Kadai Paneer - a spicy, flavourful and delicious semi-dry dish made with Indian cottage cheese, mixed peppers (capsicum) and freshly ground spices. One of the easy restaurant style paneer recipes to make at home. Gets ready in less than 30 minutes, serve it with naan, paratha or any Indian flatbread to make a delightful meal.
Kadai paneer also called karahi paneer is one of the popular and most common paneer dishes ordered in Indian restaurants. This Indian paneer recipe is simple and easy to make at home with a secret spice blend "kadai masala" and few simple tricks to recreate the restaurant flavours. Like other Indian paneer dishes: Paneer Makhani, Paneer Jalfrezi, Methi Malai Paneer and Paneer Korma; it is a perfect crowd-pleaser dish at parties and on special occasions.
What is kadai masala?
Kadai masala is an extremely flavourful spice blend and it is an essential element of kadai dishes. Without this particular spice, you won't manage to get authentic taste and flavours. For this particular Indian paneer recipe, it is very essential to have a spice blend with a coarse texture. Homemade freshly ground spice blend and having a coarse texture are the two secrets to get the true flavours of the best kadai paneer.
How to make kadai masala?
Dry roast spices over low flame for 2-3 minutes just until spices are fragrant and start to turn light brown. Keep stirring to avoid burning spices. Allow them to cool completely and then grind it to a coarse powder either in a spice blender or mortar and pestle. Ensure the end product has a coarse texture and not fine powder regardless of whatever method you choose to grind the spices.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have a coarse texture to achieve authentic flavours. If you are someone who finds it difficult to get the right texture in a spice blender, then I would highly recommend using mortar and pestle. You will have better control over the texture and know when to stop pounding. Though constant pounding is time taking process the end result is all worth it.
Tips to recreate restaurant flavours
The kadai masala is an essential element to get restaurant flavours and the secret is to use freshly ground masala. The trick to achieving the perfect taste and flavour is to add it at the right time. There are two ways:
1. Add it while stir-frying mixed peppers, onion and paneer so that the masala blends well and makes the curry flavourful.
2. Alternatively, add it to the curry just before you switch the flame off to retain maximum flavour and aroma. Remember not to add kadai masala along with other dry spices.
Kadai Paneer Recipe Variations
You can use butter to enhance the flavour of paneer curry.
A spoon of cream adds a creamy texture to the flavourful kadai paneer and makes it appealing for kids.
To make a gravy version, after step 5 (in pic), add half a cup of water and simmer for 5 minutes and then add stir-fried peppers and paneer.
You can swap tomato puree or paste for fresh tomatoes. If you use tinned tomato paste you may have to add just a little salt as most canned products contain salt in them.
How to serve Paneer Kadai?
I would highly recommend serving this dry paneer dish with naan, paratha or tandoori roti.
Serve it with a glass of juice or lassi for kids to compensate for the spiciness just in case.
For Kadai Masala
For Kadai Paneer Gravy
Vegetables: mixed peppers, onion, tomato, ginger-garlic paste, fresh coriander leaves.
Dry and Whole Spices: cumin, turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, garam masala powder and salt.
Paneer: I've used store-bought paneer. Feel free to use fresh homemade paneer. Whichever paneer you use, ensure it is fresh and well within its expiry date.
Liquids: I've used just oil, but you can use oil and butter.
How to make Kadai Paneer?
1. In a small pan, dry roast spices mentioned under "Kadai Masala" over low heat for 2 minutes or until aromatic, stirring constantly.
2. Switch the flame off and let the spices cool down and then grind it to a coarse powder in a spice grinder.
3. In a kadai or pot, heat oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, put cumin and let it sizzle for a few seconds. Now add chopped onions, ginger garlic paste, saute and cook until the onion starts browning.
4. Add turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, salt and mix well.
5. Now add tomatoes and cook until the raw aroma vanishes and the tomatoes turn mushy.
6. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat oil and stir-fry mixed peppers (capsicum), onion for a minute. Then add paneer cubes and saute until peppers (capsicum) are half cooked.
7. Now add red chilli powder, freshly ground kadai masala, salt and mix well until vegetables and paneer are well coated with the spice mix.
8. Transfer stir-fried vegetables and paneer to onion-tomato masala and carefully mix until well combined. Ensure not to break the cubed paneer. Switch off the heat and add coriander.
Serve piping hot kadai paneer with any flatbread or flavoured rice of your choice.
Tips and Tricks
The quality of the paneer determines its texture and softness of paneer. Ensure to use fresh paneer that is well within its expiry date.
If the paneer is hard, soak them in warm water for 5-10 minutes to make it soft.
Always add kadai masala at the end to get authentic kadai flavours.
If the tomatoes are too sour, then add a pinch of sugar to balance the taste.
Dry roast kadai spices on low flame stirring constantly to prevent burning the spices.
Adjust the spices to suit your preferred taste and spice levels.
Ensure to grind spices coarsely and not fine powder.
Toss the paneer gently and ensure not to break it.
All the dry and whole spices are easily available in Indian grocery stores or most south Asian online grocery stores.
How to store paneer curry?
Fridge: Kadai paneer can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days in an airtight container.
Freezer: Divide the curry into desired portions in zip-lock bags or freezer-friendly containers and put them in the freezer.
Reheat: Take out a portion and put it in the fridge to thaw. transfer the curry to a microwave-safe bowl and reheat it in the microwave until piping hot. Take the bowl out of the microwave in between and stir for uniform heating.
Planning for a party or weekly meal planning? Cook just the onion - tomato base and prep the vegetables ahead of time. Cook paneer and vegetables on the party day and add them to the reheated onion tomato base.
Combine paneer and vegetables with half a tablespoon of oil and toss to coat well.
Line the air fryer basket with parchment paper.
Arrange paneer and vegetables in the air fryer basket into a single layer with a little spacing between them.
Put the basket back, set it at 180 C and cook for 3 minutes.
Take the basket out halfway through cooking and flip the paneer and vegetables for even cooking.
Once the air fryer beeps, take the basket out, transfer paneer and vegetables to onion tomato masala along with freshly ground kadai masala and salt. Mix gently until well combined.
Kadai paneer is a popular spicy dish of Indian cuisine made of paneer, mixed bell peppers and freshly ground spice mix. It is a kind of semi-dry dish and is mostly served with naan bread.
This curry is generally prepared in a wok called kadai in the Indian language. However, you could use any pan to make this restaurant style kadai paneer. Did you see the images above? I haven't used a kadai as well! But I used a small kadai for the final image.
This Indian wok is a common utensil used in Indian households. Kadai also called karahi, kadhai is a round cooking pot with deep bottom primarily used for stir-frying and deep frying, to make dry dishes such as jeera aloo, kohlrabi curry and Bombay aloo are few to name.
I've used kadai for deep frying vegetable pakora, bread vada, potato 65, masala papad and battered cauliflower florets in honey garlic cauliflower recipe.
📖 Recipe Card
1 Cup =250ml ; 1 Tablespoon =15ml ; 1 Teaspoon =5ml
For Kadai Masala
- 3 Tablespoons Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Cumin
- 1.5 cups (or) 193 gms (or) 2 medium size Onion finely chopped
- 1 Teaspoon Ginger garlic paste
- ¼ Teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 Teaspoon + ¼ Teaspoon Chilli Powder
- ½ Teaspoon Garam Masala
- ½ Teaspoon Coriander Powder
- ½ Teaspoon Cumin Powder
- Salt as required
- 1.5 cups (or) 317 gms (or) 3 medium size Tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 cup (or) 200 gms Paneer cut into cubes
- 1 cup (or) 164 gms Mixed Peppers/Capsicum (green, yellow and red) cut into cubes
- ½ cup (or) 48 gms (or) ½ medium size Onion cut into cubes
- Handful Coriander chopped
- 1.5 Tablespoons Oil
- In a small pan, dry roast spices mentioned under "Kadai Masala" over low heat for 2 minutes or until aromatic, stirring constantly. Switch the flame off and let spices cool down and then grind it to a coarse powder.1 Tablespoon Coriander Seeds, ¼ Tablespoon Cumin, ½ Teaspoon Black Peppercorn, 2 Red Chillies, 1 Teaspoon Fennel Seeds
- In a kadai or pot, heat oil over medium-low heat.3 Tablespoons Oil
- Once the oil is hot, put cumin and let it sizzle for a few seconds.1 Teaspoon Cumin
- Now add onion, ginger garlic paste, slightly increase the flame and and cook for around 5-7 minutes until the onion starts browning.1.5 cups (or) 193 gms (or) 2 medium size Onion, 1 Teaspoon Ginger garlic paste
- Add tomato, turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, salt and mix well. Cook for another 6-8 minutes until raw aroma vanishes and tomatoes turn mushy.¼ Teaspoon Turmeric, 1 Teaspoon + ¼ Teaspoon Chilli Powder, ½ Teaspoon Garam Masala, ½ Teaspoon Coriander Powder, ½ Teaspoon Cumin Powder, Salt, 1.5 cups (or) 317 gms (or) 3 medium size Tomatoes
- Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and stir fry mixed peppers and onion for a minute just until mixed peppers are half cooked.1 cup (or) 164 gms Mixed Peppers/Capsicum (green, yellow and red), 1.5 Tablespoons Oil, ½ cup (or) 48 gms (or) ½ medium size Onion
- Then add paneer cubes and saute for a minute.1 cup (or) 200 gms Paneer
- Now add ¼ teaspoon chilli powder, freshly ground kadai masala and mix well until vegetables and paneer are well coated with spices.1 Teaspoon + ¼ Teaspoon Chilli Powder
- Transfer stir-fried vegetables to the onion-tomato masala and carefully mix until well combined.
- Ensure not to break paneer cubes. Switch off the heat and add coriander.Handful Coriander
- Serve piping hot kadai paneer with any flatbread of your choice.
Keep in Touch
Do let me know if you make this delicious kadhai paneer recipe. If you like this recipe kindly consider rating it using stars in the comment section or on the recipe card to help more people find this recipe online. You can stay up to date by following me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or subscribing to my Youtube channel. Or why not subscribe to my blog and get simple recipes straight to your inbox?