Chilli paneer is a real crowd-pleaser, combining the rich creaminess of paneer with the fiery kick of chillies. Today I’m sharing all the tips to make the PERFECT chilli paneer, with crispy paneer cubes and a deliciously tangy and spicy gravy. And best of all – it’s made in just one pan!
What is chilli paneer?
Chilli Paneer is an Indo-Chinese dish which seamlessly blends the best of Indian and Chinese cuisines. It features a spicy, slightly tangy tomato gravy with peppers, onions, and the best part: cubes of crispy fried paneer (cottage cheese).
The cubes of paneer absorb the bold flavors of the spices creating a mouthwatering medley that satisfies both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
If you’re a fan of Indo-Chinese cuisine, I know you’ll love my chilli mogo recipe too – it’s a reader favourite!
What ingredients will I need?
Let’s gather the essential ingredients for this easy chilli paneer recipe:
- Paneer – this is a creamy cottage cheese which you can find in South Asian grocery stores and some supermarkets too. Paneer is fairly bland on its own, but we’ll be adding a lot of flavour and spice to this recipe!
- Cornstarch and plain flour – this is to make a coating for our paneer.
- Peppers – you can use any colour of your choosing.
- Onions – both red onion and spring (green) onion are required for this recipe.
- Garlic and ginger – key components of any good Indian recipe!
- Tomatoes – I use salad tomatoes but you can use smaller ones if that’s what you have on hand.
- Green chillies – for some heat!
- Masala/spices – in this recipe we’ll be using ground cumin (jeera), ground coriander (dhana), ground turmeric (haldi) and chilli powder (mirchi).
- Sauces – we’ll need some sesame oil, soy sauce, tomato ketchup and your favourite chilli sauce.
It may seem like quite a few ingredients, but believe me, it’s worth it for the final flavour! You can find most of the ingredients in your local Asian supermarket. And whilst you’re there, pick up some rose syrup for this delicious rose chia pudding recipe.
How to make chilli paneer step-by-step:
As always, you can find the full recipe and instructions at the bottom of this blog post.
Prepare the batter for the paneer by mixing cornstarch, flour, salt and water in a bowl. Toss the chopped paneer cubes in the batter to lightly coat them (photo 1).
Carefully fry the paneer in hot oil until the cubes are golden on all sides (photo 2). Remove the paneer from your frying pan and add the chopped peppers and onions (photo 3) and cook until slightly charred. Remove and set aside.
Now that the paneer and peppers and onions are ready, we can prepare the gravy. To the same pan, add some sesame oil, ginger, garlic and spring onions (photo 4). Once the aromatics are slightly fragrant, add finely chopped tomatoes and green chillies (photo 5).
Once the tomatoes are slightly soft and mushy, add the spices – ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric and chilli powder (photo 6).
The next step is important – cook out the masala until it begins to smell good. This is a common technique which brings out the flavour of the dried spices – we also use it in my masala scrambled eggs recipe.
Add the tomato ketchup, chilli sauce, soy sauce and water to make a gravy (photo 7). Add the peppers, onions and paneer cubes to the sauce (photo 8).
Finally, toss everything together to fully coat the paneer (photo 9) and dig in! This dish is best served immediately whilst the paneer is still crispy.
Tips for making the best chilli paneer:
- Use the freshest ingredients you can for the best results.
- Avoid overcooking the peppers and onions – they should be slightly charred but still have some colour and crunch.
- Use tongs to carefully place the paneer cubes into the hot oil to minimise the amount of excess batter on each cube. Also remember that frying food in oil always carries risk, so ensure you follow the best safety practices.
- Adjust the consistency of the gravy to your liking by adding extra water if desired.
- Whilst it won’t affect the final outcome, I recommend slicing and preparing all of your ingredients before you start cooking. This will help you to stay organised in the kitchen!
Chilli paneer gets its name from the addition of chillies, but you can control the spice level based on your preference. This recipe gets its heat from three sources (chilli powder, fresh chillies, and chilli sauce), but feel free to adjust the quantity of either to tailor the heat to your liking.
Whilst paneer is the star of this dish, you can experiment with using tofu as a vegan alternative. Tofu readily absorbs flavors and provides a similar texture to paneer. I recommend using the firmest tofu you can find for the closest results. You may also wish to add some nutritional yeast to the recipe to replicate the cheesy flavour.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop, ensuring the paneer is fully heated through before serving.
Absolutely! Use a gluten-free soy sauce and replace the flour in the batter with extra cornstarch. This way, you can enjoy a delicious gluten-free chilli paneer without compromising on taste.
Easy Chilli Paneer RecipeLeave a Review Print Recipe
- 200 grams Paneer chopped into large cubes
- 2 tbsp Plain All Purpose Flour
- 2 tbsp Cornstarch
- 6 tbsp Water
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/4 cup Sunflower Oil for frying
- 1 Red Onion chopped into large chunks
- 1 Red Pepper chopped into large chunks (you can use 2 different colours of peppers if you prefer)
- 1.5 tsp Sesame Oil
- 3 cloves Garlic finely chopped
- 1 thumb Ginger finely chopped
- 2 Spring Onions sliced, reserve the green tips for garnish
- 2 Large Tomatoes finely diced
- 2 Green Chillies finely chopped, add more for extra heat
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1/4 tsp Ground Coriander
- 1/4 tsp Chilli Powder
- 1/3 tsp Turmeric
- 3 tbsp Ketchup
- 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 tbsp Chilli Sauce add more for extra heat
- 1/4 cup Water
- Begin by preparing the batter for the paneer: in a medium-size mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch, salt and water to make a batter.
- Add the chopped paneer cubes to the batter and toss until they are lightly coated.
- Heat up the 1/4 cup of sunflower oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. Test the oil is hot by adding a tiny amount of the batter to the oil – if it sizzles, the oil is ready.
- Use tongs to carefully add the paneer cubes into the hot oil one by one. Make sure that you drain as much batter from the paneer before adding it to the oil – we just want a light coating of batter on the paneer.
- Fry the paneer cubes for 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are golden on all sides. Transfer the paneer to a plate lined with a paper towel so the excess oil can drain, and set it aside for now.
- Drain most of the oil from your frying pan leaving around 1/2 a tablespoon behind. Add the chopped peppers and red onion to the pan and cook over medium heat until they are just slightly charred – try to retain some of the colour and crunch in the peppers. Transfer the peppers and onions to a bowl and set aside.
- Now we can prepare the gravy: add the sesame oil, chopped ginger, chopped garlic and chopped spring onions to the frying pan. Cook until slightly fragrant, then add the tomatoes and chopped green chillies.
- Once the tomatoes are slightly mushy, add the spices: 1/4 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp ground coriander, 1/4 tsp chilli powder, and 1/3 tsp turmeric. Cook out the masala until it begins to smell good, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomato ketchup, soy sauce, chilli sauce and water to the pan. Stir everything together to make the gravy. If you prefer a thinner gravy, add some extra water at this stage.
- Add the fried peppers and onions and crispy paneer cubes back into the pan with the gravy. Stir everything together to fully coat the paneer.
- Ensure the chilli paneer is heated through before serving. Garnish with the reserved chopped spring onion and enjoy immediately whilst the paneer is still crispy.
- Best served immediately.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat on the stovetop, ensuring the chilli paneer is fully heated through before serving.