A super-fast easy recipe for paneer makhani (also known as butter paneer or paneer butter masala) in the Instant Pot (with stovetop instructions included), just throw in the ingredients, cook for six minutes, add the cream and paneer and voila!
Why you’ll love it
- It’s creamy and tasty and mildly spiced.
- It’s a quick hands-off recipe.
- The recipe can easily be adjusted for dietary requirements.
- It’s vegetarian and can be adjusted for vegans.
- No cashew, no onions, no need to blend, and a minimal amount of chopping.
Serve it with steamed basmati rice and some naan bread or roti for a delicious fakeaway recipe. If you’re a fan of curries you might also want to try these popular recipes (but especially my easy creamy vegan dal makhani):
- Chickpea spinach curry (chana palak masala)
- Creamy black bean curry
- Easy Indian tofu curry
- Creamy coconut chickpea curry
- Easy Bombay potatoes (restaurant-style)
- Dal tadka in 25 minutes
Ingredients and substitutions
The ingredients for this recipe are pretty simple and easily available, but you can check the photo below to make sure you have the right ones, and scroll down to see substitutions below if you’re short on any ingredient.
Canned crushed tomatoes: You can substitute this with passata (just check it doesn’t contain any herbs) as they’re basically the same thing. I don’t recommend using fresh crushed tomatoes as they’ll be more watery and less concentrated.
Cream: I used 15% cream which is similar to half and half, or single cream, but you can use whichever cream you’d like (double cream, heavy cream, sour cream, creme fraiche, etc.). Vegans can use the same amount of coconut milk or coconut cream but add it with the crushed tomatoes instead of at the end.
Butter: Either butter or ghee can be used here, vegans can use a good quality vegan spread like Earth Balance, or dairy-free margarine like Flora.
Sugar: A lot of people don’t like to use sugar in cooking but it’s totally necessary here as paneer makhani is a slightly sweet curry in true restaurant style, and this recipe uses less than many traditional ones. Use regular white sugar (not brown as the molasses will mess up the taste), and vegetarians and vegans in the US should make sure it hasn’t been processed with bone char. Maple syrup or honey can also be used.
Salt: Use the amount given and then adjust to taste later. You can substitute with a low-sodium alternative if needed.
Paneer: There’s nothing quite like paneer,a tasty pressed Indian cottage cheese. I used freshly made paneer (it’s really easy and cheap to make paneer yourself, although mine was a little crumbly), but packaged paneer is fine as well. If you can’t get a hold of paneer, halloumi or panel cheese is a good substitute. For vegans, you can use extra-firm tofu that has been cubed and baked at 400ºF (200ºC) for 8-10 minutes until the outsides are slightly browned and firmer (but not crunchy) and add with the crushed tomatoes before pressure cooking in the Instant Pot.
Kasuri methi: This is optional as it can be a little trickier to find (although they do have it on Amazon) but if you can, don’t skip it because these dried fenugreek leaves really give curries that restaurant-style taste.
Cayenne: You can use ground cayenne pepper or any red chili powder such as Kashmiri chili powder (just don’t use the mixed spice chili-style powder which is used for making the best vegan chili).
Water: Don’t skip it, it helps the sauce not to stick to the pot or burn.
Ginger: Use only fresh ginger, not ground dry ginger.
Turmeric: Don’t omit this.
Cumin: Don’t omit this.
Garam masala: Don’t omit this. If you can’t find it or don’t have a good one, it’s easy to make your own.
You can also add a cup of frozen green peas along with the crushed tomatoes, water, and spices for a quick matar paneer!
How to make it
This is a really easy recipe but I’ve included more detailed instructions here and some progress photos in case you have any doubts.
First, crush the garlic, peel, and finely grate the ginger. If you don’t have a garlic press you can mince it very finely instead.
Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, crushed canned tomatoes, water, sugar, and salt to your Instant Pot and mix well, as in image one below.
Seal your Instant Pot and set it to cook on high pressure for six minutes. It will take the pot about five minutes or more to come to pressure depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the ingredients.
Chop your paneer into cubes while waiting. Fresh paneer is not as compacted so you’ll want larger pieces, but packaged paneer can be cut into one-inch cubes.
When your Instant Pot beeps and is done, do a quick release. Open the pot and add the rest of the ingredients (the paneer cubes, butter, cream, and kasuri methi, as in image two above). Use your fingers to rub the kasuri methi and crumble it into the pot to release its flavor. Stir well.
Click on the Saute mode to cycle through the sauté settings to “Less”, and set it for five minutes. You want your paneer makhani heated up, it can slightly bubble but should not boil or the cream may separate.
Stir again and decant to a serving container. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro, and enjoy!
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can still totally adapt this recipe. Increase the water to half a cup.
Follow the recipe and add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, crushed canned tomatoes, water, sugar, and salt to a medium-sized non-stick pot or saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat then reduce to medium-high to maintain at a simmer for ten minutes.
Lower the heat until the sauce is barely bubbling and add the remaining ingredients (the paneer, butter, cream, and kasuri methi), and allow to barely simmer for two minutes. Then turn off the heat and allow your butter paneer to rest for four-five minutes more. Done!
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s a little high in fat but has a ton of protein and is a great keto dish if you serve it with cauliflower rice. Everything in moderation, enjoy this dish as a treat, it’s not for everyday meals!
Yes, but don’t add the cream if you intend to freeze it. It will keep for up to four months in the freezer in a sealed container or freezer bag. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat until simmering and allow to cook for two minutes, then add the cream and enjoy.
In the fridge, tightly covered for up to four days, just remember the spices will be a little stronger the longer it sits. Reheat in the microwave in short blasts of 30-40 seconds, stirring gently in between, until warm enough to eat, or reheat in a saucepan on the stovetop on low-medium heat. Be careful not to boil it or the cream may separate.
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- 1 inch ginger
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1½ tsp garam masala
- 2 cups crushed canned tomatoes (400g, aka passata, without herbs)
- ¼ cup water (60ml)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 17½ ounces paneer (500g)
- 2 Tablespoons ghee or butter
- 1 cup cream (see notes, 240ml)
- 2 teaspoons kasuri methi (optional, but recommended)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
- Peel and finely grate the ginger. Crush the garlic. Add to the Instant Pot. Along with the turmeric, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, crushed tomatoes, water, sugar, and salt.
- Seal the pot and set to cook on high pressure for six minutes (it will take around five to eight minutes to come to pressure).
- Chop the paneer into one-inch cubes. Once the Instant Pot has beeped and is done, do a quick pressure release and open the pot. Add the paneer, ghee or butter, the cream, and the kasuri methi (if using, crumble the kasuri methi by rubbing it between your fingers).
- Set to Saute mode for five minutes, touching the Saute button until it's on Less. Gently stir the sauce (be careful not to break the paneer up) while it's heating up.
- Sprinkle over the cilantro (optional). Serve over steamed rice, and for a really lush touch, some garlic naan or chapati. Enjoy!
I recommend half and half or single cream for this recipe, but you can also use cooking cream, heavy cream, sour cream or creme fraiche.
Amount Per Serving Calories 693Total Fat 61gSaturated Fat 36gTrans Fat 2gUnsaturated Fat 18gCholesterol 177mgSodium 1640mgCarbohydrates 14gFiber 3gSugar 10gProtein 26g