Achari Paneer – which essentially translates to “pickled cottage cheese” – is a delicious Northern Indian dish where soft pieces of paneer are served in a creamy, masala gravy accentuated with pickle spices and tangy curd. Here I show you how to make this yummy Punjabi recipe using step-by-step photos.
Why This Recipe Works
During my many years as a cook, I’ve tried many achari paneer recipes that were quite disappointing. This recipe is the culmination of many years of experimentation, and the results were too good that I have to share!
The robust flavor of the pickling spices is pronounced without being overwhelming, and the sourness of the fresh curd complements the spices perfectly. If you are fond of pickles, you will love achari paneer!
I also like that this recipe is made without any onions or garlic. If you have an aversion to alliums, don’t fret! This tangy paneer gravy recipe was made for you. That said, if you’re a fan of onions and garlic, you can absolutely add them.
In my opinion, achari paneer is best served with tandoori roti, paratha or naan, but you can absolutely opt to serve it with rice, steamed veggies or a side salad if you have a gluten intolerance.
My friends, this is a really good paneer achari recipe. The taste is similar to that of grilled Achari paneer tikka, but you get soft pieces of paneer in a smooth, luxurious gravy. If you are looking for a new way to prepare your paneer, stop your scrolling and get to cooking!
How to Make Achari Paneer
Roasting pickling spices
1. First take the achari or pickling spices in a pan. The five pickling spices in clockwise order are:
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
- ½ teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2. Heat the pan on a low flame and roast the spices till they are *just* fragrant. Don’t brown them or burn them.
3. Once cooled, add the spices to a small spice grinder. (You can also use a mortar and pestle if you don’t have a spice grinder.)
4. Grind to a semi-fine powder.
5. Remove the achari masala powder and set aside for later.
6. In the same grinder, add 10 to 12 cashews.
7. Grind to a fine powder. Don’t worry if some fat is removed during the grinding process; that is natural.
8. In a bowl, take 1 cup fresh whole milk curd/yogurt and whisk it till smooth. Use fresh curd and not sour curd.
Making achari masala
9. Heat 2 tablespoons of mustard oil or sunflower oil or ghee in a pan.
If using mustard oil, then allow it to smoke before you add the spices. For any other oil or ghee, just heat it until shimmering in the pan. Then lower the flame and add 2 dry red chilies and a generous pinch of asafoetida.
TIP: If you are gluten intolerant, be sure that your asafoetida is gluten free! Many commercially available brands are processed with wheat.
10. Saute for a few seconds till the red chilies change color.
11. Then add 1.5 teaspoons ginger-green chili paste (about ½ inch ginger + 1 to 2 green chilies crushed to a paste in mortar-pestle).
12. Stir and sauté till the raw aroma of ginger goes away.
13. Then add ⅓ cup tightly packed chopped tomatoes.
14. Stir and add the following spices:
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- ½ teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
- ¼ teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
15. Again stir very well and sauté the tomatoes till they soften completely and become pulpy. You should also see oil releasing from the sides.
16. Now add the cashew powder.
NOTE: If using store brought cashew powder, then add 2 tbsp cashew powder. Check the shelf life of the store brought cashew powder before adding, as it can go rancid during storage.
17. On a low-medium flame, stir and sauté the mixture for 2 minutes after adding cashew powder.
18. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the ground achari masala spice mix and add the rest.
19. Stir very well. At this stage, you can also add 1 to 2 teaspoons of mango pickle masala, if you have it.
20. Add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons besan (also known as gram flour). You can swap gram flour with chickpea flour. We are adding besan so that the curd does not separate.
21. Stir the besan very well and incorporate it into the rest of the masala.
Making paneer achari gravy
22. Keep the flame on a low and add the beaten curd.
23. As soon as you add the curd, begin to stir the mixture quickly.
24. Continuing to stir quickly, incorporate the curd well into the rest of the masala.
25. Add salt to taste.
26. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes on a low flame.
27. Add the paneer cubes. I recommend using 200 or 250 grams paneer chopped in cubes.
28. Cook the paneer cubes for about 20 to 30 seconds. Don’t cook for more time as then the paneer cubes can get chewy and rubbery. Switch off the heat.
29. Then add 3 tablespoons light cream or low-fat fresh cream. You can also use 1 to 2 tablespoon of whipping cream or heavy cream.
Also add ½ teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) to the paneer achari gravy.
30. Gently mix very well.
31. Add 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves and 1 teaspoon chopped mint leaves. Stir.
32. While serving, sprinkle the reserved achari masala from the top and garnish with a coriander or mint sprig. Serve achari paneer with tandoori roti, chapati or naan or plain paratha or laccha paratha or rumali roti.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Feel free to swap in almonds or peanuts, or opt for sunflower seeds if you have a nut allergy.
I won’t recommend this. This gravy tastes best when served hot as soon as it is made. On refrigeration, because of the yogurt, the taste will change. Moreover on reheating the paneer cubes lose their softness and can become hard.
If necessary, you can swap the paneer for a firm block of tofu. While I haven’t tried it myself, I suppose opting for a dairy free yogurt and either omitting the cream or swapping for coconut cream should also work fine!
Need more paneer recipes? Check out some of my favorites:
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Paneer achari is a creamy as well as robust flavored cottage cheese curry with achari masala or pickling spices. If love pickles, you will surely like this achari paneer.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Roasting pickling spices
First take the achari or pickling spices in a pan – fennel seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds and fenugreek seeds.
Heat the pan and on a low flame roast the spices till they are fragrant. Don’t brown them.
Once cooled, add the spices in a small dry grinder or spice grinder and grind to a semi fine powder.
Remove the achari masala powder and keep aside in a bowl.
Making masala base
In the same grinder, add 10 to 12 cashews.
Grind to a fine powder. If oil releases while grinding then its fine.
In a bowl, take fresh whole milk curd/yogurt and whisk it till smooth. Use fresh curd and not sour curd.
Heat mustard oil or sunflower oil or ghee in a pan.
On a low flame, add 2 dry red chilies and a generous pinch of asafoetida. Saute for some seconds till the red chilies change color.
Then add ginger-green chili paste. Stir and saute till the raw aroma of ginger goes away.
Then add the chopped tomatoes and stir.
Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder (optional).
Again stir very well and saute the tomatoes till the tomatoes soften completely and become pulpy. You should also see oil releasing from the sides.
Now add the cashew powder. If using store brough cashew powder, then add 2 tablespoons cashew powder. Do check the shelf life of store brought cashew powder before adding.
On a low to medium flame, stir and saute the mixture for 2 minutes after adding cashew powder.
Reserve 1 teaspoon of the ground achari masala and add the rest. Stir very well.
Add 1 tablespoon besan. We are adding besan so that the curd does not curdle. You can swap besan (gram flour) with chickpea flour.
Stir the besan very well and incorporate it into the rest of the masala.
Making paneer achari gravy
Keep the flame on a low and add the beaten curd.
As soon as you add the curd, begin to stir the mixture quickly and fast. Stirring quickly, incorporate the curd well into the rest of the masala.
Add salt as per taste.
Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes on a low flame.
Add the paneer cubes. 200 or 250 grams paneer chopped in cubes.
Cook the paneer cubes for about 20 to 30 seconds and switch off the heat. Don’t cook for more time as then paneer cubes may lose their softness and will become hard.
Then add light cream or low fat cream. Also add crushed kasuri methi to the gravy. Gently stir very well.
Switch off the flame and add chopped coriander leaves and chopped mint leave. Stir gently again.
While serving sprinkle the reserved achari masala from top and garnish with a coriander or mint sprig. Serve achari paneer masala with tandoori roti, chapati, rumali roti, plain paratha or naan.
- This recipe can’t be scaled easily. Try to follow the recipe as it is without making any changes in the ingredient proportions. Since this is a complexly flavored gravy, any changes may off-balance the taste.
- Use fresh curd or yogurt. The curd should not be sour as then the gravy will become very sour.
- For the achari masala use spices that are fresh and have not gone rancid.
- I would suggest making this dish when you plan to serve it hot and fresh. Don’t make this dish ahead as on refrigeration the flavors will change and while reheating the paneer cubes will become dense.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 321 Calories from Fat 243
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 12g75%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Vitamin A 589IU12%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin B12 1µg17%
Vitamin C 5mg6%
Vitamin D 1µg7%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 5µg5%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 12µg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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This Achari Paneer post is from the blog archives (April 2015) has been republished and updated on 1st June 2021.