Pan Roasted Paneer with Cilantro and Saffron

Pan Roasted Paneer with Cilantro and Saffron

What is paneer?

Paneer is a form of soft cheese used widely throughout India. It is made by curdling milk through acidification. To do this, I normally use lemon juice. You can use vinegar or any other food acid (check out this DIY paneer recipe courtesy of Maunika Gowardhan). Luckily, paneer is also readily available in all Indian food stores and specialty stores like Whole Foods. It is flavorless, and therefore it takes on the flavor of the dish it is used in and lends its chewy, creamy, rich texture to any prepared dish. So when it comes to paneer, you do you. Quick sautee, grill to perfection or eat it raw, you can’t go wrong! If I’m feeling lazy, I just cube a slab of paneer and eat it raw or with just a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.

Cool pro tip: there are about 10 grams of protein in one serving of paneer. Vegetarians, rejoice! Vegans, there’s always tofu (see “The Spruce” here).

About 20 years ago, I’ll never forget bringing a homemade paneer and rice dish to a work potluck. My coworkers were giving my dish some serious “side-eye” and suspicion. By the end of lunch, however, they were singing paneer’s praises and ransacking the office kitchen for ANYTHING to take home leftovers. It worked! This resulted in an annual ritual where I started bringing in a platter of paneer to work every year around the holidays.

In fact, paneer makes for a GREAT holiday dish. At my house around the holidays (and honestly, throughout the year), I make paneer cubes that are great pre-dinner hor d’oeuvres, dinner sides or an accent to a rice or gravy dish. The flavors showcased in this post are cilantro and saffron, which together make a pretty neat holiday-themed paneer plate. Check it out below and give it a try this December!

Soaking and marinating the paneer will take up to 50 minutes, but the actual cook time is only about 10 minutes. So feel free to let the paneer sit and marinate while you catch your favorite show. This is as easy as it can get!

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Pan Roasted Paneer with Cilantro and Saffron
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5-8
Paneer cubes infused with cilantro and saffron
  • Cilantro Paneer:
  • Paneer chopped into ½-inch cubes - 1 cup
  • Dry mint leaves - ¼ tsp
  • Cayenne Pepper - ¼ tsp
  • Smoked Paprika - ¼ tsp
  • Cilantro finely chopped - ¼ cup
  • Lemon juice - ½ tablespoon + ¼ tsp
  • Salt as needed
  • Oil - 1 tsp
  • Saffron Paneer:
  • Paneer chopped into ½-inch cubes - 1 cup
  • Cayenne Pepper - ¼ tsp
  • Smoked Paprika - ¼ tsp
  • Saffron - 1/16 tsp (few strands)
  • Honey - ½ tsp
  • Lemon juice - ½ tablespoon
  • Salt as needed
  • Oil - 1 tsp
  1. Cilantro Paneer:
  2. Prick the paneer slab with fork an inch or two apart
  3. Chop paneer into ½” tiny cubes (yield: 2 cups) and soak them in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes
  4. Drain the paneer cubes and divide into two batches, one cup each for the cilantro and the saffron. Keep aside.
  5. In a bowl, mix together cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, dry mint, and salt. Add ½ tablespoon lemon juice. Mix well.
  6. Add 1 cup of paneer cubes to the spice mixture and mix well until all cubes are well coated with the marinade.
  7. Marinate the paneer cubes for 30 to 45 minutes.
  8. Heat oil in a medium non-stick skillet.
  9. Add the paneer cubes and cook on a low flame. Toss cubes so all sides are evenly cooked and light golden brown. Don't cook for more than 5 minutes.
  10. Add finely chopped cilantro and sautee for about a minute. You can also pulse or grind the cilantro if you prefer. I pulsed cilantro and got a rough yield of ⅛ cup of ground cilantro.
  11. Add ¼ tsp of lemon juice, give a quick toss.
  12. Turn the stove off.
  13. Transfer them to a bowl or plate. Enjoy on its own, with rice, or with your favorite dipping sauce.
  14. Saffron Paneer:
  15. Crush saffron to fine powder - you can either use a mortar and pestle or use the back of a spoon to crush it.
  16. Mix paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed saffron, and salt. Mix in lemon juice and honey.
  17. Add 1 cup of paneer cubes to the spice mixture and toss them around so all paneer cubes are uniformly coated with the spices.
  18. Marinate the cubes for 30 to 45 minutes.
  19. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet.
  20. Add the marinated paneer cubes and cook until lightly golden brown for under 5 minutes.
  21. Turn the stove off.Enjoy on its own, with rice, or with your favorite dipping sauce.
The cubes should be roasted on all sides, soft and light golden in color. Do not sautee for more than 5 to 6 minutes.

Leftover paneer cubes can be used in any side dish or rice dish. You can even put it in your lunch sandwich.




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