Paneer Tikka Masala Recipe – Restaurant Style Delight

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This restaurant style Paneer Tikka Masala recipe is brimming with bright flavors from the spiced and creamy tomato onion curry gravy/sauce and delightfully marinated grilled cottage cheese. While this dish may be considered a labor of love, the time and effort are well worth it! This delicious traditional Punjabi dish is something the whole family will love. Make it for dinner tonight and serve with a pile of naan, roti, or paratha. I can almost guarantee the whole family will clean their plates!

paneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany board.

What is Paneer Tikka Masala

For any non-native Indians, I believe it is easiest to explain if we break it down into its component parts.

First, we have paneer. Paneer is ubiquitous in Indian cooking and is a great vegetarian alternative to chicken, lamb and other meats. It is a firm, non-melting cheese that is similar in consistency to tofu.

Tikka refers to a piece of food that has been marinated and grilled. In this case, the paneer cubes are first marinated and later grilled before adding to the gravy.

Finally, we have masala. While masala means any number of spices that are mixed, in this case the masala is referring to the spice laden gravy.

There you have it! Paneer Tikka Masala can literally be translated to a marinated grilled paneer in a creamy, spiced gravy! 

paneer tikka masala garnished with some coriander leaves in a white bowl placed on white napkin on a dark mahogany table.
Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Paneer Tikka Masala

While Paneer Tikka Masala recipe has many steps, do not be discouraged! Nothing is particularly technical or difficult, and I will walk you through each and every step with detailed notes and pictures.

Marinate Paneer

1. In a large bowl, whisk 6 tablespoons hung curd until smooth.

Tip: Hung curd is made by bundling curd (yogurt) in cheesecloth and allowing the whey to drip away. This will result in a thicker yogurt. To omit this step, you can also use Greek yogurt, Icelandic Skyr or Middle Eastern Labneh.

whisked hung curd to make paneer tikka masala recipe.

2. One by one, add the spices, herbs and seasonings listed below:

  • 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder (optional)
  • 2 to 3 pinches of grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder
  • 1 generous pinch of crushed saffron or saffron powder
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch or gram flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt or as required
spice powders and salt added to hung curd.

3. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice

lemon juice being added.

4. Mix everything very well.

everything mixed very well to make marinade.

5. Add the paneer cubes (250 to 300 grams), 1 medium-sized onion (layers separated and cut in squares), 1 medium bell pepper (cut in squares or cubes).

paneer cubes, onions and green bell pepper added.

6. Gently mix again so that the marination coats the paneer, onions and bell peppers evenly. Cover the bowl and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to overnight.

Tip: Do not skimp on marinating time! This marinating process imparts a lot of flavor and is an essential part of making this authentic Paneer Tikka Masala recipe.

paneer cubes, onions and bell pepper mixed gently in the marination.

Grill Paneer in Oven

7. Line a baking tray or pan with aluminum foil or parchment. While this step is technically optional, this method makes it much easier to clean the pan later.

Next, thread the paneer cubes and vegetables on bamboo or metal skewers and place them on the prepared pan. While you don’t have to skewer the paneer, I find that it makes for less work turning the cubes in all preparations.

Tip: If using bamboo skewers, you should soak them in water for at least 10 minutes before skewering the paneer. This will ensure that they do not catch fire while cooking.

Preheat the oven to 200° C (390° F) for at least 10 minutes before you grill the paneer cubes. 

For a regular oven, keep the top heating element on and keep the pan on the top rack. For a microwave oven use the convection mode and preheat at 180° C (350° F).

paneer cubes, onion and capsicum being threaded on a bamboo skewer.

8. Brush about 1 to 2 teaspoons oil evenly on the paneer, onion and bell pepper cubes.

oil being brushed on the threaded paneer.

9. Grill the skewered paneer cubes and veggies in a preheated oven at 200° C (390° F) for a total of 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the oven temperatures). Halfway through remove the skewers and turn over for even grilling.

Just keep an eye when the paneer is baking in the oven. You want the cubes to begin to brown at the edges, but you don’t want it to burn.

paneer skewers being grilled in the oven.

10. Below is the oven grilled tikka cubes. You can brown the edges a bit more if you want but do not overcook the paneer cubes.

grilled paneer cubes out from the oven to make paneer tikka masala recipe.

Pan Fry Marinated Paneer

11. Heat about 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a flat pan or frying pan or a skillet until shimmering. Place the skewers on the pan and begin to pan fry them on medium heat.

paneer skewers being pan fried on a skillet.

12. When one side is crisp and browned, gently rotate the skewers. Keep on rotating until all sides are browned. If necessary, add more oil to the pan while frying. 

However you cook your paneer, you’ll want to remove the skewers and set the grilled paneer and vegetables to the side while you make your gravy. 

paneer skewers being pan fried till golden to make paneer tikka masala recipe.

More Prep

13. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add halved onions (2 medium sized) and 3 medium-sized tomatoes to the boiling water.

Cook for one or two minutes. Turn off heat. Cover and keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Tip 1: For a slightly sweeter gravy, you can add 10 to 12 cashews to the hot water with the onion and tomato. Adding cashews gives a creamier consistency with a nice sweetness. You can add them to the onion paste in the next step.

Tip 2: To make the tomatoes easier to peel, make a small “x” in the skin with a paring knife or a small knife before adding to the boiling water. The skin will slide right off!

onions and tomatoes being blanched in hot water to make paneer tikka recipe.

14. Later chop the onions roughly and make a smooth paste in a grinder, blender or with a mortar and pestle. Do not add any water while blending the onions.

onions ground to a fine paste in a blender to make gravy or curry base.

15. Peel and roughly chop the tomatoes. Make a smooth puree of the tomatoes in the grinder or blender. Keep both the onion paste and tomato puree aside.

tomato pureed in a blender to make paneer tikka masala recipe.

16. Whisk or beat 2 to 2.5 tablespoons fresh curd (yogurt) till smooth and keep aside. There should be no lumps in the yogurt and it should be beaten well.

curd (yogurt) being beaten with a spoon.

Sauté

17. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until shimmering and add the onion paste.

Tip: If you pan fried the paneer, use the same pan for easier clean up!

onion paste added in hot oil in a pan.

18. Stir often and sauté until the onion paste turns golden. This takes time so do not be in a hurry.

onion paste sautéed till golden to for paneer tikka masala recipe.

19. Add 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste and sauté until the scent of raw ginger and garlic goes away. This should take approximately some 5 to 10 seconds.

Tip: Burnt garlic has a very bitter, acrid taste. Be sure to stir the ginger-garlic paste continuously and add the tomato purée as soon as the garlic is cooked through.

ginger-garlic paste added.

20. Add the prepared tomato purée. Stir well and sauté until you see fat leaving sides of the masala. Do not rush this process.

tomato puree added to make paneer tikka masala gravy.

21. Now add all the dry spice powders listed below:

  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder or kashmiri red chili powder or sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder – optional
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala powder or tandoori masala
spice powders added.

22. Stir and combine well so that the spices are incorporated in the masala paste evenly. Now remove the pan from heat and place it on the kitchen countertop.

spice powders mixed very well.

23. Add the 2 to 2.5 tablespoons of beaten fresh curd (yogurt). Be sure to use full fat fresh curd.

Tip: When adding cultured dairy to a dish, you should always remove the pan from heat before stirring it in. This will keep the dairy from breaking or separating in your sauce.

beaten curd added.

24. Mix very well.

curd mixed with the rest of the onion-tomato masala.

Make Paneer Tikka Masala

25. Add water and salt. Mix and stir again. Place the pan again on the stovetop on low to medium-low heat.

water added and mixed to make paneer tikka recipe.

26. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes or till the gravy thickens and you see fat floating on the top. The consistency ranges from medium to slightly thick.

You can alter the consistency to your liking by adding more or less water.

masala gravy being simmered.

27. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons light cream (or low-fat cream) or 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream and ½ teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves).

Stir to mix well and simmer on a low heat for a minute. Check the taste and add more salt or cream if you prefer. 

Tip: You can also about ½ to 1 teaspoon of sugar for a bit of extra sweetness.

cream and kasuri methi added.

28. Finally, add the grilled or pan-fried paneer and veggies cubes.

paneer tikka cubes added in the gravy.

29. Turn off the heat and mix well.

grilled paneer, onion, capsicum cubes mixed in the curry.

30: Garnish with 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves and serve your homemade Paneer Tikka Masala with some naan, roti or jeera rice.

Tuck in with a spoon and watch your family’s faces dissolve into ecstasy! This dish is always a hit, even with people new to Indian cuisine.

paneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany table.

Expert Tips

  • Gravy or sauce: For the gravy or curry, use ripe, red and slightly sweet tomatoes. Avoid using tomatoes which are too tangy or sour or unripe.
  • Curd (Yogurt): For marinating the paneer cubes, use fresh hung curd or use fresh full fat thick yogurt (thick curd). Do not use curd which has become sour.
  • How is hung curd made? Hung curd is made by allowing all the whey (water) to drain from fresh curd or yogurt. The curd is bundled in a muslin or cheese cloth, placed on a sieve having a bowl beneath (to collect the whey) overnight or for 4 to 5 hours in the refrigerator. A heavy object like a small pan or pestle is kept on top of the bundle. Use 1 cup of fresh curd (yogurt) to make hung curd for this recipe.
  • Paneer: Paneer is firm cottage cheese made by curdling milk with lemon juice or vinegar. It is very easy to make paneer. For making any paneer based curry dish, it is always best to make the paneer at home. If using packaged paneer, then follow the instructions mentioned on the pack before marinating them. Check my Homemade Paneer recipe.
  • Grilling or pan-frying: Do not grill or pan-fry the paneer cubes for a long time as this will result in the cubes getting dense and rubbery.
  • Consistency: The consistency of the gravy is medium to medium-thick. So add water accordingly to get the consistency you prefer.
  • Paneer Swap: Simply substitute extra firm tofu or seitan for any recipe that calls for paneer. You could also opt to use soya chaap (or soy curls) instead.

FAQs

Can I make Paneer Tikka Masala recipe without garlic and onion?

Yes! You can easily sub a few pinches of hing (also known as asafoetida) for the alliums. For the marinade, add a pinch of hing instead of garlic paste.

For the gravy, add one to two pinches of hing when you add the ginger paste. You can also add the paneer tikka pieces in a makhani or makhanwala gravy which does not use yogurt or onions. 

What is kasuri methi? Can I substitute something else for it?

Kasuri Methi are fenugreek leaves that have been sun-dried. It tastes like a combination of fennel and celery with a bit of a bitter bite. If you don’t have access to kasuri methi, just omit it from the sauce entirely.

Can I make a vegan paneer tikka masala recipe?

Absolutely! Simply switch out extra firm tofu for the paneer. Use a coconut or cashew yogurt that you have strained in place of the hung curd. Swap coconut cream for the heavy cream.

Can I make this in a tandoor?

Certainly! If you’re lucky enough to have one, this recipe would be even more authentic in a tandoor oven.

Can I make the paneer on the grill?

Yes! You will definitely want to skewer the paneer and vegetables on metal skewers.

More Questions Answered

What is hung curd? Is there something I can use instead?
Hung curd is regular yogurt that is then strained with cheesecloth to remove all the whey. For this recipe you can use 1 cup of fresh curd (yogurt) to make hung curd.

If you prefer to omit this step, Greek yogurt, skyr and labneh are all perfectly acceptable substitutes.

Can I use store bought paneer?
While I highly recommend making your own paneer at home (it just tastes so much better!), you can certainly use store bought in a pinch. Be sure to follow any package instructions before marinating.

What makes this dish Punjabi?
Punjab is a region in Northern India, and Punjabi cuisine is the food that originates from there. Punjab is a highly agricultural region, and their cuisine is made up of locally grown staples.

Dairy is quite prevalent in the region, meaning many famous Punjabi dishes are made with milk or cream. Other Punjabi dishes you might be familiar with are Chana Masala, Rajma Masala, Kadhi Pakora and Lassi.

Why does my paneer taste rubbery?
Rubbery paneer is often a result of overcooking. First, be sure that you aren’t overcooking it in the “grilling” step. Second, you should add the paneer to the sauce after it has been removed from the heat. You want to allow it to warm in the sauce, but not continue cooking.

More Tasty Indian Paneer Dishes

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paneer tikka masala served in a white bowl garnished with some coriander leaves on a dark mahogany table.

Paneer Tikka Masala Recipe (Restaurant Style)

This Paneer Tikka Masala is a restaurant style recipe with bright flavors from the creamy and spiced tomato onion curry gravy or sauce and delightfully marinated grilled cottage cheese. Best served with a side of naan, chapati, roti or paratha.
4.86 from 54 votes
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Cuisine North Indian, Punjabi
Course Main Course
Diet Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Difficulty Level Moderate
Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

For marination

  • 250 to 300 grams Paneer (cottage cheese) – cut into cubes or squares
  • 1 bell pepper or capsicum, medium-sized – diced (green, red, yellow)
  • 1 onion medium-sized, halved and the layers removed
  • 6 tablespoons Hung Curd or Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger Garlic Paste – or 3 to 4 small to medium garlic cloves and 1 inch ginger crushed to a smooth paste in mortar-pestle
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder or deghi mirch or red chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Coriander Powder – optional
  • ½ teaspoon Garam Masala or tandoori masala powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • 2 to 3 pinches nutmeg powder or grated nutmeg (ground nutmeg)
  • 12 to 15 saffron strands – crushed, or 1 generous pinch of saffron powder – optional
  • 1 tablespoon gram flour or chickpea flour or cornstarch
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons oil – for brushing, only if grilling or baking
  • ½ teaspoon salt or as required
  • 4 tablespoons oil – for pan frying

For blanching

  • water as required – for blanching
  • 1 pinch salt – for blanching
  • 2 onions – medium-sized or 1 large onion or 100 grams onion – peeled and halved
  • 3 tomatoes – medium-sized, or 200 grams tomatoes

Other ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Ginger Garlic Paste or 3 to 4 small to medium garlic cloves + 1 inch ginger crushed in a mortar-pestle to a paste
  • 2 to 2.5 tablespoons curd (yogurt), full fat or made with whole milk – whisked well till smooth
  • 2 tablespoons oil or 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder (ground coriander)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder (ground cumin), optional
  • ½ teaspoon Garam Masala
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder or kashmiri red chili powder or deghi mirch or cayenne pepper or paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • ½ teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves – crushed (kasuri methi)
  • ½ cup water or add as required
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons light cream – 25% to 35% low fat cream or 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • salt as required
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar – optional
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons coriander leaves – chopped (cilantro), for garnish

Instructions
 

Marinating paneer

  • Whisk the hung curd or greek yogurt till smooth in a large bowl. You can also use a really thick curd instead of hung curd.
  • Add all the ginger-garlic paste, spice powders, lemon juice, corn starch or gram flour and salt. Mix well.
  • Add the paneer cubes, onions, bell pepper.
  • Gently mix again so that the marination coats the paneer, onions and bell peppers evenly. Cover the bowl and marinate for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

Grilling paneer in oven

  • Line a baking tray or pan with aluminum foil. This method makes its easier to clean the pan later.
  • Thread the paneer cubes on a bamboo or metal skewers and place them on the prepared pan.
    Preheat the oven to 200° C (390° F) for at least 10 minutes before you grill the paneer cubes. 
  • For a regular oven, keep only the top heating element on and keep the pan in the top rack. For a microwave oven use the convection mode and preheat at 180° C (350° F).
  • Brush about 1 to 2 teaspoons oil evenly on the paneer and bell pepper cubes.
  • Grill the skewered paneer cubes and veggies in a preheated oven at 200° C (390° F) for a total of 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the oven temperatures).
    While grilling remove the tikka halfway, turn over each paneer cubes & vegetables and then continue to grill.
  • Just keep an eye when the paneer is getting grilled in the oven.

Pan frying tikka cubes

  • Heat about 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a pan. Place the threaded paneer cubes and veggies with the skewers on the pan.
  • Fry the paneer cubes on medium heat. Adjust the heat as needed.
  • Gently rotate the skewers, when one side is crisp and browned. Keep on rotating till all the sides are browned.
  • Add more oil if required, while frying. Keep the fried paneer cubes and veggies aside.

Making onion and tomato puree

  • Boil water with a pinch of salt. Add halved onions and tomatoes to the boiling water.
  • Cook for one or two minutes. Turn off the heat. Cover and keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes. 
  • You can also add cashews to the hot water. Adding cashews gives a creamier consistency with a nice sweetness.
  • Later drain and chop the onions and tomatoes roughly. It is not necessary to blanch, but blanching reduces the cooking time later.
  • Next chop the onions roughly and make a smooth fine paste in a grinder or blender.
  • Peel and roughly chop the tomatoes. Make a smooth and fine puree of the tomatoes in the grinder or blender. Keep both the onion and tomato puree aside.
  • Whisk or beat the yogurt till smooth and keep aside. There should be no lumps in the yogurt and it should be beaten well.

Making paneer tikka masala

  • In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil and then add the onion paste.
  • Stir often and saute till the onions paste turns golden.
  • Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for some seconds till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.
  • Add the tomato puree. Stir well and saute till you see fat leaving sides of the masala.
  • Now add all the dry spice powders – turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala or tandoori masala.
  • Stir well so that the spices are incorporated in the masala paste evenly.
  • Turn off heat and remove the pan from the stovetop and place on the kitchen countertop.
  • Add beaten fresh curd (yogurt). Removing the pan from stovetop, won't allow the yogurt to curdle. Use full fat and fresh curd.
  • Stir to mix well. Add water and salt. Keep pan back on the stovetop on low to medium-low heat. Stir again.
  • Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes or till the gravy thickens and you see fat floating on the top.
    You can keep the consistency from medium to slightly thick. The consistency can be altered by adding more or less water.
  • Add cream and kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves). Stir well and simmer on a low heat for a minute.
    Check the taste and add more salt or cream if you prefer. You can also about ½ to 1 teaspoon of sugar for a light sweet taste.
  • Then add the grilled or pan-fried paneer and veggies cubes. Turn off the heat and mix well.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve Paneer Tikka Masala with some naan, roti or jeera rice.

Video

Notes

  • Tomatoes: For the gravy or curry, use ripe, red and slightly sweet tomatoes. Avoid using tomatoes which are too tangy or sour or unripe. 
  • Curd (Yogurt): For marinating the paneer cubes, use fresh hung curd or use a thick yogurt like Greek yogurt. Do not use hung curd which has become sour. For the gravy too, use fresh curd or yogurt. 
  • You can easily make hung curd:
    • Line a clean muslin or cheesecloth on a strainer on top of the bowl.
    • Place the fresh curd or yogurt on the muslin or cheesecloth.
    • Bring together all edges of the muslin and make a knot.
    • Gently press and keep the muslin on the strainer.
    • Press a heavy weight object like a lid or bowl or tray on top of the muslin. 
    • Place the bowl, strainer, muslin with the curd, weight et all in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours or overnight. The whey will collect in the bowl and creamy smooth hung curd will be left in the muslin. 
    • For this recipe you can use 1 cup of fresh curd to make hung curd. 
  • Paneer: For making any paneer based curry dish, it is always best to make the paneer at home. If using packaged paneer, then follow the instructions mentioned on the pack before marinating them. 
  • Grilling or pan-frying: Do not grill or pan-fry the paneer cubes for a long time as this will result in the cubes getting dense and rubbery. 
  • Curd: Be sure to use curd or yogurt made from whole milk or full-fat curd for the tikka gravy or sauce. 
  • Consistency: The consistency of the gravy is medium to medium-thick. So add water accordingly to get the consistency you prefer. 

Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)

Nutrition Facts
Paneer Tikka Masala Recipe (Restaurant Style)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 379 Calories from Fat 252
% Daily Value*
Fat 28g43%
Saturated Fat 13g81%
Cholesterol 59mg20%
Sodium 634mg28%
Potassium 438mg13%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 14g28%
Vitamin A 1206IU24%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin B12 1µg17%
Vitamin C 43mg52%
Vitamin D 1µg7%
Vitamin E 4mg27%
Vitamin K 12µg11%
Calcium 375mg38%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 34µg9%
Iron 1mg6%
Magnesium 25mg6%
Phosphorus 99mg10%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This Paneer Tikka Masala recipe post from the archives first published in October 2014 has been updated and republished on February 2023.

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