Paneer Tikka Masala

5 from 3 votes

Make this 30 minutes restaurant-style paneer tikka masala at home where Indian cheese is grilled and simmered in a spicy gravy. It is delicious, creamy and prepared using simple pantry staples (gluten-free).

A few more of my favourite paneer/cottage cheese recipes, that are perfect to include in a special Indian meal – Lahsooni Methi Paneer, Punjabi Saag Paneer, Mughlai Paneer Korma, Paneer In White Gravy, Restaurant Style Paneer Jalfrezi, Palak Paneer, Dhaba Style Matar Paneer, and Paneer Masala

Paneer Tikka Masala served in a bowl.
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About This Recipe

You can make your favourite restaurant style paneer tikka masala at home, using this basic pantry staples in just 30 minutes. It is creamy, delicious and bursting with incredible flavours!

Paneer cubes are marinated and grilled and then simmered in a rich creamy onion tomato gravy. It is best served with naan, garlic naan or lachha paratha and some pickled onions on the side.

Paneer is Indian cottage cheese, tikka is something that is grilled and masala is a blend of spices in paste or dry form. So paneer tikka masala literally translates to grilled paneer cubes in a spicy masala sauce.

You must have definitely heard about the popular chicken tikka masala, paneer tikka masala is the vegetarian version of the same. Every Indian restaurant that you visit has this dish on its menu.

This recipe is done in two steps

  1. Make paneer tikka
  2. Make the gravy

Also, I am also going to share a tip to get that restaurant like smoky flavour in your curry. So read along.

Ingredients

Paneer: Homemade paneer is slightly crumbly and might not withstand all the grilling. So for this particular recipe, I recommend using packaged paneer. You will get paneer in any Indian grocery store near you. But the brick from the refrigerator section and not the already cubed ones from the frozen section. Paneer is now also available at Whole Food, Sprouts, and other superstores.

Make sure to wash the brick after taking it out from the packaging. It is also a good idea to soak it in warm water for 5 minutes, This process makes the paneer pieces soft and not chewy.

For the marination: The marination to make paneer tikka is made with a combination of thick plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt), ginger garlic paste, Kashmiri red chili powder, salt, lime juice, garam masala spice mix, and mustard oil.

Do use only mustard oil for the marination, as it gives it a distinct flavor that a regular vegetable oil won’t give.  But in case it’s not available, use an oil that is handy.

Make sure to use Kashmiri red chili powder, as it gives a beautiful color to your tikka without making it too spicy. 

To make thick yogurt, put the yogurt in a fine-mesh strainer and keep the strainer over a bowl. Keep the bowl with the strainer in the refrigerator for an hour. The excess liquid from the yogurt will drip down in the bowl and you will get thick yogurt in the strainer.

For the gravy: To make the gravy, apart from onions and tomatoes, you will need – oil, ghee, cloves, whole black peppercorns, whole black cardamom, cinnamon stick, ginger garlic paste, Kashmiri red chili powder, turmeric powder, salt, honey, heavy cream, and Kasuri methi. 

I have used a combination of oil and ghee, but you can use either of them or even butter to make this curry.

Heavy cream, adds a rich taste and makes the gravy creamy. It also balances the acidity of tomatoes, but you can also use cashew paste or almond paste instead. Also do not forget to add Kasuri Methi, because it instantly changes the flavor of this curry.

Honey is used to add a little hint of sweetness, you can use sugar too.

How to make Paneer Tikka Masala?

For marinating the paneer

Start by making thick yogurt. Add approx ¼ cup of plain yogurt to a fine-mesh strainer and let the liquid from it drip down for 30 minutes. You will get 2 tablespoon thick yogurt from it. You can also use Greek yogurt to fasten the process.

Add 2 tablespoon thick yogurt, 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste, 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, salt to taste, 2 tablespoon lime juice, ½ teaspoon garam masala spice mix, and 2 teaspoon mustard oil to a large mixing bowl and mix everything well.

Wash 0.6 lb (300 g) paneer block with water and pat it dry using a kitchen towel. Cut the paneer block into 2-inch cubes. Peel 1 large onion and cut it into 2-inch cubes. Wash green bell pepper and cut it into 2-inch cubes as well.

Now add paneer cubes, cubed onion, and cubed green bell pepper to the marinade and mix gently to coat everything with the marinade.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

How to grill the Paneer?

You can grill paneer in 4 ways, in the oven, air fryer, stove top or grill.

Oven Method – Thread the marinated paneer, onion, and capsicum in metal skewers. Preheat the oven at 430 degrees f (220 degrees C). Arrange the skewers on a baking tray and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the paneer pieces are slightly browned. Now set the oven to broil and broil for 4-5 minutes until the paneer is slightly charred.

Stove Top Method – Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide pan (grill pan is better) and once it is hot, add in the marinated paneer cubes along with onion and capsicum. Arrange the paneer and veggies in a single layer. Cook them on high heat until all the sides are browned and slightly charred.

Air Fryer Method – Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Arrange the marinated paneer, onion, and capsicum in the basket of the air fryer and air fry for 10 minutes.

Grill – Use a charcoal or a BBQ grill to grill the paneer.

Keep the leftover marinade aside. We will use it later while making the gravy.

If using bamboo skewers, make sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to avoid them from burning while grilling.

Once the paneer and veggies are grilled, remove them from the skewers and keep aside. Use a fork to take out the paneer, onion and capsicum cubes off the skewers.

For the gravy:

Heat 2 tablespoon vegetable oil and 2 tablespoon ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I use a mixture of both oil and ghee as it gets the delicious flavor of ghee without getting too heavy. You can choose to use either oil or ghee.

When the oil is hot, add 2-3 cloves, 5-6 black peppercorns, 2 whole black cardamoms, and a 1-inch piece of whole cinnamon stick, and fry for 2-3 seconds. You can also crush the whole spices before adding them to the oil for a more profound flavor.

Add 1 cup of grated onion to the skillet and fry on medium heat until it is slightly browned. Keep stirring at regular intervals. It will take 6-8 minutes.

Now add 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste and fry till onions are nicely browned. Add a splash of water if the onions are sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. It will take 8-10 minutes for the onions to fry to the right consistency.

Once the onions are golden brown, add 1 cup grated tomato and ¼ cup tomato puree and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If tomato puree is not available, use 2 tablespoon of tomato paste.

Add the leftover marinade from the paneer tikka, 2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, and salt to taste and cook for a few minutes.

Add a half cup of water and the grilled paneer and vegetables to the skillet. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the oil starts separating from the sides of the pan.

Now add 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon lime juice, ¼ cup heavy cream, and 1 tablespoon Kasuri methi and cook for a minute. 

Serve hot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I marinate the paneer ahead of time?

Definitely, you can marinate the paneer 12-15 hours in advance. Refrigerate it until ready to grill.

How to give it a smoky flavor?

The only difference between dhaba -style or restaurant-style paneer tikka masala recipe to a homemade one is the smoky flavor in the curry which is served at the dhabas or restaurant.

In restaurants, paneer is grilled in a tandoori oven or clay oven, which gives it a beautiful smoky flavor. But, do not fret. You can easily achieve that smoky flavor in your homemade curry as well. The process of smoking the food is called dhungar in India.

To give a dhungar to this curry, heat a piece of charcoal ( or a whole cinnamon stick) over direct heat until it is red hot. If you don’t have direct heat, you can heat it in an oven as well. Keep a small bowl over the ready curry and keep this red hot charcoal piece in the bowl. Drizzle a teaspoon of ghee over the charcoal and close the lid of the pan immediately.

Let the curry absorb the smoke for 10-12 minutes. Remove the lid, take out the bowl, and give the curry a gentle mix. Your smoky tandoor style curry is ready.

Paneer Tikka Masala V/S Paneer Butter Masala

Both these paneer curries are popular North Indian curries that have a rich tomato-onion curry. But they are very different from each other.

In paneer tikka masala, paneer is marinated, grilled, and then added into the curry along with green bell pepper and onion cubes, whereas in paneer butter masala, only paneer is added which is either raw or pan-fried. Check out my delicious paneer butter masala recipe here.

Pro Tips By Neha

Homemade paneer is usually not that firm and can crumble while grilling. For this particular recipe, I prefer using store-bought paneer.

If you are using store-bought paneer, wash the paneer block with water and pat it dry using a kitchen towel. Then keep it in warm water for 5 minutes, to make it a little soft.

Marinate the paneer for at least 2 hours or even more, so that it soaks up the flavors really nice.

If you want that restaurant-style smoky paneer tikka masala, then do smoke this curry as I have mentioned above.

Only use thick yogurt to marinate the paneer cubes. If you use normal yogurt, it will not stick to the paneer and the result won’t be good.

Some restaurants add orange food color to get the bright orange color in the gravy. If you want the same color, you can try adding it but I don’t recommend it.

If you don’t have tomato puree available, use tomato paste instead. Make sure to reduce the amount as it is more concentrated.

Use ripe and red tomatoes to get the sweetness and avoid the sour unripe tomatoes.

Adding Kashmiri red chili powder in place of regular chili powder gives a nice color to the gravy without making it too spicy.

Kasuri Methi gives a fabulous flavor to this curry. Do not skip it. In fact, make Kasuri Methi at home for the best result.

When making paneer tikka for starters, make some extra. The leftover can be made into gravy the next day. 

Variations

No Onion No Garlic – Onions are a must in this curry, but if you have dietary restrictions, you can just avoid adding garlic and onion and continue the process of making this curry the same way.

Vegan – To make this curry vegan, use tofu cubes instead of paneer cubes. When it comes to curry, avoid adding ghee and use only oil.

Instead of plain yogurt, use dairy-free yogurt. Use cashew paste or almond paste instead of heavy cream, to make the curry rich and creamy. Also, skip the honey and add sugar instead to add that little hint of sweetness.

Healthier – This dish had all the good ingredients except heavy cream. So if you want to make it healthier, try to replace full-fat yogurt with low-fat yogurt, replace heavy cream with cashew cream. You can also reduce the amount of oil used in the recipe.

Serving Suggestions

This slightly sweet and spicy gravy tastes great with Indian bread such as lachha paratha, tandoori roti, garlic naan, roti, plain tawa paratha, naan, or even missi roti. You can also serve it with steamed rice, jeera rice, or peas pulao.

For a healthier alternative, you can also serve it along with brown rice, couscous, cauliflower rice, quinoa, and broken wheat.

Storing Suggestions

Paneer tikka masala stays good in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days, when stored in an airtight container. Reheat it in a pan or microwave, while serving it again.

You can freeze the marinated paneer and gravy separately. Marinate the paneer and vegetables. Put them in ziplock or freezer-safe bags and freeze for up to 3-4 days. Freeze the gravy separately in a freezer-safe bag or container for 2-3 months.

Once you are ready to serve, just thaw the paneer and gravy to room temperature (3-4 hours). Grill the paneer and vegetables, warm the gravy and then mix the two.

You might also like:

Paneer Tikka Masala is a delicious restaurant-style gravy dish which is made by simmering paneer tikka in a spicy onion tomato based gravy. It is a dish rich in protein and can be easily made at home. Here is how to make it at home.
5 from 3 votes

Paneer Tikka Masala Recipe

Make this delicious Restaurant style Paneer Tikka Masala at home using my easy recipe. It is very delicious, luscious and saucy, you are going to love each and every bite!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Equipment

  • Grill Pan
  • Indian Kadai

Ingredients 

To marinate the paneer

  • 1 green bell pepper (cut into 2 inch cubes)
  • 1 large onion (cut into 2 inch cubes)
  • 0.6 pound paneer (cut into 2 inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoon thick yogurt
  • 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala spice mix
  • 2 teaspoon mustard oil

For the gravy

  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoon ghee
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 5-6 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole black cardamom
  • 1 inch piece of whole cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup grated onion
  • 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 cup grated tomato
  • ¼ cup tomato puree (or 2 tablespoon tomato paste)
  • 2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon kasuri methi
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Instructions 

For Paneer Tikka:

  • Start by making thick yogurt. Add approx ¼ cup of plain yogurt to a fine-mesh strainer and let the liquid from it drip down for 30 minutes. You will get 2 tablespoon thick yogurt from it. You can also use Greek yogurt to fasten the process.
  • Add 2 tablespoon thick yogurt, 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste, 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, salt to taste, 2 tablespoon lime juice, ½ teaspoon garam masala spice mix, and 2 teaspoon mustard oil to a large mixing bowl and mix everything well.
  • Wash 0.6 lb (300 g) paneer block with water and pat it dry using a kitchen towel. Cut the paneer block into 2-inch cubes. Peel 1 large onion and cut it into 2-inch cubes. Wash green bell pepper and cut it into 2-inch cubes as well.
  • Now add paneer cubes, cubed onion, and cubed green bell pepper to the marinade and mix gently to coat everything with the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To gill the paneer

  • Oven Method – Thread the marinated paneer, onion, and capsicum in metal skewers. Preheat the oven at 430 degrees f (220 degrees C). Arrange the skewers on a baking tray and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the paneer pieces are slightly browned. Now set the oven to broil and broil for 4-5 minutes until the paneer is slightly charred.
  • Stove Top Method – Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide pan (grill pan is better) and once it is hot, add in the marinated paneer cubes along with onion and capsicum. Arrange the paneer and veggies in a single layer. Cook them on high heat until all the sides are browned and slightly charred.
  • Air Fryer Method – Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Arrange the marinated paneer, onion, and capsicum in the basket of the air fryer and air fry for 10 minutes.
  • Grill – Use a charcoal or a BBQ grill to grill the paneer.
  • Keep the leftover marinade aside. We will use it later while making the gravy.
  • If using bamboo skewers, make sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to avoid them from burning while grilling.
  • Once the paneer and veggies are grilled, remove them from the skewers and keep aside. Use a fork to take out the paneer, onion and capsicum cubes off the skewers.

For the gravy:

  • Heat 2 tablespoon vegetable oil and 2 tablespoon ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I use a mixture of both oil and ghee as it gets the delicious flavor of ghee without getting too heavy. You can choose to use either oil or ghee.
  • When the oil is hot, add 2-3 cloves, 5-6 black peppercorns, 2 whole black cardamoms, and a 1-inch piece of whole cinnamon stick, and fry for 2-3 seconds. You can also crush the whole spices before adding them to the oil for a more profound flavor.
  • Add 1 cup of grated onion to the skillet and fry on medium heat until it is slightly browned. Keep stirring at regular intervals. It will take 6-8 minutes.
  • Now add 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste and fry till onions are nicely browned. Add a splash of water if the onions are sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. It will take 8-10 minutes for the onions to fry to the right consistency.
  • Once the onions are golden brown, add 1 cup grated tomato and ¼ cup tomato puree and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If tomato puree is not available, use 2 tablespoon of tomato paste.
  • Add the leftover marinade from the paneer tikka, 2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, and salt to taste and cook for a few minutes.
  • Add a half cup of water and the grilled paneer and vegetables to the skillet. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the oil starts separating from the sides of the pan.
  • Now add 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon lime juice, ¼ cup heavy cream, and 1 tablespoon Kasuri methi and cook for a minute. 
  • Serve hot.

Notes

If you want that restaurant-style smoky paneer tikka masala, then do smoke (dhungar) this curry.
To give a dhungar (smoky flavor)  to this curry, heat a piece of charcoal ( or a whole cinnamon stick) over direct heat until it is red hot. If you don’t have direct heat, you can heat it in an oven as well. Keep a small bowl over the ready curry and keep this red hot charcoal piece in the bowl. Drizzle a teaspoon of ghee over the charcoal and close the lid of the pan immediately. Let the curry absorb the smoke for 10-12 minutes. Remove the lid, take out the bowl, and give the curry a gentle mix. Your smoky tandoor style curry is ready.
Homemade paneer is usually not that firm and can crumble while grilling. For this particular recipe, I prefer using a store-bought paneer.
If you are using a store-bought paneer, wash the paneer block with water and pat it dry using a kitchen towel. Then keep it in warm water for 5 minutes, to make it a little soft.
Marinate the paneer for at least 2 hours or even more, so that it soaks up the flavors really nice.
Only use thick yogurt to marinate the paneer cubes. If you use normal yogurt, it will leave the water and the result won’t be good.
Some restaurants add orange food color to get the bright orange color in the gravy. If you want the same color, you can try adding it but I don’t recommend it.
If you don’t have tomato puree available, use tomato paste instead. Make sure to reduce the amount as it is more concentrated.
Use ripe and red tomatoes to get the sweetness and avoid the sour unripe tomatoes.
Adding Kashmiri red chili powder in place of regular chili powder gives a nice color to the gravy without making it too spicy.
Kasuri Methi gives a fabulous flavor to this curry. Do not skip it. In fact, make Kasuri Methi at home for the best result.
When making paneer tikka for starters, make some extra. The leftover can be made into gravy the next day. 

Nutrition

Calories: 498kcal, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 43g, Saturated Fat: 26g, Cholesterol: 93mg, Sodium: 65mg, Potassium: 368mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 1523IU, Vitamin C: 35mg, Calcium: 417mg, Iron: 1mg
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