Learn how to make incredible Paneer Tikka Masala at home with this simple vegetarian recipe. Seasoned paneer is broiled in a yogurt marinade, then served in a rich, creamy tomato sauce. Your kitchen will smell amazing!
Whenever we dine at Indian restaurants, I almost always order a paneer dish. I’m not a vegetarian, but there’s something about paneer that is so incredibly good, especially when it’s surrounded by a creamy, Indian-spiced sauce. While I’ve ordered many paneer dishes over time and have loved them all, paneer tikka masala remains my favorite (though the butter paneer at Rasika in DC is a close second).
How to Make Paneer Tikka Masala
This recipe is almost identical to my chicken tikka masala, but with the main ingredient swapped out. You start by seasoning the paneer with a few spices and letting it rest for a bit. While the paneer is resting, a simple yogurt sauce is prepared, which you also want to let rest so the garlic and ginger can infuse into the yogurt.
Next, you prepare a creamy tomato sauce on the stovetop by simmering several ingredients together, including canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, cream, and assorted spices. It will make your kitchen smell incredible.
You then dice up the paneer, dip it into the yogurt sauce, and broil until the cheese is hot and slightly browned. Stir the paneer into the simmering tomato cream sauce, and voila. Homemade paneer tikka masala!
What is Paneer?
Paneer is a fresh cheese that’s commonly used in Indian cuisine. It’s an un-aged farmer cheese that doesn’t melt, with a firm but creamy texture and a smooth, neutral texture. It’s an excellent ingredient to use in place of meat or tofu to create vegetarian entrees.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is a type of clarified butter from which the water and solids have been removed, allowing it to be cooked at a higher temperature than oil. Originally from India, it’s often used in Indian, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s also used in traditional medicine and religious rituals.
If you don’t want to purchase ghee for this recipe, you can use a different oil (see the recipe notes for examples). However, using ghee enhances the flavor of this recipe so much, getting it closer to a restaurant quality sauce. You can also use ghee for pan frying or sautéing meat, veggies, and tofu. It adds an amazing flavor to any savory recipe, so it won’t go to waste if you purchase it.
Where To Buy Paneer
Whole Foods and Wegmans carry paneer, and you can also find it at Indian grocery stores. I’d imagine there are other grocery chains that carry it, so you may need call around to your local stores.
If you’re into DIY, you can also make it yourself!
More Vegetarian Entrees
If you like this paneer tikka masala recipe, you may also like my Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta, Vegetarian Chili, and Eggplant Lasagna! I also love this Cheese Tortellini in Garlic Butter Sauce from Culinary Hill.
Paneer Tikka Masala
For the Paneer
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 2 tablespoons melted ghee or vegetable oil (see notes)
- 3 medium garlic cloves minced (about 3 teaspoons)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
For the Masala Sauce
- 3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil (see notes)
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 4 cups cooked basmati rice
- naan bread (or garlic naan bread), optional
- Prepare the Paneer: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the paneer with the spice mixture, pressing gently so it adheres. Set the paneer on plate, cover with plastic film, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, ghee, garlic, and ginger. Cover and set aside so the flavors have a chance to blend.
- Prepare the Sauce: Heat the ghee (or oil) in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat until thin and shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly caramelized, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, pepper, tomato paste, and garam masala. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sugar, and salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cream and remove the pan from heat, covering to keep the sauce warm.
- While the sauce is simmering, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position, then preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil. Dip the paneer into the yogurt mixture (the paneer should be coated with thick layer of sauce) and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Discard any leftover yogurt. Broil until the paneer is hot and the exterior is lightly browning in spots, 10 to 12 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. (Note: the time may vary depending on your oven’s broiler. You may want to use the “low broil” setting if your oven has one).
- Remove the paneer from the oven and stir into the warm sauce. Add in the cilantro, adjust seasoning if needed, and serve with rice and/or naan.
- Leftovers will keep in an airtight container the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. (I add a splash of cream when reheating leftovers; the sauce thickens up slightly as it sits).
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