How many of you know that soft, creamy Indian cottage cheese known as Paneer? If you’ve been frequenting Indian restaurants, the chances of you coming across this famous and popular Indian staple in their dishes is quite high.
I’m going to introduce you to this easy stir fried veggie + paneer in spiced onion tomato sauce. It turns into absolute fabulousness. This paneer jalfrezi is my first choice to make whenever I lay my hands on some chunk of paneer.
What is Paneer?
Paneer, aka Indian cottage cheese, is a fresh, creamy, normally unsalted cheese. It’s made by curdling hot milk with lemon/lime juice or vinegar. The result is a soft, fluffy cheese that is firm and can be cut into blocks or cubes.
The texture is usually similar to that of firm tofu. It retains its firmness when cooked over high heat and that’s why it’s a very popular add-in for many Indian dishes.
It enhances any dish with its rich, creamy presence and absorbs all the flavors and spices. It’s a vegetarian’s favorite source of protein.
What is Paneer Jalfrezi?
Jalfrezi is one of the most popular curries served in Indian restaurants worldwide. It could be made with chicken, lamb, shrimp, just veggies, or in this case with paneer and veggies together.
It’s semi dry, spicy and tangy. Jalfrezi is India’s version of a stir fry dish where vegetables, meat (if using any) or paneer is all cooked together in thick tangy, spicy onion-tomato sauce.
It is believed to have originated in West Bengal and is now popular all over, especially in Britain where the curry houses make this spicy tangy curry famous.
Jalfrezi comes from the words Jal, meaning spicy food, and frezi, meaning suitable for diet.
Today I am going meatless and presenting you this paneer jalfrezi, where paneer is THE STAR.
This is what you need for this quick stir fry, Indian style
- Paneer – You can very easily get paneer in any Indian grocery store, mostly in their refrigerated section.
- Veggies – Onions, tomatoes, tomato puree, bell peppers (I use multiple colors, it adds more color to the dish).
- Aromatics – Garlic, ginger and cilantro.
- Spices – Turmeric, Kashmiri red chili powder (you can use paprika in its absence), coriander powder, cumin seeds (jeera), dry whole chilies (optional).
- Oil or ghee
This is going to go very fast, making this Paneer Jalfrezi…
Like any stir fry, you need to do a lot of chopping in the beginning and from then it’s a breeze.
I love my veggies in strips or slices for this recipe, rather than chopping everything into cubes. Cut onions, tomato, bell peppers in strips. Slice garlic and chop ginger into juliennes.
Heat oil or ghee in a pan and add in cumin seeds. Cook until they start to pop, about a minute. Add in onion and whole chilis, broken into pieces, and sauté. You can skip these chilies if you’re looking for a milder version. Once the onions are soft, add in garlic and sauté for a minute.
Time to add bell peppers along with all the spices and salt. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes on high heat.
Stir in tomato puree along with ginger and cook for another couple of minutes. You want the bell peppers to be a little soft but to still hold the crunch.
Add in tomato slices along with paneer strips and toss everything well. Cook for 2-3 minutes till the paneer gets a little soft.
Stir in cilantro and toss everything well. That’s it… This super duper stir fry is ready to serve. You will be amazed how many flavors develop with just a few Indian pantry staples.
What to serve this with?
- It’s mostly eaten with rotis or some great flaky parathas or naan breads.
- You can make it a little saucier by adding a little water and serve it over rice.
- I can see leftovers going great in between some hot pita pockets or rolled in tortillas like a burrito.
- Low carbers can use cauliflower rice or low carb tortillas.
- Try using other veggies like mushrooms, baby corn, green beans or cauliflower. All will be great in this onion-tomato based sauce.
- Add a little kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in the end. This comes in a box in Indian grocery stores. It’s a great flavor enhancer.
- You can make it saucier by increasing the amount of tomato puree and a little water.
- Vegans can replace paneer with tofu.
Can I make homemade paneer?
Yes, sure you can. That’s what I do most of the time here in the States. It’s extremely easy to make it in your very own kitchen.
Try making it with full fat whole milk. Boil a gallon of milk in a large pot. Stir regularly to avoid burning the milk on the bottom of the pot. Once the milk is boiling, add 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice and keep on stirring with a spoon. The milk will start curdling right away, separating the whey.
Line a strainer or colander with two layers of cheesecloth or clean muslin cloth. Dump in the curds. Rinse it with cold water. This cools the cheese and helps wash away the excess lemon juice.
After this, gather the cheesecloth by the corners and start squeezing it to remove the excess liquid. Be careful to not burn your hands in case it’s still hot. Keep squeezing it until the cheese is firm and no more liquid comes out easily.
Flatten the cheese in the cheesecloth and fold the edges over the cheese and put it on a plate. Then put a second plate on top and weigh it down with several cans of food or a pot or anything heavy.
Let it sit on the counter top for a couple of hours. This step helps press out any more liquid and make it firm. After a couple of hours, your paneer is ready to use… 🙂
Fresh paneer will be good in the fridge for 2-3 days. Some people store it submerged in water in a container to keep it soft.
Paneer jalfrezi can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days. Just reheat when ready to eat. We don’t recommend freezing this, as like with any other stir fry it’s best served fresh.
Well my friends, I have given you an excellent meatless night option. All you need is that yum creamy paneer in your home to make this amazing popular dish from India. Make your very own paneer or make a quick round to your Indian store to grab some. From there, it happens in a breeze. Have fun currying…
While you’re here, check out my roundup of the best paneer recipes!
Paneer Jalfrezi, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 2 Tbsp oil or ghee
- 9oz paneer, cut into strips or cubes
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 tomato, sliced
- 1/2 cup tomato puree or crushed tomato
- 1 small green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 small red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 small orange bell pepper, sliced
- 4-5 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped
- 1 inch ginger, julienne or chopped
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
- 2 dry red chilies (optional)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- Salt to taste
- Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. One hot, add in cumin seeds and cook till it start popping, about a minute.
- Add onions and dried red chilies and sauté till onions they are soft and translucent. Add in garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.
- Add in bell peppers along with all dry spices and salt and stir well. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in tomato puree along with ginger and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add in tomato slices. Mix well. Add in paneer slices and combine everything well and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add cilantro, toss everything, and serve.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 330Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 52mgSodium 693mgCarbohydrates 13gFiber 2gSugar 8gProtein 14g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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