Chilli Paneer is a delightfully tangy and delicious Indo-Chinese dish made of crispy golden paneer cubes in a sweet, sour and spicy sauce. A fast vegetarian stir-fry for an easy weeknight dinner ready in just 15 minutes!
Chilli Paneer – The Vegetarian Cousin of Chilli Chicken
Chilli Chicken is possibly the most popular dish in Indo-Chinese cuisine. The cusine was the result of Chinese immigrants settling in eastern India during the days of the silk trade and their ingenius cooking that used Indian vegetables and spices with Chinese cooking techniques. And Chilli Paneer is a clever adaptation of the famous chicken dish to suit the vegetarian palette.
The dish itself is quite simple but boy is it absolutely delicious. Who wouldn’t love golden fried paneer in a sticky, spicy, sweet and sour stir-fry sauce? This dish has few, everyday ingredients. It is what makes it truly special because you would never think of pairing these ingredients together. Traditionally, Chilli Paneer would be served with fried rice or Hakka Noodles. I serve it with simple steamed jasmine rice.
Chilli Paneer – Two Delicious Versions, Dry Or Gravy
In an Indian or Indo-Chinese restaurant, every main dish has two versions. Dry or Gravy. Amazingly, the taste doesn’t change at all, just the eating experience. The dry version has very less sauce, just enought to coat the protein so that it can be eaten as a canape along side a soup or with a nice cocktail to accompany it. There is a lot of heat in the dry version and perfectly chopped spring onion and coriander to roll it in. The Gravy version of the dish has ample Chinese-style sauce that makes it perfect for eating with rice or noodles. It is as fiery and delicious, just with lots more sauce.
My version is created off the back of the dozens of small Indo-Chinese eating shacks I used to frequent during my college days in Mumbai. And it falls between the dry and gravy versions. I find that by cooking it this way, one can enjoy the delectable paneer cubes by itself after swirling them in all the sauce or it becomes a main accompanied by rice.
I reference the green chilli in my recipe notes. Chilli Paneer is meant to be super spicy. It has a combination of green chilli (the Indian one can be deadly!), chilli powder and hot chilli sauce. Restaurants serve versions that can really bring on the chilli sweats. My version is definitely more toned down and has the perfect chilli balance to appeal to everyone. My baseline is my youngest son who can only do a bit of chilli and he loves this. He feels it is a bit spicy but in a good “I can’t stop eating” way! So you’ll be fine. My Chillio Paneer dish has the mild green cayenne chilli (you can even remove the seeds), just a touch of red chilli powder and a dash of Sriracha.
Hope you enjoy this beautiful, flavour packed dish! Don’t forget to share your Chilli Paneer with me on Instagram by tagging @cookrepublic #cookrepublic. Happy cooking!
for the paneer
- 200 g paneer cut into bite sized cubes
- 2 tablespoons cornflour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
for the stir-fry
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small green cayenne chilli* thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 small red onion halved and thinly sliced
- 1 small red capsicum trimmed, deseeded and cut into square pieces
- 2 spring onions thinly sliced (green only)
for the sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
- 1 teaspoon raw sugar
- 1 teaspoon hot chilli sauce (Sriracha)
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
- 2 teaspoons cornflour
- ½ cup water
- Extra spring onion to serve
To prepare the paneer, add paneer cubes, cornflour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Toss to coat the paneer evenly with the cornflour.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium. Add the coated paneer cubes to the pan and fry until each side is golden brown and crispy, turning constantly with a butter knife.
To prepare the sauce, add soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup, Sriracha and chilli powder to a bowl. Mix well and set aside.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small wok on high. Add green cayenne chilli, ginger, garlic and onion. Stir-fry for a minute or two until onion is glazed. Add the capsicum and spring onion. Stir-fry for another minute.
Add the prepared sauce. Mix well. Mix cornflour with the water and add to the wok. Add the paneer and mix well. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens and the paneer is heated through.
Remove from heat. Garnish with extra spring onion and serve hot with rice.
Make It Gluten Free – Make sure all your sauce are gluten free.
Make It Vegan – Swap paneer for tofu.