Paneer Makhani (no butter, no cream)

Paneer Makhani also known as Paneer Butter Masala is a Punjabi dish prepared in a creamy tomato gravy with Indian cheese.

What is Paneer Makhani?

Paneer is an Indian cheese and makhani means butter, so this dish is essentially Indian cheese cooked in a butter gravy.

Ironically, I did not add any butter or cream to this dish because you don’t really need it. You can enjoy weeknight Paneer Makhani relatively guilt-free.

Are Paneer Makhani and Paneer Butter Masala the same?

Yes! Since makhani means butter, Paneer Makhani and Paneer Butter Masala can be used interchangeably. Furthermore, Paneer Makhani is also known as Paneer Makhan Masala and Paneer Makhanwala. They all mean the same thing more or less.

Diwali Tradition

Every Diwali, my entire family gets together at my mom’s home, even if it’s on a weekday. We start Diwali off with a puja (prayer) and take turns singing a variety of bhajans (religious songs).

Once done, my mom gives each one of us prasad (an offering) which is usually wheat halwa prepared with ghee, sugar, flour, and water.

And then the best part is dinner! Every year my mom makes a paneer dish, poori (deep-fried bread), and Dahi Vada (fried dumplings soaked in yogurt). For this reason, I always associate paneer with Diwali because it’s always made on a special occasion, whether it’s during the holidays, or at a party/wedding.

Essentially, paneer is festival food or even celebration food. This Diwali I won’t be with my family, however I’ll be thinking of them as I start my own tradition.

Paneer Makhani (no butter, no cream, gluten-free)

Didi’s Best Paneer Makhani

Today’s Paneer Makhani recipe doesn’t come from my mom, but rather from my eldest sister who is the best cook I know. My sister has the ability to take an ordinary dish and whip it into something gourmet. She really is that good. I love watching her cook and I’m always picking her brain for ideas.

On my last trip to NJ, I watched my sister make a Healthy Paneer Makhani without butter or cream, and to my surprise, it tasted amazing. What’s even more surprising is she made this paneer dish with 1% low-fat milk, however I used whole milk to be on the safe side.

I had numerous requests for this recipe so I decided to share it with you guys after some experimenting. My husband and I both loved this dish, and thus, I’m confident you will too. So this Diwali, hope you make my Didi’s Lightened Up Paneer Makhani recipe. I wish you all a prosperous and healthy new year! ❤️

Paneer Makhani (no butter, no cream, gluten-free)

Why You’ll Love this Paneer Makhani

  • It’s made without butter or cream
  • It’s rich and creamy
  • Perfect for the Diwali season or parties
  • So incredibly flavorful
  • Melts in your mouth
  • Vegetarian
  • Gluten-free

Ingredients to make Paneer Makhani

  • Paneer –  I use store-bought paneer and soak it in hot water for 20 minutes which results in super soft paneer. Then cube the paneer.
  • Cashews – Cashews are key in making this dish nice and creamy.
  • Yellow Onion – I recommend using a yellow onion instead of a red onion to keep the original color of this dish.
  • Ginger/Garlic/Green Chilies/Cardamom – These ingredients are needed when making the cashew paste.
  • Avocado Oil – My favorite high-heat cooking oil.
  • Spices – Hing, Cumin Seeds, Turmeric Powder, Cloves, Cinnamon Stick, Coriander Powder, Salt, Red Chili Powder, Garam Masala, Kasoori Methi.
  • Tomato Paste – Tomato Paste is a concentrated flavor that adds color, sweetness, and body to the sauce.
  • Water & Milk – A combination of both is needed to make the sauce. There is no need for heavy cream.
  • Cilantro Leaves – The perfect garnish.

Paneer Makhani (no butter, no cream, gluten-free)

How to make Paneer Makhani recipe step by step?

Soak Paneer & Make a Paste

1. Soak paneer in warm water for 20 minutes.

2. Grind cashews and water in a NutriBullet until smooth paste forms.

3. Then add onion, ginger, garlic, green chiles, and cardamom.

4. Blend until smooth paste forms.


1. Heat a wok on medium heat. Use a nonstick preferably, I like Ballarini Granite. Once hot, add hing, turmeric powder, cinnamon stick, cloves, and cumin seeds. Saute for a minute.

2. Pour the cashew onion paste. Saute on low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt.

3. Stir often.

4. Eventually you’ll end up with this.. notice the color will darken slightly.

5. Add tomato paste. Cook for a couple of minutes on low-medium heat.

6. Add water. Gently stir until everything combines.

7. Add milk SLOWLY. We want to temper the milk so add it SLOW to avoid curdling.

8. Once all the ingredients are combined, add coriander powder and salt. Cook for a couple of minutes.

9. Cube the paneer into small or large pieces of cubes or even triangles.

10. Add the paneer to the sauce. Season with red chili powder. Stir. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on low-medium heat.

11. Now add kasoori methi and a touch of garam masala.

12. Stir well. Turn off the heat.


1. Garnish with lots of fresh cilantro. Serve with garlic naan, roti, or rice.


1. Allergic to nuts?

If you are allergic to nuts or simply don’t want to use nuts in this recipe, you will need to use heavy cream.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Blend the onions along with the ginger, garlic, green chilies, and a few spices. 
  • Cook down the onion mixture, then add the tomato paste as the recipe states.
  • Instead of water, add cream next – anywhere from ½ cup to 1 cup.
  • Now add either water or milk based on the consistency you desire. If you want to thin out the sauce, add water or even 1% low-fat milk, if you want a rich and creamy consistency, then add whole milk. You will need 1 cup to 1 ½ cups of liquid either in the form of water or milk or a combo of both.

2. Can I use chicken instead of paneer?


  • If you’d like to make a healthier Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken), simply cook the marinated chicken separately before adding it to the sauce.
  • You’ll need to add the cooked chicken to the sauce where the paneer is added (refer to the recipe below).

Pro Tip

When using store-bought paneer, make sure to soak paneer in boiling hot water for 20 minutes to ensure soft paneer. If you’re using homemade paneer, you do not need to do this step. Then slice paneer as usual.


1. How to make healthy Paneer Makhani?

Instead of using butter and cream in this dish, I simply soaked some cashews and blended them with onions, ginger, garlic, green chilies, and a few aromatic spices.

Instead of cream, I used whole milk, but you can totally use 2% reduced-fat or even 1% low-fat milk. On some occasions, I’ve even skipped milk and used water, and it works! Check out my Salmon Tikka Masala recipe.

Trust me when I say that you won’t miss the butter and cream in this dish because it’s just that good! 

2. Does this dish really taste like restaurant-style Paneer Makhani?

Despite this dish not having any butter and cream, I can assure you it tastes just as good as restaurant-style Paneer Makhani – just check out the reviews below. If you truly want to add butter, add a butter tadka at the end.

Here’s how:
Heat up two tablespoons of butter and add ½ teaspoon of Kashmiri red chili powder (aka similar to paprika).  Add the heated butter tadka to the dish and serve.

3. Can I make Paneer Makhani vegan?

Well, sort of, you can use tofu instead of paneer, but then it wouldn’t really be paneer makhani. There is no substitute for paneer, but if you really must go vegan, use tofu instead of paneer.

I would lightly saute the tofu before adding it to the creamy gravy. Additionally, instead of milk, use water or even cashew milk.

More Paneer Dishes!

Paneer Makhani (no butter, no cream)

Paneer Makhani also known as Paneer Butter Masala is a Punjabi dish prepared in a creamy tomato gravy with Indian cheese.