//Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer Tikka Masala

paneer tikka masala recipepaneer tikka masala recipe
paneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany tablepaneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany table

This restaurant style Paneer Tikka Masala recipe is brimming with bright flavors from the spicy tomato onion curry sauce and delightfully marinated grilled cottage cheese. While this dish may be considered a labor of love, the time and effort are well worth it!

paneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany boardpaneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany board

This delicious traditional Punjabi dish is something the whole family will love. Make it for dinner tonight and serve with a pile of naan, roti, or paratha. I can almost guarantee the whole family will clean their plates!

What is Paneer Tikka Masala?

For any non-native Indians, I believe it is easiest to explain if we break it down into its component parts.

First, we have paneer. Paneer is ubiquitous in Indian cooking and is a great vegetarian alternative to chicken, lamb and other meats. It is a firm, non-melting cheese that is similar in consistency to tofu. 

TIP: Are you vegan? Simply substitute firm tofu for any recipe that calls for paneer!

Tikka refers to a piece of food that has been grilled. In this case, the paneer is grilled before adding to the gravy. Finally, we have masala. While masala means any number of spices that are mixed, in this case the masala is referring to the spice laden gravy.

There you have it! Paneer Tikka Masala can literally be translated to grilled cottage cheese in a spiced gravy! 

paneer tikka masala garnished with some coriander leaves in a white bowl placed on white napkin on a dark mahogany table paneer tikka masala garnished with some coriander leaves in a white bowl placed on white napkin on a dark mahogany table

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Paneer Tikka Masala

While this recipe has many steps, do not be discouraged! Nothing is particularly technical or difficult, and I will walk you through each and every step with detailed notes and pictures.

Marinating the paneer

1: In a large bowl, whisk the hung curd until smooth.

TIP: Hung curd is made by bundling curd (yogurt) in cheesecloth and allowing the whey to drip away. This will result in a thicker yogurt. To omit this step, you can also use Greek yogurt, Icelandic Skyr or Middle Eastern Labneh.

whisked hung curd whisked hung curd

2. Add the ginger-garlic paste, spice powders, corn starch or gram flour & salt.

spice powders and salt added to hung curdspice powders and salt added to hung curd

3. Add lemon juice

lemon juice being addedlemon juice being added

4. Mix everything very well.

everything mixed very welleverything mixed very well

5. Add the paneer cubes, onions, bell pepper.

paneer cubes, onions and green bell pepper addedpaneer cubes, onions and green bell pepper added

6. Gently mix again so that the marination coats the paneer, onions and bell peppers evenly. Cover the bowl & marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to overnight.

TIP: Do not skimp on marinating time! This marinating process imparts a lot of flavor and is an essential part of making this authentic Paneer Tikka Masala.

paneer cubes, onions and bell pepper mixed gently in the marinationpaneer cubes, onions and bell pepper mixed gently in the marination

Oven Method

7. Line a baking tray or pan with aluminum foil or parchment. While this step is technically optional, this method makes it much easier to clean the pan later.

Next, thread the paneer cubes and vegetables on bamboo or metal skewers and place them on the prepared pan. While you don’t have to skewer the paneer, I find that it makes for less work turning the cubes in all preparations.

TIP: If using bamboo skewers, you should soak them in water for at least 10 minutes before skewering the paneer. This will ensure that they do not catch fire while cooking.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 10 minutes before you grill the paneer cubes. 

For a regular oven, keep the top heating element on and keep the pan on the top rack. For a microwave oven use the convection mode and preheat at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).

paneer cubes, onion and capsicum being threaded on a bamboo skewerpaneer cubes, onion and capsicum being threaded on a bamboo skewer

8. Brush about 1 to 2 teaspoons oil evenly on the paneer, onion and bell pepper cubes.

oil being brushed on the threaded paneeroil being brushed on the threaded paneer

9. Grill the skewered paneer cubes & veggies in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit) for a total of 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the oven temperatures). Halfway through remove the skewers and turn over for even grilling.

Just keep an eye when the paneer is baking in the oven. You want the cubes to begin to brown at the edges, but you don’t want it to burn.

paneer tikka being grilled in the ovenpaneer tikka being grilled in the oven

10. Below is the oven grilled tikka cubes. You can brown the edges a bit more if you want but do not overcook the paneer cubes.

grilled paneer tikka out from the ovengrilled paneer tikka out from the oven

Pan Frying Method

11. Heat about 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a pan until shimmering. Place the skewers on the pan.

paneer tikka skewers being pan fried on a skilletpaneer tikka skewers being pan fried on a skillet

12. When one side is crisp and browned, gently rotate the skewers. Keep on rotating until all sides are browned. If necessary, add more oil to the pan while frying. 

However you cook your paneer, you’ll want to remove the skewers and set the grilled paneer and vegetables to the side while you make your gravy. 

paneer tikka skewers being pan fried till goldenpaneer tikka skewers being pan fried till golden

Sauce Preparation

13. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add halved onions and tomatoes to the boiling water. Cook for one or two minutes. Switch off. Cover and keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes. 

TIP: For a slightly sweeter gravy, you can add 10 to 12 cashews to the hot water with the onion and tomato. Adding cashews gives a creamier consistency with a nice sweetness. You can add them to the onion paste in the next step.

TIP: To make the tomatoes easier to peel, make a small “x” in the skin with a paring knife before adding to the boiling water. The skin will slide right off!

onions and tomatoes being blanched in hot wateronions and tomatoes being blanched in hot water

14. Later chop the onions roughly and make a smooth paste in a grinder, blender or with a mortar and pestle. Do not add any water while blending the onions.

onions ground to a fine paste in a blenderonions ground to a fine paste in a blender

15. Peel and roughly chop the tomatoes. Make a smooth puree of the tomatoes in the grinder or blender. Keep both the onion paste & tomato puree aside.

tomato pureed in a blendertomato pureed in a blender

16. Whisk or beat the curd (yogurt) till smooth and keep aside. There should be no lumps in the yogurt and it should be beaten well.

curd (yogurt) being beaten with a spooncurd (yogurt) being beaten with a spoon

Putting it all together

17. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until shimmering and add the onion paste.

TIP: If you pan fried the paneer, use the same pan for easier clean up!

onion paste added in hot oil in a panonion paste added in hot oil in a pan

18. Stir often and sauté until the onion paste turns golden.

onion paste sautéed till goldenonion paste sautéed till golden

19. Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté until the scent of raw ginger and garlic goes away. This should take approximately some 5 to 10 seconds.

TIP: Burnt garlic has a very bitter, acrid taste. Be sure to stir the ginger-garlic paste continuously and add the tomato purée as soon as the garlic is cooked through.

ginger-garlic paste addedginger-garlic paste added

20. Add the tomato purée. Stir well and sauté until you see fat leaving sides of the masala.

tomato puree addedtomato puree added

21. Now add all the dry spice powders – turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder or tandoori masala.

spice powders addedspice powders added

22. Stir well so that the spices are incorporated in the masala paste evenly. Now remove the pan from heat.

spice powders mixed very wellspice powders mixed very well

23. Add beaten fresh curd (yogurt). Be sure to use full fat fresh curd.

TIP: When adding cultured dairy to a dish, you should always remove the pan from heat before stirring it in. This will keep the dairy from breaking or separating in your sauce.

beaten curd addedbeaten curd added

24. Mix very well.

curd mixed with the rest of the onion-tomato masalacurd mixed with the rest of the onion-tomato masala

25. Add water and salt. Mix and stir again.

water added and mixedwater added and mixed

26. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes or till the gravy thickens and you see fat floating on the top. The consistency ranges from medium to slightly thick. You can alter the consistency to your liking by adding more or less water.

masala gravy being simmeredmasala gravy being simmered

27. Add cream and kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves). Stir well and simmer on a low flame for a minute. Check the taste and add more salt or cream if you prefer. 

TIP: You can also about ½ to 1 tsp of sugar for a bit of extra sweetness.

cream and kasuri methi addedcream and kasuri methi added

28. Finally, add the grilled or pan-fried paneer and veggies cubes.

paneer tikka cubes added in the gravypaneer tikka cubes added in the gravy

29. Stir again and switch off the flame.

grilled paneer, onion, capsicum cubes mixed in the gravygrilled paneer, onion, capsicum cubes mixed in the gravy

30: Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve your homemade Paneer Tikka Masala with some naan, roti or jeera rice. Tuck in with a spoon and watch your family’s faces dissolve into ecstasy! This dish is always a hit, even with people new to Indian cuisine.

paneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany table paneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany table

Tips

Expert Tips

  • Gravy or sauce: For the gravy or curry, use ripe, red and slightly sweet tomatoes. Avoid using tomatoes which are too tangy or sour or unripe.
  • Curd (Yogurt): For  marinating the paneer cubes, use fresh hung curd or use fresh full fat thick yogurt (thick curd). Do not use curd which has become sour.
  • How is hung curd made? Hung curd is made by allowing all the whey (water) to drain from fresh curd or yogurt. The curd is bundled in a muslin or cheese cloth, placed on a sieve having a bowl beneath (to collect the whey) overnight or for 4 to 5 hours in the refrigerator. A heavy object like a small pan or pestle is kept on top of the bundle. Use 1 cup of fresh curd (yogurt) to make hung curd for this recipe.
  • Paneer: Paneer is firm cottage cheese made by curdling milk with lemon juice or vinegar. It is very easy to make paneer. For making any paneer based curry dish, it is always best to make the paneer at home. If using packaged paneer, then follow the instructions mentioned on the pack before marinating them. Check my Homemade Paneer recipe.
  • Grilling or pan-frying: Do not grill or pan-fry the paneer cubes for a long time as this will result in the cubes getting dense and rubbery.
  • Consistency: The consistency of the gravy is medium to medium-thick. So add water accordingly to get the consistency you prefer.

FAQs

Can I make Paneer Tikka Masala without garlic and onions?

Yes! You can easily sub a few pinches of hing (also known as asafoetida) for the alliums. For the marinade, add a pinch of hing instead of garlic paste. For the gravy, add one to two pinches of hing when you add the ginger paste. You can also add the paneer tikka pieces in a makhani/makhanwala gravy which does not use yogurt or onions. 

What is kasuri methi? Can I substitute something else for it?

Kasuri Methi are fenugreek leaves that have been sun-dried. It tastes like a combination of fennel and celery with a bit of a bitter bite. If you don’t have access to kasuri methi, just omit it from the sauce entirely.

Can I make this vegan paneer tikka masala?

Absolutely! Simply switch out tofu for the paneer. Use a coconut or cashew yogurt that you have strained in place of the hung curd. Swap coconut cream for the heavy cream.

Can I make this in a tandoor?

Certainly! If you’re lucky enough to have one, this recipe would be even more authentic in a tandoor oven.

Can I make the paneer on the grill?

Yes! You will definitely want to skewer the paneer and vegetables on metal skewers.

What is hung curd? Is there something I can use instead?

Hung curd is regular yogurt that is then strained with cheesecloth to remove all the whey. For this recipe you can use 1 cup of fresh curd (yogurt) to make hung curd. If you prefer to omit this step, Greek yogurt, skyr and labneh are all perfectly acceptable substitutes.

Can I use store bought paneer?

While I highly recommend making your own paneer at home (it just tastes so much better!), you can certainly use store bought in a pinch. Be sure to follow any package instructions before marinating.

What makes this dish Punjabi?

Punjab is a region in Northern India, and Punjabi cuisine is the food that originates from there. Punjab is a highly agricultural region, and their cuisine is made up of locally grown staples. Dairy is quite prevalent in the region, meaning many famous Punjabi dishes are made with milk or cream. Other Punjabi dishes you might be familiar with are Chana Masala, Rajma Masala, Kadhi Pakora and Lassi.

Why does my paneer taste rubbery?

Rubbery paneer is often a result of overcooking. First, be sure that you aren’t overcooking it in the “grilling” step. Second, you should add the paneer to the sauce after it has been removed from the heat. You want to allow it to warm in the sauce, but not continue cooking.

More Tasty Paneer Recipes

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Paneer Tikka Masala is a popular paneer dish of marinated grilled cottage cheese cubes in onion-tomato yogurt based gravy.

Prep Time 1 hr 30 mins

Cook Time 30 mins

Total Time 2 hrs


Cuisine North Indian, Punjabi

Course: Main Course

Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian

Difficulty Level: Moderate


Servings 4

Marinating paneer

  • Whisk the hung curd or greek yogurt till smooth in a large bowl. You can also use a really thick curd instead of hung curd.

  • Add all the ginger-garlic paste, spice powders, lemon juice, corn starch or gram flour & salt. Mix well.

  • Add the paneer cubes, onions, bell pepper.

  • Gently mix again so that the marination coats the paneer, onions and bell peppers evenly. Cover the bowl & marinate for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

Oven method

  • Line a baking tray or pan with aluminum foil. This method makes its easier to clean the pan later.

  • Thread the paneer cubes on a bamboo or metal skewers and place them on the prepared pan. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 10 minutes before you grill the paneer cubes. 

  • For a regular oven, keep only the top heating element on and keep the pan in the top rack. For a microwave oven use the convection mode and preheat at 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).

  • Brush about 1 to 2 teaspoons oil evenly on the paneer and bell pepper cubes.

  • Grill the skewered paneer cubes & veggies in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit) for a total of 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the oven temperatures). While grilling remove halfway, turn over and then continue to grill.

  • Just keep an eye when the paneer is getting grilled in the oven. For a microwave oven in the convection mode, use 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).

Pan frying method

  • Heat about 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a pan. Place the threaded paneer cubes and veggies with the skewers on the pan.

  • Gently rotate the skewers, when one side is crisp and browned. Keep on rotating till all the sides are browned. Add more oil if required, while frying. Keep the fried paneer cubes and veggies aside.

Preparation

  • Boil water with a pinch of salt. Add halved onions and tomatoes to the boiling water. Cook for one or two minutes. Switch off. Cover and keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes. 

  • You can also add cashews to the hot water. Adding cashews gives a creamier consistency with a nice sweetness. Later drain and chop the onions and tomatoes roughly. Its not necessary to blanch, but blanching reduces the cooking time later.

  • Later chop the onions roughly and make a smooth fine paste in a grinder or blender.

  • Peel and roughly chop the tomatoes. Make a smooth puree of the tomatoes in the grinder or blender. Keep both the onion & tomato puree aside.

  • Whisk or beat the yogurt till smooth and keep aside. There should be no lumps in the yogurt and it should be beaten well.

Making gravy or sauce

  • In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil and then add the onion paste.

  • Stir often and saute till the onions paste turns golden.

  • Add ginger garlic paste and saute till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.

  • Add the tomato puree. Stir well and saute till you see fat leaving sides of the masala.

  • Now add all the dry spice powders – turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder and garam masala or tandoori masala.

  • Stir well so that the spices are incorporated in the masala paste evenly.

  • Now remove the pan from the fire. Add beaten fresh curd (yogurt). Removing the pan from fire, won’t allow the yogurt to curdle. Use full fat and fresh curd.

  • Stir well. Add water and salt. Stir again.

  • Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes or till the gravy thickens and you see fat floating on the top. You can keep the consistency from medium to slightly thick. The consistency can be altered by adding more or less water.

  • Add cream and kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves). Stir well and simmer on a low flame for a minute. Check the taste and add more salt or cream if you prefer. You can also about ½ to 1 tsp of sugar for a light sweet taste.

  • Then add the grilled or pan-fried paneer and veggies cubes. Stir again and switch off the flame.

  • Garnish with coriander leaves & serve Paneer Tikka Masala with some naan, roti or jeera rice.

  • Tomatoes: For the gravy or curry, use ripe, red and slightly sweet tomatoes. Avoid using tomatoes which are too tangy or sour or unripe. 
  • Curd (Yogurt): For marinating the paneer cubes, use fresh hung curd or use a thick yogurt like Greek yogurt. Do not use hung curd which has become sour. For the gravy too, use fresh curd or yogurt. 
  • You can easily make hung curd:

    • Line a clean muslin or cheesecloth on a strainer on top of the bowl.
    • Place the fresh curd or yogurt on the muslin or cheesecloth.
    • Bring together all edges of the muslin and make a knot.
    • Gently press and keep the muslin on the strainer.
    • Press a heavy weight object like a lid or bowl or tray on top of the muslin. 
    • Place the bowl, strainer, muslin with the curd, weight et all in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours or overnight. The whey will collect in the bowl and creamy smooth hung curd will be left in the muslin. 
    • For this recipe you can use 1 cup of fresh curd to make hung curd. 
  • Paneer: For making any paneer based curry dish, it is always best to make the paneer at home. If using packaged paneer, then follow the instructions mentioned on the pack before marinating them. 
  • Grilling or pan-frying: Do not grill or pan-fry the paneer cubes for a long time as this will result in the cubes getting dense and rubbery. 
  • Consistency: The consistency of the gravy is medium to medium-thick. So add water accordingly to get the consistency you prefer. 

Nutrition Facts

Paneer Tikka Masala

Amount Per Serving

Calories 379
Calories from Fat 252

% Daily Value*

Fat 28g43%

Saturated Fat 13g81%

Cholesterol 59mg20%

Sodium 634mg28%

Potassium 438mg13%

Carbohydrates 19g6%

Fiber 4g17%

Sugar 9g10%

Protein 14g28%

Vitamin A 1206IU24%

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%

Vitamin B6 1mg50%

Vitamin B12 1µg17%

Vitamin C 43mg52%

Vitamin D 1µg7%

Vitamin E 4mg27%

Vitamin K 12µg11%

Calcium 375mg38%

Vitamin B9 (Folate) 34µg9%

Iron 1mg6%

Magnesium 25mg6%

Phosphorus 99mg10%

Zinc 1mg7%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This recipe post from the archives (October 2014) has been republished and updated on 21 October 2020.