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.
If you’ve tried our chicken tikka masala before, you’ll no doubt love the meatless version of it that uses paneer. It is an Indian-style firm cheese made from full-fat milk.
Popular in many Indian recipes, it’s most famous in a tikka masala.
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.
Easily one of the most popular dishes in an Indian restaurant; it’s actually ridiculously easy to make it yourself! We love doing it this way because it’s:
- Full of flavor. Made with aromatic tikka masala curry paste, this dish turns out delicious and super flavorful every single time.
- Vegetarian. Like chana masala and vegetable korma, if you are looking for an Indian curry recipe that doesn’t contain meat, then this paneer masala is something you’ll enjoy.
- Adjustable heat. You can make this dish as spicy as you like by adjusting the number of chili peppers you put in it (like we do with our dahl!).
This recipe calls for simple, everyday ingredients that can be found at mainstream grocery stores. If you have trouble finding paneer, try Asian supermarkets or specialty markets. Here is what you’ll need:
- Paneer. Cut into 2-inch pieces.
- Yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt to marinate the paneer.
- Tikka masala curry paste. A flavorful paste that contains a range of spices and tomato paste.
- Curry leaves. To give the dish a robust curry flavor.
- Onion. Chopped brown onion.
- Chili pepper. Chopped and seeded. Adjust the number of chilis you use depending on the level of spiciness you like.
- Garlic. Minced.
- Vegetable broth. To provide a flavorful base for the sauce.
- Tomatoes. Canned diced tomatoes works, or fresh ones.
- Tomato paste. To enrich the flavor of the sauce.
- Heavy cream. To make the tikka masala sauce silky smooth.
- 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.
How to make paneer tikka masala
Making this recipe is not difficult at all. Even if you don’t cook Indian dishes often, making this dish shouldn’t be a problem for you so long as you follow these steps.
Step 1 – 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.
Step 2 – Cook the sauce
Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the curry leaves and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Next, 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.
Step 3 – Pan-fry paneer and combine it with the sauce
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 paneer and soak it in hot water for around 10 minutes. The hot water will greatly improve the consistency of the cheese.
- Strain the sauce to make it extra smooth. While this step is totally optional, you can strain the tikka masala 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 for paneer tikka masala.
- Serve with naan. Paneer tikka masala is great with rice, but it is also delicious to pair with naan.
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 curry recipes to try
Frequently asked questions
Paneer masala is not the sam as tikka masala. Tikka masala is essentially the gravy in which the paneer cubes are served for this dish.
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.
Shahi paneer is another popular Indian paneer dish consisting of paneer pieces served in a thick sauce. Unlike paneer tikka masala, the cheese pieces are not marinated and are pan-fried for shahi paneer. They are added straight to the sauce consisting of cream, various spices, and, most importantly, cashew paste.
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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What can I use if I can’t find paneer or curry leaves?
The sauce is delicious. Will make again using a couple more curry leaves. I used chicken instead of paneer to reduce the sodium.