Malai Paneer Recipe: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Luxurious North Indian Dish

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Written By Haryana’s Restaurant

Authentic Indian Food – Classic Indian Cuisine in Terrace BC

Craving something creamy and indulgent? Malai paneer might be just what you need. This North Indian delight combines soft, melt-in-your-mouth paneer cubes with a rich, velvety sauce made from fresh cream and aromatic spices. It’s a dish that brings comfort and luxury to your dining table, perfect for special occasions or a cozy night in.

Malai paneer has its roots in Mughlai cuisine, known for its opulent use of cream and nuts. While it might seem like a restaurant-only treat, you can easily recreate this delicious dish at home. With just a few simple ingredients and a bit of patience, you’ll have a crowd-pleasing meal that’s sure to impress family and friends. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to dive into the creamy goodness of malai paneer.

Ingredients

To make a flavorful and luxurious malai paneer, you will need a variety of fresh, aromatic ingredients. Let’s break down the essentials into three main categories.

Paneer

  • 250 grams paneer (cubed)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or oil (for sautéing)

Cream And Dairy

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup yogurt (whisked)
  • 1/4 cup milk

Spices and Seasonings

  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 green chilies (sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh coriander leaves (for garnish)

Required Tools and Equipment

Cooking Tools

  • Non-stick Pan: Essential for sautéing the onions and spices without sticking; ensures even cooking.
  • Heavy-bottomed Pot: Ideal for simmering the sauce, preventing it from burning and ensuring a rich, creamy texture.
  • Spatula: A good quality spatula helps in stirring the ingredients effectively, avoiding lumps in the sauce.
  • Sharp Knife: Necessary for chopping onions, green chilies, and coriander leaves with precision.
  • Cutting Board: Protects your countertops while providing a dedicated space for chopping.

Preparation Tools

  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accurate measurements of spices, cream, and yogurt ensure the balanced flavor of the dish.
  • Mixing Bowls: Use for combining and mixing ingredients, such as yogurt and spices.
  • Blender or Food Processor: Aids in grinding ingredients to a smooth paste if needed.

Serving Tools

  • Serving Spoon: Large and sturdy, designed for scooping and serving malai paneer easily.
  • Serving Dish: Use a wide, shallow dish to present the malai paneer attractively.
  • Mortar and Pestle: Handy for crushing fresh spices and herbs to enhance flavor.
  • Grater: Ideal for grating onions if you prefer a finer texture in your dish.

These tools and equipment will ensure you have a seamless cooking experience while preparing malai paneer, making the process efficient and enjoyable.

Instructions

Follow these instructions carefully to recreate the luxurious taste of malai paneer right in your kitchen, ensuring each step is executed with precision.

Prep the Ingredients

  1. Paneer: Cut 300 grams of paneer into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Onions: Finely chop 2 medium-sized onions.
  3. Ginger and Garlic: Mince 1 inch of ginger and 2 cloves of garlic.
  4. Green Chili: Slit 1 green chili lengthwise.
  5. Tomatoes: Puree 3 medium-sized tomatoes.
  6. Spices: Measure out 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of red chili powder.
  7. Cream: Have 1/2 cup of heavy cream ready.
  8. Garnish: Chop fresh cilantro leaves for garnish.

Cook the Base

  1. Heat Oil: In a non-stick pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté Onions: Add the chopped onions and sauté until they turn golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add Ginger and Garlic: Incorporate minced ginger and garlic, cooking for 1 minute until fragrant.
  4. Spices: Add cumin seeds, garam masala, turmeric powder, and red chili powder. Stir for 30 seconds to toast the spices.
  5. Tomato Puree: Pour in the tomato puree and cook until the oil separates from the mixture, around 10-12 minutes.

Combine the Ingredients and Serving

  1. Paneer: Gently add the paneer cubes to the pan, mixing carefully to coat them with the spice mixture.
  2. Simmer: Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes, allowing the paneer to soak up the flavors.
  3. Add Cream: Stir in the heavy cream and cook for another 5 minutes until the sauce thickens to a creamy consistency.
  4. Tasting: Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed by adding salt to preference.
  5. Garnish: Turn off the heat and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves.
  6. Serve: Serve hot with naan, roti, or steamed basmati rice, presenting the dish in a warmed serving bowl.

These steps ensure your malai paneer is rich and flavorful, perfect for any special occasion.

Serving Suggestions

Pair with Indian Breads

Serve your malai paneer hot alongside traditional Indian breads for a complete, indulgent meal. Freshly made naan or butter naan complements the creamy texture and enhances the overall dining experience. You can also serve it with roti or paratha for a slightly different yet equally satisfying taste.

Accompany with Rice

Pair malai paneer with a bed of fragrant basmati rice. The rich, creamy sauce coats each grain of rice, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. You can opt for steamed basmati rice or even jeera rice (cumin rice) to add an extra layer of flavor.

Add Fresh Sides

Include fresh sides to balance the richness of the malai paneer. A crisp cucumber and tomato salad with a squeeze of lemon offers a refreshing contrast. Additionally, a simple raita with yogurt, cucumber, and mint can serve as a cooling side.

Garnish with Fresh Herbs

Garnish your malai paneer with freshly chopped cilantro or mint leaves for a burst of color and a fresh aroma. A sprinkle of finely sliced green chilies brings a subtle heat that pairs well with the creamy sauce.

Enhance with Chutneys

Serve a variety of chutneys to elevate the flavors of your malai paneer. Mint chutney and tamarind chutney are excellent choices, offering a mix of tangy, spicy, and sweet notes that enhance each bite.

Offer Beverage Pairings

Pair your meal with a refreshing beverage to complete the dining experience. Traditional lassi (yogurt drink) is a perfect match for malai paneer, providing a cool and soothing contrast. Alternatively, a light, fragrant chai can complement the rich flavors of the dish.

These serving suggestions will ensure your malai paneer meal is both delicious and memorable, ideal for any occasion.

Make-Ahead Tips

Preparing Paneer in Advance

  1. Marinate Paneer Cubes: Marinating adds depth to the malai paneer. Mix 1 cup of yogurt, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Coat the paneer cubes (250g) and let them sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight for intensified flavors.
  2. Cut and Store Paneer: Cut the paneer into 1-inch cubes. Store them in an airtight container if not marinating immediately.
  3. Refrigerate or Freeze: Marinated and plain paneer can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If freezing, place wax paper between layers to prevent sticking.

Making the Sauce Ahead

  1. Cook Base and Store Separately: Prepare the base sauce using onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and spices as per the recipe. Allow it to cool completely, then store it in an airtight container.
  2. Refrigeration: Keep the sauce refrigerated for up to 3 days. Stir it and reheat gently before adding paneer and cream.
  3. Freezing: For longer storage, freeze the cooled sauce in portions. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.

Assembling on Cooking Day

  1. Combine Ingredients: On the day of serving, combine the reheated sauce and paneer. Simmer gently for 10 minutes until paneer is heated through.
  2. Add Fresh Cream: Stir in fresh cream just before serving to maintain a smooth and rich texture.
  3. Final Touches: Garnish with fresh cilantro and other herbs as directed in your recipe.

Reheating and Serving

  1. Gentle Reheating: Reheat malai paneer over low-to-medium heat to avoid curdling the cream.
  2. Avoid Microwave: Reheat on the stovetop for best texture. Add a splash of water or cream if the sauce thickens too much.
  3. Serving: Serve hot, garnished with additional cilantro, alongside naan, roti, or basmati rice.

Conclusion

Malai paneer is more than just a dish; it’s an experience that brings the rich flavors of North Indian cuisine to your table. By following the detailed steps and tips provided, you can create a restaurant-quality meal at home. Whether you’re preparing for a special occasion or simply want to indulge in a luxurious meal, malai paneer is sure to impress. Pair it with your favorite Indian bread or rice, and enjoy the creamy, spiced delight that is malai paneer.

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