Matar Paneer is a popular Indian dish made with paneer cheese and peas in a creamy tomato-based sauce. It’s a delicious and nutritious vegetarian curry.
This recipe for Matar Paneer is also easy to make, making it an amazing option for home cooks or people new to Indian food.
What is Matar Paneer?
The word ‘matar’ refers to peas in Hindi, and paneer is a fresh cheese made from milk that is curdled with lemon juice or vinegar.
The peas and paneer are cooked in a creamy tomato-based sauce that is flavoured with spices like coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and turmeric.
Matar Paneer is a delicious and simple dish that is perfect for any occasion; from weeknight meals to dinner parties.
Where does this dish come from?
While its roots are firmly grounded in Northern India, Matar Paneer is famous around the world.
Today it’s a star dish on restaurant menus from the UK, to Canada and the US. London has been taken by the Dishoom Matar Paneer.
Is Matar Paneer spicy?
Of course, you can prepare Matar Paneer to a mild, medium or spicy level depending on your tolerance to chilli.
If you prefer a mild curry, use less chilli powder.
For something spicier, use more and perhaps add fresh green chilli to the dish too.
Kashmiri chilli powder is a great choice if you would like to add great colour without too much heat.
Alternatively, use sweet paprika in place of chilli powder.
This is a good option for children and what I add for my 5 year old.
What to serve with Matar Paneer
Matar Paneer is typically served with rice, naan or roti.
However, please feel free to choose your favourite accompaniments.
Variations of Matar Paneer
There are many different variations of the dish, but the most common ingredients include paneer cheese, peas, tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, and spices.
I often like to play about with this recipe, adding the ingredients I have to hand.
In the past I’ve made several delicious variations.
To make any of these, I swap a proportion of peas in the recipe with another vegetable.
- Matar Paneer with spinach – fresh or frozen spinach work very well
- Matar Paneer with mushrooms – sauté the mushrooms until golden brown
- Matar Paneer with cauliflower – steam or roast the cauliflower and then add with the peas
How to make paneer soft: The reverse soak method
Many Indian curry recipes will call for paneer to either be fried or soaked prior to adding it to the sauce.
While neither of these steps are necessary, they can improve the overall texture of shop-bought paneer as it can often be firm.
The reverse soak method is something I’ve done for years and it produces amazingly soft paneer, with an appetising golden colour on the outside.
It is not necessary to soak homemade paneer, which is usually on the delicate side.
How to make vegan matar paneer
Make Matar Tofu instead! Firm tofu is a great alternative to using paneer in this Indian restaurant and takeaway favourite curry.
Pat the tofu dry, lightly press the excess moisture out and pan fry as per the recipe. However, there’s no need to soak tofu in hot water.
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5 tips for amazing Matar Paneer
- Try to begin with roasted and ground whole spices for the most flavour.
- Brown the onions properly. Sizzle chopped onions in oil or ghee, along with a pinch of salt. The salt encourages the onions to release moisture which in turn, means they’ll brown in no time. The process of browning onions (bhuna) is a core building block for this recipe and lays strong, umami-rich foundations for Matar Paneer, as well as many other curries.
- Use a a jar or carton of tomato passata (Italian sieved tomatoes) to achieve a smooth sauce without having to blend anything.
- Reverse soak the paneer. Pan fry or air fry the paneer in oil and then soak it in hot water. Drain and marvel at hot soft and squishy it is!
- Use frozen peas. Not only are they extremely convenient, they’re also inexpensive and mega fresh. Frozen peas are frozen as soon as they’re picked, which means they’re sweet, tender and as vibrant as can be. They also cook in a flash.
So there you have it; Everything you need to triumphantly prepare a pot of North Indian Matar Paneer. Are you going to eat it with naan, roti, paratha or rice?
Ingredients for Matar Paneer
Today I’ll teach you how to make a restaurant-style Matar Paneer at home.
Honestly, you won’t believe how simple it is to prepare this veggie curry.
- Oil – You can use any unflavoured oil or ghee to make Matar Paneer
- Onions – large brown onions are best for this dish
- Garlic – large cloves because there’s no such thing as too much garlic
- Ginger – fresh or frozen will do. Mince it on the fine side of a grater or bash it into a paste in a pestle and mortar.
- Paneer – full-fat Indian cottage cheese sold in a block. Find it in large supermarkets or in South Asian grocery stores. You can use shop bought or homemade paneer for matar paneer.
- Peas – I always use frozen peas
- Coriander seeds – whole coriander seeds give the dish a bright, citrusy flavour
- Cumin seeds – for a savoury, nutty flavour
- Fennel seeds – a delicious aniseed note compliments sweet vegetables like peas beautifully. If you don’t have fennel seeds, add a whole star anise with the cinnamon stick (do not crush it and remove before serving).
- Cloves – cloves compliment the cinnamon and black cardamom flavours
- Black cardamom – deeply smoky, with a cooling menthol-like aroma. If unavailable, use green cardamom
- Cinnamon stick – a whole cinnamon or cassia stick. Do not crush this.
- Turmeric – this will give the matar paneer a wonderful colour
- Kashmiri chilli powder – this type of chilli powder has a mild heat and bright red colour. Alternatively, use a medium strength chilli powder or fresh chilli and sweet paprika
- Tomato passata or canned chopped tomatoes – passata is a style of sieved tomatoes (seeds and skin removed) for a smooth sauce
- Garam masala – shop bought or homemade garam masala. Find my recipe here: Garam masala recipe
- Kasoori methi – dried fenugreek leaves. Always rub these between your palms or grind to a fine powder before adding to a curry or other dish
- Double cream – heavy cream for my American friends. Alternatively, use soy or oat cream
- Sugar – to balance the heat of chilli and sourness of tomatoes
- Salt – any sea salt
- Coriander leaves – optional, to garnish
- Green chillies – optional, to garnish
Step-by-step instructions for making Matar Paneer at home
1. Toast and grind the whole spices
Lightly toast the whole spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, black cardamom, cloves) in a dry frying pan until aromatic.
Do this over a low heat and keep the spices moving all the time so they do not burn.
Next, pile the spices into a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder.
2. Brown the paneer
Cut the paneer into cubes and brown them in hot oil until lightly golden brown on all sides.
Drain and place into a bowl.
Cover the paneer with boiling hot water from the kettle and allow to stand for 15 minutes. After this, drain.
3. Caramelise the onions
Sauté the onions and cinnamon stick in ghee or oil until the onions are a deep golden brown colour.
Add a pinch of salt to help the onions caramelise faster.
4. Add aromatics, tomatoes and dry spices
Next, add ginger, garlic and tomatoes.
Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and then add in all the ground spices.
Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes.
5. Finish with cream
Remove the lid and add cream.
Adjust the consistency with hot water if necessary. Indeed, the amount you add will depend on how saucy you want the Matar Paneer.
6. Add paneer, peas and garnishes
Add the paneer, peas, kasoori methi, coriander and green chillies if using.
Finally, stir the curry well and heat through for 4-5 minutes before serving.
Matar Paneer recipe
- 450g paneer
- 325g frozen peas
- 3 tbsp any unflavoured oil
- 2 large onions, peeled and finely diced
- 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 4 cloves
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 500g tomato passata or canned chopped tomatoes
- 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 /2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 150ml double cream
- 300-400ml hot water to adjust the consistency of the curry
- 1 tsp kasoori methi, rubbed between your palms or ground to a fine powder
- Fresh coriander leaves to garnish
- Sliced green chillies, to serve (optional)
- Lightly toast the coriander, cumin, fennel, black cardamom, cloves in a dry frying pan until aromatic. Do this over a low heat and keep the spices moving all the time so they do not burn. Pile the spices into a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Set aside until needed.
- Cut the paneer into 1cm cubes. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the paneer until lightly golden brown on all sides. Drain the paneer, leaving the oil in the pan. Place the paneer in a bowl. Pour boiling hot water from the kettle (enough to cover) and allow to stand for 15 minutes.
- Place the remaining oil over a medium heat and add the cinnamon and onions. Sauté until the onions are a deep golden brown colour, about 8 minutes. Add a pinch of the measured salt to help the onions caramelise faster.
- Next, add ginger, garlic and tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and then add in all the homemade spice mixture, as well as the turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala, sugar and remaining salt. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove the lid, stir well and add cream. Mix the cream in quickly and thoroughly. Adjust the consistency of the sauce with hot water if necessary. The amount you add will depend on how saucy you want the Matar Paneer. I added around 350ml.
- Add the drained paneer, peas, kasoori methi, coriander and green chillies if using. Stir well and heat through for 4-5 minutes before serving.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- To freeze: Pack the curry into a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost at room temperature or in a pan fitted with a lid. Ensure the curry is piping hot before serving.
- Boost the veg content of your Matar Paneer by swapping a handful of paneer or peas with a handful of spinach, mushrooms or sweetcorn.
- For a vegan option, use tofu in place of paneer and use soy or oat cream in place of double cream.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 509Total Fat: 37gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 2040mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 6gSugar: 10gProtein: 24g
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