Shahi paneer is one of the most loved dishes in India, especially among the vegetarians. You would find it by default in all the North Indian restaurants’ menus. I have seen people find it really tricky to prepare this dish at home. It surprises me since I have never found Shahi paneer to be a difficult dish as such. A bit time consuming, yes. But not difficult. **Read notes properly before you start with the recipe to avoid any disasters though.
In restaurants Shahi paneer is usually served with Naan aside and the combo is to die for. I also love it with simple Jeera rice and cucumber raita.
It’s a Mughlai dish which has a base curry made of typically cashews and almonds. The word “Shahi” means royal in English. Which is true since the flavourful blend of dry fruits, yogurt, saffron, whole spices and sometimes cream make this dish purely royal and rich in taste and presentation.
Agreed, it’s not very high on the nutrition ratings. It’s loaded with fats and complex spices which are heavy on stomach. Plus it has technically no vegetable in it at all. And Paneer is not a vegetable folks! As much you (and I) would like to believe it.
So anyway, this is not a very healthy dish to have but it’s delicious. It’s awesome. And it’s my favourite.
This recipe in particular doesn’t call for tomatoes. I have added yogurt for the tang instead. If you wish to use tomatoes into this, skip the yogurt altogether else it would become very sour. Lets check the recipe out quickly now.
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Indian, Mughlai
What you need?
- 250 gms paneer – fresh, cubed small
- ½ cup fresh yogurt (would be better if you use Full fat)
- 2 tbsp fresh cream (malai)
- A pinch of saffron strands (kesar), crushed, dipped in 2 tbsp of milk
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp red chili powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp Sugar
- salt as required
- 1 medium sized onion, roughly chopped
- 8-10 cashews
- 8-10 almonds
- 1 tbsp melon seeds (magaz- optional)
- 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oil
For the paste:
Residue from the stock above
- 1 bay leaf (tej patta)
- 2-3 cloves (laung)
- 2-3 green cardamoms (hari elaichi or choti elaichi)
- 1-2 black cardamoms (badi elaichi)
- 1 inch cinnamon (dal chini)
- ½ tsp shah jeera/caraway seeds
- 3 tbsp Oil – I used sunflower oil for this recipe
How to make?
First make the stock: Boil onions, cashews, almonds, melon seeds, ginger, salt, oil and garlic together in about 2 cups of water for 8-10 minutes, or till the onions become a bit soft. When it cools off a bit, strain this stock and keep the liquid and residue pieces separately aside.
Make the paste: Make a paste of the cooked onions, ginger, garlic along with the dry fruits adding 1 or 2 tsp of the strained water. Keep aside.
Tempering: Heat oil in a wok or pan. Fry all the whole spices mentioned in the above list till they start releasing aroma. Will take about 6-8 minutes, keep the gas at low.
Add the Onions-nuts paste and saute for about 7-10 minutes, till the oil starts to leave the sides of the paste.
Now add all the powdered spices and mix well. Turn the gas to the lowest and let it cook for further 3-4 minutes. Now, add the whisked yogurt and reserved stock together in the pan and stir gently. Let this gravy simmer for about 6-8 minutes till it thickens up a bit.
Add milk+saffron, paneer cubes, cream and gently stir. Do not stir it rigorously at this point or the milk/yogurt might curdle. Simmer for like 2-4 minutes, then turn off the gas
Garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve fresh and hot with Jeera rice or Naan.
Notes and tips to make soft and smooth Shahi Paneer:
Keep the paneer cubes immersed in warm water all the time before putting them into the gravy. This will ensure paneer is soft when you put that into the gravy
Keep the pan covered once its cooked and open it just before serving. Keeping it open would make paneer hard.
Do not heat or reheat this curry at high gas or the milk and yogurt might curdle.
If you don’t have all the whole spices, just use the ones you have. Or you may completely skip this part and use Garam masala instead. In that case- Use ½ tsp Garam masala + ¼ tsp cardamom powder along with the other spices. The taste would be different since it’s a shortcut way, but would still be delicious
You may use 1 tsp of Kewra essence towards the end (just before turning the gas off) to give the curry a fragrant punch
Whisk the yogurt before adding to the gravy. Also, beat the cream once before adding so you don’t have to stir the gravy much to make everything even
Adding sugar is optional but it does give a nice balanced taste to the gravy. Also, you may just add cashew or just almonds in the gravy, whichever you prefer.
I used Sunflower oil for this dish since its a good oil nutrition wise and also neutral in taste. I tend not to use Olive oil or any other sharp oil like Mustard oil, Groundnut oil etc. for gravy recipes like Paneer makhni, Malai kofta etc.
If you are interested in making more rich Paneer dishes, you might like this Paneer Tikka Masala recipe
And also this super flavourful and unique in taste- Paneer Pudina from Punjab.