Paneer tikka masala is a delicious, creamy & flavorful dish made by grilling paneer & then adding it to a masala gravy. Paneer refers to Indian cottage cheese, tikka is a small chunk of grilled food and masala here refers to a spiced gravy. So paneer tikka masala literally translates to grilled chunks of Indian cheese in spicy gravy.
Paneer tikka masala is a vegetarian version of the world famous chicken tikka masala. This is vegetarian dish is mostly found on the Indian restaurant menus and is served with naan, roti, plain paratha, basmati rice or jeera rice .
The flavor & taste of this dish is unique from the other paneer dishes due to the grilling process.
In restaurants to make paneer tikka masala, paneer is first marinated & grilled in a tandoori oven (or clay oven) which imparts a great smoky flavor.
Then it is added to a delicious spicy onion tomato gravy and garnished with cream.
Since we don’t have such tandoori ovens at home we will have to grill the paneer either in oven or on a griddle.
In this post I have shown both the methods of grilling in the griddle on stove top & in oven. You can also grill it over direct charcoal grill and use.
I have also used half capsicum and half onion to grill along with my tikkas. But that is totally optional. But restaurants do use them as a lend a very good aroma when grilled.
Tips to make paneer tikka masala
- Use the best quality paneer to get softer chunks. I make my own following this homemade paneer recipe.
- Do not use sour yogurt as it can make the curry sour.
- If you do not eat onions, then you can skip them in the recipe.
- To get a smoky flavor you can follow the dungar method which I have shared at the end of this post.
Paneer tikka masala recipe
Paneer tikka masala recipe | How to make paneer tikka masala
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- 250 grams paneer cubed
marination for paneer tikka masala
- 14 cashew nuts
- 1 ½ cup tomatoes ripe chopped or pureed
- 1 cup onions cubed (discard basal plate of the onion)
- 2 green cardamoms or elaichi
How to make the recipe
Preparation for paneer tikka masala
- Firstly add yogurt, red chili powder, ginger garlic paste, garam masala, turmeric, oil & salt to a bowl.
- Mix well and check the taste. Add paneer cubes to it and marinate well. Set this aside.
- Add cubed onions to 2 cups boiling water. Boil for 2 to 3 mins until transparent. Drain them & cool.
- Next add them to a blender jar along with chopped tomatoes, cardamoms & cashews. Make a smooth puree.
Making paneer tikka in oven or tawa
- You can grill in oven or fry the tikkas on stove in a tawa. If making in a oven, preheat the oven to 220 C and thread paneer to a skewer. Then grill for 8 to 10 minutes on both sides.
- To make on griddle or tawa. Heat a tbsp oil or butter in a wide pan on a high flame, place the paneer on the tawa and toss them on a high flame till the marinade dries up and it turns golden. Over frying can make it harder and rubbery.
How to make paneer tikka masala
- Heat oil in a pan, add bay leaf (optional).
- Fry ginger garlic paste until the raw smell goes off just for a minute.
- Add the onion tomato puree and cook until the mixture begins to leave the sides.
- Next put in garam masala, chili powder and salt.
- Saute for 2 minute until the raw smell of chilli powder goes away.
- Pour 1 cup water and cook on a medium flame till the gravy thickens. Add more water if needed.
- When the gravy is thick and you see traces of oil on top, the gravy is done.
- Crush the kasuri methi in your hands and sprinkle it.
- Taste the gravy & add more salt if needed.
- Transfer grilled paneer tikka and gently mix.
- Pour the cream & add coriander leaves. Mix and off the stove.
- Serve paneer tikka masala with roti, butter naan or veg pulao.
This recipe needs thick curd or greek yogurt. If you do not have thick curd then follow the below step and make it.
To make the hung curd, add around 1½ cups plain yogurt or curd to a thin muslin cloth or a clean handkerchief and tie it up. Hang it in the refrigerator for about 2 to 4 hours. Use only ½ cup of the hung yogurt.
Preparation – (optional)
1. If you prefer to use veggies then follow this step. Cube half onions and separate the layers. Cube half capsicum as well. Make sure the size of onion and capsicum cubes are almost the same as paneer. Set these aside.
If you do not have hung curd, add 1.5 cups curd to a thin muslin cloth, squeeze off the excess water and use. You can also check another method i shared in the recipe card notes above.
2. Add to a bowl the following ingredients: ½ cup hung curd yogurt, 1 ½ tsp. ginger garlic paste, ¾ tsp red chili powder, ¾ garam masala, 1/8 tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp kasuri methi, 1 tsp oil and salt as needed.
I also used 1 tsp lemon juice to add tang as my yogurt was very fresh. Do not use it if your tomatoes or yogurt is even slightly sour. You can add more chili powder or tandoori masala for a good color.
3. Mix everything well. I forgot to add ginger garlic at step 1 so added it here.
4. Add paneer and cubed veggies (optional).
5. Mix everything well.
6. Option 1 – For the paneer tikka on tawa, stovetop : Heat 1 tsp oil in a wide tawa on a high flame, place the paneer cubes in the tawa.
7. Flip them to the other side and cook on a high flame till all the marinade dries up and the paneer turn golden. This takes only 2 to 3 mins. Set aside. Do not over fry them, they can turn harder.
8. optional if using veggies – In the same pan, place the veggies and cook till the marinade dries up. The veggies look partially charred. Do not overdo else they lose the crunch.
9. Option 2 – To grill tikka in oven, put them on to skewers alternately paneer, onion and capsicum. Bake in a preheated oven at 220 C for 8 to 10 minutes. you may need to adjust the timing as needed depends on the size of cubes and oven too.
10. You may need to flip the skewer and then grill again if your oven does not have a fan.
Make onion tomato puree for paneer tikka masala
11. Bring 2 cups water to a rolling boil and add the onions. Boil for 2 to 3 mins until they turn transparent. Remove and cool. Onions grown in some regions lend a bitter taste so i have suggested to blanch and then make a puree.
However you can skip that the same way I have done.
Add 1 cup cubed onions (discard basal plate of onion to avoid bitterness), 1 ½ cup tomatoes, 2 green cardamoms and 14 cashews to a blender jar.
12. Make a fine puree.Set aside.
How to make paneer tikka masala
13. Heat butter or oil in a pan, add bay leaf (optional). You can add any whole spices if you have like – 2 cardamom, 1 small cinnamon piece or even 2 cloves. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add ginger garlic paste and fry until the raw smell goes off. This step is very important else the smell of garlic may not be good in the dish.
14. Pour the onion tomato puree to the pan. Be careful it will begin to splash out of the pan, you can partially cover and cook. You will be left with some yogurt marinade after making tikkas.
You can add that as well now if you do not like to discard it. I did not use it. Saute until it thickens and begins to leave the sides of the pan. This may take around 6 to 7 minutes.
15. Add chili powder, garam masala and salt. Saute until the smell of chili powder has gone. This may just take 1 to 2 minutes.
16. Add 1 cup water, if needed ¼ cup more to bring to a desired consistency.
17. Mix everything well and cook on a low flame until the sauce simmers well and thickens. When the gravy turns thick you will see some oil separating on top. Add kasuri methi. Continue to cook for another minute.
18. Add the grilled tikkas in the gravy. Gently mix. Make sure the gravy is thickened before adding paneer.
19. Pour cream and stir.
Garnish with fresh coriander and green chilies. Serve paneer tikka masala hot with butter naan, roti, plain paratha or jeera rice.
Dungar for paneer tikka masala
To give a smoky flavor to the dish try using this dhungar method using charcoal. Please note that it could be dangerous doing on a gas stove. I suggest doing it out of the kitchen, using another source like a large candle.
- Cut a large onion to half. Remove off a few layers from the center of one half of the onion. Place it in the center of the pan.
- Burn a small piece of charcoal over direct fire holding it with a tong. Make sure it burns well so that it can release the smoke.
- Take it away from the candle – place it over the onion. Add 1/2 tsp ghee.
- By now it should begin to emit smoke else repeat burning the coal.
- Make sure charcoal is not touching the food. Cover The pan with a lid immediately. Leave it for 5 minutes.