An easy Instant Pot pressure cooker recipe for Paneer Butter Masala, or Paneer Makhani, a popular Indian vegetarian delicacy. Made with Indian cottage cheese (paneer), simmered in tomato puree, Indian spices, and finished with a touch of heavy cream.
Paneer Butter Masala or Paneer Makhani, literally means paneer cooked in a buttery rich sauce. Paneer is a firm Indian cottage cheese. It's a vegetarian variation of the popular north-Indian dish called Butter Chicken.
I use fresh or store bought paneer (Indian cottage cheese), and simmer it in tomato puree, seasoned with toasted and ground garam masala. A touch of heavy cream brings this dish to life. The original paneer masala dish was created in the 1950s by the chef of a super popular restaurant in New Delhi, called ‘Moti Mahal Delux’.
Traditional Butter Masala Recipe versus Quick & Easy One-Pot RecipeAnother terrific paneer dish: 15-minute Kadai Paneer
The traditional Paneer Butter Masala recipe involves one extra step. You have to marinate the paneer in yogurt and garam masala, grill it, and then simmer it in a tomato-cream sauce.
But in this curry recipe, I skipped that step (see video recipe below) and made it a dump and start one-pot recipe using my Instant Pot pressure cooker, with the same incredible taste. The key is cutting paneer into small, bite-size cubes so that they absorb the flavors of the sauce, and, a little extra garam masala to compensate for the flavors lost in skipping the marination. This is one of the tastiest, and most requested Indian vegetarian recipes by my kids.
Is Paneer Makhani the same as Paneer Tikka Masala?
In most Indian restaurants, the most popular vegetarian entree is Paneer Butter Masala or Paneer Makhani. It's very similar to Paneer Tikka Masala, which was a variation of this recipe, created in the UK.
Everyone has their take on both these Indian recipes, but to me, the big difference is the use of onion. To make the Tikka Masala curry I start by sautéing onions with tomatoes and aromatics. Whereas, I skip the onion when making the Butter Masala or the Makhani curry. I also add more garam masala in the Tikka Masala curry. That makes it a bit more spicier than the Makhani Curry.
Serving Suggestion for Paneer Butter Masala / Paneer Makhani
Paneer Butter Masala/Paneer Makhani goes great with naan, roti and any preparation of basmati rice. I like to pair this rich and creamy curry with Spinach Rice. The buttery soft spinach and aromatic basmati rice compliment this Paneer Butter Masala really well. It feels like a restaurant style Indian meal, in the comfort of my home. I also pair it with Cumin Rice sometimes and the combination is simply delicious!
Paneer Butter Masala | Paneer Makhani in Instant Pot
- 14 oz. paneer cubed in ½ inch pieces (2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee, or light olive oil
- 1 tablespoon ginger minced or grated (1-inch ginger)
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced or grated (3 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½-1 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder (½ tsp for mild spice)
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons garam masala (reduce to 1 tsp for mild flavor)
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- ½ cup water
- 14 oz. diced tomatoes (1 can) or 3-4 ripe Roma tomatoes, pureed. (canned is better for this recipe)
- Turn on SAUTE. Wait for the pot to get hot, takes about 30 seconds. Add butter or ghee, minced ginger and garlic, and saute for 1 minute to cook off the raw flavor. Cancel Saute.
- Add water and deglaze any brown bits that may have stuck at the bottom. Add tomato puree and spices. Stir and lock the lid. Select Pressure Cook/Manual and cook for 4 minutes at high pressure, on sealing mode.
- When cooking is complete, manually release the pressure by following your cooker directions (Quick Release). Open the lid after the pin drops.
- Select Saute. Add paneer cubes, dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori Methi), sugar and heavy whipping cream (or coconut milk) and stir. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, till paneer softens and sauce thickens to your liking. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with cumin or spinach rice.
Notes & Recipe Tips
Recipe Tips for Paneer Butter Masala:
- Tomatoes: Ripe tomatoes are critical to the taste of this recipe. If using fresh, use bright red 'ripe' tomatoes, preferably plum/Roma tomatoes. Alternatively, diced or crushed tomatoes work well too. I prefer them over tomato sauce, which tends to be more tart.
- Paneer: If using frozen paneer, for best results, thaw it overnight in the fridge. For an authentic taste, it is important to simmer the sauce till the paneer softens.
- Make it Vegan: You can make this recipe vegan by replacing butter with any clear oil, and heavy whipping cream with coconut cream. Instead of paneer, add cooked chickpeas or extra-firm tofu.
- Kashmiri Red Chili powder: I add this Indian spice for its vibrant color and mild heat. If you cannot find it, substitute with equal amount of regular paprika.
- To Freeze this dish, skip the heavy cream and cool completely. Transfer it to an airtight container and freeze for up to 4 weeks. To reuse, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, bring it to a simmer on the stove or Instant Pot, add heavy whipping cream and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- This recipe was tested in a 3qt and 6qt Instant Pot pressure cooker. If using an 8qt size pressure cooker, add 1 cup water. You may have to simmer for a few extra minutes towards the end to cook it off.