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 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
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
marination for paneer tikka masala
- 250 grams paneer cubed
- ½ cup greek yogurt or thick curd or hung curd (refer notes)
- ½ tsp ginger garlic paste or crushed ginger garlic
- ¼ to ½ tsp red chili powder or paprika (less spicy kind)
- ½ tsp garam masala or tandoori masala
- 1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)
- salt to taste
- ½ small capsicum (optional) or bell pepper (cubed)
- ½ small onion (optional) cubed & layers separated
to roast & puree
- 14 cashew nuts or almonds
- 1 cup onions cubed (2 medium)
- 1½ cup tomatoes ripe chopped (3 large)
- ¾ to 1 tsp red chili powder (or paprika) less spicy kind
- ¾ to 1 tsp garam masala
- ¼ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
Gravy for paneer tikka masala
- 2 tbsps oil or butter
- 1½ tsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp kasuri methi (optional) (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 3 to 4 tbsp cream
- 2 tbsps coriander leaves or cilantro chopped finely
How to make the recipe
Preparation for paneer tikka masala
- Firstly add ½ cup yogurt, ¼ to ½ tsp red chili powder, ½ tsp ginger garlic paste, ½ tsp garam masala, 1/8 tsp turmeric & salt to a bowl.
- Mix well and check the taste. Add paneer cubes & marinate,
- Optional – If using onions & bell peppers, then add ½ cubed onion layers & ½ cubed bell pepper and marinate well. Set this aside until the gravy is done.
How to make paneer tikka masala
- Heat 1 tbsp oil or butter and fry chopped onions until transparent or golden.
- Add tomatoes, cashews and sprinkle salt.
- Fry all of these until the tomatoes turn mushy and soft.
- Then add chilli powder, garam masala, sugar and salt. Fry until the masala smells good.
- Cool and blend with ½ to ¾ cup water until very smooth.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan.
- Fry ginger garlic paste until the raw smell goes off just for a minute.
- Lower the flame and add the onion tomato puree. (Careful as it may splash)
- If needed you can optionally add more chilli powder to achieve a brighter color.
- Pour ½ to ¾ cup water to bring this to a consistency.
- Cover and cook until the gravy turns thick and you see traces of oil on top.
- Crush the kasuri methi in your hands and sprinkle it. (optional)
- Taste the gravy & add more salt if needed. Rest this aside.
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, onion, bell pepper 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.
- Optional – Similarly place the bell peppers and marinated onions and fry until the marinade dries up.
- Transfer grilled paneer tikka along with veggies & onions to the tikka gravy.
- Pour the cream. Gently mix.
- Garnish with cream and coriander leaves.
- Serve paneer tikka masala with roti, butter naan or veg pulao.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
- To make the hung curd, add around 1½ cups plain homemade 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.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
If you are new to cooking, follow my detailed step by step photo instructions for best results.
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 greek yogurt or hung curd, add 1.5 cups homemade yogurt or curd to a thin muslin or cheese cloth. Squeeze off the excess whey 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 or greek yogurt, ½ tsp ginger garlic paste, ¼ to ½ tsp red chili powder, ½ tsp 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.
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. Rest aside in the fridge until the gravy is ready.
Make onion tomato masala for paneer tikka masala
6. Add 1 tbsp oil or butter to a pan. Next add onions and fry until transparent or light golden. Then add tomatoes and cashews. Sprinkle sugar, salt and roast all of these until mushy and soft. You can also cover and cook.
7.Then add all the spice powders, turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder.
8.Saute for a few minutes until the raw smell goes away. You will begin to get a nice smell of the masala.
9.Cool this and add to a blender jar. Pour ¾ cup water. To cut down the cooling time, you can also pour ice cold water to the jar and then add the mixture. But ensure the mixture is not hot.
10.Make a smooth puree.
How to make paneer tikka masala
11. Heat 1 tbsp butter or oil in a pan. 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.
12. 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. To adjust the color you can add more chilli powder at this stage. I did not use more.
13. Add ½ to ¾ cup water to bring to a desired consistency. Cover and cook.
14. Mix everything well and cook on a low flame until the sauce simmers well and thickens.
15.When the gravy turns thick you will see some oil separating on top. Add kasuri methi (optional). Continue to cook for another minute. Set this aside.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. You may need to flip the skewer and then grill again if your oven does not have a fan.
Adding tikka to masala
21. Add the grilled tikkas in the gravy. Gently mix. Make sure the gravy is thickened before adding paneer.
22. 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.