Thursday, May 26, 2022
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Paneer Pulao

Paneer pulao is a fragrant, delicious and mildly spiced paneer rice dish made with freshly ground pulao masala, basmati rice, onions, spices, herbs and paneer (Indian cottage cheese). This freshly made pulao masala brings in a lot of flavors and makes it taste top-notch than your regular pulao. Make this easy paneer pulao for your weekend lunch or dinner.

paneer pulao served on a white plate with a side of raita

About Paneer Pulao

A pulao or pilaf is a one pot rice based dish made in various ways. I make some pulao variants often like Vegetable pulao or Peas pulao or Mushroom pulao. Being a one pot dish, they are so easy and quick to make. I just have to serve it with a raita, mango pickle and some roasted papad or a side veggie salad.

I have experimented with pulao many times, since I make it so often. On occasions, I make a pulao masala and sometimes I just add whole spices to the pulao. I have made pulao masala with a different mix of spices.

I have also added birista (caramelized onions) in the pulao. Different spices give different results. A really good pulao, I had made recently was Jackfruit Pulao with a slightly different cooking technique.

For this paneer pulao, I have ground whole spices to make a fragrant pulao masala. It is this masala, that gives a nice aromatic flavor to the pulao.

Paneer is bland and generally pulao, besides being aromatic is also bland. Hence, I have spiced this paneer pulao a bit, like the way I usually prepare vegetable pulao.

I add ginger-garlic-green chili paste and some mint leaves. Spiced, meaning the pulao is not spicy, but has that hint of green chilies in it. If you want a spicy pulao, then just increase the quantity of the green chilies.

To make the pulao, I have Made the Paneer at home or you can also use store bought paneer. Just make sure that the paneer should not be very soft so that it does not crumble while pan frying. Use a seasoned pan while frying, so that the paneer does not stick to the pan. You can also use a non stick tava.

As a variation, you can add peas or even mixed vegetables in this paneer rice recipe. I have mentioned in the steps, where to add peas in the pulao.

I sometimes get queries, on what is a single strand of mace. The following photo mentions a single strand of mace. This pulao masala can be added to the pulao only once.

spices for the pulao masala

Serve paneer pulao hot garnished with some mint or coriander leaves and a few pan fried paneer cubes. You can also serve cucumber raita or onion tomato raita. This paneer rice dish would also go equally well with dal fry or dal tadka.

Few more delicious recipes you can make with paneer and rice together are:

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Paneer Pulao

1. in a small dry grinder or coffee grinder, add all the spices for making the pulao masala. 

  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 black cardamom – seeds removed and husks discarded
  • 2 to 3 green cardamoms – kept whole or seeds removed
  • 2 to 3 cloves
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 1 single thin strand of mace
  • A small piece of stone flower (optional)
various spices in grinder

2. Grind or blend to a fine powder. Keep aside.

spice powder in grinder jar

3. Rinse the basmati rice till the water becomes clear of the starch. Soak the basmati rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes. After 20 to 30 minutes drain the water and keep the rice aside.

Instead of basmati rice you can also use any non-sticky long grained rice. If possible preferably use aged basmati rice for the best texture and aroma.

soaked and drained basmati rice

4. Crush ½ inch ginger, 2 to 3 garlic cloves and 1 green chilli to a paste in a mortar pestle.

ginger garlic paste made

Making Paneer Pulao

5. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a pot or a pan. Add 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf) and saute for 2 to 3 seconds. Then add the thinly sliced onions.

Instead of pan, you can also make this paneer pulao in Instant pot or stovetop pressure cooked adding water as required.

sauteing onions in the cooker

6. Saute on low to medium-low heat stirring often till the onions start to turn golden brown or caramelize.

sauteed onions in the cooker

7. Then add the ginger, garlic and green chilli paste that we have prepared earlier at step 4. Saute for some seconds or till the raw aroma of ginger and garlic goes away. (on low heat, it will take approx 10 to 15 seconds).

add ginger garlic paste and sauteing them for some seconds

8. Add the chopped mint leaves and the ground pulao masala. Stir for 5 to 8 seconds.

Optional step – if you are adding green peas (fresh or frozen), then add now and saute for 2 to 3 minutes further. The combination of peas with paneer goes well.

Additionally feel free to add a few vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, potatoes or capsicum to make a more flavorful and healthier paneer rice dish.

added paneer pulao masala and mint leaves

9. Add the drained rice. Stir gently and saute for a minute. So that the ghee coats the rice grains evenly.

soaked and drained rice added

10. Add 3 to 3.25 cups water, 1 to 1.25 teaspoon lemon juice and salt as required.

added lemon juice and water

11. Stir and mix well.

stir and mixing

12. Cover the pan tightly with a lid. Make sure no steam escapes from the sides. Cook the rice on low to medium heat. If the water dries in the pan then add some more water. Simmer till the rice grains are cooked.

cover paneer pulao pan with a lid

12. When the rice is cooking, chop the paneer into cubes. Heat ghee on a tawa or skillet or a frying pan. Use a non-stick pan or a well-seasoned tawa/griddle to pan fry the paneer. Otherwise, the paneer cubes will stick to the pan.

Add the paneer cubes and pan fry till light golden. Don’t over fry as then they will become dense and rubbery. Keep the pan-fried paneer cubes aside.

pan fried paneer cubes for pulao recipe

14. Once the rice is cooked, tender and all the water has been absorbed then switch off the heat. Allow the rice to sit for 5 minutes.

Then add the pan fried paneer cubes and gently mix them with the rice. Cover the pan again with a lid and allow the paneer to be in the rice for another 5 minutes. This makes the paneer soft and they also absorb the aroma of the pulao.

add the paneer cubes to paneer pulao

15. Serve paneer pulao hot or warm garnished with some mint leaves and a few pan-fried paneer cubes. You can also serve paneer rice with a raita or dal fry or dal tadka.

paneer pulao served on a white plate with a side of raita

If you made this recipe, please be sure to rate it in the recipe card below. Sign Up for my email newsletter or you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest or Twitter for more vegetarian inspirations.

This is a fragrant and lightly spiced paneer pulao made with freshly ground pulao masala which really brings in a lot of flavor and aroma in the recipe. 

Prep Time 30 mins

Cook Time 20 mins

Total Time 50 mins

Servings 4


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This Paneer Pulao post from the archives (July 2014) has been republished and updated on 26 September 2021.

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