Butter Chicken is a festive meal in many South Asian homes. It’s vegetarian sibling though – Paneer Makhani – that’s my all-time favourite. In the past, I rarely made this dish at home because of the multiple steps and the time it takes to put together. Recently, I have made variations to the traditional recipe and simplified some of the steps. And voila, a Paneer Makhani recipe to knock your socks off!
What is Makhani
The word “makhani” means “of butter,” and yes, there’s traditionally tons of butter and ghee and cream in this dish. But the reference is to “Makhani” sauce that’s as “smooth as butter”. Of course the cream, butter and ghee help. In my version though I often make the dish dairy-free and still as delicious.
This paneer makhani recipe is made using ghee. This is clarifed butter that adds a smoky, nutty, distinctive flavour. You could totally skip it and use canola – a mild oil that works very well in this recipe and holds up to all the whole spices.
Can I use other proteins in Paneer Makhani?
Yes, you can. I often use the Makhani sauce with chicken or turkey or even tofu.
Tips for Paneer Makhani Recipe
- This dish is naturally gluten free and can be made dairy free by replacing ghee with another oil that tolerates high heat. I’ve used canola. I have tweaks to make it shine with coconut milk here. Roast and grind the spices beforehand. Use double the quantity or even more if you intend to make this dish again and again. The spices will store well in a cool, dry cupboard for more than 6 months.
- Serve paneer makhani with naan or roti. Rice works in a pinch too if you’re going gluten-free. Then keep the gravy a little more liquidy.
- The Makhani sauce ingredients are double of that what you need. Pour the remaining out in a mason jar and freeze. You have a butter chicken or a Turkey Makhani in your near future. You can thank me in the comments below 🙂
- Immersion blender
For the Roasted and Ground Spices
- 1 tsp whole Coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp whole Cumin seeds
- 1/3 tsp Black Peppercorn seeds
- 2 Cloves
- 1 Black Cardamom
- 2 Dried Red Chilli (optional)
You could use a store-bought Garam Masala or Butter Chicken Masala blend if you would like to skip this step. If you're using store-bought spices, use a little less till you're sure of the flavours. Every spice blend is unique.
For the Gravy
- 2 cups roughly chopped Tomatoes (approximately 5 tomatoes)
- 1 cup roughly chopped Onions (I prefer red or purple for Indian dishes)
- 2 Green Chillies (stems removed)
- 4 Garlic cloves
- 1 inch piece of Ginger
- 2 Green Cardamoms (seeds only)
Finish the Dish
- 1/2 tsp Ghee
- 400 gms Paneer
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 1/2 tsp Kashmiri Red Chilli powder or Paprika
- 1 tsp dried Fenugreek leaves
- 1 tsp roasted spice blend (prepared before)
- 1 Bayleaf
- 1 small Cinnamon stick
For the Roasted and Ground Spice Blend
- Roast for a few minutes in a dry, hot pan.
- Grind in a spice grinder (or a coffee grinder but you can't use it for coffee again – the aroma will remain forever).
For the Makhani sauce
- Add everything in a pan with a lid with a tiny space for steam to escape. I have a saucepan with a lid that has a hole to allow the steam to escape. You could also prop the lid up with a wooden spoon.
- Cook on medium heat for 30 mins while you do other things in the kitchen.
- Blend with an immersion blender to a very fine velvety smooth texture. If the texture is not smooth, strain the sauce first before using it.
- Freeze half the sauce for another meal.
For the Paneer
- While the Makhani sauce is bubbling away on the stove, heat another pan and add a tsp of ghee.
- Add the bayleaf and cinnamon stick. Add turmeric, Kashmiri red chilli powder and sprinkle some salt.
- Add paneer to the pan and toss it in the spices. Cook for a minute.
- Pour the Makhani sauce in the pan and let it coat the paneer.
- Simmer for a minute. This will splutter at the high heat. Keep a lid ready to protect yourself.
- Add a cup of water to the gravy. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Rub the dry fenugreek leaves in your palm to release the flavour and add to the gravy.
- Add a pat of butter. Stir and simmer for another couple of minutes. Add a tbsp of cream at this point if you would like to mellow the flavour a bit.
- Serve with a swirl of melted butter and a sprinkle of the spice blend alongside naan or rice.