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Paneer Makhani – Instant Pot

Paneer Makhani is a creamy, tomato-based curry originating in the Punjab region of northern India. Learn to make best restaurant style Paneer Makhani using Instant Pot or Stove top with this detailed recipe.

Melt in your mouth pieces of paneer ( Indian cottage cheese) simmered in smooth and creamy tomato onion curry sauce make this ultra delicious curry. Instant Pot Paneer Makhani is soul satisfying comfort food.

Pinterest image with text overlay for paneer makhani which is Indian curry with paneer, onion, tomato and spices. This instant pot paneer curry is served with rice and pickled onions.

What is Paneer

Paneer is Indian cottage cheese usually made with buffalo or cow milk. It is non aged, non melting chunk cheese made with strained curdled milk.

Indian paneer recipes are so full of flavors and satisfying.  Besides this popular paneer makhani, we love Palak Paneer and Paneer Jalfrezi. If you love fusion food, you must try Paneer Tacos.

Paneer is a rich source of calcium and protein. It is a favorite choice for vegetarian foods. I am including stove top and Instant Pot instructions to make this most popular Punjabi dish in the world.

Restaurant Style Paneer Makhani

Paneer Makhani is served in most Indian restaurants. This tasty vegetarian dish is one of the most popular Punjabi dishes in the world.

Indian curry dishes often are served as a main meal along with rice, roti, dal ( lentils ) pickles and chutneys.

This foolproof paneer recipe makes finger licking delicious paneer Makhani that you crave in restaurants.  It is my family favorite,  well liked by friends and talked about at dinner parties.

Other names

It is a popular Vegetarian North Indian Paneer Curry recipe. Paneer Makhanwala, Paneer Lababdar, Kadhai Paneer , Paneer Butter Masala or Shahi Paneer are some other names this curry is referred to.

A close up image showing luscious rich tomato onion curry with paneer cubes.

What is the difference between Paneer Makhani and Butter Paneer?

Butter paneer is mainly prepared in butter while paneer makhani is prepared using oil. Difference in rest of the ingredients and cooking methods are quiet subtle. Butter paneer is often more red in color while paneer makhani is typically golden yellow.

These two paneer dishes as well as other gravy based paneer curies are quiet similar and are often made interchangeably.

Can I make this Vegan?

You can make this recipe dairy-free and vegan, choose extra firm tofu instead of paneer. That will make it Tofu Makhani. I am keeping the cream optional so you can simply skip it. You can also use coconut cream to thicken the gravy vegan way. 

An overhead image of a dinner plate filled with paneer curry, seasoned rice and garlic naan.

Ingredients :

Exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here’s brief overview of what goes in this paneer curry.

Paneer : I used store brought paneer. You can use freshly Homemade paneer as well.

Onion – Tomato Curry Sauce/ Gravy : Use onion, tomatoes and ginger garlic paste. The curry sauce is called gravy in India. You can use sweet onions or red onions whichever are easily available. Typically fresh tomatoes are preferred but you can also use store brought tomato paste for ease and convenience.

To thicken the gravy, I use soaked cashew nuts and 1/4 cup paneer while blending the masala sauce. It adds wonderful grainy texture and velvety creamy feel to the whole dish.

Spices and Herbs : Indian curries are full of layered spices. I use cardamom and black peppercorn for fresh earthy flavors. Store brought Garam masala and Shahi Paneer Masala add a depth of rich flavors to the makhani sauce. Kashmiri red chili powder adds hint of spice and beautiful red color ( adjust per spice tolerance)

Dried fenugreek leaves or Kasuri methi makes curry dishes dazzle with finishing touch. For intense flavors, you crush the kasuri methi leaves on your palm and then add to the curry.

Other ingredients and garnishes : Oil and butter is used to sauté the curry ingredients. Cumin seeds are used to further accentuate the earthy aroma . Use salt as per taste. Cream is not needed but you can swirl it on top for garnishes. Use chopped cilantro leaves for garnish.

Delicious paneer makhani which is popular Indian curry is served with rice and pickled onions for comfort food dinner.

Instructions

Preparing the Paneer : If you are using store brought paneer, soak it in warm water for 20 minutes while you prep the curry. Then cut it into bite size pieces to use it in curry.

Preparing Creamy Onion-Tomato Curry Sauce : Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom seeds and fry for a minute. Now add chopped onions. Sprinkle some salt and fry on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes till the onions are golden brown.

Add minced garlic and ginger and sauté further for another minute. Add tomatoes and cashews and sauté for another 5 minutes or till tomatoes are mushy. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down.

Now using a mixer blend this cooled mixture with 1/4 cup of Paneer and 1-2 Tablespoon of water to make a thick smooth paste.

The Final Dish : On a medium heat warm up the pan again and add butter and pour this thick gravy into it. Stir it constantly on low heat. The gravy has the tendency to sputter so you can cover the pan halfway.

Continue to stir for about 10 minutes till the gravy becomes glossy. You can add little water if it starts to burn or stick to the pan.

Once oil starts to separate add garam masala, shahi paneer masala, chili powder and salt. Add about a half a cup of water to make smooth curry sauce. Let it come to a boil again.

Add the paneer cubes in the gravy. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Crush kasuri methi on your palm and add it to the curry. Turn off the heat. Add a swirl of cream ( if using ) Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with roti, naan or rice. Enjoy!

How to Make Instant Pot Paneer Makhani

  1. Turn on Instant Pot on SAUTE mode. After it displays HOT, add oil. Add cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom seeds and fry for a minute. Now add chopped onions. Sprinkle some salt and fry for about 5-7 minutes till the onions are golden brown.
  2. Add minced garlic and ginger and sauté further for another minute. Add tomatoes and cashews and sauté for another 5 minutes or till tomatoes are mushy. Press and Cancel SAUTE function.
  3. Let the mixture cool down. Now blend this cooled mixture with 1/4 cup of Paneer/cottage cheese and 1-2 Tablespoon of water to make a thick paste. ( Alternatively, use an immersion blender and make a smooth curry paste in the Instant Pot itself)
  4. Turn the SAUTE function back on. Add butter and pour this thick gravy into it. Continue to stir for about 10 minutes till the gravy becomes glossy. You can add little water if it starts to burn or stick to the bottom.
  5. Once oil starts to separate add garam masala, shahi paneer masala, chili powder and salt. Add about a half a cup of water to make smooth curry sauce. Let it come to a boil again.
  6. Add the paneer cubes in the gravy. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed. Crush kasuri methi on your palm and add it to the curry.
  7. Cancel SAUTE. Add a swirl of cream ( if using ) Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with roti, naan or rice. Enjoy!

Process shot showing how to make this Paneer Makhani recipe in Instant Pot.

Pro Tips

  • Soak the paneer in warm water for soft and melt in your mouth texture. Also don’t cook paneer for too long in hot curry otherwise it will get hard and chewy.
  • The intense flavors of the spices and curry come from well cooked onion tomato gravy. So sauté it well so onions are caramelized and tomatoes are reduced to thick consistency.
  • Since I am using Shahi Paneer Masala, only few other whole spices are needed. If you prefer, you can add Cinnamon Stick, Cloves and a Bay Leaf to the spice mix. 
  • To save time you can use store brought tomato puree instead of using fresh tomatoes
  • I like to blend 1/4 cup of paneer while making the gravy. It makes the gravy rich, thick and smooth. You do not need to add heavy cream if you use this technique.  ( My signature tip)

The Typical Punjabi Meal

Punjabi cuisine is famous for soul satisfying comfort food curries. Rajma Masala, Chole -Chana Masala , Aloo Matar ( Potato and Peas Curry ) and Punjabi Kadhi Pakora are super popular North Indian Punjabi Curry recipes.

Some lentil or dal is also served to make it a complete meal. Dal Makhni, Dal Tadka or Dal Palak -Spinach Dal are everyday dal recipes.

You typically serve these curries with rice, roti, paratha or naan. A side of raw cut onions sprinkled with lemon juice and salt and slit green chilis is served.

You can also serve it with various chutney, pickle, raita. To finish it off, serve a delightful sweet dessert of Gajar Halwa ( Carrot almond pudding)

A typical punjabi meal with curry, rice, naan and condiments is served on dinner table.

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Delicious paneer makhani which is popular Indian curry is served with rice and pickled onions for comfort food dinner.

Paneer Makhani ( Instant Pot and Stove Top )

Yield: 6 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Paneer Makhani is a creamy, tomato-based curry originating in the Punjab region of northern India. Learn to make restaurant style paneer makhani at home using Instant Pot with this failproof recipe.

Ingredients

  • 250 gm. fresh paneer cottage cheese cut in cubes
  • 2 teaspoon oil
  • 2 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 large tomatoes chopped
  • 1/4 cup cashews - soak in water

Herbs and Spices

Optional Garnishes

  • 2 Tablespoon cream - to swirl on top
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Instructions

Preparing the Paneer : If you are using store bought paneer, soak it in warm water for 20 minutes while you prepare the curry. Then cut it into bite size pieces to use it in curry.

Preparing Creamy Onion-Tomato Curry Sauce : Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom seeds and fry for a minute. Now add chopped onions. Sprinkle some salt and fry on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes till the onions are golden brown.

Add minced garlic and ginger and sauté further for another minute. Add tomatoes and cashews and sauté for another 5 minutes or till tomatoes are mushy. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down.

Now blend this cooled mixture with 1/4 cup of Paneer and 1-2 Tablespoon of water to make a thick curry paste.

The Final Dish : Heat the pan again and add butter and pour this thick gravy into it. Stir it constantly on low heat. The gravy has the tendency to sputter so you can cover the pan halfway.

Continue to stir for about 10 minutes till the gravy becomes glossy. You can add little water if it starts to burn or stick to the pan. Once oil starts to separate add garam masala, shahi paneer masala, chili powder and salt. Add about a half a cup of water to make smooth curry sauce. Let it come to a boil again.

Add the paneer cubes in the gravy. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Crush kasuri methi on your palm and add it to the curry. Turn off the heat. Add a swirl of cream ( if using ) Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with roti, naan or rice. Enjoy!

How to Make Instant Pot Paneer Makhani

  1. Turn on Instant Pot on SAUTE mode. After it displays HOT, add oil. Add cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cardamom seeds and fry for a minute. Now add chopped onions. Sprinkle some salt and fry for about 5-7 minutes till the onions are golden brown.
  2. Add minced garlic and ginger and sauté further for another minute. Add tomatoes and cashews and sauté for another 5 minutes or till tomatoes are mushy. Press and Cancel SAUTE function.
  3. Let the mixture cool down. Now blend this cooled mixture with 1/4 cup of Paneer/cottage cheese and 1-2 Tablespoon of water to make a thick paste. ( Alternatively, use an immersion blender and make a smooth curry paste in the Instant Pot itself)
  4. Turn the SAUTE function back on. Add butter and pour this thick gravy into it. Continue to stir for about 10 minutes till the gravy becomes glossy. You can add little water if it starts to burn or stick to the bottom.
  5. Once oil starts to separate add garam masala, shahi paneer masala, chili powder and salt. Add about a half a cup of water to make smooth curry sauce. Let it come to a boil again.
  6. Add the paneer cubes in the gravy. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed. Crush kasuri methi on your palm and add it to the curry.
  7. Cancel SAUTE. Add a swirl of cream ( if using ) Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with roti, naan or rice. Enjoy!

Notes

Soak the paneer in warm water for soft and melt in your mouth texture. Also don't cook paneer for too long in hot curry otherwise it will get hard and chewy.

  • The intense flavors of the spices and curry come from well cooked onion tomato gravy. So sauté it well so onions are caramelized and tomatoes are reduced to thick consistency.
  • To save time you can use store brought tomato paste instead of using fresh tomatoes
  • I like to blend 1/4 cup of paneer while making the gravy. It makes the gravy rich, thick and smooth. You do not need to add heavy cream if you use this technique.  ( My signature tip)
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 286Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 48mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 13g

Nutritional values are provided as a courtesy and the values are approximate. The values will change depending on the exact ingredients, measurements and brands used. As always, for specific health issues and dietary requirements please consult medical professional.

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