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.
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.
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:
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)
2. Grind or blend to a fine powder. Keep aside.
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.
4. Crush ½ inch ginger, 2 to 3 garlic cloves and 1 green chilli to a paste in a mortar pestle.
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.
6. Saute on low to medium-low heat stirring often till the onions start to turn golden brown or caramelize.
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).
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.
9. Add the drained rice. Stir gently and saute for a minute. So that the ghee coats the rice grains evenly.
10. Add 3 to 3.25 cups water, 1 to 1.25 teaspoon lemon juice and salt as required.
11. Stir and mix well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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
Prevent your screen from going dark while making the recipe
Making the pulao masala
In a small dry grinder or coffee grinder, add all the spices mentioned: “For the pulao masala“.
Grind to a semi fine to fine powder. Keep aside.
Rinse the basmati rice till the water becomes clear of the starch.
Soaked the basmati rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes. After 20 to 30 minutes drain and keep the rice aside.
Slice the onions thinly. Chop the mint leaves and keep aside.
Crush the ginger, garlic and green chilli to a paste in a mortar-pestle.
Heat ghee or oil in a pot or a pan. Add the bay leaf and saute for 2 to 3 seconds.
Then add the thinly sliced onions and saute till the onions start to turn golden brown or caramelize.
Then add the ginger, garlic and green chilli paste. Saute till the raw aroma of ginger garlic goes away. (on a low heat, it will take approx 10 to 15 seconds).
Add the chopped mint leaves and the ground pulao masala. Stir for 5 to 8 seconds.
Optional step – if you are adding peas (or other veggies like potatoes, carrots, cauliflower etc) then add now and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the drained rice. Stir gently and saute for a minute. Add water, lemon juice and salt as required.
Stir well. Cover the pan tightly with a lid. Make sure no steam escapes from the sides.
On a low to medium heat, simmer till the rice grains are cooked. If the water dries in the pan then add some more water.
Making paneer pulao
When the rice is cooking, chop the paneer into cubes.
Heat ghee on a tawa or a frying pan or skillet. 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.
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 it 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 it also absorbs the aroma of the pulao.
Serve paneer pulao hot or warm garnished with some mint leaves and pan fried paneer cubes.
You can serve raita or dal fry or dal tadka with the paneer pulao.
- Use fresh and soft homemade paneer or a good brand of packaged paneer.
- Try to make this dish with aged basmati rice if possible for a fluffy tender non-sticky texture in the rice. Alternatively, you can also make it with non-sticky long-grained rice.
- This is not a spicy recipe. But if you want to make a spicy paneer pulao then increase the amount of green chilies.
- Instead of ghee you can use oil.
- To make a vegan version swap paneer with tofu and ghee with a neutral flavored oil.
- You can opt to add veggies like carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, french beans, green peas (fresh or frozen) and sweet corn.
- Add 2.5 cups water for separate grains and for a more soft texture of rice, add 3 cups water.
- Pressure cook pulao for 2 to 3 whistles.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 421 Calories from Fat 109
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 6.6g41%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.2g
Vitamin A 600IU12%
Vitamin C 12.4mg15%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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This Paneer Pulao post from the archives (July 2014) has been republished and updated on 26 September 2021.