Appetisers/sides/ Indo-Chinese

Chilli Paneer

Chilli Paneer

Learn how to make a restaurant style chilli paneer. A favourite Indo-Chinese dish that’s crispy, spicy, sweet and sour.

Chilli paneer is a hugely popular Indo Chinese dish found in many Indian restaurants. It’s essentially crispy pieces of cheese tossed in an array of flavourful sauces and aromatics. It’s often served alone as an appetiser, but can also be served with rice/noodles or naan.

This dish is always on our menu whenever we’re ordering a takeout from our favourite Indian restaurant. It’s a dish that varies so much between restaurants and often sets the standard for the rest of the menu. My family will always point out wherever they’ve had a good chilli paneer – there’s something about this dish that makes it so memorable.

For my recipe I’ve taken the flavours and textures from my favourite chilli paneer dishes and combined them into what I think is an incredible air-fried version of the classic. Granted that deep frying or shallow frying lends the best results texturally, I’d gladly say this is pretty dang close in its air-fried state.

What is paneer?

Paneer is an Indian cheese that’s made by curdling milk with some form of acid. The whey is then strained out and the curds are compressed to form a cohesive block. Because it hasn’t been seasoned, it’s pretty flavourless on its own. It also has quite a rubbery texture – though fresh paneer is much softer and more creamy.

Most large supermarkets will stock paneer in the refrigerated section, however it can also be found in Indian supermarkets. You’ll normally find it sold in blocks, but if you really struggle then make your own. There are some great recipes online and plenty of videos on Youtube.

Chilli paneer tips:

-Have everything prepped and ready to go. This is known as mise en place – and this is essential as all the ingredients are added in quick succession to prevent overcooking
-Soak your paneer in boiling water for 10-15 minutes if it’s not fresh – this will soften it to mimic the fresh texture
-Deep fry for best results but airfrying is also an excellent choice
-Use both the dark soy and light soy. This is because both add different elements to the dish. Dark soy provides a lot of colour and flavour, whilst light soy helps to season without overpowering any other sauces present
-Chaat masala is an Indian spice mix added to a lot of street food dishes and snacks. If you can’t find it, adding dried mango powder (amchoor), ground coriander, black pepper, and chilli powder can provide a similar flavour

How to make chilli paneer:

Chilli Paneer

Can I make this chilli paneer vegan?

You can substitute the paneer for tofu. It’s not chilli paneer and it won’t have the same texture but it’s still delicious. This is the same way I normally make my chilli tofu and it’s always a hit with my family.

Use a firm/extra firm tofu (not silken) and press out any additional liquid. This is done by wrapping the tofu in a paper/kitchen towel with a medium-heavy weight on top. This will firm up the tofu further and allow it to crisp more readily. There is no need to soak the tofu in boiling water in the same way that I have suggested for paneer.

Things to try:

If you enjoyed the chilli paneer, try it as a filling for my incredible gua bao! It works brilliantly with the combination of the soft, steamed bun and the spicy paneer. I’ve garnished mine with some pickled ginger and spring onions, but be as creative as you like!

Tap the image below to take you to the recipe!

Chilli paneer gua bao

Chilli Paneer

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people




    • 500 g paneer chop and soak in boiling water for 10 minutes, then remove and pat dry, skip this step for tofu
    • 1 tbsp corn flour
    • 0.5 tsp salt
    • 0.5 tbsp chaat masala
    • 1 tbsp oil of choice if airfrying


    • 1 tbsp oil of choice
    • 1 pepper I used half green and half red
    • 4 spring onions whites for cooking, greens for garnishing
    • 2 cloves garlic minced
    • 1 inch piece of ginger minced
    • 1-2 green chillies slit lengthways, omit if you prefer this to be more mild


    • 1 tsp dark soy
    • 2 tbsp light soy
    • 2 tbsp ketchup
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar/lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp chilli sauce of choice
    • 0.5 tbsp honey
    • 0.5 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 3tbsps boiling water



    • After patting your soaked paneer dry, mix with the cornflour, salt and chaat masala. (Only add the 1tbsp oil if air frying)
    • I air fried at 200 celcius for 5 minutes, tossing paneer once mid way. Alternatively shallow or deep fry in oil until crispy and golden
    • Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl, make sure the cornflour is thoroughly whisked in till no lumps remain
    • Sauté your spring onion whites, garlic, ginger and chillies under a medium-high heat for roughly 1 minute, keep stirring to prevent any burning
    • Add in your peppers and the paneer, sauté for a further minute
    • Add in your sauce mix and reduce the heat to low/medium-low. This will thicken within roughly 1 minute
    • Garnish with the spring onion greens


    Your vegetables should retain a little crunch, so it’s important not to overcook them. Hence it’s helpful to have everything chopped and ready from the start, as everything is added in quick succession.
    Keyword chilli paneer, indian, indo chinese, paneer

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  • Rachel Kemp
    June 2, 2021 at 3:30 pm

    5 stars
    This is one of my faves and cook it quiet often ad its so versitle. I have had it with rice, noodles, Bao buns and find it’s just as good the next day if there’s any leftovers

    • dishbyrish
      June 4, 2021 at 3:19 pm

      Thank you so much for the review and comment Rachel! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  • Jas
    August 22, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Excellent recipe. I’ve made this a few times now and it always goes down well. I just wanted to ask, is it possible to make this a day ahead and reheat? Would it still taste as good?

    • dishbyrish
      September 1, 2021 at 1:44 pm

      Thank you so much! You can reheat it but it’s not as good the next day. The paneer can dry out so I do find that this is best served on the day.