Paneer tikka masala isa deliciously creamy Indian recipe made with paneer cubes cooked in a rich tikka masala sauce. A popular restaurant-style Indian paneer dish, it can be made both on the Instant Pot or on the stovetop.
In the world of Indian Recipes, paneer is a much loved and extremely versatile ingredient. There are several varieties of paneer dishes that are extremely popular including the very well-known Malai Kofta - vegetarian koftas cooked in a rich gravy, Paneer Tikka - an appetizer made with paneer, Saag Paneer - paneer cooked in spinach or greens, etc.
Rather than pick a favorite, I’d happily eat my way through them all, given a chance!
Paneer tikka masala is made with cubes of paneer cooked in a rich sauce made with almonds, tomatoes, spices, and cream. I like my paneer tikka masala lapped up with some homemade Indian Naan Bread or some Basmati Rice. Optionally, you can also use this recipe as a topping for my favorite pizza - Paneer Pizza.
In this recipe, I will show you how to make a quick version of tikka masala in the Instant Pot - it takes only 30 minutes to make a restaurant-style paneer tikka masala!
List of Ingredients
The ingredients that go into making paneer tikka masala are:
- Paneer - Use store-bought or homemade paneer cheese. Paneer can be substituted with Halloumi or you can use Tofu to make vegan tikka masala.
- Onions - Use red or yellow onions, finely chopped.
- Ginger and garlic paste, or minced ginger and garlic
- Tomatoes - I like to use canned tomatoes or tomato puree for this recipe. Fresh, chopped tomatoes work too.
- Spices: Use Kashmiri Chili powder (gives a nice reddish color without too much heat), turmeric powder, cumin powder, garam masala
- Almond meal - In this recipe, I use Almond meal (coarsely ground almonds) instead of almonds. Typically, paneer tikka masala is made with a sauce that contains blended almonds. Here we use almond meal in the pressure cooker to reduce the cook time.
- Honey - this balances out the tang from the tomatoes
- Kasuri Methi – These are dried fenugreek leaves which are used in butter chicken, malai kofta, etc to add more flavor to the sauce/gravy of the curry.
- Cream - A just a little amount of cream towards the end
To know more about Indian Spices and how to cook with them, read my Indian Spices guide
Step-by-Step Instant Pot Instructions
Start by setting the Instant Pot in the Saute mode. Heat some ghee or oil, and add chopped onions. Saute the onions for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add minced ginger and garlic.
Add the spices - we are using Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, and cumin powder in this recipe. Saute for a minute more and then add 1+1/2 cups of water. Using a spatula, deglaze the bottom of the Instant Pot. This step is important, in order to avoid getting a 'Burn' notice.
Add 3/4 a cup of almond meal and mix it into the rest of the ingredients. Cover the lid of the Instant Pot and set the valve to Sealing position.
Pressure cook in 'High' mode for 3 minutes. After the cooking cycle is complete, perform a quick release of pressure. Open the lid of the Instant Pot.
Add 3/4 cup of tomato purée. Use a hand blender to blend all the ingredients and make a smooth sauce. Crush a tablespoon of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in your palm and add it to the sauce.
Add salt to season the sauce. Add a tablespoon of honey and mix to combine.
Add the paneer cubes, mix gently and saute for 3-4 minutes more. Once done, turn off the Instant Pot and cover with the lid. Let the curry sit for 5 minutes in the residual heat of the Instant Pot. Serve warm with naan or rice.
- Start by soaking almonds in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Once soaked, take out the almonds. Peel the skins and blend the almonds with 2 tbsp of water until you have a smooth paste.
- In a heavy bottom pot with high sides, heat some ghee or oil, on medium heat. Once the oil or ghee is hot, add chopped onions. Sauté the onions for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add minced ginger and garlic or ginger-garlic paste. Sauté for 1 minute more.
- Add the Kashmiri chili powder, turmeric, garam masala and cumin powder. Add 3/4 cup of tomato purée, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Open the lid of the pot, use a hand blender to blend all the ingredients and make a smooth sauce. Crush a tablespoon of Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in your palm and add it to the sauce.
- Add the blended almond paste, add salt and a tablespoon of honey to season the sauce. Mix to combine. 1/3 cup of cream can be added if you like a richer, creamier sauce.
- Add the paneer cubes, mix gently and simmer the curry for 3-4 minutes more, covered. Once done, turn off the heat.
- Garnish the paneer tikka masala with a little cream and serve with rice or naan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Paneer is an un-aged cheese that doesn’t melt when heated. It is typically made by curdling milk with acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Paneer can be made at home and is also easily available at all Indian stores, in most parts of the world. This cheese lends itself very well to Indian curries and Indian appetizers – as the neutral flavor of paneer cheese picks up the flavors of spices and aromatics used in Indian cooking very easily. A close substitute for paneer is tofu.
Tikka masala sauce is typically made by cooking tomatoes, along with blended cashews of almonds. The sauce is flavored with spices powders (turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala), kasuri methi, and a touch of cream. Paneer cubes are added to the sauce and simmered for a while before serving.
More Instant Pot Recipes
Paneer Tikka Masala Recipe
- Hand Blender
- 14 oz paneer (approx 400 grams) cut into cubes
- 1.5 teaspoons ghee (or melted butter)
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- ¾ cup Tomato puree
- 1.5 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
- 1 tsp Garam masala
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Cumin powder
- ¾ cup Almond meal
- 1 tbsp Honey 1 tablespoon
- 1 tbsp Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- Salt to season
- Set the Instant Pot to Sauté mode (More setting)
- Add the ghee, and once it heats up, add the chopped onions.
- Saute until the onions are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic.
- Add the spices, and saute for a minute more.
- Add 1.5 cups water and deglaze the Instant Pot (ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the Instant Pot).
- Add ¾ cup almond meal and mix with the rest of the ingredients.
- Pressure cook for 3 minutes on High setting. Perform a quick release of pressure after 3 minutes are done.
- Open the lid of the Instant Pot and add the tomato puree. Stir to combine.
- Using a stick blender/hand blender, blend the ingredients to form a smooth sauce.
- Crush the kasuri methi lightly in your hands and add it to the sauce. Add the honey, followed by the salt.
- Finally, add the cubes of paneer and mix to coat the paneer in the sauce. Hit the Sauté button and cook for 3 minutes. Once done, press Cancel, cover the lid and let the paneer tikka masala sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Serve with naan or basmati rice.