Indian Vegetarian Soul Food | Delicious, Easy Vegan & Vegetarian Recipes Powered by Indian Flavours
April 22, 2020
Learn how to make ultra-flaky Amritsari-style Paneer Kulcha with me. These flatbreads are famous in North India for their crispy layers of dough and delicious variety of fillings. I stuff my Kulcha with soft paneer, onions, ginger, chillies and a blend of toasted spices. I grill each Kulcha over an open flame and finish each one with a pool of melting butter.
What is a Kulcha?
If you’ve never experienced Kulcha, imagine if a soft, chewy Naan had a love child with melt-in-the-mouth Laccha Paratha. Hello beautiful baby Kulcha.
How to make Paneer Kulcha
Stick around and I will help demystify the layering process and teach you how to make Kulcha masala from scratch. But wait, that’s not all. You can also read my tips for how to achieve GOD-TIER flakiness and a charred finish, all without a tandoor.
What’s the difference between Kulcha, Naan and Paratha?
The world of Indian breads is complex, yet beautifully simple at the same time. For example, there’s grilled bread, roasted bread, shallow fried bread, deep fried bread, steamed bread, baked bread, bread cooked in a tandoor and so much more. Some Indian breads use leavening agents like baking powder, baking soda and sometimes yeast — the latter brought to India via the British Empire.
Indeed, you may wonder what the difference between a soft and chewy Naan or a flaky Laccha Paratha is, and how they become one in the form of Kulcha. After all, there seems to be a lot of crossover.
Here’s a simple breakdown of differences between these three North Indian breads
Naan: Soft and chewy. Made using either plain flour (maida) or wholewheat atta. Leavened. Not usually stuffed. Paratha: Soft and flaky. Made using either plain flour (maida) or wholewheat atta. Unleavened. Stuff them or keep them plain. Kulcha: Soft, flaky and chewy. Made using either plain flour (maida) or wholewheat atta. Leavened. Often stuffed.
Paneer Kulcha: Commonly-asked questions
Does the paneer filling need to be cooked separately?
It’s not necessary. The paneer is already cooked and the spices are roasted. Indeed, the paneer filling is spread so thinly inside the entire surface of the Kulcha that the filling will heat through in a matter of minutes.
Can I reduce the amount of butter in this recipe?
Yes, of course. However, it’s important to note that it’s the butter used in the lamination process that creates the layers. Reduce the butter by too much and you run the risk of not creating any layers at all.
How do I make tandoori-style Kulcha without a tandoor?
I’ve cooked Kulcha in all manners of ways but the closest version to tandoor-cooked Kulcha is first cooked in a pan on both sides, then finished off by charring over an open flame. It’s also the simplest way to achieve a smoky, tandoori flavour.
Do I have to stuff the Kulcha?
No. Kulcha are often served without a filling. Simply skip the stuffing part and continue with the dough steps in my recipe.
Do I have to add baking powder to the dough?
Yes. Baking powder is a key ingredient in the dough for soft Kulcha with defined air bubbles and good layers.
Could I grill or barbecue the Kulcha?
Absolutely. This is a delicious way to cook Kulcha.
Can I make the Paneer Kulcha filling ahead of time?
Yes. Keep it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Could I make the dough ahead of time?
Yes. Keep it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Are Paneer Kulcha suitable for freezing?
Yes. Cook them all the way through and allow to cool. Freeze in a stack, each Kulcha separated with sheets of baking parchment. Reheat straight from frozen in a hot frying pan or tawa.
How do I reheat Paneer Kulcha?
In a hot frying pan or tawa. Cook on both sides until golden and crispy.
How can I veganise this Kulcha recipe?
Vegan butter or spread can be used in place of butter in this recipe. The yoghurt can be swapped for any unsweetened plant-based yoghurt. The filling can be made with firm tofu (pressed well for 30 minutes) and crumbled.
Why is water added to the underside of the Kulcha before cooking?
Water creates steam. Steam creates air bubbles. Air bubbles promote separation of layers and a crispy surface. Layers and crispiness set good Kulcha apart from average Kulcha.
More Kulcha filling ideas
Cooked, mashed daal (dry)
How to serve Paneer Kulcha
These Kulchas are super wholesome. Indeed, you can eat them as they are for a main dish. You can pair them with your favourite Indian pickle, plain yoghurt or raita. For a heartier meal, you can serve Kulcha with Chole (channa masala) — a spicy chickpea curry.
Keyword: bread, cheese, kulcha, naan, north indian, paneer, paratha
For the dough:
300gplain flourall-purpose flour/maida
1tbspoilI used sunflower
For laminating the dough:
25gplain flourall-purpose flour/maida
For the filling:
225gpaneergrated or crumbled
2tbspcoarse semolina or plain flour
75gred onionfinely chopped
2green chilliesfinely chopped
1tbspchopped fresh coriander leaves
1tspwhole coriander seeds
1/4tspwhole fennel seeds
1/4tspwhole cumin seeds
You will also need:
Extra flour for rolling
Extra oil for rolling
50gfresh corianderfinely chopped
To make the dough:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the yoghurt and water. Mix well to form a dough. Knead for 3-4 minutes.
Add the oil and knead again for 7-8 minutes until smooth and soft. It’s okay if the dough feels slightly sticky. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
To make the paneer filling:
Dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ajwain, fennel seeds and kasoori methi for 90 seconds, or until aromatic. They should turn a shade darker but not turn brown or black. Crush the spices in a pestle and mortar. Some coarse bits are fine but the majority should be well ground.
In a large bowl, combine the paneer, semolina (or flour), onions, chillies, ginger, amchur, coriander leaves, salt and the ground spices. Use your hands to combine the filling ingredients well.
Begin to squeeze the filling in your hands to mash it as if you were kneading dough. It’s ready when it feels quite smooth and holds its’ shape when you squeeze it together.
Divide the filling into 6 equal portions (weighing about 60g each).
To laminate the Kulcha dough:
Uncover the rested dough and give it a brief knead, about 30 seconds. Dust a large, clean work surface with some flour and begin to press the dough out into a large oval or rectangle, measuring about 20-25cm or 8-10 inches. You can use a rolling pin for this if you like.
Spread the dough with 50g softened butter and sprinkle with 25g plain flour. Roll the dough up into a log, as though you were making cinnamon rolls. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions.
Pinch the ends of the dough closed and pull them together the bottom of the dough to form a ball. The butter should now be enclosed inside. It’s okay if some butter leaks out too. This is a very forgiving recipe. Flatten the dough balls slightly.
To fill the Kulcha:
Take one portion of dough and keep the rest covered with a damp tea towel. Begin to flatten the dough out to around 8cm-10cm in diameter, keeping the middle part slightly thicker than the edges.
Place a portion of paneer filling on top and carefully bring the sides of the dough around to enclose the filling inside without pulling or tearing it. Pinch the dough together to fully enclose the filling inside. There should be no gaps or holes the filling could escape from during rolling. Repeat for the remaining dough and filling portions. Chill in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.
To roll out the Kulcha:
Place a portion of filled dough a wooden board or clean work surface, drizzle with a small amount of oil.
Next, use your fingers to pat the dough into a thick round disc, starting from the centre and working your way outwards. This will help distribute the filling evenly.
You can continue to use your fingers to press the dough all over to form a round Kulcha. You can also use a rolling pin to roll the dough a little thinner. Stop once the Kulcha reaches 20cm (8-inches) in diameter. It should be around 1/2cm thick.
Mix together coriander leaves with 60g fresh coriander leaves with 1 tbsp kasoori methi.
Sprinkle the surface of the Kulcha with a pinch of the coriander and methi mixture. Now gently make indentations over the entire surface of the Kulcha using your fingertips (be gentle — we want craters not holes).
To cook the Kulcha:
Heat a tawa or non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat. Gently and carefully lift the Kulcha and spread water over the bare base (not the side with coriander). Slap the Kulcha down on the preheated pan and cook over a medium-low heat for 90 seconds. Flip and cook the other side for 30-40 seconds or until golden all over.
Optional step: For a tandoori flavour, use a pair of metal tongs to roast the cooked Kulcha over an open flame until beautifully charred.
Remove from the heat and spread the Kulcha with butter. Serve hot.
Repeat this process for the remaining 5 Kulcha. Serve them hot with your favourite pickle, plain yoghurt or raita.