paste.
It has gorgeous colors, different tastes, and textures coming from whole spices, green chilies, onions, pulao, rice, paneer, green peas, carrots, , mint, and coriander leaves, and garam masala powder.
The great thing about paneer is that it is generally a bit flat in taste, and just like the water you can color it up the way you prefer.
This Paneer Pulao
✔ is simple and easy to make
✔ can also be made in one-pot
✔ is vegetarian and gluten-free
✔ can also be made vegan
✔ smells aromatic and tastes super delicious
✔ is healthy and wholesome
✔ is loaded with the goodness of nuts & veggies
✔ is fiber and protein-rich
✔ can also be served at parties & get-togethers
✔ can also be made using brown rice
✔ is also suitable for lunch box
Paneer Pulao vs Paneer Biryani
People often get confused between Paneer Pulao and Paneer Biryani. Paneer Pulao is a mildly spiced rice dish that can be made in a single pot, whereas Paneer Biryani is a spicy rice dish that requires lots of spices and dum cooking (a technique where you slow cook a dish in a steam).
While Paneer Pulao just takes 20-30 minutes to get ready, Paneer Biryani takes a lot more time to prepare.
Paneer Pulao is a one-pot meal that gets done in 20-30 minutes. In Paneer Biryani, rice and gravy are cooked separately. It also has layers.
Ingredients For Paneer Pulao
Rice – Rice is the key ingredient of this paneer pulao recipe. Long grain basmati rice makes the most aromatic, fluffy, and best-tasting paneer pulao. However, you can also use regular basmati rice.
Paneer – This is the second important ingredient here. It adds some protein and a rich flavor to this pulao. I have used homemade paneer here, but store-bought paneer can also be used in this recipe. Just don’t use soft paneer or else it will stick to the pan.
Ghee – It is used for shallow frying paneer cubes and cooking pulao. The addition of ghee makes this pulao irresistibly inviting and exotic. However, if you don’t want to use ghee then you can easily swap it with vegetable oil.
Vegetables – To add more fiber and nutrition I have added onion, carrots, and peas. You can also add any other vegetable of your choice. Other vegetables that go well are beans, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.
Whole Spices – They are added for a beautiful flavor. Since there are not many powdered spices, the major flavor comes from the whole spices. The whole spices you would need are: cumin seeds, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, green cardamom pods, black cardamom, star anise, and cloves.
Fresh Mint and cilantro Coriander Leaves – Paneer pulao gets the freshness and brightness from these leaves. Also, they add a beautiful green shade to this paneer rice.
Green chilies – They are added for a hot taste. I have added only 2 small chilies, you can increase the amount of chilies if you want a hot taste.
Nuts & dried fruits – Cashews and raisins are added for a nutty and fruity flavor and richness. You can also use almonds here.
Other Ingredients – You will also need some water, ginger-garlic paste, garam masala powder, salt, and water to make paneer pulao.
How to make Paneer Pulao
Making paneer pulao is very simple and easy. This is a one-pot rice recipe that can be made using a pan, dutch oven, Instant Pot, or stovetop pressure cooker. This is how paneer pulao is prepared in 6 simple steps:
Step 1 - Add ghee or oil in a pan, and shallow fry paneer until golden from all the sides. Remove to a plate and set them aside. Also, keep the ghee aside for cooking pulao.
Step 2 - To a thick bottomed pan or a dutch oven, add the remaining ghee/oil. Once the ghee is hot, add cumin seeds, green chilies, ginger juliennes, whole spices, cashew nuts, and raisins. Saute everything until cashews turn light brown.
Step 3 - Then add sliced onions and saute for 2 minutes. Thereafter, add ginger-garlic paste and mix. Cook until onions become translucent. Now add carrots and saute them for 1 minute.
Step 4 - Then add the drained rice and mix well to coat the rice with oil. Now add salt to taste and mix. Add water and stir gently.
Step 5 - After that, add fresh cilantro and mint leaves. Also add green peas, lemon juice, and garam masala powder. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
Step 6 - Uncover the pan and add fried paneer cubes. Mix everything lightly. Cover the pan and cook again for 3-4 minutes or till rice is tender and cooked. Once all the water is absorbed, turn off the heat and uncover the pan. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then fluff up the paneer pulao using a fork and serve hot with raita, papad, and pickle.
On this page, you’ll find step-by-step photo instructions, and video recipe to make the best tasting Paneer Pulao.
Paneer Pulao stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to 2 days when stored in an air-tight container. When you want to eat, simply reheat the pulao in a microwave or a double boiler.
If for some reason your pulao seems dry, then drizzle it with some water before reheating. Rice would be soft again.
Rice - If you want to make a healthier version of pulao without rice, then you can substitute rice with broken wheat (daliya), broken barley, steel-cut barley, steel-cut oats, couscous, quinoa, etc. The cooking time and water ratio will vary with each grain.
Ghee - Ghee can be replaced with butter, coconut oil, or vegetable oil.
Tips tricks to make the best Paneer Pulao
Paneer: Here I have used but store-bought paneer can also be used for making this recipe. To get more flavors, you can also use herbed paneer such as masala paneer. Paneer should not be very soft, but it should be brittle either.
Frying: For shallow-frying, you can use any pan. But if you are planning to roast paneer cubes then make sure to use a well-seasoned pan to make sure that paneer doesn’t stick to the pan. A non-stick pan can also be used here.
Spiciness: This recipe doesn’t make a spicy pulao, so kids can also enjoy this. If you want spicy and hot pulao then you either increase the amount of green chilies or use the green chili paste.
Vegan: To make the vegan paneer pulao, use either vegan butter or oil. Also, swap paneer with firm tofu.
Water: Instead of water, you can also cook this pulao in coconut, almond, or cashew milk. You can even replace water with vegetable stock.
Can you make paneer pulao in a pressure cooker?
Yes, you can certainly make this pulao in a pressure cooker. If you are wondering how to make paneer pulao in pressure cooker, then follow the instructions below.
To make paneer pulao in a pressure cooker, you will only need 1.5 cups of water. Prepare the entire recipe in a pressure cooker till adding garam masala powder. After that, add the fried paneer to the last, and then pressure cook for 2 whistles in high heat.
After that, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and let the pressure go down naturally before opening the lid.
What vegetables can be added to Paneer Pulao?
Paneer pulao can be prepared with vegetables such as carrots, green peas, mushrooms, beans, cauliflower, corn kernels, broccoli, spinach, etc.
Can we make Paneer Pulao with Brown Rice?
Paneer pulao tastes best when made using basmati rice. But it does taste fine when made with brown rice. I like long grain brown rice for making a healthier version of this pulao. To make paneer pulao with brown rice you will need 2 ¾ cups of water. Also, you might have to increase the cooking time. The rest of the recipe will be the same.
How to make vegan paneer pulao?
To make the vegan version of paneer pulao, swap ghee with any vegetable oil of your choice. Also, substitute paneer with tofu.
Paneer Pulao (Step-by-step photo instructions)
Making Paneer Pulao
- Wash the rice 3-4 times or until water comes clear. After that, add enough water to the rice and soak for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes drain the rice and keep it aside.
- Now heat 4 tablespoons of ghee/oil in a pan. Once hot, add the paneer cubes in a single layer and shallow fry till they are browned from all the sides. Once fried, transfer the paneer cubes to a plate and set them aside.
- Use the same ghee for making pulao. Add the same ghee to a dutch oven or a thick-bottomed saucepan. Once the ghee is hot, add cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Now add ginger juliennes, sliced green chilies, cinnamon stick, black cardamom, green cardamom pods, star anise, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and cloves.
- Also add halved cashew nuts and raisins. Saute everything for about 1 minute on medium heat or until cashew nuts are lightly golden.
- Add sliced onions and fry them for 2 minutes. Now add ginger-garlic paste and fry till onions turn translucent.
- Then add chopped carrots, and cook for 1 minute. Now add the drained rice and toss gently on medium heat for about 1 minute to coat the rice with the ghee. Then add salt and give it a mix.
- After that, add coriander leaves, mint leaves, and 2 cups of water. Mix gently to combine.
- Also add lemon juice, green peas, and stir. Lemon juice helps rice make non-sticky and also prevents it from coloring. Lastly, add garam masala powder, and stir again.
- Cover the lid of the pan and cook the pulao on medium heat for 5 minutes. Now uncover the pan, add fried paneer cubes and toss lightly. Cover the pan again and cook again for 3-4 minutes or until rice is cooked and all the water is absorbed.
- Once the rice is cooked and all the water has been absorbed then turn off the heat and uncover the pan. Rice is tender and soft now. Let the rice rest for 5 minutes, after that, fluff the paneer pulao using a fork.
- Garnish with ginger juliennes and cilantro. Serve hot with raita & pickle.