For a healthy vegetarian dinner, try this Paneer Tikka Masala recipe. Featuring a creamy, saucy curry with paneer, fresh vegetables, and warm spices it’s a flavorful escape to India you can make at home in your kitchen.

a bowl of Paneer masala restaurant style with greek yogurt and bell peppers

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I spent a month after college traveling India, a country whose colors, people, and cuisine still captivate my memory and imagination to this day.

Paneer tikka masala is one dish I still crave regularly to this day (along with Homemade Naan). However, since I can’t pop back over to India any time my craving strikes, I have to try and bring the flavors of India to life in my kitchen.

Sadly, I don’t have access to a mega-market of Indian spices (or the time to toast the spices whole, then grind them with a mortar and pestle the way you might with a truly authentic paneer tikka masala recipe) so this Indian recipe is my adaption.

That said, it is a DELISH adaptation and one that I feel stays true to the spirit and core flavor profiles of the authentic recipe (as does this Instant Pot Lentil Curry).

Healthy Paneer Tikka Masala with greek yogurt in a skillet

5 Star Review

“Closest recipe I’ve found to our favorite Indian restaurant we no longer live close to.”

— Melinda —

If you’re new to Indian food. It’s a cuisine that is deeply and warmly spiced, but it’s not necessarily “spicy” in the sense of “hot.” It’s a delightful, enriching cuisine to explore, and this easy paneer tikka masala is the ideal place to start (then hit up this Instant Pot Butter Chicken).

What Does Paneer TIkka Masala Mean??

About Paneer

Paneer is a firm, mild, and pleasant cheese, similar to a curd you’d find in cottage cheese. EXCEPT (and this is important) it tastes way, WAY better than that description sounds. It’s a bit like a block of feta (or Grilled Halloumi Cheese) but is firmer and far less briny. It’s easy to cook, fairly inexpensive, and high in protein.

I almost feel like the name “cheese” doesn’t apply here because paneer doesn’t taste cheesy. Paneer takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with, making it ideal for adding to rich, flavorful sauces like masalas and curries.

Dishes made with paneer are usually vegetarian. Vegans cannot eat paneer because it is a dairy product.

What Does “Tikka” Mean?

Tikka means “bits” and “pieces.” We have bits and pieces of paneer. Easy!

Tikka dishes can be either baked at a high temperature or cooked over hot coals. For max at-home ease, we’re going the oven-baked route.

What Does “Masala” Mean?

Masala is a broad term that essentially means a mix of spices. Today’s recipe boasts double the masala action: there’s a blend of spices coating the paneer before it’s baked, then a second hit that’s used to make a rich masala gravy (a.k.a. sauce).

For our purposes, I recommend purchasing a premixed masala blend (this recipe calls for garam masala). Remember when I said we were making easy, at-home versions of Indian food (like this Tofu Tikka Masala)? Spice blends are where it’s at!

a close up of restaurant style paneer tikka masala with tomato sauce and peas

How to Make Paneer Tikka Masala

Masalas are like any well-loved recipe that gets passed down through the generations. Everyone has their version…and people tend to think their version is the best. So you shouldn’t be surprised when I say this is the BEST paneer tikka masala you can make at home.


The Ingredients

  • Paneer. I know paneer is a special item to seek out, and I would never ask you to do that if I didn’t think it was 100% worth it. Paneer tikka masala truly is!
  • Garam Masala. Not to be confused with curry powder (used for Potato Curry). Garam masala is a unique blend of spices that will save you oodles of time. Many grocery stores carry it, and you can find it online here.
  • Crushed Tomatoes. These create the masala sauce base.
  • Fresh Ginger and Fresh Garlic. Don’t skimp on these. When in doubt, add more.
  • Greek Yogurt. My trick to making this a healthy paneer tikka masala (also my secret to Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala). It adds body and creaminess without the need for heavy cream.
  • Fresh Vegetables. I add more than is traditional because I want my paneer tikka masala to be a true all-in-one meal.
indian paneer tikka masala with naan in a bowl

The Directions

  1. In a bowl combine the paneer with ginger, garlic, coriander, garam masala, cumin, salt, and Greek yogurt.
  2. Let it marinate.
  3. Arrange the paneer on a sheet pan.
  4. Bake until lightly golden at the edges. Remove and set aside.
  5. Prepare the masala by sauteing the bell pepper, cauliflower, onion, ginger, garlic with salt and pepper over medium-low heat until tender.

TIP!

Do not let the onion brown—if it starts to turn brown, reduce the heat and continue cooking until soft.

  1. Add the tomato paste, garam masala, turmeric, and cayenne to the vegetables and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, cook until hot, then stir in the paneer and peas.
  3. When everything is warmed through, remove from heat, stir in the remaining yogurt, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Serve with cilantro and a side of naan or brown rice. ENJOY!

What to Serve with Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer Tikka Masala is marvelously saucy and begs for something to mix with it. Pick your vehicle of choice:

  • Naan. Fluffy, delicious Indian bread that is prime for mopping up all of that tasty masala gravy. You’ll love this simple Homemade Naan recipe.
  • Brown Rice. Simple and always a tasty option.
  • Cauliflower Rice. If you’d like to make this tikka masala more low carb. The recipe does already call for cauliflower though, so you’d be doubling up.
  • Quinoa. A high-protein option.
vegetarian paneer tikka masala with vegetables in a pot

Breathe new life and excitement into your weekly dinner routine with a little taste of India. (Then try this Chicken Tikka Masala next).

Frequently Asked Questions

Where to Buy Paneer?

For as wildly common and popular as paneer is in India, up until recently, it has been notoriously difficult to find in the United States. Luckily, it’s becoming more readily available. I’ve heard from a few of you that Costco sells it and if you don’t have access to Costco, a quick google search will point you to your nearest Indian Market.

How to Make Paneer from Scratch?

If you can’t find paneer, you can go the extra mile and make the best EVER paneer tikka masala by making your paneer from scratch. Celebrated Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor has this easy paneer recipe.

How is Masala Different from Curry?

The aforementioned definition of masala may sound similar to another popular term in Indian cuisine: curry. Like masala, curry is also a blend of spices. It’s also used to describe thick, rich sauces. While both are frequently used to make thick, yummy, aromatic sauces, they have some distinctive differences in their (long) blend of ingredients that make them unique from one another.

a bowl of Paneer masala restaurant style with greek yogurt and bell peppers

Paneer Tikka Masala

4.95 from 17 votes
How to make a healthy paneer tikka masala step by step. An easy version of paneer masala restaurant style with Greek yogurt and vegetables.

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 45 mins

Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients
  

For the Paneer Tikka:

  • 12 ounces paneer* cut into 3/4-inch cubes (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic about 1 large clove
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala** (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons 2% plain Greek yogurt*** (see note)

For the Masala (Sauce):

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or canola oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium head cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic about 3 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons  garam masala**
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 1 package frozen peas (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt*** (see note)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped
  • For serving: Homemade Naan or prepared brown rice

Instructions
 

  • Place the paneer in a bowl and toss with the ginger, garlic, coriander, garam masala, cumin, and salt.
  • Add the 5 tablespoons of yogurt and stir until the paneer pieces are evenly coated. Let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate and marinate overnight. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick spray. Arrange the paneer cubes on top in an even layer, discarding any excess marinade.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the paneer is lightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • While the paneer bakes, prepare the masala. Heat the coconut oil over medium-low in a large, sturdy skillet. Once hot, add the bell pepper, cauliflower, onion, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute, then increase the heat to medium and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent; about 12 to 15 minutes. Do not let the onion brown—if it starts to turn brown, reduce the heat and continue cooking until soft.
  • Add the tomato paste, garam masala, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook and stir constantly for 30 seconds, until very fragrant.
  • Add crushed tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the paneer and peas, and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 2 minutes more.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for 1 minute. Stir in the 1/2 cup yogurt. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve warm with naan bread or brown rice.

Notes

  • *ABOUT PANEER: Paneer is an Indian cheese that is high in protein, mild in flavor, and delicious! There are not any direct substitutes, so I recommend seeking it out. Try Indian grocery stores or delis or a specialty foods store. Otherwise, you can substitute diced boneless, skinless chicken, though you will need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. It could also work to swap extra firm tofu that has as much moisture pressed out as possible, though I have not tried either of these swaps myself.
  • **ABOUT GARAM MASALA: Garam masala is an Indian spice blend that can be found in most grocery stores. You can also purchase it online here.
  • ***ABOUT YOGURT: Do not use nonfat yogurt, as it is likely to curdle. Whole milk yogurt is fine. If you do not have Greek yogurt, you can also substitute regular yogurt.
  • TO STORE: Leftover paneer tikka masala can be stored for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. 
  • TO FREEZE: Stored in a freezer-safe container, paneer tikka masala can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before warming.
  • TO REHEAT: Gently warm paneer tikka masala on the stovetop over low heat until heated through. Do not warm too quickly or the sauce may separate.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6), about 1 1/2 cups, without naan or riceCalories: 324kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 17gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.5gTrans Fat: 0.002gCholesterol: 39mgPotassium: 648mgFiber: 7gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 1476IUVitamin C: 86mgCalcium: 368mgIron: 3mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. Relatively simple recipe. Found paneer at my small town Fry’s (Kroger) in the gourmet cheese case! I used fresh tomatoes because it’s August but November will require this exact version. Great flavor!5 stars

  2. Closest recipe I’ve found to our favorite Indian restaurant we no longer live close to. I did omit the peas the second time I made it just bc I think they take away from the flavor of the sauce. We also added some cream and a tiny bit of sugar just to get it close to the recipe we are used to. We also love your butter chicken recipe. I’m looking forward to trying more of your Indian recipes in the future.5 stars

  3. This was absolutely delicious! I decided to make paneer in my instant pot and this was the recipe that I made with that paneer. I could not be any happier with the flavors of this dish!5 stars

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