Paneer Tikka Masala

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

paneer curry served in a white bowl garnished with cilantro with naan in the background
Manali
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!
4.81 from 47 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Entree
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 367 kcal

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

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: 367kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 12gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 64mgSodium: 536mgPotassium: 574mgFiber: 4gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 1803IUVitamin C: 51mgCalcium: 357mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @cookwithmanali or tag #cookwithmanali!

104 thoughts on “Paneer Tikka Masala

  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 didn’t have any yogurt so I used Cocunut cream. I did not have Garam masala , so I looked up how to make it . Didn’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.

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