Paneer Tikka Masala

4.84 from 54 votes

Paneer Tikka Masala is a popular Indian curry where spiced and grilled paneer tikka is added to a creamy curry. It is best enjoyed with warm naan!

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Paneer Tikka Masala is a popular Indian curry where cubes of paneer (Indian cottage cheese), onions and peppers are marinated with yogurt and spices, grilled and then tossed in a creamy tomato based curry. This dish goes extremely well with butter naan or paratha or basmati rice.

paneer curry served in a white bowl garnished with cilantro with naan in the background

About This Recipe

You know the most famous Indian food in the world? It is Chicken Tikka Masala, at least that’s what I think. You talk to anyone in the UK or USA and even if they don’t know much about Indian food they definitely know about chicken tikka masala. I think the dish is synonyms with Indian food in the west. The vegetarian version of it is of course Paneer Tikka Masala which is also quite popular and you would find it on the menu of most Indian restaurants.

Growing up in India, I had never heard of paneer tikka masala. Sure, we had paneer tikka but adding it to a curry was unknown, at least to me. I remember watching a MasterChef India episode some 10 years back which had chef Vikas Khanna and chef Kunal Kapoor talking about the origin of this dish. They also shared a recipe and so this recipe is inspired from their version.

They of course shared the recipe for chicken tikka masala but I changed it to paneer tikka masala and also made few changes depending on my preferences and availability. This recipe uses curry powder which is a common spice mix in the west (again this spice mix doesn’t even exist in India) and it makes sense since this dish originated in the UK. There are stories of how a chef added cream sauce to chicken tikka to please the taste buds of British people and that’s where it originated from.

There are 2 parts to this recipe- the tikka part where paneer, onions and peppers are marinated with yogurt and spices and then grilled. You can cook the tikka in tandoor, oven or in your pan. The other part of the recipe is the curry which is a smooth curry made with onions, tomatoes, cream and butter. The grilled tikka is added to the curry and then served as a main course with side of bread.

This Paneer Tikka Masala

  • is super creamy, smooth.
  • goes well with naan, paratha.
  • makes a comforting meal.
  • leftovers are great as well!

Ingredients

There are 2 parts to this recipe- the paneer tikka and the curry.

ingredients for paneer tikka masala arranged on a board

Paneer Tikka

Paneer: you can use either homemade or store bought paneer but whatever paneer you use, it should be firm and be able to hold it’s shape. You can find paneer at Indian grocery stores or make it at home.

Yogurt: for the marinade, it is best to use thick yogurt. Either use Greek yogurt or if using regular yogurt, use store bought yogurt which tends to be thicker than homemade yogurt. If using homemade yogurt, strain it using a muslin cloth for at least 3 to 4 hours to get rid of all the excess water.

Spices: the marinade uses coriander powder, garam masala, two types of chili powder, ginger-garlic and lime juice. You can also use fresh herbs like cilantro, mint.

The Masala/Curry

Curry base: the base is made with onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic which is quite a staple for most creamy Indian curries. I like using white onion for that sweet, subtle flavor.

Spices: this paneer tikka masala recipe uses curry powder which is a mix of spices and is popular in the western world. It’s not so much popular in India actually, in fact I didn’t even know it existed until I moved out of India. If you don’t have it, you can use a blend of coriander, cumin, turmeric and ginger.

Flavor enhancers: to make the curry creamy, we finish the recipe with butter, cream and cilantro!

Step by Step Instructions

1- We will start by making the paneer tikka. To a large bowl, add yogurt (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon), make sure the yogurt is thick (if using regular homemade yogurt, drain the yogurt for 3 to 4 hours before using in the recipe). To that add the following:

  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1/2 lime

2- Using a spatula or whisk, mix until all the ingredients are well combined.

3- Now add 225 grams paneer (cubed into big cubes), 1 medium red onion (quartered and separated into petals) and 1 medium green pepper (cut into 1 inch cubes).

4- Mix until the paneer, onion and peppers are well coated with the marinade. You can use your hands here. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes at the least.

step by step picture collage of making paneer tikka masala

5- Meanwhile, let’s work the curry part of this recipe. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a pan on medium heat. Once hot, add 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1-inch cinnamon stick.

6- Let the seeds sizzle and then add 1 large white onion (roughly chopped), 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, chopped and 1-inch chopped ginger.

7- Stir and cook for around 5 to 6 minutes until onions turn light golden brown in color, stir often in between.

8- Then add 3 large tomatoes (chopped) along with the following:

  • 1& 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
step by step picture collage of making paneer tikka masala

9- Stir and cook the tomatoes for 7 to 8 minutes until soft and completely cooked. This step is important so do not rush this step.

10- Once the tomatoes are completely cooked, remove the pan from heat. Let it cool down a bit and then remove the cinnamon stick and transfer everything to a blender and blend to a fine paste. Set this aside.

11- Back to the tikka now, take the marinated paneer out of the refrigerator. Now, you can cook this in a pan or grill or in your oven. I have used a grill pan that I had. Spray the pan with oil and then add the marinated paneer, onions and bell peppers on the pan.

12- Cook until the paneer turns light golden brown in color and onions and peppers are slightly cooked, turning them few times in between for even cooking. Now it’s time to bring the curry together.

Oven instruction: arrange tikka on skewers and bake at 450 F degrees for 10 minutes and then broil for 2 to 3 minutes to get it browned (optional).

step by step picture collage of making paneer tikka masala

13- Now put the pan back on medium heat and add the pureed paste to it that we had prepared earlier. You can also add remaining 1/4 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder at this point if you prefer a brighter color of the curry.

14- Add 1 cup water (or more depending on how much gravy you want), and stir well. Then add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons cream and 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Mix and let it cook for 2 minutes.

15- Add the roasted paneer, onions and peppers into the curry.

16- Mix well and let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with more cilantro and serve paneer tikka masala with naan or paratha.

step by step picture collage of making paneer tikka masala

Serving Suggestions

You can serve paneer tikka masala with the following:

  • Butter Naan: nothing like fluffy, soft homemade naan to dip into the curry.
  • Jeera rice: rice seasoned with cumin seeds makes the perfect pairing.
  • Roti: you can never go wrong with the classic Indian everyday bread.
  • Tandoori roti: another great bread to serve the curry with.
bowl of paneer tikka masala garnished with cilantro and spoons of spices placed on the side

Vegan Variation

For a vegan version of this recipe you can do the following substitutions:

  • use extra-firm tofu in place of paneer.
  • marinate the tofu with thick coconut milk (use the top part from the can) or vegan yogurt (plain almond milk works well).
  • replace butter with vegan butter.
  • replace heavy cream with coconut milk.

Tips & Notes

  • I don’t add cashews or any nuts to this recipe but you can definitely add some cashews along with the onions and tomatoes to make it more creamy.
  • Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) can definitely be added toward the end for that nice aroma.
  • If using store bought paneer, remember to soak it in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes before using in the recipe.
  • You can also strain the onion-tomato mixture after blending it, that will make the curry totally smooth. I didn’t do it to save time.
plate with naan and a paneer curry

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Paneer Tikka same as Paneer Tikka Masala?

No they are different. Paneer Tikka is served as an appetizer and has cubes of grilled paneer where for paneer tikka masala the grilled paneer is added to a creamy curry and served as a main dish.

What can I substitute the curry powder with?

Go for a mix of coriander powder, turmeric, cumin and ginger. For replacing 1 u0026 1/2 teaspoon curry powder in this recipe, I would probably use 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger.

Is Paneer Tikka Masala same as Paneer Makhani?

They are both popular paneer recipes but the way you make them is different. For the tikka masala, we first marinate the paneer, grill it and then add to the curry. For the paneer makhani, the sauce is made with nuts, onions, tomatoes and then paneer pieces are added to it directly.

This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in April 2014. I have updated the recipe with better photos, videos and made slight modifications to make it better. The curry part of the recipe is same but I have added onions and peppers to the tikka part. If you wish to make it like the old recipe, just skip on the onions and peppers.

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Paneer Tikka Masala

4.84 from 54 votes
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Paneer Tikka Masala is a popular Indian curry where spiced and grilled paneer tikka is added to a creamy curry. It is best enjoyed with warm naan!

Ingredients 

Paneer Tikka

  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp yogurt use thick plain whole milk yogurt which has been strained or Greek yogurt
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder for color
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder or to taste
  • 1/2 lime juice of
  • 225 grams paneer cut into cubes
  • 1 medium red onion quartered and separated into petals
  • 1 medium green pepper cut into 1-inch cubes

Curry

  • 1 tablespoon oil I used avocado oil, use oil of choice
  • 2 tablespoons butter divided, unsalted or salted either works
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 large white onion roughly chopped, around 150 grams
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 inch ginger chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes roughly chopped, around 400 grams
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder divided (for color, not hot)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar I used granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup water or more as needed
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream 30-45 ml
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
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Instructions 

  • We will start by making the paneer tikka. To a large bowl, add thick yogurt, make sure the yogurt is thick (if using regular homemade yogurt, drain the yogurt for 3 to 4 hours before using in the recipe or use Greek yogurt).
  • To that add ginger-garlic paste, coriander powder, garam masala, Kashmiri red chili powder, red chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and juice of 1/2 lime.
    Using a spatula or whisk, mix until all the ingredients are well combined.
  • Now add cubed paneer, onion (quartered and separated into petals) and green pepper
    Mix until the paneer, onion and peppers are well coated with the marinade. You can use your hands here. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes at the least.
  • Meanwhile, let's work the curry part of this recipe. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a pan on medium heat. Once hot, add cumin seeds and cinnamon stick.
  • Let the seeds sizzle and then add white onion (roughly chopped), chopped garlic cloves and chopped ginger. Stir and cook for around 5 to 6 minutes until onions turn light golden brown in color, stir often in between.
  • Then add the roughly chopped tomatoes along with curry powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste) and sugar. Stir and cook the tomatoes for 7 to 8 minutes until soft and completely cooked. This step is important so do not rush this step.
  • Once the tomatoes are completely cooked, remove the pan from heat. Let it cool down a bit and then remove the cinnamon stick and transfer everything to a blender and blend to a fine paste. Set this aside.
  • Back to the tikka now, take the marinated paneer out of the refrigerator. Now, you can cook this in a pan or grill or in your oven. I have used a grill pan that I had. Spray the pan with oil and then add the marinated paneer, onions and bell peppers on the pan.
    Cook until the paneer turns light golden brown in color and onions and peppers are slightly cooked, turning them few times in between for even cooking. Now it's time to bring the curry together.
    Oven instruction: arrange tikka on skewers and bake at 450 F degrees for 10 minutes and then broil for 2 to 3 minutes to get it browned (optional).
  • Now put the pan back on medium heat and add the pureed paste to it that we had prepared earlier. You can also add remaining 1/4 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder at this point if you prefer a brighter color of the curry.
  • Add 1 cup water (or more depending on how much gravy you want), and stir well. Then add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, cream and chopped cilantro. Mix and let it cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the roasted paneer, onions and peppers into the curry. Mix well and let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with more cilantro and serve paneer tikka masala with naan or paratha.

Video

Notes

  1. I don’t add cashews or any nuts to this recipe but you can definitely add some cashews along with the onions and tomatoes to make it more creamy.
  2. Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) can definitely be added towards the end for that nice aroma.
  3. If using store bought paneer, remember to soak it in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes before using in the recipe.
  4. You can also strain the onion-tomato mixture after blending it, that will make the curry totally smooth. I didn’t do it to save time.
  5. Older recipe: I have updated the recipe to make it better. The older recipe didn’t have onions and pepper added to the marinade and had a tablespoon of less butter in the curry. You can definitely use the old recipe, it’s almost same except these minor changes.

Nutrition

Calories: 367kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 27g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 64mg, Sodium: 536mg, Potassium: 574mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 12g, Vitamin A: 1803IU, Vitamin C: 51mg, Calcium: 357mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Entree
Cuisine: Indian
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Hi, I’m Manali!

Bringing you easy, delicious vegetarian & vegan recipes! Eating veggies can be fun, you just need to get creative in the kitchen with the right set of ingredients!


4.84 from 54 votes (24 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




116 Comments

  1. Hi this looms awesome just a question, is it necessary to have the hung curd or thick curd or can i just use regular greek yogurt?

  2. 5 stars
    Loved the recipe, made it tonight.

    Some changes: I used low fat Greek yogurt to substitute for the regular yogurt/cream. I also add a handful of cashews near the end while cooking the masala. They had a lovely hint of cream/flavor to the dish.

  3. 4 stars
    This was a great recipe – thank you!

    I did make a few tweaks because of lack of ingredients etc:
    1) Didn’t use any cream – instead I used about 1/2 cup of milk to thicken up the gravy at the end.
    2) I cut down on the butter – still tasted good!
    3) Ran out of paprika, so used cayenne pepper instead. Got the colour I wanted and a nice kick (if you like things a little bit on the spicier end).
    4) I also didn’t use anywhere near as much sugar as I’m not a huge fan of sweet curries. Ended up using about a 1 tsp of sugar.

    I think marinating the paneer beforehand and letting it sit definitely makes a difference in terms of the flavour infusing more.

  4. Thank you so much Manali .
    The recipe was so simple to follow and the turnout at first try was just great.
    Greetings from Fiji Islands

  5. 5 stars
    Excellent Recipe, very tasty. I added tomato puree to sauce too plus some red colouring. Just wondering, does the paneer need to be softened in hot water before youghurt marinade, or is it not necassary. I was told always soften paneer in hot water, which I did before I did this recipe and the paneer was too soft and crumbled? Thank you

    1. store bought paneer yes should be softened in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Homemade paneer no, it’s quite soft to begin with. If your paneer was too soft then you don’t need to soak it. The one I get here at Indian stores always needs soaking, it’s hard otherwise.

  6. This looks delicious! What would you suggest as a substitute for the cream to make it not so dairy heavy?

  7. This was very good ! Thank you for the recipe . I didnโ€™t have any yogurt so I used Cocunut cream. I did not have Garam masala , so I looked up how to make it . Didnโ€™t make it, but used some of the ingredients like a pinch of nutmeg cloves , cumin, coriander and turmeric. I also used canned chopped tomatoes. I made it close to the recipe, going mild on the hot things . It turned out very flavorable and mild to my liking. My husband of course added some hot sauce of his choice. I plan to make this again.

  8. 5 stars
    Good recipe, good outcome , Long tiring way of writing and explaining it ! If itโ€™s precise and short would be great ! Thanks again

  9. 5 stars
    We just spent a two weeks holiday in Sri Lanka and the paneer tikka masala at Mango’s in Jaffna was a favorite. So once back home I rushed to the internet to find something similar. Glad I found your recipe. It is very easy to make – although I used halloumi cheese instead of paneer – and worked out perfectly.

  10. 5 stars
    Here I am in Lancashire, UK. I made this yesterday and we really enjoyed it. Iโ€™ve never cooked with paneer before. I think next time Iโ€™ll try marinading overnight to see if the flavours develop more. Also I interpreted the โ€˜roastโ€™ instruction as โ€˜grillโ€™. I grilled on a high temperature and it worked well.

  11. 5 stars
    Made this recipe for the first time a few weeks ago, my boyfriend loves it so much he insists I make it every week. Now I am teaching him how to cook it. Itโ€™s delicious!

  12. I’m a uni student and would like to make this to freeze for during busy times of the semester- does this recipe freeze well or do you have any tips on doing so? I’m really excited to try your recipe!

    1. I would just make the sauce (minus the cream) and freeze. And marinade and add the paneer later on when it’s time to serve. hope this helps!

  13. 4 stars
    The recipe sounded reasonable so we tripled it!
    My son is home from college and loved it. We added more butter and cream and fresh cilantro at the end. Next time we will add more paneer and more spices. Thank you for a great basic recipe thatโ€™s easy to customize and turn vegan when my daughter comes home!

  14. 5 stars
    We have an indian restaurant near us that we get Tikka from often, tried making this one last night and the whole family thought it was delicious! Thanks!

  15. 5 stars
    Just made this… Absolutely gorgeous ?.. So glad I found this recipe.. Super easy will be another to add to favourite dinner list

  16. 5 stars
    This recipe is unbelievably delicious. I didnโ€™t use any cream and just blended a few soaked cashews with the tomato and onions and it was phenomenal. Better than restaurant. Iโ€™ll make this again and again. Easy. Fast. And super delicious. Thank you so much for this terrific recipe!!!

    1. Cashew is not a part of traditional paneer tikka masala unless it is kaju masala. Use yogurt instead

  17. 5 stars
    This is absolutely delicious.

    I never write reviews for recipes, but I am making an exception for this one.

    We doubled the recipe (tripling the amount of paneer) and have been eating it for a few days, and the longer it sits the better it tastes. It was super simple and flavorful. You can heat up leftovers in the microwave. We didn’t have cumin seeds, so we used the powder. We used greek yogurt for the tikka (a single-serve cup of plain store brand for like 80 cents). We also added cilantro paste during the onion sauteeing step. We didn’t measure anything and just eyeballed amounts based on the pictures. I think we paid around $20 for the ingredients including rice and naan bread (we already had all of the spices and the paneer was the most expensive at $10.98 for 2 packages), and got 5 days worth of dinner.

    We will be making it again.

  18. 5 stars
    Hi Manali
    I made this tonight….it was delicious! Thanks for sharing! I wasnโ€™t sure about whether to puree the cinnamon stick with the rest of the masala (I was worried it might leave a bitter taste) so I took it out. And I wasnโ€™t sure about what you meant by roasting the paneer so I grilled it….it ended up with some, er, โ€œwell doneโ€ bits as the yoghurt marinade caught a bit – but I think that just added to the taste and looked very authentic! My husband (who is a confirmed carnivore) raved about it and said he would choose this over a chicken tikka masala any day as it had a fantastic depth to the flavours and great texture. ? x

    1. so glad you all enjoyed it Justine and if a carnivore says that he would pick this over chicken tikka masala, then that’s a huge compliment! Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I am planning to make this over the weekend. I have yet to make an even decent tikka masala recipe but the comments give me hope. Only question, is this very spicy? I love the flavors but we like quite a bit of spice. Suggestions?

    1. It is not spicy but very flavorful! If you like a lot of heat add more of red chili powder/cayenne pepper while marinating the paneer..maybe 1 teaspoon in place of 1/4? Also you can red chili powder to the curry as well. Itโ€™s totally up to you. Hope this helps!

  20. Just a note unrelated to the recipe. Tikka masala ia not an original Indian dish – it is a british invention.

  21. 5 stars
    Made this this evening. Was amazing. Very tasty and yummy. My boyfriend gave it 11/10. I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out spectacular. Thank you!!!

    1. Hello Lee, I don’t have a recipe for homemade curry powder on the blog yet. But I will definitely try to share one sometime!

  22. 5 stars
    So delicious every time. My family can never have enough curry bad this is just the most perfect side dish or even main course. Absolutely love it.

  23. 5 stars
    I have made this 6 times and also for my daughter ( who has a new baby) who needed a showstopper meal for a dinner party…it was a hit with the vegetarians and the non-vegetarians! Made a separate meal with cubed chicken ( marinated and roasted the same way) and equally as good. Tonight I am trying coconut milk…Itโ€™s almost ready!! Thank you for a perfectly described recipe!

    1. Awesome! I am so glad you all enjoy this recipe so much! You are very welcome and thanks for sharing your feedback, it motivates me to do better! ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Marvelous! Made our paneer yesterday from fresh goat milk and the Tikka Masala tonite. 21 year old son and 10 year old dtr both loved it. Thank you! Pam

      1. what do you use to blend all your spices and onions/tomatoes, etc to make it so smooth? Do you have a particular blender that you use? My kitchen appliances always leave chunks of ginger or whatever I’m blended and never as smooth looking as yours.

      2. To get it very smooth, you need a high speed blender. Any good one would do, I have blendtec.

  25. I used Tofu instead of Paneer and guess what it turned out awesome! My family loved it especially my girls who are 5 and 2.5 years, so yes a definite thumbs up to to your recipe.
    Bless You!

  26. I have made tikka masala before but never with paneer. I love this idea and must make it! Thanks for a great recipe!

  27. I am a novice in the kitchen. You made this look easy with your instructions – gave it a try and it worked out great! Thank you.

  28. It was really delicious. However I did use the puree and 1 can of chopped tomatoes. Also–what do you mean by “roast” the paneer? I ended up doing it in a frying pan and it did turn out fine but perhaps there is a better method?? Thanks for a great recipe.

    1. Welcome Pamela, I am glad you liked it! roast the paneer = pan fry the paneer so you did the right thing ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. Hi manali..whan can i use instead of tomatoes or tomato puree..coz tomatoes are restricted to my husband…can i use dry mango powder instead..

    1. Hi priyam, yes go ahead and use dry mango powder. You can even use little tamarind pulp if you want to bring in that tanginess! hope that helps! ๐Ÿ™‚