Homemade Kadai Paneer

My mom’s Kadai Paneer is one of my favorite dishes and probably quite different from the creamy paneer curries you might be used to at restaurants. It’s free of nuts, heavy cream and excessive butter.

When someone tells me they loveee Paneer Butter Masala or Butter Chicken, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Because that’s not REALLY Indian food. I mean, it is, but it’s not the type of food we eat often at home. In most of India, our cuisine rarely calls for much butter or cream. For example, growing up, my mom made this Kadai Paneer. It’s got no cream, it’s light, so delicious, heavy on the veggies, and healthy! To me, this paneer curry is more representative of Indian Cuisine.

What’s so unique about this Kadai Paneer?

When you go to an Indian restaurant, you will typically see dishes like Butter Chicken, Butter Paneer, Paneer Tikka Masala, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, these are all fantastic dishes but sometimes its nice to try something new for a change. In fact, homemade Indian cooking might be the way to go. Homemade Indian cooking is very different than what you have experienced at restaurants. The ingredients you put in will be customized to your preferences and you will know exactly what is going into your food. You can add spices, vegetables, and other ingredients according to your tastes and needs. When you use fresh ingredients, the taste of this food is just so much more flavorsome and mouthwatering.

This Kadai Paneer recipe is a DRY style meaning it is not the traditional gravy style. It is less messier to make and eat which is a definite plus. While the traditional gravy version is eaten with naan or roti, this recipe could even be enjoyed alone.

Kadai Masala

Homemade Kadai masala is a flavorful combo of dry spices that are roasted and blended together. Heres what you’ll need:

  • coriander seeds
  • cumin seeds
  • black pepper corns
  • fennel seeds
  • green and black cardamom
  • cloves
  • dry Kashmiri red chilies
  • bay leaves

Obviously, you can add and omit ingredients based on what you have access to and what you like, but this is a list of traditionally used spices. This masala is the key to any Kadai recipe and you just have to keep two things in mind when making it. Roast the spices over medium heat until they are golden brown and fragrant which should be around 3-4 minutes. The key here is to not over or undercook the spices!

How To Make It Vegan

  1. Replace the paneer with Pressed Tofu! Just wrap your tofu in a clean fish towel. Put in in a plate and add something heavy to the top. It can be be your Kadai or a stack of books. This will drain any excess water!
  2. Replace butter for vegan butter.
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Mom’s Kadai Paneer Recipe (healthy, nut-free)


Kadai Paneer is a healthy, yet flavorful Indian curry made by cooking paneer, bell pepper and onions in a homemade, spicy Kadai masala. This paneer curry is very different from the kind you see in restaurants, free of nuts, heavy cream and excessive butter!



Kadai Masala

  • 5 Dried Kashmiri Red Chili
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • ¼ tsp black peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp kasuri methi

Sauteed Veggies

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 336 g paneer
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into big chunks
  • 1 white onion, largely diced 

Tomato-Onion Gravy

  • 3 tomatoes, whole
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste (or 1 tsp ginger + 1 tsp garlic)
  • 1 red onion, chopped very finely
  • ½ tsp ground cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 ½ tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp kasuri methi


Kadai Masala

  1. Heat a saucepan over low heat. Do not add any oil for this step! Add the 5 dried kashmiri chili and saute for 2-3 minutes. Set aside in a small bowl.
  2. To the same saucepan, add 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera), 1/4 tsp black peppercorns, 1/4 tsp fennel seeds and saute until fragrant. Turn off the heat and add in 1 tbsp kasuri methi. Add the roasted spices to the same small bowl as the chilies and let cool for 5 minutes.
  3. To create the kadai masala, use a spice grinder if you have it. If not, a small blender will do! Add the red chilies to the grinder and pulse for 10 seconds. Add everything else in the bowl and blend into a fine powder. Now you have your Kadai Masala! You won’t end up using all of it for just this recipe, I also love to add it to eggs and order curries.

Sauteed Veggies

  1. Heat a saucepan on medium heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and largely diced white onion and diced bell pepper. Saute for 3-4. Then, add in the cubed paneer and saute until the paneer becomes slightly golden. Stir GENTLY to not break the paneer. Don’t overcook it, we want the onion and pepper to still be crunchy. Add 1 tsp of kadai masala from the first part and cook for 1 minutes. Set aside in a large bowl.

Tomato-Onion Gravy

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a saucepan. Add ¼ tsp cumin seeds or ground cumin (jeera). Saute and add the finely chopped red onion. Saute for 5-6 minutes or until they get very soft. Sprinkle a large pinch of salt to speed the process up. While they saute, move onto the next step.
  2. While the onions saute, add 3 large tomatoes to a blender and puree. Save for the next step.
  3. Add 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste to the saucepan (or 1 tsp garlic + 1 tsp ginger). Saute until the onions brown slightly. Add 1/2 tsp cumin powder and 1 tsp coriander powder and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder. Add 1.5 tsp red chili powder and stir.  Add in the tomato puree from step 2 and stir. Cook on medium for 1-2 minutes, stirring often. Close the lid on the saucepan and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes to marry the flavors together.
  4. Remove the lid and add in 1 tbsp butter and 1/4 tsp sugar. Stir and let it cook until most of the water evaporates. Taste it and salt to taste. Add in 1-2 tsp of the Kadai Masala from the first part. Add in 1 diced tomato and bring the heat on medium-low. Cook for 5-10 minutes until most of the water evaporates, the gravy thickens and tomatoes break down. If needed, use your spatula to smash down the diced tomato.
  5. Add the sauteed paneer and veggies to the pan. Add 1 tbsp kasuri methi. Stir it until combined and taste the curry. Add more spice, salt or masala to taste. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Enjoy with roti or rice!

Send a picture to @eatsbyramya if you try this out to let me know how it went!


To make it a lot more macro-friendly, use LOW FAT paneer!

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  1. Super easy, quick to make and a staple that I make almost every week. Tastes great with tofu too.

  2. tastes heavenly