Chili Paneer

25 mins


Chilli Paneer

A Deliciously sweet, sour, and sticky bowl of yummy paneer infused with all the delectable Chinese flavors that Indians have come to appreciate. This recipe is one of my favorite vegetarian starters when in India. As I have said before, Indians will always find a way to make vegetarian food taste fantastic.

What is Chilli Paneer?

Typically speaking, Chilli Paneer is paneer cubes that are fried and tossed in sweet, sour, and spicy gravy. For the uninitiated, paneer or Indian cottage cheese is a slightly firmer version of the cottage cheese that you’ll find in the grocery stores.

The sweet, sour, and spicy gravy that we talked about earlier is predominantly made of common ingredients used in Chinese cooking. In many ways, this recipe is a  vegetarian alternative to Chilli Chicken, which is also another fan favorite in India. The chicken has been replaced with fried paneer, and the sauce has been made sweeter to make it appealing to a larger crowd. The taste of the gravy varies from place to place within India. This recipe is how I personally like it the best.

Notable Ingredients at a Glance


Paneer: I wish I could say cottage cheese was an apt replacement for this ingredient. But it isn’t. You will need around 250gms (1/2 pound) of paneer cut into 1-inch cubes. You can substitute it with Tofu for a vegan alternative.

Onion: 1 large Yellow onion cut into 2cm cubes.

Bell pepper: You will need one each of red, green, and yellow bell peppers cut into 2cm cubes.

Green chilies: You can choose to add red chilies instead. You will need 7 to 8 of them slit lengthwise. Again, you can increase or decrease the amount depending upon your spice tolerance.

Garlic: 10 to 12 large cloves finely chopped will be enough.

Ginger:  A 1-inch knob of ginger finely chopped or grated.

Sesame Oil: The oil in this recipe is crucial. You can use 4 tablespoons of sesame oil or any other neutral oil. But you precisely cannot use mustard or coconut oil.

Soy sauce: A good quality naturally brewed soy sauce can absolutely work wonders for this dish. You will need around 2 tablespoons of it.

Red chili sauce: You need to use standard chili sauce. Do not substitute it with hot sauce. You will need around 2 tablespoons, but that’s just my approximation. You can add more or less to your taste.

Tomato ketchup: This adds the all-important sweetness that is so characteristic of Indian chili paneer. You will need around 4 tablespoons of ketchup.


Sugar: 1 tablespoon of regular granulated sugar or honey if you don’t want to use sugar.

Red chili powder:  ½ teaspoon of the powder is enough. It’s mostly used to add color to the dish.

Salt: If you notice carefully, many of the ingredients we have already discussed in this recipe have salt. My recommendation would be to taste the dish at the end to check for seasoning. If it even needs the salt, add up to 1/4 teaspoon or according to taste.

Water: ⅓ of a cup for the gravy.

How to prepare Chilli Paneer?

In a heated wok, add the oil of your choice and heat it till shimmering. In the oil, add chopped ginger, garlic, and green chilies. Saute for a minute or two until the raw smell of the ginger and garlic disappears.

Now add your bell peppers, the red, the green, and the yellow. Cook on high heat for 2 minutes because you don’t want the peppers to become too soft.

Add in the soy sauce, chili sauce, and tomato ketchup, and mix it all up very well.

At this stage, all that’s left is to add some chili powder and the sugar and saute everything on a high flame for about half a minute.

Now for the star of the show, you can add the Paneer cubes and mix well. The sauces should coat the Paneer very evenly. Add the cubed onions as well and mix. Saute for 2 minutes on high heat.

At this stage, you can check the dish for seasoning.  If required, add salt to taste.

If you want chili paneer to be dry, then there is no need to add water. However, I wanted the dish to have gravy, so I added about ⅓ cup of water.

Mix all the ingredients well and let everything simmer on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.  Serve hot and optionally garnish with some chopped spring onions.

Some expert tips for preparing Chilli Paneer.

  • You can substitute paneer with tofu for a vegan version of this recipe.
  • You can fry the paneer beforehand or not bother with frying at all. It doesn’t make that much of a difference.
  •  In the seasoning stage, you can vary the proportions of salt and sugar to your taste.
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