Paneer tikka recipe – Indian cottage cheese marinated in a spicy and super flavorful tandoori masala & grilled to perfection! These skewers of soft paneer, with a burst of tandoori flavors are as addictive as they are in any Indian restaurants. It is super simple to get these paneer tikka on to your dinner table, just throw the ingredients together and grill them! A perfect snack & a side that’s great for the grilling season. You can grill these over direct fire, in the oven, or even on a griddle on your stovetop. These can also be air fried with great results.
If you have ever eaten at a North Indian restaurant you are more likely to be hooked to the tandoori dishes. Tandoori paneer tikka is one of the most popular and is immensely loved by everyone, kids and grownups alike! But what is so special about these…
Soft mouth melting paneer with a burst of smoky flavour and an aroma of tandoori spices is extremely delicious to savour!
About Paneer Tikka
Paneer tikka is a North Indian appetizer where chunks of paneer are marinated in spiced yogurt and grilled in a Tandoor, a traditional clay oven. The term paneer refers to Indian cottage cheese and tikka translates to chunks of grilled meat, or a vegetarian option, in this case it is the paneer.
Traditionally a tikka is grilled in a tandoor which infuses its characteristic smoky flavour into the food. The marinade is primarily made with thick yogurt which is spiced with many different kinds of ground spices.
This tandoori marinade is the base which infuses tons of flavors to the paneer tikka, making these the yummiest!
Once the spiced yogurt is ready, chunks of paneer along with bell peppers and onions are marinated and left to infuse the flavors. These are then threaded to skewers and grilled in a hot tandoor until slightly charred.
Lastly paneer tikka is brushed with butter and served with mint chutney or green chutney. Chaat masala & lemon juice are optionally used while serving.
Apart from serving these as an appetizer, you can also use them in wraps, sandwiches, pizza and even for making fusion fried rice.
All of the magic happens in the tandoor and we do not have that at homes. So for a home version we turn on to electric ovens, gas or air fryer to recreate it.
We can recreate the same smoky flavors to some extent by smoking these with a red hot coal.
In this post I have shared 2 ways to make paneer tikka. You can grill them as per your convenience in an oven, air fryer or stovetop.
How to make paneer tikka (stepwise photos)
1. To make this recipe, we need greek yogurt or hung curd (thick curd). If you do not have thick curd, you can check this post on how to make hung curd. I have used thick curd here. If you use runny yogurt, it will let out lot of whey while grilling and all the masala will come off to the tray.
Cube 200 to 250 grams paneer to 1½ inch cubes. Keep aside. Then choose 1 large onion and bell pepper. Rinse and cube them to almost the same size of paneer. Do not chop them small as they shrink after grilling. Separate the layers of onions.
Make a fine paste of 1 inch ginger & 3 cloves of garlic. We need about 1¼ fine paste.
2. To a mixing bowl, add
- 6 tablespoons thick curd
- 1 to 1½ teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 to 1½ teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon chaat masala
3. Next add
- 1¼ teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ajwain (carom seeds, optional)
Optional: If making on a griddle or tawa add 1 tablespoon roasted besan or sattu (roasted gram flour). Dry roast besan until aromatic. It should lose the raw flavor, cool and add it. Do not skip using besan it helps to hold the curd well to the paneer tikka. It also brings out a good flavor and will avoid messing up the tawa.
4. Add 1½ tablespoon oil. I have used mustard oil, you can also use any other oil.
5. Mix everything well. The marinade must be thick. Taste the marinade and add more salt and spices if needed.
6. Add capsicum and onions. Coat them well with marinade.
How to make paneer tikka
7. Move the veggies to one side of the bowl and add 200 grams cubed paneer and gently coat them as well. Handle with care they may break.
8. Cover and rest them in the fridge for minimum of 30 mins or an hour. If you leave them for too long, sometimes they break when you thread them on to the skewer later. If you prefer to keep them longer, thread them first and then refrigerate.
9. Next begin to thread them on skewers. With the quantities mentioned in the recipe card you can thread them on 3 large or 4 medium skewers. Paneer tikka on tawa and oven were made at 2 different times so the number of skewers seen in the pictures will not match the recipe.
Making on griddle
10. If making on griddle or tawa, heat a tawa with 1 tablespoon oil. When it turns hot, place the skewers in the center and grill them on a medium heat.
11. Finally turn them around to grill evenly until they turn golden. Place a wired rack over a direct fire like gas stove. Place these skewers over the fire and grill on direct flame until char grilled. This step will ensure all of the marinade is cooked through.
Remove paneer tikka to a serving plate, brush them with butter. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle some chaat masala if you prefer. Serve paneer tikka hot with onion, lemon wedges and mint chutney.
Making paneer tikka in oven
Preheat oven to 450 F or 230 C for at least 15 to 20 mins. If using an OTG choose, grill option. Place the skewers on a tray lined with greased foil or parchment paper. Spray oil on the skewers so the paneer and veggies won’t dry out. Keep the tray in the middle rack.
Grill for 10 to 11 mins. Brush them with the leftover marinade. This will prevent them from turning dry. Then move the tray to the top rack and broil for 2 to 3 mins until lightly charred or golden.
Do adjust the timing depending on the kind of oven and the thickness of the paneer cubes. Avoid overcooking them else they turn rubbery, chewy and hard.
Brush paneer tikka with mustard oil. Squeeze some lemon juice and serve hot with mint chutney.
Smoking paneer tikka: for a real smoky restaurant style paneer tikkas sometimes we smoke them with a hot charcoal after grilling. To do this I place a small steel bowl in the tray. Then hold a wood charcoal piece with tong and hold it over direct flame until red hot. Next keep it in the bowl and pour half teaspoon ghee.
You will begin to see fumes immediately. Cover the tray with another foil and let smoke for 5 to 6 minutes. You will be surprised at how smoky, aromatic and delicious your paneer tikkas will taste.
Paneer tikka in air fryer
You can also air fry the tikkas at 390 F or 200 C for 5 mins. Brush them with the marinade and then air fry for another 2 mins. Lastly brush them with 1.5 tbsps of unsalted butter or mustard oil.
The timings change if lesser skewer are placed. Reduce the total time to 5 mins for 3 to 4 skewers.
Yogurt: Indian curd is the key ingredient used in the marinade. It has to be fresh and thick and not too sour or runny. A slight tang is just fine which is balanced with the addition of spices. Using very sour yogurt will impart a sour flavour and your paneer tikkas will taste sour.
Curd has to be thick so the marinade can hold and cling on to the paneer and veggies. Using runny yogurt will just drip off all of the marinade as you thread and grill the tikkas. Ideally hung curd is used but you can also strain the regular homemade yogurt and use it following my notes below.
Red chilli powder: In the past a lot of restaurants would use color just to give a bright red look to the tikkas but you really don’t need to as long as you use a good red chilli powder like Kashmiri or byadgi.
However if you do not have these kinds of chilli powder, simple use paprika or cayenne or any other chilli powder. Start with smaller quantities, taste test and add more if required.
Oil: Traditionally Mustard oil is used in tikka marinade and most tandoori foods as it imparts a distinct pungent aroma and flavour. If you do not have it just use any regular oil. But do not skip it as it prevents the tikkas from drying out after grilling.
Gram flour: This is one ingredient which a lot of people don’t use in paneer tikka. I always vote for it as it brings a unique nutty aroma to the skewers. Apart from that it also helps to thicken your yogurt if you do not have hung curd or greek yogurt.
A close substitute of this is the sattu, which is the roasted Chana dal flour also known as roasted gram flour.
Veggies: I have always seen and made paneer tikkas only with bell peppers and onions. You may use any other quick cook veggies like carrots, baby corn or mushrooms (sliced). Avoid using other veggies which take longer to cook.
Paneer: Use good quality paneer if you are aiming for soft paneer tikka. Avoid using store bought paneer with added corn starch as they turn rubbery and chewy.
3 Easy Variations
You can make many variations of these paneer tikkas. Here is how I make. These have been roughly adapted from the other recipes on my blog.
Hariyali paneer tikka – Make a smooth paste of 1 ½ cups of mint leaves, ½ cup of coriander leaves (15 grams each), 2 to 3 green chilies and 2 tbsps of yogurt. Mix this with the ingredients mentioned in the paneer tikka recipe. Skip the red chilli powder and ajwain.
Achari paneer tikka – Add 2 tbsps thick achar, ¾ to 1 teaspoon mustard seeds powder and 1 to 1 ½ teaspoon fennel seeds powder to the same paneer tikka recipe. Use mustard oil.
Malai paneer tikka – For this version you won’t be using bell peppers and onions. Use 250 to 350 grams of paneer. Here is the recipe – Soak 15 cashew nuts in hot water for 30 mins. Grind them with 2 tbsps hung yogurt, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 inch ginger, half teaspoon salt, ½ to 1 tbsp. lemon juice, ½ tsp pepper and 2 tablespoons cream (or homemade malai) to a smooth paste. The marinade has to be thick.
Paneer tikka – Method 2
This recipe takes about 15 to 20 mins longer than the first recipe as we need to fry the besan in oil until the raw flavour goes away. This step brings out the nutty aroma of the flour and enhances the taste and flavour of the paneer tikkas.
More often I turn back to this method as we personally love the way turn out. If you try this once you will realize that these paneer tikkas taste better than what you get in the best restaurants.
Sometimes I even make a large batch of this roasted besan and store in the fridge as this comes handy when you are in a rush to make the tikkas.
If you want to cook your tikkas on the griddle/tawa without finishing them on the gas flame then this is the best method because you won’t have the flavour of undercooked besan in your paneer tikka.
If you are air frying the tikkas then you don’t really need to go through this extra step because the extremely dry hot air in the air fryer roasts your besan very well and brings out the aroma.
So follow this method only for oven grilling and stovetop grilling on tawa/griddle. This is one of the oldest recipes I shared on the blog and has been roughly adapted from Chef Harpal Singh.
How to make tandoori paneer tikka
1. Pour 1½ tablespoons mustard oil to a pan. Add 2½ tablespoons of besan. I highly recommend using mustard oil here for flavor. But I have used regular cooking oil in the pictures.
2. Mix well to a smooth mixture. Turn on the stove and fry this on a low heat, stirring continuously until fragrant. The mixture begins to bubble up and turn frothy. Once you smell it good and fragrant, turn off the heat.
- 1 to 1 ¼ teaspoon red chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 to 1¼ teaspoon garam masala
- ½ to 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon crushed kasuri methi / dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon ajwain / carom seeds
4. Mix all of these and let them cool down completely. Then add 6 tablespoons thick curd or greek yogurt and add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or ¾ to 1 teaspoon chaat masala. Skip the lemon juice if your yogurt is even slightly sour.
5. Mix everything. Taste test and adjust any the seasoning. The marinade has to be thick as you see in the picture here.
6. Add 200 to 250 grams of paneer, 1 medium onion and 1 cup cubed bell peppers. Mix them gently. Cover and refrigerate in the fridge for at least 20 to 30 mins. To store longer I thread them on the skewers and then store.
7. To grill them on direct fire, in oven or air fryer, thread them on the skewers, alternating paneer, bell peppers and onions.
Grilling 3 ways
8. Place them on a deep tray so the tikkas don’t touch the tray. Grill in a preheated oven at 450 F or 230 C for 10 to 11 mins. Brush the marinade lightly and broil for another 2 to 3 mins or until slightly charred. You can also air fry the paneer tikkas at 390 F or 200 C for 5 mins. Brush them with some marinade and continue to air fry for another 2 to 3 mins. Do not over do the grilling as the paneer turns hard.
9. To do it on the tawa. Pour 1 teaspoon oil and place the paneer on the tawa. It is important to chill the paneer before frying and also use a non-stick pan. Grill them on all the sides.
10. Later place the veggies and grill until the marinade is cooked.
Lastly use sandwich picks and arrange them. Serve paneer tikka with mint chutney.
Paneer tikka recipe (Restaurant style)
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1½ tablespoon oil (preferably mustard oil)
- 1 to 1½ teaspoon red chilli powder (mild variety)
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 to 1½ teaspoon coriander powder (optional)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon chaat masala (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 1¼ teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- 6 tablespoons greek yogurt or thick hung curd (¼ cup + 2 tbsp) (refer notes)
- 200 grams paneer (cut to 9 cubes)
- 1 large onion – 10 to 12 cubes layers separated
- 1 red capsicum – 6 to 8 cubes
- 1 green capsicum – 6 to 8
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil or butter for brushing the tikkas (optional)
- 1 tablespoon gram flour (besan (optional))
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain (optional))
- Stir together thick yogurt (refer notes), chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric, coriander powder, kasuri methi, chaat masala, ginger garlic paste and salt.
- Optional for restaurant flavor – In a small pan, mix 1 tablespoon besan with the oil called for in the recipe (1½ tablespoons). Fry on a low heat until fragrant. Cool this and mix in the marinade along with ajwain.
- Pour oil and mix everything well. Check salt and spice. If needed add more salt and chilli.
- Add the cubed capsicum and onions. Mix well. Then add paneer cubes and gently coat them with the marinade.
- Cover and rest this in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours. Overnight marination may break the paneer.
- Begin to thread the chunks of capsicum, onion and paneer alternately on the skewer.
- If making in oven, you can use large bamboo skewers. If making on tawa, you can use small ones. You will be able to thread these on 3 large or 4 small skewers.
Making paneer tikka in oven.
- Preheat the oven at 450 F or 230 C for at least 15 mins.
- Prepare a baking tray and line a parchment paper.
- Place the skewers on the tray. Spray oil to avoid the paneer and veggies drying out.
- Grill them for 10 to 11 mins. Brush them with the leftover marinade. This will prevent them from turning dry.
- Move the tray to a higher rack and broil for 2 to 3 mins until slightly charred.
- Do adjust the grill timings based on your oven and the size of paneer cubes. Over cooking may char them too much. When they are golden or lightly charred, take them off the oven.
- Brush paneer tikka with butter or mustard oil. Serve them with mint chutney, onion and lemon wedges.
- Optional: For restaurant flavors, Place a small steel bowl in the serving plate. Burn a wood charcoal piece on direct fire until red hot. Keep it in the bowl. Pour ½ tsp ghee over it. It should begin to smoke immediately. Cover with a foil and let it smoke for 5 to 6 mins.
How to make paneer tikka on tawa or gas stove
- Heat a tawa with 1 tbsp oil and spread it evenly all over.
- When the tawa is hot enough, place the skewers and cook on a medium heat.
- Keep checking and turning them around to all sides for even grilling.
- When they turn golden, place a wired rack over a direct fire like gas stove. Place these skewers over the fire and grill on direct flame until char grilled. This step will ensure all of the marinade is cooked through on all the sides.
- Remove to a plate and brush them with butter. Serve paneer tikka hot as a appetizer or a side in your meal.
Air fryer method
- Air fry the paneer tikkas at 390 F or 200 C for 5 mins. Later brush them with some marinade and continue to air fry for another 2 mins.
- Lastly brush them with butter or mustard oil.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
This Paneer tikka recipe post is from the Archives and was first published in November 2014. Updated and republished in August 2021.