I was inspired to make butter paneer because 1) I was craving paneer and 2) I’ve made mutter paneer too many times to count this past summer so I needed something different and 3) I thought, why should butter chicken lovers get all the fun?! I haven’t even tasted chicken and I can pretty much GUARANTEE that paneer is better (plus no cute animals die in the process).
A couple of concerns that I’ve gotten from friends when it comes to making Indian food is amount of spices involved and the confusion around where to get ingredients and which spices to use. To address these concerns: yes, there can be a long list of spices, but once you buy them all, you’ll have them on hand for a while because you only use a little each time you cook; you can find spices at any Indian store in your city (use Google!) or possibly at an international market, which is where I get mine here in State College; as for which spices to use, I am happy to tell you that most things I make require just a basic list of ingredients that I use each time: asafoetida, cumin, red chili powder, and turmeric. Short list, right? Some others that you should get are: coriander powder and garam masala, but those are definitely not used every time. So that’s just six spices! These spices are actually really good for your health, even though a lot of people think otherwise.
Ok so on to this butter paneer recipe: it’s best with roti or naan (hold the rice plz) and it’s basically the ultimate comfort food. I usually don’t see it on menus in Indian restaurants or maybe that’s because they call it something else (paneer makhani? but even that name is rarely seen)? In any case, even if it’s not on menus, you can now make it in your own kitchen! This recipe uses even less spices than what I’ve mentioned before, but it does use an ingredient called kasuri methi, which are dried fenugreek leaves. I highly recommend trying to find these dried leaves because it really adds an awesome layer of flavor. ALSO: though it might not appear like it, this recipe uses no cream! The secret is a cashew puree. And the white cream-like garnish I used on top in the pictures you see is just whole milk yogurt thinned out a little with water and drizzled on top. I think this is a truly healthy yet decadent dish that you can indulge in once in a while!
- 5 ripe medium-sized tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup cashews
- 1 packet of paneer (12.7 oz), cubed
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 7 thai chilis, chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 cup water, divided in half (plus more if needed)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons kasoori methi
- salt to taste
- handful of fresh cilantro chopped (optional)
- Cashew puree: soak the cashews in a hot water (make sure they are submerged) for a minimum of 1 hour. Blend to a puree with a little bit of water, about ½ cup. You don't want too thin of a puree.
- For the gravy: melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add oil when melted and throw in the bay leaf; let cook for 2 minutes on medium heat.
- Add garlic and cook on medium heat until fragrant. Add tomatoes, green chilies, and red chili powder and cook until tomatoes have "melted," about 10 minutes, on medium-high.
- Transfer to a blender and blend together. Pour gravy back in to the saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of the cashew paste.
- Stir together and make sure heat is on medium-high. Add ½ cup of water (more if you don't have a gravy), garam masala, cubed paneer, and kasoori methi.
- Simmer for 15 minutes until paneer is soft. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro if you want.
- Serve with roti or rice and eat hot!