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This Paneer Tikka Masala recipe is a flavorful escape to India you can make in your own kitchen! Featuring marinaded chunks of baked paneer in a creamy, warmly spiced curry, this paneer tikka masala uses easy-to-find ingredients and makes a fantastic vegetarian dinner.

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

Why You’ll Love This Easy Indian Recipe

  • It’s Elevated but Accessible. This recipe stays true to the authentic recipe’s spirit and core flavor profiles and gives you a restaurant-style experience, but with ingredients easily found in most supermarkets. If you’re new to Indian food, this easy paneer tikka masala is the ideal place to start (two other vegetarian favorites are Instant Pot Lentil Curry and Potato Curry).
  • It’s Nutritious. Packed with an array of vegetables, Greek yogurt, paneer, and beneficial spices, this dish is as healthy as it is delicious. The yogurt and paneer are both excellent sources of protein and calcium, helping to make the dish satisfying.
  • It Can Be Served in Multiple Ways. If you enjoy your paneer tikka masala served on its own in a bowl, go for it! If someone else at your table prefers it served over a bed of basmati rice, they can easily do that. Then, there are those that require naan for any saucy Indian dish (me!).
Healthy Paneer Tikka recipe in a skillet

5 Star Review

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

— Melinda —

About Paneer Tikka Masala

Before we get to the paneer tikka masala recipe with step-by-step with pictures, let’s break down the components of paneer tikka masala to better understand what it is.

  1. What is 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. Paneer does not taste like cheese.
  • 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, reasonably inexpensive, and high in protein.
  • Like tofu (as seen in this Tofu Curry), paneer tastes like whatever you cook it with, making it ideal for adding to rich, flavorful sauces like masalas and curries.
  1. What Does “Tikka” Mean?
  • Tikka means “bits” and “pieces.” We have bits and pieces of paneer. Easy!
  • Tikka dishes are typically baked at a high temperature or cooked over hot coals. For max at-home ease, we’re going the oven-baked route.
  1. 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 is used to make a rich masala gravy (a.k.a. sauce).
  • Remember, I said we were making an easy, at-home version of Indian paneer tikka masala (like this vegan Tofu Tikka Masala). Therefore, a premixed spice blend is where it’s at! This recipe calls for garam masala.
a close up of restaurant style paneer tikka masala with tomato sauce and peas

How to Make Paneer Tikka Masala

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. Garam masala is a unique blend of warm spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, and more. It provides big-time flavor in every teaspoon. Many grocery stores carry it, and you can find it online here. (Curry powder is another popular spice blend, but it tastes different than garam masala.)
  • Crushed Tomatoes. To create a robust and flavorful masala sauce base.

Substitution Tip

If tomatoes are in peak season, you can make an excellent paneer tikka masala with lightly peeled and pureed fresh tomatoes instead of canned crushed tomatoes (not to be confused with tomato puree).

  • Fresh Ginger and Fresh Garlic. Don’t skimp on these. Fresh is best in Indian-based dishes.
  • Spices. Turmeric powder, ground coriander powder, and ground cumin. Add a little heat with red chili powder!
  • Greek Yogurt. While paneer tikka masala with coconut milk (or heavy cream) may be traditional, I prefer to make this healthy paneer tikka masala sauce with Greek yogurt. (It’s also my secret to this healthy Curry Chicken Salad.)
  • Fresh Vegetables. I like to make my paneer tikka masala with vegetables such as red bell peppers, peas, and a whole head of nutritious cauliflower to make it truly an all-in-one meal (like my favorite Curried Chickpea Hash with Broccoli and Spinach).

The Directions

cubes of panner in a bowl with masala powder and spices
  1. Mix. Combine the paneer with the marinade ingredients.
a mixture of marinating paneer, Greek yogurt, and spices
  1. Marinate. Marinate in a large bowl for 20 minutes or longer.
cubes of marinated paneer cheese on a foil-lined sheet pan ready to bake
  1. Arrange. Place the paneer on a foil-lined baking sheet.
a sheet pan of baked paneer cheese for paneer tikka masala without coconut milk
  1. Bake. You want it to be lightly golden at the edges.
a skillet of sautéed cauliflower and bell peppers
  1. Sauté the Vegetables and Aromatics. Do not let the onion brown—if it starts to turn brown, reduce the heat and continue cooking until soft.
curry and garam masala powder spinkled over a skillet of sautéed vegetables
  1. Cook. Add the tomato paste and spices.
a skillet of Indian-spiced vegetables for paneer tikka masala with vegetables
  1. Stir. Cook until everything is tender.
paneer tikka masala with fire roasted tomatoes in a skillet
  1. Simmer. When fragrant, add the crushed tomatoes.
adding baked paneer cheese and frozen peas to a skillet of paneer tikka masala with tomato sauce
  1. Add the Paneer and Peas. Cook until warmed.
a skillet of greek yogurt with paneer tikka masala without cream
  1. Add the Remaining Yogurt. Serve as desired and ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Leftover paneer tikka masala can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. 
  • 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.
  • 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.

Meal Prep Tip

Up to 8 hours in advance, marinade the paneer. Refrigerate until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

indian paneer tikka masala with naan in a bowl

What to Serve With Paneer Tikka Masala

vegetarian paneer tikka masala with vegetables in a pot
  • Mixing Bowls. This set is the best for sweet bakes and savory dishes alike.
  • Sheet Pan. These sheet pans have been a longtime favorite in my kitchen for years.
  • Skillet. This high-quality cast iron skillet is well worth the investment. Here is another more affordable option I also love.
paneer tikka masala with naan and rice in a bowl topped with cilantro

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Skip the Nonfat Yogurt. Do not use nonfat yogurt, as it is more likely to curdle. Use 2% yogurt or higher (like whole milk yogurt). You can substitute regular yogurt if you do not have Greek yogurt.
  • Make Sure to Marinate. The ginger garlic yogurt marinade in this recipe is essential for developing a rich flavor. For the best results, let the paneer hang out in the marinade for at least 20 minutes or overnight for maximum flavor.
  • Choose Your Own Veggies. Feel free to add or swap other vegetables you enjoy into this paneer tikka masala recipe. Cubed russet potatoes or sliced carrots are especially nice here, but use whatever you enjoy the most (or have on hand).

Paneer Tikka Masala

4.85 from 38 votes
How to make paneer tikka masala step by step. An easy version of restaurant-style paneer masala made with simple ingredients at home!

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 45 minutes

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 garlic 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°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.

Video

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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Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Buy Paneer?

For as wildly common and popular as paneer is in India, up until recently, it has been somewhat 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 Do I 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.

What is the Difference Between Paneer Tikka and Paneer Masala?

A paneer tikka recipe is made of grilled paneer and no sauce (this is typically served as an appetizer). Paneer tikka masala also features cooked paneer, but it’s in a creamy sauce.

How is Masala Different from Curry?

The definition mentioned above 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 used to make thick, aromatic sauces, they have some distinctive differences in their blend of ingredients that make them unique from each other. Generally, masala is more warming and curry is more earthy.

Is Paneer Tikka Masala Vegetarian?

Yes, this recipe is vegetarian. Dishes made with paneer are usually vegetarian. However, note that it is not vegan (paneer is a dairy product).

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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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4.85 from 38 votes (19 ratings without comment)

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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

  4. This recipe is a keeper! The house smelled so good when i was making it.. so fragrant and exotic! 🤗 I served it over basmati rice with naam on the side. Delicious!5 stars

  5. This was delicious. I purchased a big block of paneer at Costco and then stumbled on your recipe. Your preparation method with the marinating and the baking added so much flavor to the paneer. It was much tastier than another recipe I tried which just involved putting the paneer pieces in the sauce.5 stars

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