Paneer Kulcha
Paneer Kulcha

Paneer Kulcha

Recipe by Tara O'Brady

Holiday Breads 2023

Kulchas are a type of leavened Punjabi bread made with maida (white flour) and cooked in a tandoor or on a tawa (flat griddle). While kulchas were historically leavened with old kulcha dough (basically a sourdough starter), you’ll now see recipes that use yeast or baking powder and/or baking soda. Kulchas are puffed and tender, like naan, and are also often prepared with fillings. Here, that filling is a bright, tangy mixture of paneer flavored with herbs, onion, chiles, and spice that gets distributed into every bite. Cooked until charred and brushed with seasoned ghee, they beg to be torn apart and dipped into raita or dal makhani. 

View our entire collection of Holiday Breads here.

1 hr
20 to 28 mins
2 hrs
7 to 8 flatbreads
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Paneer Kulcha  - select to zoom
Paneer Kulcha  - select to zoom
Paneer Kulcha  - select to zoom


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  1. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yogurt, oil, and most of the warm water. Using a clean hand, work the mixture together to form a soft, fairly smooth dough, adding more water as needed. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl and be slightly sticky. Coat the dough lightly with oil, cover, and allow it to rest until doubled in size, 60 to 75 minutes.  

  2. While the dough is resting, in a medium bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as needed.  

  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, gently deflate, and divide it into 7 or 8 pieces (about 75g or 65g each), depending on whether you’d like larger or smaller kulchas. Form the dough into balls, cover, and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes.  

  4. Set a large cast iron skillet, heavy griddle, or tawa over medium-high heat on the stove.

  5. On a lightly floured work surface, either roll or press the first ball of dough you shaped into an approximate 5" round. Scoop about 1/4 cup (about 30g to 36g) of filling into the center (if you’re making smaller kulcha, use a scant 1/4 cup). Pick up the edges of the dough and bring them toward the center to enclose the filling like a parcel. Pinch firmly to seal. Flip the dough so the seams are against the work surface and roll to a 7" to 8" circle, dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Repeat with a second ball of dough so that you have two kulchas ready to cook. (If the dough is snapping back, set it aside while you shape a second kulcha, then give it another roll right before cooking.) 

  6. Flip one kulcha between your hands to remove excess flour, then place it in the hot pan with the smoother side down. Cook the kulcha until the bottom is lightly golden in spots and the top begins to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the kulcha, lightly press down on the cooked side to encourage puffing, and continue to cook until the second side has dark marks and is fully opaque, about 90 seconds more. Flip back to the first side to deepen its color, if necessary. (Alternatively, if you’re working over a gas flame and having trouble achieving color or puff, lightly cook the kulcha on both sides, then use tongs to hold the kulcha directly over the flame on both sides until touched with char.) 

  7. Shape another kulcha as one cooks on the stove. Wrap cooked kulchas in a in a lint-free kitchen towel to keep warm as you shape and cook the remaining breads. 

  8. To finish the kulcha, in a small bowl, mix the melted ghee with minced cilantro, grated garlic, and minced chile to taste. Brush the kulchas with the seasoned ghee, sprinkle with nigella seeds and additional cilantro; serve warm. 

  9. Storage information: Wrap kulchas, preferably not yet brushed with ghee, in foil and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Reheat in foil packet at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes, until warmed through. Brush with seasoned ghee before serving. 

Tips from our Bakers

  • To use buttermilk instead of yogurt, use 1/2 cup (113g) warm buttermilk, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 cup (57g) warm water, plus more as needed. The final kulchas will be a bit more tender. 

  • While not traditional, you can replace the paneer with a mixture of your favorite shredded melting cheeses, such as mozzarella, cheddar, and/or Pepper Jack. 

  • Ginger-garlic paste is available from online retailers, plus it's often sold at Asian supermarkets and some national chains. Alternatively, grate 1 small garlic clove and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger on a microplane.

  • Leftover paneer filling? Scramble it into eggs, tuck it into your next grilled cheese, or mix it into stir-fried rice.