Kadai Paneer is a spicy, tangy and vibrant paneer dish that can amuse your day anytime. Made with the regular Indian pantry staples like bell peppers (green peppers), Indian spices, onions and tomatoes, this bright dish comes together in 30 minutes.
Here I am sharing two delicious kadai paneer recipes.
- Kadai Paneer – Semi-Dry Restaurant Style
- Kadai Paneer Sauce – Spicy House Style
Both recipe versions taste fabulous and you can choose what you prefer. The semi-dry version of the kadai paneer tastes well with naan, paratha or roti. The sauce version can be served with naan or pulao peas or even roti or steamed rice.
As the name shows, Kadai Paneer has two words “Kadai” and “Paneer”. The word Kadai refers to a humble Indian cookware set similar to the Chinese wok but with deeper and steeper sides than that of a wok.
Paneer is a fresh cheese made by condensing milk with lemon juice or vinegar. We call paneer for cottage cheese in India, but it is very different from cottage cheese available outside India.
Paneer is firm, does not melt, and can be cubed easily. Due to its firm, non-melting texture, it makes a great addition in many Indian curry recipes such as Matar Paneer, Palak Paneer, Paneer Butter Masala, and Shahi Paneer.
This complete dish is made in Kadai and hence the name “Kadai Paneer”.
What Kadai Paneer contains
Three essential ingredients added to the kadai paneer are green peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Freshly ground spices called as kadai masala are also added. But that’s fine if you don’t have those whole spices.
You can just add the ground spices like cilantro powder, garam masala powder, red chilli powder and turmeric and your kadai paneer will taste excellent.
A few times, I made kadai paneer adding ground spice powders and it tasted good. That said, the freshly grinded kadai masala gives the recipe bold and strong flavors.
Kadai Paneer is one of the easiest and most delicious paneer recipes. You can do this at times when you have unexpected guests, or you are too tired or not in the mood to go for a long cooking process.
About this recipe
This restaurant-style kadai paneer is a little spicy, semi-dry curry and uses freshly ground kadai masala, made with whole spices.
The flavors in this kadai paneer recipe are added from freshly grinded coriander seeds and Kashmiri red chili peppers and yes, the addition of freshly ground spices makes a lot of difference in the food we cook.
How to make Kadai Paneer
Make Kadai Masala
1. In a mill or mortar-pestle, take 1.5 tablespoons of coriander seeds and 5-6 Kashmiri chili peppers.
2. Grind into a semi-fine powder.
Sauté onions, tomatoes, spices
3. In a kadai, heat 3 tablespoons of oil. Add ? to ½ cup finely chopped onion.
4. Sauté onions until translucent and soften over medium-low to medium flame.
5. Then add 1 teaspoon of garlic ginger paste.
6. For a few seconds, sauté it until the raw aroma of garlic and ginger is gone.
7. Now add 2.5 to 3 cups of chopped tomatoes. Tomatoes should be ripe, red and sweet. Do not add very sour tomatoes.
8. Mix well and for 3 to 4 minutes, sauté the tomatoes over medium-low to medium heat.
9. Then to the sauteed tomatoes, add the ground kadai masala.
10. Mix well. Sauté the tomatoes until complete mixture becomes like a paste and begins to leave oil. This method is called “bhunao” in Hindi.
The kadai masala paste will also become thick and glossy.
Sauté the pepper
11. Now add ¾ to 1 cup of julienned or sliced pepper.
12. For 3 to 4 minutes, sauté the bell pepper over medium-low to medium heat.
You can add bell pepper or green or red or yellow bell pepper. You can also add a mixture of various colored peppers.
13. Then add 1 to 2 green peppers and ½ cup of water. You can add less or more water as per the requirement.
14. Stir very well and sauté until the pepper is half cooked. You can cook the pepper completely if you prefer. The half-cooked pepper gives the dish a crunch.
15. Once the pepper is half cooked, add the garam masala powder and salt as required. Mix them with the rest of the masala.
Make Kadai Paneer
16. Now add the paneer cubes (250 grams).
17. Again, mix very well.
18. Finally, add the julienned ginger (1 inch of ginger), 1 teaspoon of crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and 2 tablespoons of cilantro leaves. Mix again.
If you don’t have kasuri methi, just skip adding them.
The ginger juliennes are important, so don’t skip them. They add a lot of fresh and tangy flavor to the dish.
19. Serve the Kadai Paneer, hot or lukewarm with roti or naan or regular paratha or pudina paratha.
Also Read: Tawa Paneer Masala
This semi-dry version of the kadai paneer tastes great with naan or paratha (Indian flatbreads) or roti. You can also have it with bread or rolls. Serve with lemon wedges and onion rings at side.
More innovative ideas would be to make grilled sandwiches or a kathi roll or toast with these. They taste awesome. Add cheese to make them tastier.
With the semi-dry kadai paneer, you can also make a pizza and mozzarella cheese as a dressing.
- Kadai: Don’t you have kadai? No problem. Just use a pan or wok.
- Kadai Masala: Cilantro seeds and dried red peppers are nedded in kadai masala, making it aromatic and tangy. You can even add some cloves, cinnamon, green cardamom in the kadai masala.
- Dried red peppers: For red peppers, use those with low to medium heat. Very hot and hot peppers will make the recipe too spicy. If you can get Kashmiri red chillies, add them as they are low heat and give a bright orange red color to the recipe.If you don’t have Kashmiri peppers, use Indian dry red peppers which have a low to medium heat quality. Simply reduce the amount depending on the heat and acidity of the peppers. Since red chili peppers are added to the recipe, you do not need to add red chili powder.
- Grinding spices: Spices for kadai masala can be easily ground in a small grinder or spice grinder. To facilitate hammering in a mortar pestle, dry roast the red peppers and coriander seeds.
- Paneer: It’s always best to use homemade Paneer for any paneer dish you make. You can even use a store-bought paneer. Read the package instructions for how to use the paneer. Frozen paneer cubes should be soaked in hot water before adding them to the dish.
- Tomatoes: Use ripe, red, sweet tasting tomatoes. Do not use very tart or sour tomatoes.
- Onions: You can use both red and white type of onions.
- Capsicum (bell pepper): Usually green pepper is added to the dish. But you can break the norm and use red or yellow pepper. With red or yellow pepper, the dish gets nice soft and subtle tones. The peppers are cut into strips or julienne. Peppers can also be diced, but julienning means faster cooking.
- Garnish: Don’t forget to garnish with a julienned ginger and cilantro leaves. Above all, the ginger julienne gives spicy, hot and tangy notes when eating.
- Vegan option: Instead of paneer, use tofu and instead of butter or ghee, use oil.
Homemade Kadai Paneer Sauce Recipe
This is a Spicy and Savory Sauce Recipe from Kadai Paneer. This curry is slightly spicy and tangy than the dry paneer kadai version I shared above.
This kadai paneer sauce recipe uses a lot of tomatoes – so make sure they’re ripe and sweet.
This sauce recipe also uses kadai masala. As I mentioned above, the kadai masala made from freshly ground cilantro and dry red chili peppers adds a lot of flavor to the dish.
This Kadai Paneer sauce goes well with naan, paratha, roti or rumali roti and also well with cumin rice or steamed rice.
How to Make Kadai Paneer Sauce
Roasting spices for kadai masala
1. First roast 5 teaspoons of coriander seeds and 4-5 dry red Kashmiri peppers in a pan over low heat until aromatic.
2. When the spices cool, grind them both in a grinder into a semi-fine or fine powder. Avoid keeping the powder coarse as the sauce has oatmeal and the masala enters your mouth while eating.
Make Kadai Masala Sauce
3. In a skillet, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter or oil or ghee (clarified butter). Then add the ginger garlic paste (1.5 inch ginger, chopped + 7-8 medium chopped garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle into a fine paste). Sauté until their raw aroma disappears.
4. Then add 2 medium chopped onions (100 grams) and sauté until translucent.
5. Add the freshly ground coriander and Kashmiri red pepper powder. Also add 1 to 2 chopped green peppers.
6. Mix and stir well.
7. Add 2 medium, finely chopped tomatoes. Sauté until the tomatoes soften and become plump. You will also see oil coming off the sides of the onion and tomato masala.
When the chopped tomatoes are completely soft, add only the tomato puree (5 medium sized tomatoes, mashed in a blender).
8. Stir well and continue to sauté until oil escapes from the sides. About 9-10 minutes on a low to medium-low flame.
9. Add 1 small to medium sized bell pepper julienne (green pepper). Stir and simmer 2 to 3 minutes over low to medium heat.
You can add any variety of bell pepper or bell pepper – green, yellow or red. Adding a mixture of peppers of different colors looks beautiful and tastes great.
10. Add ½ to ¾ cup of water and salt (if needed). Continue to simmer for 7-8 minutes. Once the sauce is cooked, you will have oil stains on the top.
11. Then add ½ tablespoon of crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and ¾ to 1 teaspoon of garam masala powder. Stir the sauce.
Skip if you don’t have the dried fenugreek leaves.
Make Kadai Paneer Sauce
12. Then add 250 to 300 grams of cubes or slices of paneer. Mix gently.
13. Extinguish the flame. Do not overcook the paneer as this will cause it to become hard and you will not get the desired texture in the paneer.
You can also add 2 tablespoons of low fat cream or 1 tablespoon of heavy cream at this step and gently mix the cream into the sauce.
14. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves, julienned ginger or grated paneer. Do not skip the coriander leaves (coriander) or the ginger julienne. Both add a lot of freshness, especially the ginger hits you with its hot and tangy taste.
Serve the kadai paneer sauce with roti, naan, steamed rice or cumin rice or pulao or biryani pea rice.