Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer Tikka Masala!! Who has not heard of this very popular and mouth watering north Indian dish? It’s served in almost every Indian restaurant! This dish is made of paneer (cottage cheese) and a very flavorful rich tomato onion gravy. You may be wondering how did this dish come up with its name? Well let me tell you. You can break the name down in three words. Paneer is firm cottage cheese (it is very versatile and quite popular in north Indian recipes!). Tikka is small pieces of veggies marinated in a spice mixture which are later grilled or pan fried. Masala means mixture of spices, aka gravy in which you add your paneer and tikka.

This classic dish is most popular and served in every Indian restaurant all over the world! It is always a hit in my home and the recipe couldn’t be easier. My Paneer Tikka Masala is super easy to make and one of the first dishes that comes to mind when I have guests over. Don’t worry if you are vegan, because I have tweaked this recipe for you! This dish can be made on a stove top or in the instant pot. I used to make everything on the stove top but now I am an instant pot fan! After hectic long day of work, you can whip this dish in the instant pot quickly! Remember to make a little extra to pack for lunch the next day! It can be served with roti, naan, or rice.

Serves 4

Regular recipe [Calories 400, Fat 30g, Carbs 8g, Fiber 2g, Protein 12g]

Vegan recipe [Calories 300, Fat 14g, Carbs 13g, Fiber 2g, Protein 17g]

Ingredients

12 oz paneer or 1 block of extra firm tofu – well pressed (for vegans)

1 cup of cubed onions

1 cup of bell pepper cubed

For Marinade

½ cup of greek yogurt or ½ cup of soy yogurt for vegans

½ tbsp ginger paste

½ tbsp garlic paste

1 tbsp chili powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp garam masala

½ tsp coriander-cumin powder

½ salt, adjust to taste

½ tbsp of lime juice

For Gravy

2 tbsp oil

1 cup onion pureed

3 tomatoes pureed

½ tbsp ginger paste

½ tbsp garlic paste

¼ cup water

1 tbsp of cashew paste (take 10-15 cashews and 3-4 tbsp of water – grind into thick paste)

¼ cup heavy cream or ¼ cup of coconut cream for vegans

1 tbsp of kasturi methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp garam masala

½ tsp salt, adjust to taste

Cilantro- finely chopped for garnishing (optional)

Method

First you have to marinate the paneer or tofu (for vegans). Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. To the creamy mixture, add paneer or tofu and veggies. Mix well to coat everything evenly. Let it marinate for 30-60 minutes in the fridge. Sometimes If I know that I am making this dish in the evening, I usually marinate in the morning and leave it in the fridge until evening. The longer the better! *see notes for other option*

Once the marinade prep is done it becomes easier. I don’t have a grill, so I tend to usually cook the marinated pieces in the air fryer or oven. Cooking the marinated pieces in the air fryer is the best option because they come out so flavorful and crispy with minimal oil applied. For air fryer: cook these on 400 F for 10-15 minutes or until crispy. You can even pop it in the oven and broil until golden crispy. Either method is the best way to get the maximum flavor out of the paneer or tofu. While these are in the air fryer or oven cooking, you can start making the gravy in the instant pot or stove top. 

Instant pot

Turn on the instant pot on sauté mode. Wait 30 seconds and add oil. Add onion puree, ginger, and garlic paste. Sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Add tomato puree and spices. Mix thoroughly. Add ¼ cup of water to deglaze the pot. Stir thoroughly. Close the lid and seal valve. Cook on manual on high pressure for 5 minutes. Once the instant pot beeps, wait for 5 minutes before manually releasing the pressure. Open lid and 1 tbsp of add cashew paste, ¼ cup heavy cream or coconut cream, and kasturi methi. Mix thoroughly. Add the marinated grilled/air fried paneer (tofu- for vegans) and veggies. Let the curry sauté for 4-5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro (optional). Your Paneer Tikka Masala is ready! Serve with roti, naan or rice.

Stove top

Take heavy bottom deep skillet. Once hot, add oil. Add onion puree, ginger, and garlic paste.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add tomato puree and spices. Add ¼ cup of water and stir well. Close the lid and let the gravy simmer for 15-20 minutes or until oil starts to separate. Add kasturi methi, ¼ cup of heavy cream or coconut cream, and 1 tbsp of cashew paste. Mix thoroughly and let it simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Add grilled/air fried paneer (tofu-for vegans) and veggies. Mix well and simmer on low-medium heat for another 2-3 minutes. Garnish with cilantro (optional). You Paneer Tikka Masala is ready! Serve with roti, naan, or rice.

Notes

If you are in a hurry, you can marinate for at least 15 minutes or skip it and use plain air fried/baked paneer or tofu.

Vegan substitution options:

You can use tofu instead of paneer and marinate your tofu in soy yogurt mixture. Add coconut cream for the richness along with cashew paste. 

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