Paneer tikka masala is a delicious dish featuring marinated cheese in a perfectly spiced creamy sauce. This classic dish warms up any night with its cozy flavors. Served over rice or paired with naan or roti, this recipe creates a filling comfort meal your family will devour.
What is a Paneer Tikka Masala?
Paneer tikka masala is a delicious marinated paneer (Indian cottage cheese) in a spicy, creamy gravy. Perfect for a cold night, it makes a filling meal when served over basmati rice or jeera rice. It also pairs well with naan or roti.
This recipe is a vegetarian take on chicken tikka masala. Both versions are served at Indian restaurants around the world due to their popularity.
What do you need to make this recipe?
You’ll need to gather ingredients for the paneer marinade and for the gravy.
Here’s what you’ll need for the marinade:
- Paneer. Check out our homemade paneer recipe, here.
- Small red onion - cut into cubes
- Bell pepper - a small one of any color and cut into cubes
- Thick yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
- Ginger garlic paste
- Kashmiri Red chili powder
- Garam Masala
- Turmeric powder
- Juice from half a lime
You’ll also need to the following to make the tikka masala:
- Ginger-garlic paste
- Medium onion - roughly chopped
- Tomatoes - chopped into big chunks
- Salt - to taste
- Heavy cream
- Dried Fenugreek leaves
- Red chili powder
- Garam masala
- Turmeric powder
- Cilantro - to garnish
How to make paneer tikka masala
When you are ready to make our paneer tikka masala, you’ll need to get a skillet or air fryer and your Instant Pot or pressure cooker. You’ll need the skillet or air fryer to crisp up the paneer. And you’ll use the Instant Pot to make the creamy gravy.
Preparing the paneer
To start, mix all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and add the paneer, bell pepper and onions to it. Once you add the paneer, use a pair of tongs or spoons to toss it until it is coated with the marinade. When coated, set aside for around 15 minutes.
After the paneer has marinated and absorbed the flavors, remove the onions, peppers, and cheese and place into the air fryer basket preheated to 390 degrees. Cook the veggies and paneer for 5 minutes. Halfway through, flip the paneer to ensure even cooking. Check out our Tandoori Paneer Tikka for detailed instructions.
If you are using a pan or skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, add the paneer cubes and veggies and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Flip the paneer and move the veggies around to prevent burning and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until both sides are golden brown. Finally, remove the paneer from heat and set it aside.
Making the masala gravy
When the paneer is ready, add the onions, tomatoes, ginger garlic paste, cashews, yogurt, red chili powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, salt, yogurt, and water to the inner pot of the Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker.
Next, place the lid on and set the valve to the sealing position. With the lid in place, set the pressure cooker to cook for 5 minutes. Once the timer goes off, do a quick release to remove the pressure immediately.
Carefully remove the lid and allow the contents to cool for a 1 to 2 minutes. Once it has cooled a little bit, use a hand or immersion blender to carefully blend the sauce until it is smooth.
When the gravy is as smooth as you can get it, carefully strain the mixture into a large bowl. You may need to strain it again one or more times to get as smooth a tomato puree as possible.
Next, rinse out the inner pot and remove any leftover gravy. Once clean, place the inner pot back into the Instant Pot and pour the puree, cream, and sugar into the pot and mix it together well.
After you stir it, set the Instant Pot on saute mode and cook the gravy for 5 to 8 minutes. The gravy will start to thicken as it cooks.
Finally, add the cooked paneer, veggies, and kastoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) into the gravy and stir it all together. Serve over rice, with naan, or both for a comforting, cold weather meal.
Pro tips and tricks
Here’s what you need to do to make the perfect paneer tikka masala.
- Allow your paneer to come up to room temperature before using it in the air fryer or in a skillet.
- Make sure you strain the gravy at least once to remove any lumps, seeds, or other chunks before thickening the gravy for a smooth and delicious gravy.
- Don’t add raw paneer to the gravy, it won’t have the right texture or flavor.
- If you prefer, you can skip adding onions or peppers.
Where can I find Paneer
We like to make our paneer at home as it is really easy and uses only 2 ingredients. You can check out the recipe here.
However Paneer is available at most Indian markets. If you don’t live near a local Indian market, you can order paneer online. We recommend using a high quality paneer for the best texture and flavor. If you use cheaper paneer, it can be rubbery and bland in flavor.
If you love marinated paneer, you should check out our Tandoori Paneer Tikka recipe. You can prepare these tasty skewers in the oven, air fryer, or with your CrispLid on the Instant Pot.
What can I serve with Paneer Tikka Masala
What is the difference between Paneer Tikka Masala and Paneer Makhani?
Paneer tikka masala and paneer makhani are similar recipes. They both use paneer or Indian cottage cheese as a primary ingredient.
They both also have gravies. Where they differ is how they are flavored. Paneer makhani gets the foundation and flavor of its gravy from butter. On the other hand, spices provide the primary flavor to paneer tikka masala.
Can I use a pan instead of an air fryer for paneer tikka?
Yes! You don’t need an air fryer, but it does make it a bit easier. We like using the air fryer because it takes a bit of guesswork and hassle out of cooking.
When you use a pan, you need to add about a tablespoon of oil to the skillet or pan. Once the oil is added, heat the pan over medium-high heat. Next, add the paneer and cook each side for about 2 to 3 minutes or until each side turns golden brown.
The result will be about the same as the air fryer. You just need to stay vigilant to avoid burning the paneer.
Are you a Indian food lover? Then you will love our recipes
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- Paneer - 12 oz
- Small red onion / cubes - 1/2
- Small any color bell pepper/ cubes - 1/2
- Thick yogurt or plain Greek yogurt - 1/4 cup
- Ginger garlic paste - 1 teaspoon
- Kashmiri Red chili powder - 1 teaspoon
- Garam Masala - 1 teaspoon
- Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
- Lime juice - 1/2
- salt to taste
- ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
- medium onion / roughly chopped - 1
- large tomatoes / chopped in big chunks - 3
- cashews - 1/2 cup
- salt to taste
- yogurt - ¼ Cup
- heavy cream - 1/4 cup
- Water - 1/4 cup
- dried fenugreek leaves - 1 tbsp
- sugar - 1 tbsp
- red chili powder - 1 tsp
- garam masala - 1/2 tsp
- turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
- cilantro to garnish
Marinade The Paneer
- Mix all the ingredients under marinade into a bowl and add paneer to it.
- Toss the paneer, bell peppers and onions in the marinade till the cubes are coated well. Cover and set aside for around 15 minutes
- Air fry or pan fry the marinated paneer and veggies
- Place into the air fryer basket preheated to 390 degrees. Cook the veggies and paneer for around 5 minutes.
- If you are using a pan or skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, add the paneer cubes and veggies and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes each side.
Prepare the Gravy
- Add the onions, tomatoes, ginger garlic paste, cashews, yogurt, red chili powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, salt, yogurt and water in your inner pot of the electric pressure cooker.
- Place the lid and Close with pressure valve to sealing position.
- Pressure cook for 5 minutes followed by quick release.
- Open the electric pressure cooker, allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
- Using a hand blender / immersion blender, carefully blend the sauce until smooth.
- Strain the mixture to get rid of skin and seeds. Strain until silky smooth tomato puree is attained.
- Rinse the inner pot and remove any left-over gravy.
- Add in the strained puree, cream and sugar and mix well.
- Cook until the mixture starts to thicken for 5 -8 minutes.
- Lastly add the pan fried / air fried paneer, onions, and bell peppers and some crushed kastoori methi (dried Fenugreek leaves)
- Serve it with Rice or naan and enjoy this delicious meal
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