Paneer Tikka Masala is the king of vegetarian dishes in the north-Indian cuisine. It’s hard to find an Indian restaurant around the world, which doesn’t feature this, or a variation of this classic. As the name suggests, it is the vegetarian alternative to ‘Chicken Tikka Masala‘, only more delicious!!
There are many variations of this recipe. Dishes like Butter Paneer Masala, Paneer Makhani, Paneer Pasanda, Paneer Lababdar and so on. They are all variations of this recipe and have a similar flavor profile.
How to make Paneer Tikka Masala?
This popular Punjabi delicacy is made by simmering paneer cubes (Indian cottage cheese), in a tomato and onion gravy and seasoned with toasted and ground garam masala. I finish this dish by adding heavy cream to give it that velvety smooth texture.
Some restaurants go an extra mile and marinate and grill the paneer cubes. Having eaten and made this dish all my life, I personally prefer when the paneer cubes are added as-is. I feel they soak up the tikka masala flavors, and the dish comes together like a match made in food heaven!
Easy Weeknight Recipe
This is such an easy dish to make, due to which, it is perfect for treating yourself on a weeknight too! I have made this recipe in my electric pressure cooker- Instant Pot. Pressure cooking infuses the flavors of garam masala in the curry, and gives it a rich, slow-simmered taste.
Paneer Tikka masala can be made on the stove-top too. This is how:
- Chop onions, crush ginger-garlic, puree tomatoes, cube paneer. Heat a Heavy Bottom Deep Skillet or Wok on medium-high heat. Wait 30 seconds and add butter. Add onions and sauté one minute followed by ginger and garlic paste, and sauté another 30 seconds. Add tomato puree, 1/4 cup water and all spices. Stir well. Reduce the heat to medium, cover with a lid, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Open the lid. Using a hand blender or a blender jar, blend the curry into a smooth texture. Finally, add kasoori methi, heavy cream, paneer cubes, and simmer on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro and enjoy!
You can easily customize this recipe to your suit your preferences. For a dairy free version, substitute:
- butter with olive oil
- heavy cream with full-fat coconut cream
- paneer cubes with extra-firm tofu, or soy chunks
Is Paneer Tikka Masala the Same as Paneer Makhani ?
Paneer Tikka Masala is probably the most popular vegetarian entrée at any Indian restaurant. It is said that this recipe was developed in an Indian restaurant in the UK. It is an adaptation of the original Punjabi recipe for Paneer Makhani. To me, the big difference that separates the two is the use of onions in Paneer Tikka Masala. To make the Tikka Masala curry, I start by sautéing onions with tomatoes and aromatics. Whereas, I skip the onion when making the Butter Masala or the Makhani curry. I also add more garam masala in the Tikka Masala curry. As a result, it’s a bit spicier than the Makhani Curry. So, in conclusion, it all comes down to personal preference, since both these dishes taste amazing!
Serving Suggestion for Paneer Tikka Masala
Paneer Tikka Masala goes great with naan, roti and any preparation of basmati rice. I like to eat it with Cumin Rice/Jeera Rice. I like to serve a side of Aloo Gobi with it. I saute potato cubes and cauliflower florets with aromatics, and season it lightly with toasted Indian spices. Since it tastes so light and fresh, it compliments the rich and sweet Tikka Masala curry really well. Most of all, my family just loves this combination. Another preparation of rice that tastes delicious with Paneer Tikka Masala is Spinach Rice. I saute fresh spinach and nutty basmati rice in butter or ghee, add a hint of cumin. So, the result is creamy, soft and fluffy spinach rice!
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Paneer Tikka MasalaPrint Recipe
- 10 oz Paneer block, cubed in to 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4-5 medium tomatoes, pureed, OR 1 14oz can of diced/crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste (1/2 inch ginger + 3 cloves garlic, crushed)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 2 teaspoon Coriander Powder
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Red Chili Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Cardamom Powder (optional)
- 2 teaspoon Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
Prep: Chop onions, crush ginger-garlic, puree tomatoes, cube paneer.
Turn on Instant Pot on sauté. Wait 30seconds and add butter. Add onions and sauté one minute. Add ginger-garlic paste, sauté 30 seconds.
Add tomato puree, 1/4 cup water and all spices. Stir well. Add kasoori methi and half of the heavy cream, 1/4 cup. Save the remaining 1/4 cup for later. Stir. Close lid. Set valve to "sealing'. Cook on Manual (high) for 3 minutes, Natural Pressure Release (NPR) for 5 minutes.
Open lid. Using a hand blender or a blender jar, blend the curry into a smooth texture. Turn on sauté. Add paneer cubes, the remaining heavy cream and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with Naan or Jeera rice.