Paneer Pulao is a simple, one-pot recipe featuring paneer. The paneer gives it a heartiness, and the saffron and spices give it a depth of flavor and richness. As a rice dish, it is also very adaptable and can be served alongside just about anything.
Paneer pulao can serve as the central feature on your table or as a side.
About the Recipe
In my family, pulao was something we had whenever we had guests. A good, fragrant pulao will come across as a luxurious dish, but it is also easy to make in large quantities.
Pulao plays an important role in Indian cuisine, particularly in Northern India. Basmati rice is grown in North India, especially around Kashmir, although more of the world’s Basmati comes from Pakistan and Iran. Pulao was passed down into the cuisine by the Moghuls.
This recipe is easy to alter if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand or if you want to play with the flavors a little bit. Here are some suggestions:
- Add more flavor to the paneer by adding garam masala to the paneer when you are browning it or adding garlic and ginger.
- Leave out any of the vegetables: onions, peas, carrots. You can also leave out the cashews.
- Saffron adds some depth, but can be left out if it is not available on hand.
Also, in this recipe, I use fresh garlic and ginger, but it should work just as well with garlic powder and ginger powder in place of fresh since they are given plenty of time to develop in the pot.
Tips for making Paneer Pulao
- Make sure to use enough salt for the paneer. Otherwise, it can be bland.
- Watch the water content. You want the rice to be fluffy, not mushy. So depending on whether you make it on the stovetop or pressure cooker (Instant Pot), you will need different quantities of water.
Paneer pulao is typically served as a main course. With paneer, vegetables, and rice, it easily forms a complete meal. It can be accompanied by simple cucumber raita or beet raita for something more colorful and different.
Paneer pulao will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen, although basmati rice often does not look its best when reheated after frozen. Often the grains will break, but the flavor will not be altered. You can reheat it in the microwave or stovetop with a couple of tablespoons of water.
Paneer Pulao (Paneer Pilaf)
- 12 oz paneer, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (340 grams)
- 1 cup basmati rice (200 grams) rinsed at least 3 times
- 2 Tbsp cashews
- 3 Tbsp ghee separated
- ½ cup peas frozen or fresh
- 1 large onion thinly sliced
- ½ cup carrot chopped
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 cloves
- 1" piece cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp garlic chopped finely
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp Kashmiri chili powder or paprika
- 1 green chili chopped, or to taste
- salt to taste
- pinch saffron optional
- 1 ¼ cup water
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- Heat 1 Tbsp of ghee in a non-stick pan. Add paneer cubes. Sprinkle with salt to season and saute until golden on all sides. Remove the paneer and set aside.
- In the same pan the paneer was in, add the cashews and let toast lightly. Set those aside as well.
- Heat 2 Tbsp of ghee in the Instant Pot on saute mode or in a pressure cooker. Once it shimmers, add cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Stir and let cook for 20 seconds.
- Add onions and carrots. Cook until softened.
- Add garlic, tomato paste, and garam masala. Stir. Then add the rice and let it toast for about a minute, stirring often.
- Add the chili powder, green chilies, salt, peas, paneer, cashews, and water. Stir.
- Cook under pressure for 6 minutes. Quick release. Then add lemon juice. Garnish with cilantro and serve.