These paneer bhurji sandwiches are loaded with spiced paneer and pickled red onion for an easy and delicious lunch! They're vegetarian, kid-friendly, and come together in just about 30 minutes.
I'm a huge fan of any paneer dish, and paneer bhurji is no exception! The sandwich is spicy and filling from the paneer, with a hint of acidity from the pickled onion. It's a punchy, yet comforting combination of flavors. Think of it like a hybrid between Sloppy Joes and traditional bhurji.
What is Paneer Bhurji?
- If you've never had paneer before, it's kind of like an Indian cottage cheese, but with the firmness of a halloumi. In Indian cuisine, this cheese serves as a filling protein for vegetarians.
- Paneer bhurji is a North Indian recipe made from "scrambled" or crumbled paneer sauteed with onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and spices.
- It's a spicy dish often served during breakfast or brunch served alongside toast, paratha, or even naan.
Let's talk through key ingredients for this paneer bhurji sandwich recipe!
Paneer: Because the paneer in this dish needs to be soft and crumbled, I highly recommend using fresh homemade paneer or Sach Foods paneer (which can be found in most Whole Foods, though it's a bit pricey).
Other store-bought brands will work, but they're often a bit firmer, so you will need to soften the block first (otherwise it won't crumble easily).
Quick Tip: To soften store-bought paneer, place the block of cheese in a medium bowl, then pour enough hot water on top to fully submerge it. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes up to 30 minutes, then drain the paneer.
Aromatics: Ginger and garlic are the main aromatics I use to flavor the paneer. You can freshly grate these individually, or use an equivalent amount of ginger-garlic paste.
Indian Spices: You will need Kashmiri chili powder (or another mild red chili powder), turmeric powder, and garam masala. Need a refresher on spices or where to purchase them? Check out my guide to Essential Indian Spices.
For a full list of ingredients and quantities, refer to the recipe card.
How to Make Paneer Bhurji Sandwiches
Step 1 - Pickle the red onion: Slice the raw onion into thin rings, then toss with lime juice and a pinch of salt. Marinate for at least 15 minutes and set aside while you prepare the paneer bhurji.
Step 2 - Bloom the cumin seeds: Heat your oil, then add the cumin seeds until they just begin to sizzle. Don't walk away here, as burned spices turn bitter and will need to be thrown out!
Step 3 - Saute the onion until golden-brown on the edges, and soft and translucent in the middle.
Step 4 - Saute the ginger, garlic, and jalapeno. Add the tomato and spices. Cook until the tomato begins to disintegrate and break down. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
Step 5 - Add the paneer, and cook for 1 - 2 minutes until the paneer softens and cooks through. Do not overcook here, as the paneer can turn rubbery.
Assemble the sandwiches, and enjoy!
I love to serve paneer bhurji in a sandwich with toasted buns and pickled red onion as a light lunch.
To prevent the sandwich from feeling too dry, I will often put a layer of cilantro chutney (green chutney), smash burger sauce, or cilantro aioli on the bread slices. Tomato ketchup is a great sauce option for kids.
- A great way to make this a healthier option is to swap out the buns for slices of whole wheat bread, multi grain bread, or homemade chapatis.
- Make it extra spicy with green chilies, or add even more flavor with a pinch of chaat masala.
- Top the bhurji with fresh coriander leaves.
To crumble the paneer, break up the cheese into small, curd-like pieces (similar to scrambled eggs).
Take the block of paneer and start tearing it apart with your fingers into bite-sized pieces. The paneer will soften further as it cooks, so don't worry if it still feels a bit firm. Fresh paneer will crumble very easily, while store-bought varieties require a bit more active "tearing."
Store any of the leftover paneer stuffing mixture in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat the bhurji in a microwave with a damp paper towel until warmed through.
This is a vibrant chili powder from plants grown in Kashmir. If you cannot find it but do have an Indian grocer, look for deggi mirch, which can be used the same. If you cannot obtain these spices, you may use cayenne or regular chili powder, but reduce to half the amount as these are much hotter.
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Paneer Bhurji Sandwiches
For the paneer bhurji with pickled red onion:
- 6 ounces homemade or store-bought paneer
- 1 large red onion
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, or other neutral oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated ginger, or ginger paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated garlic, or garlic paste
- 1 serrano chili, sliced in half lengthwise; optional, for heat
- 1 plum or roma tomato, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon garam masala, plus more if needed
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, or other mild chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 hamburger buns, toasted
- Green chutney, tamarind chutney, or cilantro aioli, for serving
Prep the paneer:
- If using store-bought paneer (except for Sach Foods brand), you will need to soften it beforehand.Place 6 ounces homemade or store-bought paneer in a medium bowl, and cover with hot water for 15 to 30 minutes. Drain before using.
- Crumble the paneer into small, bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Pickle the red onion:
- Cut a quarter of 1 large red onion into thin slices and place into a small bowl. Combine onions with the juice of 1 lime and pinch of salt, and toss to coat. Set aside for at least 15 minutes or store in the fridge (covered) for up to 3 days before using.
Meanwhile, make the paneer bhurji:
- Finely dice the remaining ¾ of the red onion.
- Set a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons canola oil, then stir in ½ teaspoon cumin seeds. Once seeds begin to sizzle in the pan and release an aroma, add the red onion.
- Cook red onion on medium heat until the edges are slightly browned and the middles are soft and translucent, about 6 - 8 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low, and stir in 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated ginger, 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated garlic, and 1 serrano chili (if using). Cook for 1 minute, until ginger and garlic are aromatic and soften slightly.
- Add finely diced tomato, 1 teaspoon garam masala, ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, and ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric. Cook on medium heat for 6 - 8 minutes until tomatoes soften and break down into a paste-like consistency. Season with salt.
- Reduce heat to low, then stir in crumbled paneer. Cook for 1 minute, until paneer softens. Season again with salt.
- To serve, spread desired amount of Green chutney, tamarind chutney, or cilantro aioli on both the top and bottom of 2 hamburger buns. Layer with warm paneer bhurji and pickled red onion.
- Leftover paneer bhurji can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 - 3 days. Reheat in the microwave with a damp towel until warmed through.
- Leftover pickled red onion can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days.