Healthier “Paneer” Makhani from the Instant Pot™
Lightened-up, dairy free “paneer” makhani is just as satisfying as the decadent restaurant classic with a fraction of the fat, cholesterol and calories. This deliciously addictive weeknight main is as quick and easy as it is good for you.
I have a weakness for makhani dishes. Makhani — meaning “buttery” in Hindi — is a rich, mildly spiced tomato gravy. This tasty sauce typically gets its richness from ghee and cream.
However, with a bit of experimentation, I’ve found one can emulate the richness of makhani gravy with less fat, calories and cholesterol. Using cashew cream in place of the dairy cream significantly reduces the calories in this delicious sauce without compromising its richness. In fact, cashew cream supplies the same creamy mouthfeel as dairy cream.
In addition, tofu is a surprisingly successful substitute for paneer. This traditional Indian cheese has a very neutral flavour. Its beauty lies in is its ability to absorb flavour from sauces and marinades. These are properties paneer shares with tofu. And tofu is, by definition, lighter and healthier than any cheese.
Tofu has, sadly, gotten a bit of a bad rap. People think it’s bland and stodgy. This is unfortunate because tofu can be both incredibly tasty and healthy.
So, what exactly is tofu? It is a soybean curd. The process of making tofu is actually very similar to traditional cheesemaking.
The type of tofu you are probably most familiar with is pressed into blocks. It comes in a range of textures — from silky smooth to extra firm. These different textures make it a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes.
Tofu is also a heart healthy alternative to animal products. It is high in protein, and supplies your body with all of the essential amino acids. However, 100 grams of tofu contains just 70 calories, but no fat or cholesterol!
Moreover, regular soy consumption is linked to a number of interesting health benefits. Amongst other things, Tofu may reduce your risk of heart disease and several types of cancer. Eating soy regularly can improve blood flow, reduce fats in the blood, and improve levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
So, if tofu isn’t already part of your routine, it should be. Using tofu as a replacement for unhealthy (and much loved) cheese is only one of many applications for this nutritious and delicious ingredient.
About this Recipe
Thanks to the Instant Pot™, “paneer” makhani is quick, easy, and delicious. The pressure cooker infuses the sauce with the vibrant flavours of the aromatics quickly and easily.
Is it the same as slow cooking with lots of rich dairy? Of course not. However, it’s just as tasty and so much healthier!
As usual, I have a couple of tips and tricks to help you achieve optimal results:
- Sauté: Whatever you do, don’t scrimp on this step. Take the time to bloom the spices in hot oil and cook the aromatics well prior to pressure cooking. This step will improve the flavour of the finished dish exponentially.
- Patience: When the pressure cooking is finished and you have stirred through the cream, kasoori methi, garam masala, and paneer, let the sauce sit in the warm pot for at least 10 minutes. If you’re not rushed, you can even leave the “paneer” makhani on the “Keep Warm” setting for up to 30 minutes. This resting time allows the tofu to absorb the flavours of the sauce.
- Optional Ingredients: Because I’m aware that your pantry may not be stocked with a full range of Indian spices, I’ve made certain ingredients “optional”, and given alternatives for others (sweet paprika, for Kashmiri chilli powder, for instance). The reason for this is simple. While, of course, the sauce will taste more authentic with all the ingredients, it will also be delicious without them. So, I’d rather you have an opportunity to try this tasty sauce than overwhelm you with lots of exotic spices you may not be able to get.
- Sugar. As with most other Asian cuisine, good Indian cooking is all about balance. I usually make my makhani gravy quite spicy. So, I sometimes add a bit of sugar to round out the flavours. However, this is not essential. Even I don’t always do it. Taste your sauce. If you’re happy with the flavour, leave out the sugar.
Most of all, I hope you and your family enjoy this tasty, nutritious meal every bit as much as my family does. Bon appétit!