Featuring golden fried paneer pieces in luscious gravy, paneer tikka masala is a captivating Indian dish everyone should try. Perfect for vegetarians, this deeply-spiced recipe is the taste of India on a plate.
Craving vegetarian Indian takeout? Making this paneer tikka masala recipe is your answer.
This is an easy homemade recipe that rivals any Indian restaurant out there. It takes minutes to make, and you can even marinate the paneer cheese in advance!
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Why this recipe works
If you’ve ever ordered this dish at a restaurant, you may be apprehensive to make it at home, but honestly, it’s a mostly hands-off recipe that even a beginner cook could make.
- Full of flavor. Made with aromatic tikka masala curry paste, this dish turns out delicious and super flavorful every single time.
- Perfect texture. Unlike other curries or stews that rely on specific cooking times to ensure the protein is moist and tender, this recipe is super forgiving, and the paneer remains tender and soft at all times.
- 100% Vegetarian. This is the perfect Indian curry to make when you need a meat-free meal that packs in protein.
What is paneer tikka masala?
Paneer tikka masala is an Indian dish featuring paneer cheese in a gravy flavored with spices. To make this Indian curry, paneer is cut into cubes and marinated in yogurt. It is then pan-fried and combined with the flavorful sauce.
This paneer masala tikka recipe is so simple, and besides the paneer and a bunch of fragrant spices, there isn’t really much else needed to make. Here is what you’ll need:
- Paneer. Thanks to the global cooking trend, paneer is easily found at almost any mainstream grocery store, usually in the cheese section (mine was near the feta cheese). Cut into 2-inch pieces.
- Yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt to marinate the paneer. Greek yogurt or plain coconut yogurt also works.
- Tikka masala curry paste. A flavorful paste that contains a range of spices and tomato paste. While you can make your own, I find the store bought kind to be a simple shortcut that doesn’t affect the flavor whatsoever.
- Curry leaves. To give the dish a robust curry flavor.
- Onion. Chopped.
- Chili pepper. Chopped and seeded. Adjust the number of chilis you use depending on the level of spiciness you like. I like mine more on the spicier side so tend to add more but if it’s your first time, be conservative (you can always add more!).
- Garlic. Minced.
- Vegetable broth. To provide a flavorful base for the sauce. Choose a good quality broth with minimal additives in it.
- Tomatoes. Canned diced tomatoes or fresh ones.
- Tomato paste. To enrich the flavor of the sauce.
- Heavy cream. To make the tikka masala sauce silky smooth. Either standard heavy cream or heavy whipping cream will work.
- Lemon juice. To balance and brighten the flavor of the dish.
- Olive oil. To sauté the vegetables and pan-fry the paneer. Any other neutral cooking oil will work.
Want to make this dish dairy-free? Swap out the heavy cream for full-fat coconut cream.
How to make paneer tikka masala
Marinate the paneer: Add yogurt and half the tikka masala curry to a large mixing bowl. Slice the paneer cheese into same-size pieces and add to the bowl. Mix to coat the cheese with yogurt, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 4 hours.
Make the gravy: Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the curry leaves and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chopped onion, chili peppers, and minced garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add the remaining tikka masala curry paste along with the vegetable broth, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer until it thickens into a rich gravy.
Pan-fry paneer and combine it with the gravy: While the sauce cooks, add oil to a pan and pan-fry the paneer until it’s nice and golden. Add the paneer to the sauce and cook for another 15 minutes. Add the heavy cream and lemon juice and serve immediately.
Tips to make the best recipe
Soak the paneer in hot water. It is common for store-bought paneer to be a little hard or rubbery. If this is the case for you, slice the cheese and soak it in hot water for around 10 minutes. The hot water will greatly improve the consistency of the cheese.
Strain the gravy to make it extra smooth. While this step is totally optional, you can strain the sauce to make it extra smooth.
Add butter to make it creamier. Once you add the heavy cream, add a knob of butter to the sauce to make it rich, creamy, and glossy.
Top with fresh herbs. Fresh cilantro and mint are the perfect finishing touch to this dish.
To store. Place leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
To reheat. Reheat paneer tikka masala on the stove on low heat. Add water, vegetable broth, or heavy cream if needed.
More vegetarian favorites to try
Frequently asked questions
Paneer tikka features the cheese grilled on skewers, often served as an appetizer. Paneer tikka masala is the curried version, served in a hearty gravy.
Yes, you can freeze paneer tikka masala. Divide it into portions and freeze it in airtight containers for up to 3 months. Defrost it overnight in the fridge before reheating it.
There are approximately 309 calories in a serving of paneer tikka masala. This does not include any side dishes or condiments.
Paneer Tikka Masala
- 1/2 lb paneer sliced into 2-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons tikka masala paste divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 curry leaves
- 1/2 large brown onion chopped
- 1/2 small chili seeded and chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 6 ounces diced tomatoes canned
- 1/1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- Add the sliced paneer, yogurt, and half the tikka masala curry paste in a large bowl and mix well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes, or up to 4 hours, to marinate.
- Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a non-stick pan and place over medium heat. Once hot, add the curry leaves and cook until fragrant. Add the onion, chili, and garlic and cook for two minutes or until translucent. Add the remaining tikka masala curry paste, broth, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer until the sauce has thickened.
- In a separate pan, add the remaining oil. Cook the paneer until slightly charred. Add the paneer to the sauce and simmer everything together until the sauce thickens even more.
- Stir through heavy cream and lemon juice and serve immediately.
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