Paneer Tikka Masala recipe is known for its marinated and grilled paneer cubes that are dunked in a creamy onion tomato gravy. This Indian curry is a close cousin of Chicken Tikka Masala.
Only difference between the two is that Paneer Masala is Vegetarian Indian Curry version of tikka masala. To add more fiber, (okay, who are we kidding! to add more flavor and texture contrast) to this curry we also throw in diced onions and bell peppers to the marination.
What you will love about this Indian curry recipe
- Easy to make: This recipe is quite easy to prepare using ingredients easily found in your kitchen.
- Flavor: You will love the creamy, thick and spicy gravy made with tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and a variety of spices.
- Versatile and nutritious: This dish is super customizable. Choice of veggies other than peppers and onions can be cauliflower, green peas or even sweet potatoes. You can use Greek yogurt or hung curd to marinate tikka.
Creams like heavy cream, cashew cream or even coconut cream can be substituted.
Paneer cubes are rich in protein, and contain good fat. Plus all these vegetables are so good for you!
About the recipe
This is a popular north Indian curry. These days it is on the menu of every Indian restaurant around the world. Traditionally, tikkas are grilled in wood-fired clay ovens called as Tandoor. The process lends a smoky flavor to this dish.
Since we don't have those traditional ovens at home, tikkas can be grilled on griddles, pans, in ovens and also in air fryers.
Before we dive into the steps to cook this recipe, lets clear out some common questions that may arise in your mind-
What is Paneer?
Paneer is an Indian cheese made from milk. Paneer is rich in protein and is similar to tofu in texture. It is such a good vegetarian dinner option.
What is Tikka?
Tikka translates to pieces and bits. In this case we have paneer cubes, onion and bell peppers. These pieces are marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spices. Then we grill them on high flame.
What is Masala?
Masala is a Hindi term which means a mixture of different types of spices. These spices can be in paste or powder form. Here in this recipe we have triple dose of masala.
Once these are used in the marinade in powdered form. Second time in onion tomato paste form and then adding more ground spices to balance the flavor of this creamy curry!
FOR PANEER TIKKA:
- Paneer: Use fresh and quality Paneer. You can either make your own or buy it at Indian grocery stores. I like to buy Haldiram's frozen paneer. It is absolutely the best with almost melt in your mouth texture.
- Spices: I am using spices like turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala, kasuri methi and salt. You may use paprika powder in place of Kashmiri chili powder.
- Yogurt: Opt for a thick yogurt here. Greek yogurt or even plain full fat yogurt can be used. Strain the plain yogurt into a cheese cloth/muslin cloth if it's watery.
- Chickpea Flour: Using this is optional, but it helps tikkas to hold the marinade better. This flour also imparts a lot of flavor to the final dish.
- Vegetables: This is the best way to add flavor and variety to this recipe. You can add vegetables like green peppers/bell peppers, tomatoes (seeds removed), onions and cauliflower. Cut them all into 1 inch cubes.
INGREDIENTS FOR CURRY:
- Tomatoes and Onions: These two form the base of this curry. Use white onion since it has a sweet flavor and we need it in this creamy curry. Also canned crushed tomatoes can be used in place of fresh tomatoes. Do not use tomato puree.
- Spices: If you don't have whole spices available in your pantry, worry not! You can still create this recipe in the comfort of your home.
Just use garam masala in place of these whole spices. Garam masala contains all these whole spices, just in powdered form! Also you may use curry powder instead and skip cumin, turmeric and coriander powders from this curry!
- Cashews, Butter and Heavy Cream: Do not reduce the quantity of these three or skip them out from your curry. All of these ingredients impart a ton of creaminess and flavor to your curry.
This recipe has two parts. First one is making the curry and another one is making tikka. If you are a seasoned cook, you may marinade the tikkas and grill them along side making the gravy.
But if you are relatively a new cook or not a fan of multi-tasking, you can prepare the curry ahead (up to a day). Or even marinate the tikkas ahead. Make the curry and then grill the tikkas.
Here I am showing you how to make the curry ahead of tikkas. But you can easily start with marinating the tikkas first. Prepare the curry, while tikkas are marinating. Grill tikkas then and dunk them in curry. Ok you got my point!
FOR MASALA (CURRY):
- Step 1. Take a pan and heat half a tablespoon of oil on medium flame. Add cumin seeds and two green cardamon pods to it. Once cumin seeds crackle add roughly chopped onions.
- Step 2. Sauté the onions for a minute or so and add ginger garlic paste. You may also add an inch of roughly chopped ginger and 5-6 garlic cloves (roughly chopped). Since we will grind it all anyway. But I find adding paste makes the curry more flavorsome.
- Step 3. Cook onions for a few minutes before adding tomatoes. Sprinkle a little water if needed for the onions to cook without sticking.
- Step 4. Now add chopped tomatoes and give it a stir.
- Step 5. Add salt, Kashmiri red chili powder/smoked paprika, turmeric and coriander powder. Give it all a stir and cook for a 3-4 minutes. Instead of these spices you may add 2 teaspoons of curry powder along with salt.
- Step 6. Cook the masala on medium-high flame for 2-3 minutes more, stirring often. Add 6-7 cashews. Allow the curry to cool down a bit and blend it into a fine puree.
- Step 7. Now in the same pan, add a tablespoon more of butter and whole spices like black cardamom, bay leaf, star anise and mace.
- Step 8. Once the butter gets heated through, add finely chopped onions and quickly sauté them for 2-3 minutes.
- Step 9. Add two green chilies. This is an optional step, it won't make the curry spicy, will just give it more flavor instead.
- Step 10: Add a little salt, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander powder, chana masala, pinch of garam masala and kasuri methi to the onions and stir it all well.
If you don't have these whole spices and don't wish to add so many spices individually, add some salt, a teaspoon of garam masala and ½ a teaspoon more of curry powder instead.
- Step 11. Add blended puree to the masala. Making second onion masala is optional, but adds a great texture contrast to an otherwise smooth gravy.
In case you choose not to make second onion masala with whole spices, after blending the puree, do this-
Add butter to the pan, half a teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, kashmiri red chili powder (for brighter color) and the blended gravy immediately. Allow the gravy to cook and heat up for a few minutes before adding cream.
- Step 12. Remove all the whole spices from the curry and add a tablespoon of sugar (to balance sour flavor from tomatoes) and a tablespoon more of butter for richness. Add ½-1 cup of water and allow it to simmer for a 1-2 minutes then turn the stove off. Curry is now ready.
At this point, you can store the curry after it cools down in the refrigerator for up to two days. Or you can make the tikkas now and serve it fresh.
Take fresh paneer and cut it into cubes. Make sure paneer cubes are firm (keep them in refrigerator before beginning to work on the recipe, that way paneer won't break while marinating).
- Step 13. Add all marinade ingredients like yogurt, spices, oil, chickpea flour (if adding) and ginger-garlic paste to a large bowl and mix well using a whisk.
- Step 14. Now add in vegetables (cubed peppers and onions to 1 inch chunks) and paneer.
- Step 15. Mix it slowly, cover the bowl and marinate it in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can keep this marination in refrigerator for up to a day.
- Step 16. When ready to grill, take marinated paneer and veggies out of refrigerator. Now you can grill the paneer on a grilling pan, in an oven or in a skillet/griddle too. I opted for a griddle this time. Apply/spray some oil on a griddle and put marinated chunks of paneer and veggies on it.
- Step 17. Flip them often to encourage even cooking and cook till the paneer turns golden brown and the veggies get a few spots on them.
To grill Tikka in oven: Arrange tikkas on skewers, spray them with little oil and bake at 450 deg F for about 8-10 minutes. Broil at 550 deg F, for 1-2 minutes for that charred veggies effect.
- Step 18. Check the consistency of curry. At this point, you don't want it too thin or too thick either.
- Step 19. Add around ¼ cup of heavy cream, give it a quick stir and allow it heat up.
- Step 20. Now add grilled veggies and paneer tikka to curry and cook for a few minutes on low flame. Serve with more cream and cilantro garnish.
- You can skip all the whole spices from this recipe using garam masala instead. Also spice powders can be subbed with curry powder.
- Always marinate the tikka with thick yogurt for best results. Else the marinade will slip off of the tikka when they are grilling.
- Curry (Sauce) can be strained after you blend it. That will make the sauce super smooth and creamy. I didn't take that route this time.
Make ahead and storing info:
To Store: This recipe can be stored in refrigerator for upto 3 days.
To Freeze: You can freeze this curry stored in a freezer safe bag/container for about 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before warming up.
To Reheat: Reheat the curry on stove top or in the microwave slowly. Too much heat/power at once can split the curry. Reheat it in small increments if opting for microwave..
What to serve this dish with?
- Naan or Roti: This recipe works perfectly along side Butter Naan. Or serve it with roti for a healthier option.
- Rice: Steamed basmati rice is a great pairing too. Oh! and Jeera rice (rice cooked with cumin seeds) tastes so yum with Indian curries as well.
- Salad: Salads of any sort would pair well with this curry if you wish to go with grain free options.
Frequently Asked Questions
Both these recipes are popular paneer recipes in a creamy onion-tomato based gravy. But Tikka Masala involves the additional step of grilling paneer after marinating it, which imparts it a smoky flavor. While in Paneer masala preparation- the curry is made first with onions, tomatoes, spices and nuts. Then paneer chunks are added to it. This subtle difference in preparation gives each dish its unique flavor.
When you consume this dish in moderation, it is definitely not too unhealthy. Also, Paneer is a rich source of protein and other ingredients like pepper, tomatoes and onions are rich in nutrients.
Paneer is made from cow's milk and is also a popular Indian dairy product. To make it, boil and curdle the milk using an acidic substance like lemon juice or vinegar. Curdled milk solids are collected on a muslin/cheese cloth next. Then milk solids are pressed with a heavy object for about an hour. Once the paneer is set, it is cut into cubes to add to gravies/curries etc.
If you liked this recipe, give it a star review. Also, tell me in the comments below, how did it turn out for you! And don’t forget to share your creations with me on Instagram at #greedyeatsblog Oh and let's be friends on Pinterest and Facebook too!
Paneer Tikka Masala
- 1 Grilling Pan (or oven)
- 1 Cooking Pan
For Curry (Sauce):
- ½ tablespoon Cooking Oil
- 2 green Cardamoms
- ½ teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 large white Onion (roughly Chopped, about 200 gms)
- 1 tablespoon Ginger-Garlic Paste
- 3-4 medium Tomatoes (roughly chopped, about 400-425 gms)
- 1 tsp Paprika Powder (or Kashmiri Red Chili Powder)
- 2 teaspoons Curry Powder (or replace with ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, ¾ teaspoon coriander powder, ½ teaspoon cumin powder, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger)
- Salt (to taste)
- ½ tsp Garam Masala Powder
- 6-7 Cashews
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- 1 tablespoon Sugar (to balance the sour taste of tomatoes)
- ½ cup Water (or more if needed to adjust the consistency)
- ⅓ cup Heavy Cream or Cashew Cream
- 2 tablespoons Freshly chopped Cilantro Leaves
For the Paneer Tikka:
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt or plain yogurt (strained) (full fat)
- ½ tablespoon Cooking Oil
- 2 teaspoons Ginger-Garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon Red chili powder/paprika powder
- 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garam masala
- 1 teaspoon Chaat Masala/Chole Masala (optional, but so good if you have it in pantry, use it)
- 1 tablespoon Chickpea Flour (Besan)
- 1 and ½ teaspoons Kasuri Methi (optional)
- Salt (to taste)
- 250 gms Paneer (Indian cheese) (cut into 1 and ½ inch cubes)
- 1 medium Onion (Cut into 1 inch cubes)
- 1 cup Bell Peppers/Green Peppers (Cut into 1 inch cubes)
For second Onion Fry: (Optional, but yum!)
- ½ Tablespoon Butter
- Whole Spices like 1 Black Cardamom, 1 Bay Leaf, 1 Mace, 1 Star Anise (or add ½ teaspoon more of garam masala powder)
- ¼ Cup Finely Chopped Onion
- 2 Green Chilies (Optional, just for flavor)
- 2 teaspoons Chaat Masala/Chole Masala (optional, but so good if you have it in pantry, use it)
- ½ teaspoon Curry Powder (or replace with a pinch of turmeric, ¼ teaspoon coriander powder, pinch of ginger powder and a pinch of cumin powder)
- 1 teaspoon Red chili powder/paprika powder
- 2 teaspoons Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- Salt (to taste)
To make Curry:
- Take a pan and heat ½ tablespoon cooking oil on medium flame. Once hot add two green cardamom pods and cumin seeds. Allow cumin seeds to crackle. You may also add a tablespoon of butter at this point, if you prefer, I did not.
- Sauté the onions for a minute or so and add ginger-garlic paste. Cook till onions turn golden stirring often, about 4-5 minutes. Next add in chopped tomatoes and also add salt, kashmiri red chili powder/paprika, curry powder, garam masala powder and cashews. Allow tomatoes to cook well for about 7-8 minutes. Turn the stove off and allow the curry to cool down. Blend the curry to a fine paste and set it aside.
For Paneer Tikka:
- Now it's time to make Paneer Tikka. In a large mixing bowl, add Greek yogurt, ½ tablespoon oil, chickpea flour, salt, kasuri methi, turmeric powder, red pepper powder, ginger-garlic paste and chaat masala. Give these all a quick mix and add paneer, onion and bell pepper cubes. Gently mix these all with marinade till everything is well coated. You can go in with your hands here to gently coat all the veggies. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- When ready to grill, you can either roast in on stovetop using a skillet or make use of an oven. To roast paneer and veggies in a pan/griddle, spread/spray some oil on the pan and place paneer and veggies on it. Cook them flipping a few times till paneer gets golden and veggies get slightly charred too.Oven Instructions: Arrange tikka on skewers, oil spray them and bake for around 8-10 minutes at 450℉. You can even broil it on 500℉ for 1-2 minutes towards the end for that charred effect.
For Second Onion Fry:
- Now back to finishing the tikka sauce (curry) off. This fry is optional, but you will love the taste and texture contrast this fry gives to your dish. Take butter in the same pan and over medium heat, add 1 black cardamom, 1 star anise, 1 mace and one bay leaf. After a minute add ¼ cup of finely chopped onion to it.Add 2 whole green chilies for flavor (optional). Allow the onions to turn translucent, stirring often. Once onions are cooked, add curry powder, red chili powder/paprika powder, chaat/chole masala, salt to taste and kasuri methi. Give it all a quick stir and add blended puree to this fry.
- Remove whole spices from the curry and add a tablespoon of sugar and remaining tablespoon of butter. Also add water as needed to adjust consistency of the curry. I used about half a cup and allow the curry to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cream now and give it a quick stir.
- In case you choose not to make second onion masala with whole spices, after blending the puree, keep it aside. Then over medium-low heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter to the same pan, add ½ teaspoon of curry powder, ½ teaspoon of garam masala, kashmiri red chili powder (for brighter color) and now add the blended gravy immediately. Allow it to cook adding water and heat up for a few minutes before adding cream.
- Next add grilled tikka (cooked paneer and veggies) to the sauce. Mix well and allow it to cook for another minute or two till the curry and tikkas heat up.
- Garnish it with fresh cilantro leaves, more cream and serve it with roti, naan, or basmati rice.
- Paneer Tikka Masala can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days.
- It is crucial to freeze both Paneer Tikka and sauce separately so that it reheats well. Reheat on low flame or at low microwave power, to avoid curry from splitting.
- If you have any leftover marinade it can be added to the curry too, towards the end when you add cream. It will add a boat load of tikka flavor to your sauce.