This Nawabi Paneer is Nawabi in every sense. Let me tell you how. There are ample reasons & one of them is the most sacred item used. Yes, I am talking about Saffron (केसर). The flavourful blend of Saffron, aka Kesar, makes this nawabi panner more royal. Let’s see how this particular dish derived its name.


Why the Name Nawabi Paneer?

The raja-rajwada kitchen back in the past included Saffron in many recipes. It made the ordinary dish a royal food. Saffron was (and is) expensive & only the royal kitchen could afford it. This way, the recipes having Saffron are for the royal, Rajwadi, Nawabi, etc.

In the same fashion, our today’s nawabi recipe contains Saffron Milk (केसर वाला दूध). Therefore, let’s begin with the ingredient list. Here you go.

Ingredients for Nawabi Paneer

Cooking nawabi paneer is a two-step process. For this, you shall make the paste, the onion-cashew paste & then the gravy. The paste will form the basic structure of the gravy. Not only this, but it will give the necessary flavour, aroma & thickness. With this in mind, here’s the list.

To Make the Onion-Cashew Paste

For nawabi paneer gravy, we need the onion-cashew paste. To make the paste, we need whole spice & wet masalas.

  • Butter – To fry whole spices & other items, we will use butter. Besides, cooking oil is also an option here. You can swap butter with oil or even ghee.
  • Whole Spices – Cumin, black cardamom & bay leaf are our whole spices. All these are common whole spices readily available. Check your local grocery store if not.
  • Wet Masala – Again, the regular ones viz green chilli, ginger & garlic. Slit the green chillies vertically. Crush ginger & garlic together or individually however you like.
  • Onion – They are an essential part of the paste. Moreover, it creates the base of the paste.
  • Cashews – They are an integral part of the whole recipe. The creamy taste & texture of the gravy is all due to cashews. Below I have mentioned substitutes for the same.

Assemble the items mentioned above, make paste & keep them aside to use later. Now proceed to make the gravy.

To Make the Gravy

After making the paste, we will prepare the gravy items. Here they are.

  • Butter or Oil? – Our nawabi paneer gravy will be in butter. In short, we will fry, saute & cook everything in butter.
  • Masala Powders – Salt, asafoetida, coriander powder & Kasuri methi will be our dry masala powders. They will go in the first batch while making gravy. Rub & crush Kasuri methi before adding.
  • Dairy Items – Curd & paneer are dairy items here. You can swap curd with heavy cream or yoghurt. Try homemade paneer.
  • Kesar Milk – This is a secret ingredient. It helps enrich the colour of the gravy. Moreover, you will see a light saffron tint in the gravy. Refer to the recipe images. It’s visually attractive.

How to Make Kesar Milk?

It’s a breeze. The old school moms & home chefs know the importance of Kesar milk. Soak a pinch of Kesar strands in 3-4 tbsp hot milk & allow it to set for some time. The white milk will turn yellow. That’s your Kesar milk.

Not to mention, add salt & water as needed. But be careful with the quantity.

Okay, now, let’s move on to some helpful tips. Here you go.

Nawabi Paneer Extra Shots

The tips below are a great help; hence at least read them once. They might save a lot of time & energy. Try it.

  • Butter – Use unsalted butter; otherwise, the salty taste will overpower or ruin the hard work.
  • Onions – Use chopped onions instead of onion puree because we need the crunchy fried taste.
  • Cashews – They give a nice thick texture to the gravy. Besides, you can replace them with almonds.
  • Curd – Beat the curd before adding it. Beaten curd becomes smooth & creamy.
  • Cooking the Gravy – Avoid high flame to cook the gravy because it will darken it.
  • Paste – The onion-cashew paste must be as thick as possible. Hence, grind on full power.

Nawabi Paneer in Butter or Ghee?

It’s a tricky question. I would say both are equally good. We all know that butter & ghee have unique characteristics & taste profiles. They both behave differently under intense heat. I prefer desi ghee, aka homemade ghee. One of my favourites is the Jamkhambhaliya ghee. I like the soothing aroma of ghee.

Butter is a flavorful substitute for desi ghee. Moreover, the affordability of butter is higher compared to desi ghee commercially. That’s the reason why restaurants use butter instead of desi ghee. You can swap butter with ghee in this nawabi paneer. Ghee will give a royal touch to the recipe. Try it.

Nawabi Paneer FAQs

The following are some helpful questionnaires to get you started.

Can I add tomatoes?

No, don’t add tomatoes. It will change the colour of the gravy. So we have used curd instead of tomatoes.

Can I swap the black cardamom with the green one?

Yes, you can replace black cardamom with green ones if you don’t have them. Add whole green cardamom without peeling them.

Can I skip onion, ginger & garlic?

Skipping onion, ginger & garlic will give you the Jain version of nawabi paneerThen, add a few more cashews & green chillies to compensate for the flavours.

What is the ideal choice among butter, oil & ghee?

Butter & ghee are the ideal choices to make nawabi paneer. However, oil is also a good option but then you will miss the smoothness that butter & ghee gives.

Can I use hung curd?

You can, but you will have to add extra water to make the gravy free-flowing. I would suggest using normal curd.

What is a good substitute for Saffron?

Ground turmeric is the best substitute for Saffron. Moreover, it’s easy to find turmeric at local grocery stores. Again, though, I would suggest using Saffron if possible instead of turmeric. However, if you don’t have saffron, you can skip it altogether instead of using a substitute for it.

How to improve if the gravy turns dark in colour?

Add Kesar milk with beaten curd again. Doing this will improve the dark colour of your gravy. One more thing, cook gravy on low flame. If you don’t want to use Kesar, use milk with beaten curd.