June 17, 2009

Paneer Butter(less) Masala

There are some dishes which are very popular, so much so that they're automatically identified with a particular cuisine or style of cooking. If you did a Food Blog Search (I'm not even talking about a net search) for one such recipe, you would probably end up with hundreds of matching results, from which you could take your pick.
Why, then, am I also doing a post with one such "much written recipe"?

I am doing this for two reasons.
The first being that my blog is a collection of recipes of the food I cook in my kitchen and so I would be documenting my effort.
The second reason would be probably the reason why that recipe is there on so many food blogs; because that particular dish is so good that so many people have their versions online.
And then I believe that my version might offer a variation on the main theme, either in the ingredients or the way I cook that particular dish.

Paneer butter masala is one such food preparation. There are so many recipes (some with video footage on cooking it) out there for this Punjabi dish, one more recipe (mine) isn't going to make too much of a difference!
There was a time when I hardly used to cook this at home even though we liked paneer butter masala. This was because almost every time we used to eat out and were ordering Punjabi food, our daughter would insist on paneer butter masala (a.k.a. PBM). It got to a point where we used to first extract a promise from her that she would not ask for PBM before we ventured out of the house to eat!
Akshaya has long got over that PBM phase now, though she still enjoys this butter laden paneer dish. So nowadays I do cook paneer butter masala at home and almost always this butterless version.

Paneer butter masala, also known as "Paneer makhani" (makhan is the Hindi word for butter) is a preparation of fried paneer (an Indian cheese) in a spiced butter rich, creamy, onion and tomato based gravy.
Traditionally, this dish is loaded with calories from lots of butter, cream and paneer. One can however, try and make this a little less fattening by making some changes and this is where my recipe for paneer butter (less) masala comes in.

I substitute oil for butter, and use much less of it. I also pan fry/ sauté the paneer instead of deep frying it. Paneer made from low-fat milk can also reduce the calories further. I do not use cream at all here, but use yogurt made from low-fat milk instead.
I do however use a bit of cashew paste to enrich the gravy, or else this dish would lose out on texture and taste quite a bit. That does not mean that all these changes make this dish tasteless.
On the contrary, this makes for very tasty lower calorie dish which has earned a stamp of approval from my resident PBM expert and taster and that counts for a lot.

Here is my version.


250 gm low fat paneer cubes

1/4 cup warm milk

2 tbsp all purpose flour

2 tbsp oil

8 cashewnuts

2 medium sized onions, grated or puréed

3 medium sized tomatoes, puréed

1 tsp ginger paste

3/4 tsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 1/4 tsp coriander powder

1 1/4 tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

3 tbsp thick yogurt + 1/4 tsp cornstarch, whisked together

salt to taste

2 tbsp chopped coriander to garnish


Soak the cashews in about 1/2 a cup of water for about half an hour. Drain the water and then grind the cashewnuts to a paste adding a bout a couple of tsps of water, as required. Keep aside.

If your paneer cubes looks wet, pat them dry. Then sprinkle all purpose flour over the paneer and toss so the paneer cubes are well coated. If you fry paneer as it is, it sometimes tends to get mushy and sticks to the pan. Coating it with flour ensures that paneer doesn't stick and get mushy when fried/ sautéed.

Heat the oil in a pan, and add the paneer cubes ensuring that each cube touches the oil in the bottom of the pan. Brown them to a deep golden colour, over medium heat. Toss frequently so the paneer browns uniformly with a somewhat crisp crust. When they're done, remove from the pan and put into the warm milk. Keep aside.
To the remaining oil in the pan, add the ginger and garlic pastes and sauté for a minute. Now add the puréed/ grated onion and sauté till the raw smell of the onions disappear. If the mixture appears to be drying out, add a tbsp of water whenever required.

Now add the puréed tomato and cook for a few minutes till it looks done. Add the turmeric and coriander powders and sauté for a couple of minutes. Then add the garam masala, sauté for another minute and add the paneer along with the milk in which it was soaked.

Mix well, gently, and add the salt. Also add the kasuri methi and 1/4 cup of water. Stir gently and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Now add the cashew paste and mix well, till no white streaks are visible. Your paneer masala should now have a rather thick sauce-like gravy.

Add the yogurt-cornstarch mixture and mix well, taking care to see that the paneer doesn't get broken. Cook for a minute. At this point, if you feel the gravy is too thick, add a couple of tbsps of water to adjust to required consistency.
Paneer butter masala should have a reasonably thick gravy which doesn't really flow.

Important: Make sure you add only 1/4 tsp cornstarch to the yogurt. The cornstarch is not to thicken the gravy but to ensure that the yogurt does not split/ curdle when added to the paneer masala.

Remove to a serving dish and garnish with chopped coriander. Serve warm with chappathis, naan or kulchas.
This recipe serves 4.


Happy cook said...

Just pass me a naa and i will finish off the plate.
Looks so yummy yumm.
Love the colour too.

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

My diet is thanking you for the butterless version! I love PBM, as you call it, and this looks perfect :)

Parita said...

Looks creamy and delicious, love your version of paneer butter masala!!

Doloncookbook said...

Paneer butter masala looks so yummy ..... & less butter make it healthy too ....Nice picture

jayasree said...

PBM looks yummy. I too almost make the same way ie butter less..Thanks for the cornflour and dusting paneer with APF tips.

aquadaze said...

this is one of our favourites too...yours looks absolutely delicious!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very flavorful and delicious looking! A wonderfully spiced dish!



Aparna said...

Thanks everyone. I'm happy to know that evryone appreciates a lower fat version of this favourite. :0

HC, I would if I could. Come to Goa and I'll treat you. :)

You're welcome, Avanika and Jayasree.

Prathibha said...

My most favorite dish....loved ur bowl of curry...

jayasri said...

hi aparna, i have BM it, you must be knowing why :), now a days when i look into recipes in the blogs and try them at home i always check with fat content in them, that is why baking cakes & cookies, i have to think twice, so i need to know who is there to eat it!, Your PBM as you call it is very interesting and looks very yummy too...., i have to be cautious with my age!

Lisa said...

One of my very favorite dishes! I like this less fattening version. Sounds and looks wonderful.

♥Rosie♥ said...

A delicious looking spicy dish. Gosh I wouldn't mind tucking into this right now mmmmmm

Soma said...

This is very different way to make the paneer masala. i have never used flour or yogurt with paneer. need to try it out. we are not very fond of paneer, except in some specific ways, but my kids LOVE paneer.

Pavithra said...

Lovely looking and perfect for naan.. feel to taste it.. looking rich , delish and creamy.

Nithya Praveen said...

Lovely looking dish....butter less makes it all the more tempting.

Superchef said...

its been a while since ive made this at home. Butterless just makes it all the more 'want'-able!

Nags said...

guilt-free indulgence :)

Divya Kudua said...

Butter Naan with PBM is comfort food for me..I never get the restaurant style taste whenever we make it at home,precisely coz I skimp on all the fat and butter:).I love this butter-less Paneer and will surely try it out:)

Chitra said...

Planning to make PBM for a long time..But sure iam going to make ur PB(less)M:)

Nupur said...

I like the yogurt and cornstarch tip- I'll be trying your version of this beloved dish soon!

Thanks so much for playing along and doing the vegetarian 100 list. I just got a chance to read that post and left a comment there.

sra said...

Looks really tasty! Took something like this to the bloggers' meet last year, not sure if there was curds in it!

Curry Leaf said...

Your version is new to me Aparna.adding the yogurt-cornstarch mix is very intriguing.The dish looks hot and spicy and obviously restaurant style. GREAT

Bharti said...

OK..now a paneer butter-less masala sounds too good to be true but you have done it! I like that yogurt plus cornstarch idea. Must thicken it along nicely.
I think this version is unique enough to be documented for sure.

Ria said...

LOVELY! i'll be so glad to dive straight in without thinking twice about growing horizontally :D

Aparna said...

Its the same with me, Jayasri now that I'm not getting younger either. :)

Give it a try then, Soma. You might like it too. :)

It is that, Nags.

Divya, this one is close enough to restaurant style in taste.

Let me know how you liked (or didn't) it, Nupur.
It was pleasure. I had fun doing it.

Sra, now you're making me wish I was a Chennai based blogger! :)

Bharti, this doesn't need the cornstarch to thicken it. The cashew paste does that.

Ria, you're lucky enough not to have to think of horizontal growth, like my daughter.
I have to worry about it, unfortunately. :)

Sharmila said...

This gravy sounds so different. Cornstarch in yoghurt is a great tip! :-)

Miri said...

Somehow i never liked the makhanwala gravies....and now that we are in Delhi we go to even greater lengths to avoid paneer and makhan ;)

Your version looks much nicer!

FoodyGuru (Srimathi) said...

Hi Aparna,

How are you doing? Its been a while since I emailed or chatted with you. Busy packing. I like the idea of coating the paneer with flour to roast them. Will try this soon. The butter masala looks mouth watering.

Aparna said...

I think I understand that, Miri. :)

Yes it's been a while, Srimathi. We get back after you're settled.