How To Make Shahi Paneer Like A Pro

What is Shahi Paneer? Shahi paneer is the king of all vegetarian dishes in India. Its creamy texture with the perfect combination of both sweet and salty flavors is popular on the menu of almost every restaurant throughout the South Asian subcontinent. You can savor the royal taste of Shahi paneer with chapati, rice, or naan that leaves you wanting more. No wonder there is something special about its special recipe.

In this article, we will discuss all about Shahi Paneer – starting from what it is to how to make Shahi Paneer.

About Shahi Paneer

Shahi paneer simply translates into paneer for the royal family. The history of Shahi paneer can be traced back to the Mughal empire in India. It used to be a key Mughlai cuisine in the royal kitchens. 

Mughlai dishes have distinct features that set them apart from other ordinary foods. It follows a slow cooking technique with the use of complex flavors and whole spices, and of course, its rich and creamy texture.

The secret of Shahi paneer and its creamy white gravy lies behind the use of key ingredients like yogurt, dry fruits (cashews and almonds), cream, and spices that unleash a mouthwatering aroma to instantly kick up your appetite. 

The age-old Shahi paneer recipe has been transferred from generation to generation with the introduction of new flavors and combinations. But it is still the first choice as the main dish that is perfect for any special occasion and festival. When in doubt, just go for Shahi paneer. Below is a detailed step-by-step process on how to make Shahi Paneer.

There are a lot of dishes you can make from paneer. For example, Paneer Makhani. We know what you’re thinking about, “What is Paneer Makhani, and how do I make it at home?”. Fret not! Click on the link, and you will find the answer to your question.

How To Make Shahi Paneer?

Although you can order Shahi paneer from the nearest restaurant, nothing beats the homemade dish. You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay to make Shahi paneer like a pro. We have got a secret recipe for you. Let’s get started! Here’s How to make shahi paneer.

Step 1: Prepare The Ingredients

Needless to say, every recipe starts with the ingredients. The list may look long, but there is absolutely no need to panic because you are most likely to be using them every day in your kitchen. The following items are required to prepare 4 servings of Shahi paneer.

  • Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) 500 gm
  • 2 onions
  • 3 green chili
  • 1-inch ginger
  • 3 green cardamom
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • ½ cup curd
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 tbsp ghee
  • ½ cup almonds and cashews each
  • Salt and Water (as required)
  • Saffron (for its unique color and flavor)
  • Coriander leaves and fresh cream (for garnishing)

First, wash the paneer in warm water and pat it dry. Cut the paneer slab into cubes or any shape of your choice. Don’t make them too thin, as they tend to dissolve when cooking. Thicker pieces may remain uncooked. Size matters. Instead of using store-bought paneer, use homemade paneer by making paneer in an instant pot. They are simply the best. 

You can try frying the paneer pieces gently in ghee and soaking them in hot water for 10-15 minutes. This helps to soften the paneer.

Step 2: Make A Paste

Take a tablespoon of ghee and heat it on medium in a saucepan. Add some cashews and almonds and fry them for a couple of minutes. Do not burn them.

Now chop down the items like onion, ginger, green chili, and cardamom. Throw in the onions and fry them until they become transparent. Add green chili if you want the dish hot and spicy. You can use tomato if you want some.

Continue to cook the mixture of nuts and onion for about 10 minutes. Add a small amount of water to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. Once the onions become soft, turn off the heat and let them cool down. Use a grinder to blend the mixture into a thick and smooth paste. Make sure there are not any coarse nuts in the paste. 

Step 3: Prepare The Shahi Paneer Gravy

Here’s How to make shahi paneer masala.

It’s time to heat a tablespoon of ghee in the same frying pan. Throw in some aromatic spices like shahi jeera, cloves, and cinnamon, and fry them for a minute in low heat until they release their unique fragrance.

Add ginger-garlic paste followed by onion paste and sauté them well for 2-3 minutes until you get that raw smell in the surrounding air.

Spice it up by adding a tsp of garam masala, ¼ tsp of red chili powder, ⅛ tsp of turmeric powder, and ½ tsp of salt for adjustment of taste.

Stir the mixture well and cook it for about 5 minutes until it turns thick and the raw smell of the spices fades away.

Use a fork or whisk to beat a ½ cup of yogurt in a bowl until it turns smooth and with a creamy texture. Make sure that the heat is low as you gently add the curd. You can add onion-nut masala to the curd to avoid it from splitting. Let the gravy cook for a while until it is thick.

Add a little water to the gravy to make it smooth and runny. This is the right time to throw in some saffron strands for their unique color.

Keep on cooking the shahi paneer gravy until the ghee is released on the surface. The gravy should turn thick by this time. Taste the gravy to see if it needs more salt or spices according to your preferences. If you have not added green chili before with the onions, do it now.

Step 4: Cook The Shahi Paneer

If you are happy with the texture and consistency of the gravy, add paneer pieces to it. Cook the shahi paneer for about 2-3 minutes on low heat. Don’t cook it any longer if you have fried the paneer before. Turn off the heat to avoid burning your dish.

Your Shahi paneer is almost ready. For garnishing, add 3 tbsp of cream and stir it gently. To stop the paneer from cooking any further, you should transfer the content from the pan to a serving bowl. Use crushed pepper for the extra heat. You can also use fresh mint leaves for garnishing it.

Congratulations! You have just made Shahi paneer in a restaurant-style.

How To Make Onion Puree For Shahi Paneer?

Onion puree is a key ingredient in most Indian dishes. For Shahi paneer gravy, it is a must-have. You can use its rich and warm flavor to make the dish look and taste better. It is quite easy to make onion puree at home. Take a look at the following simple steps.

Step 1: Select The Onions

Take a few fresh onions that look bright and shiny. You can use raw onions, but we recommend blanched ones as they cook quickly and have a better flavor.

Step 2: Peel The Onions

Peel all the onions and cut about an inch deep perpendicularly without separating the pieces. Use warm water to wash them off.

Step 3: Boil The Onions

Get a deep vessel to boil and use medium heat to boil the peeled onions. Make sure that onions are completely submerged in the water. Add water if required.

Boil the onions for about 5 minutes until they are soft enough to make a puree.

Now drain the hot water and let the onions cool down for about 2-3 minutes. You will notice a slight change in the color of the onion. It is perfectly normal. Save the drained hot water that you will use later for puree.

Step 4: Grind The Onions

Use a blender to grind the onions. Add the previously drained water as required to make the texture smooth according to your preference.

There you have it… your own homemade onion puree that you can use for any Indian vegetable curry. You can add the spices of your choice to give your dish a unique taste.

How To Make Shahi Paneer Without Onion?

Although onion is a key ingredient in most Indian recipes, there might be a few occasions where you have to avoid them, especially during festivals. But that is not going to stop you from savoring Shahi paneer. Instead of onions and garlic, you can use other ingredients like cashew nuts, ginger, cloves, coriander, and cinnamon to make your dish taste delicious.

Most of the ingredients and steps will be the same as we discussed in the above main recipe, except for onions. Hing or asafetida powder is the closest substitute to onions capable of producing strikingly similar flavors. Below is the step-by-step method on How to make shahi paneer without onion.

Step 1: Soak some cashews and almonds in hot water for about half an hour and grind them to make a smooth paste.

Step 2: Slice the paneer into cubes.

Step 3: Make a puree from tomatoes.

Step 4: Heat ghee in a pan using medium flame and fry the paneer cubes until they appear light brown. Transfer them to a plate with paper towels to soak excess oil.

Step 5: Add some bay leaves, green cardamom, hing, and cumin seeds to the pan. Stir them gently on medium-high heat for a few seconds. Add red chili powder and tomato puree together when cumin seeds start to splutter. Cook it while stirring for about 2-3 minutes until the oil separates from the mixture.

Note: The color of gravy depends on the type of chili you use. For white and creamy gravy, use green chili instead of red chili powder.

Step 6: Add the cashew nut paste (from step 1) along with ginger paste and green chili. Stir them for a while and add other ingredients like kasoori methi (for aromatic purposes), red chili powder, salt, and turmeric.

Step 7: Cook the paste for another 5 minutes until it releases oils from the sides.

Step 8: Add beaten yogurt to the mixture and cook them to get a gravy masala.

Step 9: Add paneer pieces along with milk and mix them well with the gravy. Cover with the lid and let it simmer for a while in medium-low heat until you get thick and consistent gravy.

Note: The duration of cooking depends on whether you have fried the paneer before or not. If you cook for more than 2-3 minutes, you will ruin its texture and make it chewy and rubbery. If the paneer has been fried earlier, it’s better to turn off the heat immediately after adding it.

Step 10: Turn off the heat and add garam masala and coriander leaves for garnishing.

Step 11: Serve it hot!

How To Thicken Shahi Paneer Gravy?

When it is about Shahi paneer, there is but one rule: the gravy must be thick. Nobody wants a watery or runny gravy. If you are looking for a quick and effective fix to thicken your Shahi paneer gravy, you might be interested in what we got here for you. Thank us later.

The fastest and easiest way to thicken Shahi paneer gravy is by adding cornstarch or flour. First, you need to make a cornstarch slurry in a separate bowl. There is no hard and fast rule regarding the ratio of water to flour. It depends on how much gravy you have and want to make.

It’s a no-brainer that you should use as little water as possible to make the gravy thick and smooth, just enough to keep the mixture from sticking. Once the mixture is ready, pour it into the gravy gently while stirring continuously. Taste to see if the texture makes you happy.

When to Add Cashew in Shahi Paneer?

You’ll need to add cashew nut paste and ginger paste after adding the tomato puree and chili powder to the mixture of oil bay leaves, green cardamom, hing, and cumin seeds. It’s discussed in step 6 of the method of making Shahi Paneer without onions that we have discussed above.

How to Make Shahi Paneer Using Milk?

You can use the method (Shahi Paneer without onion) discussed above to make Shahi Paneer using milk. It’s added to the gravy along with Paneer cubes in step 9 just before covering the pot with the lid. For vegans, use tofu instead of paneer and coconut yogurt or cashew cream instead of a milk-based product.

How to Make Shahi Paneer Masala?

Step 3 of “How to Make Shahi Paneer” discusses the method of making Shahi Paneer Masala. First, you need to heat ghee and add spices, including shahi jeera, cloves, and cinnamon and fry them for about a minute. Then you’ll need to add ginger-garlic paste and onion paste and cook them for a couple of minutes. After that, you’ll need to add garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric powder, and salt and stir the mixture for 5 minutes. Then add some yogurt and water while stirring the mixture, and your Shahi Paneer masala will be ready.

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