Paneer tikka is made from paneer cubes marinated in Indian spices, gram flour, and yogurt, grilled on the stove-top, or baked in the oven. A delicious Indian restaurant-style appetizer that you can make at home!
I remember as a child when we used to go to eat at our favorite restaurants specializing in North Indian cuisine, I was most excited about scanning the appetizer menu - while pakoras or tikkis served with green chutney have always been a favorite, for me, no meal at a restaurant was complete if we didn't order tandoor-grilled Paneer Tikkas.
Paneer tikka or tandoori paneer tikka are made with cubes of marinated paneer and assorted vegetables, skewered and baked in a ‘tandoor’ (clay oven), giving it a lovely char and a smoky flavor.
Paneer tikka can just as easily be made at home. All you need is store-bought paneer, assorted bell peppers, and red onions, yogurt and chickpea flour (gram flour or ‘besan’), and some staple Indian spices for the marinade.
Paneer tikka can be made either in the oven or on the stovetop. If you like those lovely char marks you see on tandoori paneer tikka, you can use a barbeque or stove-top grill to grill the tikka.
Why you will love this recipe
- A super-popular restaurant favorite appetizer
- Can be made at home in a pinch with ingredients available at your local Asian grocery or on Amazon
- Ideal for meal prep - can be marinated in advance and cooked before serving
List of Ingredients
The mildly tangy and spicy flavors that are characteristic of paneer tikka are easy to replicate at home if you have some basic Indian spices and seasonings. You will need the following ingredients to make paneer tikka at home:
- Paneer cubes - use store-bought or homemade paneer
- Bell peppers - in assorted colors, sliced into square-shaped pieces
- Onions- Use either red onions or yellow onions, cubed (see image above)
- Gram flour (Not chickpea flour) - aka besan, gram flour is used to make many Indian recipes from desserts such as Mysore Pak to Pakoras. It is gluten-free and binds the marinade and gives it an earthy flavor
- Greek yogurt
- Ginger and garlic - Used either ginger garlic paste or minced ginger and garlic
- Lime juice
- Salt to season
Spices used for the marinade:
Chaat masala: A little sprinkling of chaat masala on your meal will make your taste buds do a happy jig! Chaat masala is tangy and is made with rock salt, carom seeds, dry mango powder, among other seasonings. I love adding chaat masala to just about anything from fruit salads to beetroot tikkis.
Turmeric powder: Turmeric is used for giving this dish its vibrant color
Kashmiri Red Chili Powder: Another pantry staple along with turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder is perfect for adding that characteristic red colour to dishes, without adding too much heat.
Garam Masala: Garam masala gives this dish a little heat
- Prep the veggies and paneer cheese - Cut up the paneer into cubes. Cut the onions and the bell peppers into square-ish pieces.
2. Prepare the marinade - Prepare the marinade by whisking together the hung curd or Greek yogurt with turmeric, Kashmiri red chili powder, chaat masala, salt, garam masala, minced ginger, minced garlic, cumin powder, vegetable oil, and gram flour. The marinade will have the consistency of a thin batter.
3. Marinate the veggies and paneer - Toss up the paneer and chopped veggies with the marinade – I like to do this by adding everything to a zip-lock bag and tossing the bag (gently!) so that the marinade coats the paneer and veggies evenly.
Let the marinade sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour, for the flavors to really catch on well. You can also prepare the marinated veggies a day in advance and store them in the fridge until right before cooking.
4. Skewer the paneer cubes onto wooden or metal skewers. Alternate the paneer cubes with the veggies while skewering (see image below).
5. Cook them on the stovetop or bake in the oven - To cook the paneer tikka on the stovetop, brush a little oil onto a grill pan (or a non-stick frying pan) and grill the skewers on the pan for around 5 minutes per side. You can also bake the paneer tikka skewers in the oven - bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C or 350 F for 20 minutes, flipping over once at the halfway mark, to ensure even baking.
Expert Tips and Ingredient Substitutions
Make Vegan Tikkas - Make this a vegan recipe by replacing paneer cheese with extra firm natural tofu. Cut the tofu into cubes, and get rid of extra moisture in the tofu by pressing it using a tofu press. If you don't have one, place the tofu between kitchen paper and place a heavy cast iron pan (or any heavy pot/pan) on top. The kitchen paper will absorn the excess moisture and the tofu will crisp up well.
Use Hung Curd Instead of Greek Yogurt - Add the yogurt to a muslin or cheese cloth, hang the cloth over the skink or place it on a colander suspended over the sink. Keep it hung for 30-45 minutes. The excess water (whey liquid) will drain off, leaving you with thick hung curd.
Instructions for Wooden Skewers - Metal skewers or wooden skewers can be used for this recipe, however, if you are baking the tikkas in the oven, make sure that you soak the wooden skewers in water for 10-15 minutes before you use them. This will prevent the wooden skewers from charring while baking.
Serving suggestions - Paneer tikka is the perfect party appetizer. It tastes delicious on its own, but can also be served with green chutney or tamarind chutney. Optionally, serve it with sliced raw onions (or use pickled red onions), lime wedges.
More Indian Appetizers
Paneer Tikka Recipe
- Pan for grilling
- 12 ounces paneer (or 350 grams paneer), cut into cubes
- 2 red onions peeled and cut into roughly square-shaped pieces
- 2 bell peppers deseeded and cut into even-sized cubes
For the marinade:
- ⅓ cup Greek Yogurt
- 1 tsp Kashmiri Red Chili Powder Or use Paprika Powder
- ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
- ½ tsp Garam Masala
- ½ tsp Dried Mango Powder aka 'Amchur'
- 2 tsp lime juice
- 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste can be substituted with minced ginger and garlic
- 1.5 tsp chaat masala
- ¾ tsp cumin powder
- 1.5 tbsp gram flour aka ‘besan’
- 1 tsp vegetable oil for the marinade
- + Extra oil to brush over the grill
- Cut up the paneer into cubes, and the bell peppers and red onion into uniform-sized pieces.
- Prepare the marinade by whisking together the Greek yogurt with turmeric, Kashmiri red chili powder, chaat masala, salt, garam masala, ginger and garlic paste, cumin powder, oil and gram flour. The marinade will have the consistency of a thin batter.
- Toss up the paneer and chopped veggies with the marinade. Transfer all marinade ingredients, into a zip-lock bag, add the paneer and veggies to the bag. Toss the bag gently so that the marinade coats the paneer and veggies evenly.
- Let the marinade sit for at least 30 minutes (or overnight) for the flavours to catch on well.
- Skewer the paneer cubes onto wooden or metal skewers. Alternate the paneer cubes with the veggies.
- Heat a grill pan or a non-stick pan on the stovetop. Once hot, brush some oil on the pan.
- Grill the skewers on the pan for around 5 minutes per side. Brush on more oil if needed.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C or 350 F. Line a baking dish with tin foil. Brush the skewered paneer and veggies with oil and place the skewers on the baking dish.
- Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes, flipping over once at the halfway mark.
- Once done, sprinkle a little chaat masala to finish. Serve hot, with a side of chutney, salad or just as is.
- Try to cut the paneer, peppers, and onions into cubes of roughly the same size, so that they cook evenly.
- Greek yogurt can be substituted with hung curd.
- If using wooden skewers in the oven, make sure you soak the skewers in water for 10-15 mins to prevent them from browning.
- Make this a vegan recipe by replacing paneer cheese with extra firm natural tofu.