Kadai paneer is a tasty paneer dish made with Indian cottage cheese, bell peppers and a special spice powder called kadai masala. In restaurants you will find two variations of this recipe( semi dry & gravy) and and I am sharing both here.
Paneer is one ingredient that we all love at our home. I cook with it at least twice a week. This kadhai paneer is a top favorite at home too just like palak paneer. I usually make the kadai masala and store so making this recipe is a breeze. Here crunchy bell peppers or capsicum pairs well with soft paneer.
What Is Kadai Paneer?
It is a popular Indian paneer curry just like paneer butter masala, palak paneer etc. Here paneer(Indian cottage cheese) and bell peppers (capsicum) are cooked in a spicy masala made of onions, tomatoes and spice powders.
The entire recipe is cooked in an Indian wok called kadai or karahi and hence this is called karahi paneer or kadai paneer.
Kadai is the most commonly used utensil in Indian cooking. It is used mostly for making everyday vegetables like stir fries, deep frying, sweets and more. It is usually made of cast iron or carbon steel.
You can however easily make this recipe in a regular pan if you do not have kadai.
Unlike many other recipes, the spice blend used for this curry is a special one known as kadai masala. It is blend of 3-4 whole spices. While it is easily available in stores, homemade kadai masala is much more flavorful and fresh. I have included the recipe for making the spice blend here.
There are two variations in this kadai paneer recipe
- semi dry version- Most popular in restaurants
- gravy version- one of the delicious paneer gravy recipes.
Once the masala powder for kadai paneer is ready, it is a breeze to make kadai paneer. This dish is
ready in 30 minutes
pairs well with naan, paratha and rice
delicious and flavorful
treat for paneer lovers
vegetarian and gluten free
What Is Kadai Masala Made Of?
The kadai masala is a dry spice mix made of whole spices. The whole spices added to this blend varies. The common spice used is whole coriander seeds here.
I usually add
- whole coriander seeds
- dried red chilies
- cumin seeds
- black peppercorns
In some recipes you will also find bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom but the above mentioned ones are what added in authentic kadai masala.
What I usually do is along with this spice blend I add a dash of garam masala powder while making the curry.
This karahi paneer is supposed to be spicier than any other paneer curry, so a good amount of black peppercorns and dried red chilies.
The addition of freshly powdered spices lend a wonderful taste and amazing flavor to this curry. The aroma of freshly roasted and ground spices is impeccable, don’t you think so?
You can make this kadai masala well ahead and store for weeks in airtight containers. This will save time for you while making kadai paneer.
I also use this kadai masala in many other recipes like veg kadhai in veg stir fries, to perk up the flavor of many veg curries. Just a small pinch will totally elevate the flavor.
Tips To Make Kadai Paneer
Please go through these tips and follow them to make this recipe perfectly. I have curated these tips over the years and perfected the recipe.
Quality of paneer– The first tip for any paneer curry is to use best quality paneer or Indian cottage cheese. I always suggest homemade paneer because it is fresh, delicious and softest.
However if you are using store bought paneer or paneer from frozen section, you will have to soak it in warm water for 30 minutes before using.
Soaking the paneer in warm water makes it softer and also the flavor of masala gets absorbed well.
Kadai– Typically this dish is made in an Indian wok or kadai. It is a deep and broad cast iron pan that would withstand high heat. If you do not have a kadai use any regular cooking pan for this recipe.
If you have a carbon steel or cast iron pan, it would be ideal.
Kadai masala– the spice blend you use can make or break this dish. If possible, use freshly roasted and powdered kadai masala. Nothing like freshly pounded spices in any curry.
If you are making and storing a big batch, make sure to store in an airtight container and refrigerate or freeze. This will make your spice blend last long and flavors will be potent.
Spice levels- Please note that kadai paneer is one spicy curry compared to other paneer curries. To get the real taste and flavor refrain from adding cream or cashews in this recipe. They will totally alter the flavor. If you want to make it less spicy, just reduce the amount of red chilies and you can add a dash of butter just before serving.
Along with red chillies, I always add some black peppercorns to give that sharp spice note.
Red Chillies– we need dried red chillies for this curry. If you can handle the heat go head and add spicier ones like I did here. For mildly spiced curry you can use Kashmiri red chillies or byadgi chilies. They are mildly spiced but add vibrant color.
What I usually do is, add spicy dry red chillies to kadai masala and some kashmiri red chilli powder while making the curry to balance spice and color.
Color– the deep red color of this curry comes from kadai masala and tomatoes. Use ripe and red tomatoes for best flavor, taste and color. To deepen the color you can also add some tomato paste. It adds flavor and vibrant color to this dish.
Bell pepper– Bell peppers or capsicum are a must in this recipe. They add a wonderful crunch and flavor. You can use only green or mixed colored bell peppers.
Kasuri methi- Dried methi leaves or fenugreek leaves known as kasuri methi lends that wonderful flavor to this curry. So add it if you have.
Ginger Juliennes & coriander leaves– The most commonly used garish for kadai paneer is ginger juliennes. They add a good flavor, pungent taste and mild heat and tastes really delicious in this curry. Add as less or more as you like. Also add some chopped coriander leaves for flavor.
I sometimes use the semi dry version as sandwich filling or toss some cooked pasta to it, try it out yum!
This recipe of kadai paneer is one of the most requested recipes in our family gatherings. It has the perfect balance of spice, flavor and color. It tastes wonderful when served hot with some onion rings and loads of coriander leaves. Do try it out and tell me 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Make This Dish Vegan?
Yes, just use extra firm tofu instead of paneer and oil instead of butter.
Make sure to press the tofu for 20 minutes before cutting into cubes.
How to grind the kadai masala?
You can use the smallest dry grinding jar of an Indian mixer grinder to powder the spices. In the US you can use a coffee grinder or spice grinder and powder the spices easily.
What can I use if I don’t have kadai masala?
Just increase the garam masala by another 1 teaspoon and add 2 teaspoons roasted and ground coriander. Also increase red chili powder by another 1/2 teaspoon.
Is it necessary to dry roast the spices?
Yes, dry roasting not only crisps up the spice but also releases some essential oils and makes them very flavorful. So even if your are crisp and fresh, dry roasting them for few minutes is recommended.
Also it is easier to powder roasted spices.
How to infuse smoky flavor in this curry?
to make restaurant style kadai paneer with smoky flavors first you will have to saute onions and bell pepper in high flame as mentioned in the recipe. This alone will lend a mild smoky flavor to the dish.
For furthermore smoky flavor you can do dhungar method. That is infusing charcoal smoke in the curry.
To incorporate dhungar in this recipe heat a piece of charcoal until it is flaming hot. Place it carefully in a small bowl and place the bowl in the pan with curry. Add some oil or ghee to the hot charcoal and close the pan tightly. Let the flavor infuse for 3-4 minutes. Discard the charcoal with oil and serve the curry immediately.
What is the difference between kadai paneer, paneer makhani and shahi paneer?
They are three different recipes entirely. While shahi paneer is a mild and rich curry with very delicate flavor from Hyderabad, kadhai paneer is robust, spicy and mildly pungent curry from Punjab.
Paneer makhani on the other hand is a smooth, slightly sweet and very rich paneer gravy curry with makhani sauce as base.
Here is an easy step by step photo guide for your easy understanding.
First of all, cube 2 large onions and measure out 1 cup cubed onions. Next chop 1 small onion finely. Chop the tomatoes very finely or puree them and measure out 2.5 cups. Chop 1 large green bell pepper or capsicum into cubes. Peel and mince the ginger garlic and set aside.
Next if you are using store bought paneer, cube them and keep immersed in hot water until use. If you made paneer at home, just remove from the refrigerator, cubed and set aside. You will need around 1.5 cups cubed paneer for this recipe.
To make masala powder, heat a small pan and add the whole spices to it. Dry roast in low flame for 3-4 minutes.
Let cool and transfer to a dry grinding jar.
Grind to a fine powder. Set aside this kadai masala until use.
How To Make Kadai Paneer Curry Recipe
Heat a kadai or pan with 2 tablespoons butter or oil. To the hot pan one by one add cumin seeds, finely chopped onions, minced ginger garlic and slit green chili. Saute well for a minute until the raw smell of ginger garlic leaves and onions get cooked a bit.
Now add the cubed onions and bell peppers. Saute in high heat for 2 minutes continuously. No need to do this in a separate pan and all.
Next add the tomato puree or finely chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes in medium flame till they turn a bit soft.
Add the ground masala powder, garam masala powder, Kashmiri red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt to taste.
Mix well and cook till the tomatoes are completely cooked and fat releases from the sides in medium flame. You can add 1/2 cup water at this stage.
Add the cubed paneer and mix gently. Add the cubed paneer and mix gently. If you have made paneer at home just cube it an add. If using store bought paneer, cube and soak in hot water for 15 minutes, drain and add.
Finally add the ginger julienne, crushed kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves and mix well.
Transfer kadai paneer to a serving bowl and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve immediately.
To make kadai paneer gravy simply increase the quantity of pureed tomatoes to 3.5 cups. Saute the cubed onions and bell peppers separately and remove to a plate.
Follow the recipe and at the stage of adding finely chopped tomatoes, add the tomato puree along with paste if using. Also add the kadai masala and other spice powders.
Mix well and cook till it leaves out fat. Add 2 cups water and simmer till the gravy consistency is reached. Once the gravy is thick to your liking add sautéed onions, bell pepper and cubed paneer. Mix well and remove from flame.
This kadai paneer gravy tastes wonderful with basmati rice, naan, lachha paratha etc.
More Delicious Recipes
I hope you will try this paneer kadai recipe and enjoy as much as we did. P
- Kadai or heavy pan
For Kadai Masala
- 6 dried red chilies
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorn
For Kadai Paneer Curry
- 2 tablespoons butter or oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1/2 inch ginger peeled and minced
- 1 green chilli slit
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 1 cup cubed onions from 2 large onions
- 1 cup cubed bell peppers from 1 large bell pepper
- 1.5 cups paneer cubed
- 2.5 cups tomatoes very finely chopped or minced
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon kasuri methi
- Salt to taste
- ginger julienne as required
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves cilantro leaves
- heat a small pan and add the whole spices to the pan. Dry roast the spices in low flame for 3-4 minutes.
- Let them cool and transfer to a dry grinding jar.
- Grind to a fine powder and set aside this kadai masala until use.
- Heat a kadai or pan with 2 tablespoons butter or cooking oil. To the pan one by one add cumin seeds, finely chopped onions, minced ginger garlic and slit green chili. Saute them well for a minute until the raw smell of ginger garlic leaves and onions get cooked a bit.
- Next add the cubed onions and bell peppers. Saute them in high heat for 2 minutes continuously.
- Now add the tomato puree or finely chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes in medium flame.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the ground masala powder, garam masala , Kashmiri red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt to taste.
- Mix well and cook well till the tomatoes are completely cooked and fat releases from the sides. Add 1/2 cup water at this stage if needed.
- Add the cubed paneer and toss gently.
- Finally add the ginger julienne, crushed kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves and mix very well.
- Transfer kadai paneer to a serving bowl and garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves. Serve immediately with naan or rice.