Restaurant Style Paneer Tikka Masala (Vegetarian)

paneer tikka curry, paneer curry, indian paneer curry, paneer tikka masala, vegetarian curry

Restaurant Style Paneer Tikka Masala

When I was cleaning out my freezer the other day I noticed I had a few (forgotten) packs of paneer.  Paneer, a fresh Indian cheese made with whole milk, is one of my all-time favorite ingredients.  It’s a great vegetarian (not dairy-free) source of protein and can be used in many different ways.

You can make curries, salads and even incredible Indian sweets out of paneer!

The paneer you can buy from the Indian grocer doesn’t quite compare to the homemade version–which I have yet to post about–

Frozen Paneer from Indian Grocer

Frozen Paneer from Indian Grocer

but I’m always happy to find a package when I’m in a rush to make dinner.

I decided to make a quick curry using the paneer and some of the curry base that I had also frozen (recipe link can be found in ingredients list, below).  Specifically, I wanted to make Paneer Tikka Masala.

curry base, curry gravy, indian curry base

Frozen Curry Gravy Base

I mixed up a yogurt based marinade for the paneer,

Paneer Tikka Marinade

Paneer Tikka Marinade

diced the paneer and chopped up a green bell pepper (capsicum),

Diced Paneer

Diced Paneer

added a little red food dye,

red food dye purchased at the Asian market

red food dye purchased at the Asian market

tossed it all in a bowl and mixed everything together really well.  I used the red food dye because I was cooking for someone who couldn’t tolerate spicy food, so I couldn’t use chili powder.  Usually I would skip the food dye and toss in some extra paprika for color, but I didn’t want to accidently go overboard…


I let the paneer marinate at room temperature for about a half hour.  While I waited for the flavors to mingle I turned the oven to the “broil” setting and got started on the curry.

Because my curry base has plenty of onions and tomatoes, I didn’t have to worry about prepping either of those.  Good thing!  I didn’t have any onions, and really didn’t want to leave my warm house to take a trip to the store.  It’s cold outside! 

Before I heated the ghee in my dutch oven, I mixed together my dry spices.  I always like to mix my spices together before I actually start cooking.  You don’t have to do it this way, but I feel that it helps me make sure all the spices are balanced.  I also find that if I mix the masala together prior to cooking I don’t have to worry about one spice burning while I’m digging through my giant stash of spices looking for the bulk package to refill my coriander powder.  I’m always running out of coriander powder.  Always.

Dry Masala (spice) Mixture

Dry Masala (spice) Mixture

Once the masala is mixed and the ghee is heated, I toss the spices into the pot.  They need to “fry” for a couple minutes so that the spices have time to properly cook.  I tossed in some minced garlic and ginger and cooked everything until the mixture became quite dry.  It should look something like this:

cooking spics

At this point, I tossed in some tomato paste, curry base and a little butter.

While this simmered away on the stove-top I put the marinaded paneer on a rack which was placed on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. If you want to get all fancy about it, you could skewer the paneer and grill it. That’d be good too.  But because I was hungry and didn’t want to get my hands dirty (the real reason), I just tossed the baking sheet under the broiler.

Approximately 4 to 5 minutes later the paneer looked like this:

Paneer Tikka

Paneer Tikka

I added the paneer tikka into the curry and let everything simmer for a good 20 minutes.  Just long enough to cook up some basmati rice. 🙂

Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer Tikka Masala

This curry was really creamy and delicious.  And like most curries, it tasted even better the next day!

Restaurant Style Paneer Tikka Masala

(serves 6, generously)

Curry Ingredients:

  • 12-16 oz. package paneer (homemade is best), diced and marinated (recipe below)
  • 1 green bell pepper (capsicum), chopped into large chunks
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (sub. veg. oil)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 7 cloves garlic – smashed and diced fine
  • 1 inch ginger – smashed and diced fine
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 inch piece of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoon fresh fenugreek leaves or 1 tbsp. dried fenugreek leaves (leave out if you can’t find)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • red chilli powder, to taste –taste as you add!  Sometimes, less is more!!!!!
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon
  • 3 cups curry gravy base – (recipe here)
  • 1/2 c. half & half
  • milk, as needed
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1  handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Paneer Tikka Marinade Recipe

  • 1/4 c. plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • tiny pinch ground nutmeg
  • tiny pinch ground clove
  • tiny pinch ground cinnamon
  • chili powder, to taste
  • red food dye–optional
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Marinade Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients, except paneer and bell pepper (capsicum), together in a bowl.  Whisk until everything is mixed together.  Add the paneer. Leave the marinade at room temperature for at least 20-30 minutes.
  2. When you’re ready to cook it, you can put it on skewers and grill it–or you can use your broiler.  Heat the oven to Broil.  Put the paneer and bell pepper pieces on a rack over a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  3. Put them in the oven and broil until they start turning a little black on the edges and look dry.  The paneer won’t actually be dry, the yogurt in the marinade will help keep that from happening.
Curry Directions
  1. Heat the ghee/oil in a  large pan over medium high heat.  Once it gets warm, add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, turmeric, coriander powder, and garam masala.  Stir until everything becomes fragrant and dry.
  2. Toss in the garlic and ginger.  Cook for about a minute before adding the tomato paste, red chilli powder and fenugreek leaves (I think fenugreek and nutmeg are *secret* ingredients).  Stir everything together.  It will be dry.
  3. Add the butter and 3 cups curry gravy base and whisk everything together.  Once it’s smooth, add the lemon juice and half & half.  Transfer the curry to a blender and blend until smooth (this can be skipped if you don’t mind a few little chunks). Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Add the cooked paneer and let the curry simmer for about 20 minutes.  It’ll thicken slightly, use milk to thin…if you’d like.  Garnish with chopped coriander.  Serve with rice or rotis.


Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer Tikka Masala


44 thoughts on “Restaurant Style Paneer Tikka Masala (Vegetarian)

  1. admin84dev

    Thanks for sharing this recipe you can have this one along with fresh Indian bread; and if you do not want to add onions in any dish you can add shredded cabbage in that place which gives almost similar texture to them.

    1. Klika

      I really like your blog 🙂 I tried a couple of your recipes so far. I tried this recipe and the texture is great and the paneer tasted good, but I found the cumin to be overpowering. I think maybe I will try a half teaspoon or less next time.

      1. Shari Post author

        I’m glad you like the blog, Klika! Thank you for the note on the cumin. Definitely change the recipes to suit your tastes, I’ll try cutting it down next time I make the recipe and see what the results are.

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  3. carpe season (@carpeseason)

    found your website through Heavy Table today, and am so glad I did. We are Indian food fanatics at our house, but I don’t feel like I know how to cook more than a handful of dishes. Am new to cooking paneer, but will have to give this a try! Love the curry base idea as well…thanks!

  4. Samantha

    Omgosh! This looks AMAZING! I just found your blog via Pinterest and I’m already in love! Last year I asked my bf what he would do if I decided to cook nothing but Indian food from now on. He said he didn’t think it would suck. LOL

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  6. raki00

    I love paneer and have only made it once. Your blog has inspired to make it again. I’ll leave out the red dye though. Wouldn’t mild paprika be a safer substitute?

  7. Allison (Spontaneous Tomato)

    This looks amazing! Totally and impressively restaurant-looking… and this is one of the dishes I most often order out at restaurants, too. I love your idea to broil the paneer first on a baking sheet; paneer is delicious in any form, but I bet that makes it taste even better!

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  10. e.

    Oh. My. I cannot WAIT to get home and make this! I’m so glad that i noticed that my local health food store sells paneer so I’m good to go! Thanks for posting!

    1. Shari Post author

      Hello Pepy! half & half is a dairy product, It’s a mixture of one part milk and one part cream. You can always substitute milk (any variety, really) or cream. The taste and texture will be affected a little, but it should still taste good. 🙂

  11. Jiji

    Hi Shari
    The recipe looks yummy and smooth.. We would have guests for dinner and hope this would be a hit amongh them..One question though is this: I was wondering if using butter instead of ghee would come out the same way.. 🙂

    1. Shari Post author

      Butter is a perfectly acceptable substitute for ghee. I hope your guests enjoy (or enjoyed…I know I’m a little late at responding) the curry!

  12. Pingback: Chicken with curry yogurt sauce, grilled vegetables and rice with paprika ensemble. Ensemble di pollo con crema allo yogurt e curry, verdure grigliate e riso con paprika. | Chocolate Spoon & The Camera

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