I’m a huge fan of anything paneer, and paneer bhurji, an Indian dish of soft scrambled paneer with spices, is no exception. I grew up eating a lot of paneer, and it’s just so comforting. These vegetarian paneer bhurji sandwiches are loaded with ginger, garlic, spices, and pickled red onion. This sandwich is spicy and creamy from the paneer and tart from the pickled onion. It’s a punchy, yet comforting combination of flavors, and a bit of a hybrid between Sloppy Joes and traditional paneer bhurji. I love serving these in sandwich form as a fun lunch or summertime al fresco dinner!
What is paneer bhurji?
Paneer bhurji is a North Indian dish of “scrambled” or crumbled paneer sauteed with onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and spices. On its own, it’s a delicious breakfast or brunch served alongside toast, paratha, or even naan.
Can I use store-bought paneer for paneer bhurji?
Because the paneer in this dish needs to be soft and crumbled, I highly recommend using homemade paneer or Sach Foods paneer (found at Whole Foods;this is my favorite store-bought paneer as it has a naturally soft texture — not sponsored, just love it!). Store-bought paneer can work, but it’s often a little firmer, so it’s harder to get that soft consistency.
If you choose to use store-bought paneer, you will definitely need to soften it first (otherwise it won’t crumble easily). To soften store-bought paneer, place the block of paneer 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.
How to crumble paneer for paneer bhurji
Whether your paneer is homemade or store-bought, one question I get a lot is how to actually crumble the block. Essentially, you’re looking to break the paneer into small, curd-like pieces similar to scrambled eggs. To do so, I take the block of paneer and start tearing it apart with my fingers into pieces. Then, I take larger pieces and break them into smaller pieces. The paneer will soften further as it cooks, so don’t worry if it still feels a bit firm.
How to make paneer bhurji sandwiches
Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of how to make these paneer bhurji sandwiches.
- Pickle the red onion: Slice the red 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.
- Bloom the cumin seeds
Heat your oil and 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!
- Saute the onion until golden-brown on the edges, soft, and translucent in the middle.
- Saute the ginger, garlic, and jalapeno.
- Add the tomato and spices.
- Saute until the tomato begins to disintegrate and break down. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
- Add the paneer, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the paneer softens and cooks through. Do not overcook here, as the paneer can turn rubbery.
- Serve the paneer bhurji on a toasted bun with the pickled red onion and your choice of chutney or aioli.
How to serve paneer bhurji sandwiches
What can I serve this dish with?
I love to serve paneer bhurji in a sandwich with toasted buns and pickled red onion. To prevent the sandwich from feeling too dry, I will often put a layer of green chutney, tamarind chutney, or aioli. Here’s a great cilantro aioli recipe.
Paneer Bhurji Sandwich
For the paneer bhurji with pickled red onion:
- 1 large red onion
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated ginger, or ginger paste
- 1 1/2 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
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder or other mild chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 6-ounces homemade or store-bought paneer
- 2 hamburger buns, toasted
- Green chutney, tamarind chutney, or cilantro aioli
Prep the paneer:
- If using store-bought paneer (except for Sach Foods store-bought paneer), you will need to soften it beforehand. To do so, place the block of paneer in a medium bowl and cover with hot water for 15 to 30 minutes. Drain the paneer before using.
- Crumble the paneer into small, bite-sized pieces.
Pickle the red onion:
- Cut a quarter of the red onion into thin slices and place into a small bowl. Squeeze onions with lime juice, season with a pinch of salt, and toss to coat. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to marinate or store in the fridge (covered) for up to 3 days before using.
Meanwhile, make the paneer bhurji:
- Finely dice the remaining 3/4 of the red onion.
- Set a medium saute pan to medium heat. Add oil, then stir in 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 to 8 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low, and add in ginger, garlic, and serrano chili (if using). Cook for 1 minute, until ginger and garlic are aromatic and soften slightly.
- Add tomato, garam masala, chili powder, and turmeric. Cook on medium heat for 6 to 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 chutney or aioli on both the top and bottom buns. Layer with warm paneer bhurji and pickled red onion.