That Spicy Chick

Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani)

This Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani) is easy to make at home and better than any restaurant version I’ve tasted! It’s super flavorful with rich, creamy, buttery, and spicy notes, and is also naturally gluten-free. Pair it with roti paratha, naan, or rice and a salad for a delicious Indian meal! Feel free to swap the paneer (Indian cottage cheese) for chicken to make Chicken Butter Masala if you like.

orange Indian paneer butter curry garnished with cream, coriander, and butter in cast iron deep black skillet.

What’s creamy, buttery, spicy, super rich, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and sings to your heart’s creamiest and butteriest desires?

This Paneer Butter Masala!!!

You guys!! This is the dish that converted me from being a paneer (Indian cottage cheese) hater to a person that will gladly make paneer on any given night of the week now!

Moreover, I will happily cook this mind-blowing Paneer Butter Masala on any given day because it is extremely easy to make at home. And it’s 💯 times tastier than any restaurant version I’ve ever tried!

Whether it’s you that’s tucking into a bowl of this delicious magic on a quite night in, or your family or friends joining you for an Indian feast, I guarantee you’re all going to love it! 🤗

orange paneer curry garnished with coriander, cream, and butter in large black deep cast iron skillet.

WHAT IS BUTTER MASALA/CURRY?

I’m pretty sure most of you have tried either Paneer or Chicken in Butter Masala at some point in your lives. But for those of you who need a little info, Butter Masala is a classic Indian tomato and onion masala (masala is interchangeable with the word ‘curry’ on Indian restaurants menus), and it’s made with cream, butter, and a variety of spices. Any Indian restaurant serving North Indian cuisine will have either Chicken Butter Masala or Paneer Butter Masala on their menu. They also sometimes call it Paneer or Chicken Makhani.

Westerners and Indians alike love this bold and spicy-sweet classic North Indian dish with chicken/paneer all over the world.

WHY THIS BUTTER PANEER MASALA IS SO DARN DELICIOUS

This dish has two main tasty elements going on:

  • Buttery melt-in-your-mouth soft paneer (cottage cheese) cubes. They are first marinated in Greek yogurt, spices, ginger paste, garlic paste, and a splash of lemon juice. They’re then pan-sautéed in butter and a bit of olive oil to lock in all the delicious flavors!
  • A rich, buttery, and creamy, spices infused tomato and onion masala/sauce. (Say no more – I AM SO THERE.) 😍
bowl of rice, roti paratha and orange paneer butter curry garnished with coriander

WHY THIS PANEER BUTTER MASALA IS BETTER THAN ANY RESTAURANT VERSION OUT THERE

The main differences between my Paneer Butter Masala and restaurant versions are as follows:

  1. Unlike some restaurant versions, this Paneer Butter Masala is not overly creamy because I use single cream, not heavy cream.
  2. In addition, I don’t add copious amounts (or any actually) of sugar to the masala so it’s not sickly sweet. This masala is definitely on the spicier side! But if you like, you can add honey to naturally sweeten it up a bit.
  3. I marinate the paneer and cook it first, and then make the butter masala and add the paneer to it. By doing so, the paneer is not bland and is tenfold more flavorful than if you were to chuck it directly in the masala!

ABOUT MARINATING THE PANEER…

Although I’m calling this recipe Paneer Butter Masala because it’s made in the tomato and onion spices infused butter cream sauce, the ingredients and method for marinating the paneer is the same one I use for the chicken in my Chicken Tikka Naanza and Chicken Tikka Nachos. Technically, this is a Paneer Tikka Butter Masala recipe. But we’re not going to delve on this because honestly, a name is just a name. 🙄

All that really matters is that the method of using my Chicken Tikka marinade for the paneer here, and then combining it with the butter masala sauce IS what makes this easy homemade dish BETTER than any restaurant version of Paneer Butter Masala I’ve ever tried!

Right enough of the linguistics and technicalities talk.

Let’s break this recipe down and make some gorgeous and super tasty Butter Paneer Masala!

bowl of rice, roti paratha and orange paneer butter curry garnished with coriander. spoon and fork on napkin next to bowl.

HOW TO MAKE PANEER BUTTER MASALA

A note on the ingredients: While the ingredients list may seem lengthy, you’ll notice that most of them are spices and seasonings and are actually used twice – once for the paneer marinade, and once again for the masala/curry.

Moreover, most of the ingredients can be found in your regular supermarket. So don’t fret because you’re not going to be running around like crazy trying to find all the ingredients!

INGREDIENTS YOU WILL NEED:

  • Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cubes: Thawed if you are using frozen (my favorite brand is Real Kitchen King). Paneer is also sold in blocks so if you’re using that, cut it into 1.5cm cubes. You can find paneer in Indian grocery stores, as well as in some large supermarkets and retail stores like Costco.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt: We’ll be using this for the paneer marinade and will need about 5 tablespoons
  • Lemon juice: As always, I recommend using freshly squeezed for best flavor and results. We’ll need a tablespoon for the paneer marinade, and a teaspoon for the masala.
  • Ginger Paste & Garlic Paste: We’ll be using this only for the paneer marinade. For the masala, we’ll be using the fresh versions of both (see below).
  • Spices & Seasonings: Kosher Salt, ground Cayenne (or Kashmiri Red Chili Powder), Garam Masala (store-bought is fine, but homemade is preferred and tastes much better! You can check out my easy recipe for this Indian spice blend here), ground cumin, coriander powder, turmeric powder, and a dash of freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Tandoori color powder: This is what will give the dish its vibrant orange color! If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute with a drop or two of red/orange food coloring.
  • Fresh ingredients: We’ll need some freshly minced garlic and ginger (10 cloves garlic and about 2 tablespoons minced ginger), 1 chopped medium red onion, 2 skinned and chopped tomatoes, a couple of red and green chilies (use more or less to taste, and feel free to deseed them if you prefer less heat), and freshly chopped coriander for garnishing the dish.
  • Water: Just 1 cup will do for masala/curry.
  • Honey (optional): I normally don’t incorporate honey or sugar in my Butter Masala sauce since I like my food to be on the spicier side. But if you would like to balance out the heat and want a sweeter sauce, feel free to add a teaspoon (or more to taste) of honey.
  • Methi (fenugreek) leaves or Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek): This is definitely one of the main ingredients for this Paneer Butter Masala. It has a slightly bitter taste on its own, but will help to round out all the creamy and rich flavors in the masala. Fresh and dried methi in packets can both be found at your local Indian grocery store.  In addition, some large supermarkets and retail stores also carry dried fenugreek in packets. So you can check out the spices section there too.
  • Unsalted Butter: Possibly the second star ingredient of this dish! (The first being the paneer of course! 😉) You’ll need a tablespoon for cooking the paneer, and then two more tablespoons for the masala.
  • Olive Oil: Or feel free to use any other cooking oil you prefer. We’ll need about a tablespoon to cook the paneer, and half a tablespoon more to cook the masala.
  • Cooking/Single Cream/Half and Half: You’ll need ¼ cup (or 60ml) for the masala, and about 2 tablespoons more if you’d like to use some for garnish.
  • To Serve: Roti parathas, plain roti, naan, warm steamed rice, etc.

Now that we’ve gone through our ingredients list, we can start making this delicious dish!

MARINATE THE PANEER

First things first, we need to marinate the paneer! Paneer by itself is pretty bland. So the idea here is to coat the cubes in a marinade so that they will be more flavorful when you cook them than if you were to just add them to the curry directly!

Therefore, in a large bowl combine: plain Greek Yogurt, freshly squeezed Lemon juice, salt ground cayenne or Kashmiri red chili powder, garam masala (store-bought is fine, but homemade is preferred and tastes much better!), ground cumin, coriander powder, turmeric powder, ginger paste, and garlic paste. Mix thoroughly with a spoon until evenly combined.

Next, add the paneer cubes and gently fold them into the marinade. Be extra careful here as paneer is extremely soft and delicate! It has a tendency to crumble if dealt with too roughly. And we don’t want to make a crumbled Paneer Butter Masala now, do we? 😉      

Then, once the paneer cubes are fully coated in the marinade, cover the bowl with cling wrap (or a plate) and set aside to marinate for at least one hour. For best results, I recommend leaving the bowl in the fridge overnight and letting the marinade work its magic!

Then, when ready to cook, heat some unsalted butter and olive oil in a large nonstick skillet (or fry pan) over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the marinated paneer and the remaining marinade in the bowl to the pan. Cook for 5-6 minutes, while carefully turning the paneer with a spatula, until the marinade is no longer “wet”. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside (or on another stovetop hob if you have more than one).

sautéing marinated paneer in skillet

FOR THE PANEER BUTTER MASALA

Before you start cooking the masala, you’ll need to make a ‘spice bowl’ with all the spices. This will enable you to proceed swiftly while cooking the sauce. To make the ‘spice bowl’, simply combine all the spices in a bowl – the kosher salt, ground cayenne, coriander powder, ground cumin, turmeric powder, garam masala, and freshly cracked black pepper. Set it aside.

Now that your spice infused soft and buttery paneer and ‘spice bowl’ is ready, it’s time to make the mind-blowing, buttery, spicy, creamy and rich curry sauce!

First, heat olive oil and unsalted butter in deep large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and sauté for a minute until softened. Then add the garlic and ginger and continue sautéing for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Next, add the red and green chilies and continue cooking for another minute.

red onion and butter in cast iron skillet. Sautéing red onion, chilies, garlic, ginger and spices in skillet.

Then stir in the contents of the ‘spice bowl’ and sauté to combine everything in the pan.

Next, add the chopped tomatoes and pour in a cup of water. Stir, and then turn down the heat to low and cover the pan. Let the mixture simmer for 5-6 minutes.

stewing onion, tomato, garlic, ginger, fresh chilies, and spices in cast iron skillet

Then, uncover the skillet and turn off the heat. Carefully transfer the contents in the pan to a blender jug. Cover and blend until you a have a lovely and smooth sauce in the jug. (Note: Be careful as hot liquids will expand when blending. You may need to uncover the blender jug and push down the contents with a spoon 1-2 times.)

butter tomato curry before and after blending in blender jug

Transfer the sauce back to the pan, and turn on the heat and set to medium-high again.

Now it’s time to give the sauce it’s gorgeous vibrant orange color and creamy texture! Mix in the Tandoori color powder (or 1-2 drops or food coloring), a teaspoon of lemon juice, and the cooking cream. Stir until fully integrated and the color of the sauce is even. Then add the paneer from the other pan to the sauce and gently fold it into the sauce to combine.

Adding marinated cooked paneer to butter masala sauce. Mixing in fenugreek leaves into skillet with paneer butter masala.

Last step! Add the methi (fenugreek) leaves (or kasuri/dried methi leaves) and stir for 1-2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and transfer the Paneer Butter Masala to a serving dish.

For Garnish/To Serve: Pour the remaining cream in a circular motion over the Paneer Butter Masala, sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander, and add a small dollop of unsalted butter to the center of the dish (if you like!).

orange paneer curry garnished with cream, unsalted butter and coriander in cast iron skillet

Now enjoy the fragrant and delicious Butter Paneer Masala with some hot flaky roti parathas, crispy plain rotis, soft fluffy naans, and/or warm steamed rice!

orange paneer curry in black skillet. Rice in a bowl and roti parathas on a plate next to skillet.

CAN I MAKE THIS GLUTEN-FREE?

No adaptation is required! All of the ingredients in this recipe are naturally gluten-free.

NOT A FAN OF PANEER AND/OR NEED MEAT?

Don’t worry. I’ve got you my fellow carnivores! 😉 The paneer can be easily swapped for chicken breasts – use 400g (or 2 large breasts) and follow the exact same method to make Chicken Butter Masala (Chicken Makhani)!

bowl with rice, roti paratha, and paneer in butter tomato cream curry. spoon and fork on napkin next to bowl.

Well there you have it my friends. I hope you give this easy and mouthwatering Paneer Butter Masala a try and love it as much as I do!

And if you do try this recipe, tag @thatspicychick on Instagram and hashtag it #thatspicychick! You know I love to hear from you and see your cooking! 🤗

bowl with paneer curry rice and roti paratha. Skillet with orange tomato cream paneer butter curry

MORE INDIAN RECIPES YOU MAY LIKE

Looking for more Indian recipes to spice up your life? Below are a few of my go-tos and favorites!

Print
orange paneer curry garnished with cream, unsalted butter and coriander in cast iron skillet

Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani)

This Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani) is easy to make at home and better than any restaurant version I’ve tasted! It’s super flavorful with rich and creamy, buttery, spicy notes, and is also naturally gluten-free. Pair it with roti paratha, naan, or rice and a salad for a delicious Indian meal! Feel free to swap the paneer (cottage cheese) for chicken to make Chicken Butter Masala if you like.

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 60
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Indian
Scale

Ingredients

For the Paneer:

  • 400g Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cubes – thawed if using frozen (my favorite brand is Real Kitchen King)
  • 5 TBLS Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 TBLS freshly squeezed Lemon juice
  • 1 TSP Kosher Salt
  • 1 TSP ground Cayenne or Kashmiri Red Chili Powder, to taste
  • 1 TSP Garam Masala (store-bought is fine, but homemade Garam Masala is preferred and tastes much better!)
  • 1 TSP ground Cumin
  • 1 TSP Coriander powder
  • 1 TSP Turmeric powder
  • 1 TBLS Ginger Paste
  • 1 TBLS Garlic Paste
  • 1 TBLS Unsalted Butter
  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil (or any other cooking oil you prefer)

For the Paneer Butter Masala:

  • 10 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 1.5” Ginger chunk (about 2 TBLS minced) – minced
  • 1 medium Red Onion – small chopped
  • 2 medium Tomatoes – skinned, small chopped
  • 510 Red Chilies, to taste – chopped
  • 12 Green Chilies, to taste – chopped
  • ¾ TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
  • 1 TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
  • ¾ TSP Coriander powder
  • ¾ TSP ground Cumin
  • 1 TSP Turmeric powder
  • ½ TSP Garam Masala
  • 1/8 TSP (a pinch) of freshly cracked Black Pepper
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 TSP honey (optional)
  • ¼ cup (60ml) Cooking/Single Cream/Half and Half
  • ½ TSP Tandoori color powder (or 1–2 drops red/orange food color)
  • 1 TSP freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1.52 TBLS chopped Methi (Fenugreek) Leaves OR Kasuri Methi (dried Fenugreek Leaves (see notes)
  • 2 TBLS Unsalted Butter
  • ½ TBLS Olive Oil (or any other cooking oil you prefer)

For Garnish:

  • 12 TBLS freshly chopped Coriander
  • 2 TBLS Cooking/Single Cream/Half and Half (optional)
  • 12 TSP Unsalted Butter (optional) 

To Serve: Roti parathas, plain roti, naan, warm steamed rice, etc.

Instructions

For the Paneer:

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the paneer cubes, unsalted butter, and olive oil in a large bowl. Mix with a spoon until fully combined, then add the paneer cubes. Carefully mix to fully coat the paneer in the marinade. (Note: paneer tends to crumble if manhandled so be extra cautious!). Cover with cling wrap or a plate, and allow for the paneer to marinate for 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator for best results.
  2. When ready to cook, heat the unsalted butter and Olive Oil in a large nonstick skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the marinated paneer and the remaining marinade in the bowl to the pan. Cook for 5-6 minutes, while carefully turning the paneer with a spatula, until the marinade is no longer “wet”. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

For the Paneer Butter Masala:

  1. Make the ‘spice bowl’: Combine all the spices in a bowl – the kosher salt, ground cayenne, coriander powder, ground cumin, turmeric powder, garam masala, and freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat the unsalted butter and olive oil in a deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the red onion and sauté until softened – about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and continue sautéing until fragrant – about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the red and green chilies and sauté for another minute.
  5. Stir in the contents of the ‘spice bowl’ and sauté to combine everything in the pan.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and pour in the 1 cup of water. Stir, and then turn down the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat, and carefully transfer the contents in the pan to a blender jug. Cover and blend until a smooth texture has been achieved. (Note: Be careful as hot liquids expand when blended. You may need to uncover the blender jug and push down the contents with a spoon 1-2 times.) Transfer the sauce back to the pan, then turn on the heat and set to medium-high again.
  8. Mix in the Tandoori color powder (or food coloring if using), lemon juice, and cooking cream. Stir until fully integrated and the color of the sauce is even.
  9. Then add the paneer from the other pan to the sauce and gently stir to combine.
  10. Add the methi leaves (or kasuri methi leaves if using) and stir for 1-2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and transfer to a serving serving dish.
  11. For Garnish/To Serve: Pour the remaining cream in a circular motion over the Paneer Butter Masala, sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander, and add a small dollop of unsalted butter to the center of the dish (if desired). Enjoy with hot flaky roti parathas, crispy plain rotis, soft fluffy naans, and/or warm steamed rice!

Notes

  1. Methi (Fenugreek) Leaves: I normally buy fresh methi, wash, dry, pick and chop the leaves. I then store it in a small Ziploc bag in the freezer so that I can pull it out and use how much I like whenever a recipe calls for it. Frozen methi leaves stay good for about 3 months if stored properly. You can purchase fresh methi leaves at your local Indian grocery store. If you don’t have access to fresh methi leaves, you can use Kasuri/Kasoori Methi Leaves (dried Fenugreek leaves) instead, which can be found at large supermarkets, large retail stores such as Walmart, or online.
  2. To make this gluten-free: No adaptation is required! All of the ingredients in this recipe are naturally gluten-free.
  3. Not a fan of paneer and need meat? Don’t worry, I’ve got you my fellow carnivores! 😉 The paneer can be easily swapped for chicken breasts – use 400g (or 2 large breasts) and follow the exact same method to make Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)!

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 small bowl
  • Calories: 282
  • Sugar: 4.5g
  • Sodium: 366.9mg
  • Fat: 22.1g
  • Saturated Fat: 7g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 5.9g
  • Trans Fat: 0.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 2.6g
  • Protein: 10.4g
  • Cholesterol: 19mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

paneer butter masala garnished with cream, unsalted butter and coriander in cast iron skillet

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

2 comments on “Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani)”

  1. This looks really really good! I love paneer butter masala!!!

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