Sunday, January 2, 2011

Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer is an Indian hard cheese which is cooked or fried and used to make a variety of vegetarian dishes (at this point you may have realized that we made Indian food this week).

In the US you can buy ready made paneer at Whole Foods and other specialty stores. However, if you can't get your hands on paneer, you can also use extra firm tofu, or make the simple version of homemade paneer that I will post at the bottom of this recipe.

The original recipe is from Indian Home Cooking, which is a good cookbook because it offers versions of Indian food that can be easily made in the American kitchen. However, the original is for chicken tikka masala. I modified it to work with paneer.

Paneer Tikka Masala 

Ingredients (for 3-4 portions): 
For the marinade: 
- 2 garlic cloves
- a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped 
- 1/4 tsp chili powder 
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp plain yogurt
- 4-5 stems of cilantro, finely chopped (optional) 

For the recipe:
 - 1 package paneer (about 250 grams), cubed (or tofu)
- 1/2 large red onion, cut into large chunks
- 2 garlic cloves
- a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into large chunks
- a few tablespoons of canola oil or ghee (Indian purified butter) 
- a small (1 inch) piece of a cinnamon stick
-  1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1 large can of crushed tomatoes 
- 1/4 cup heavy cream 


1. Place all of the marinade ingredients in a food processor and puree. Toss the paneer cubes in the marinade and set aside. (The original recipe calls for marinading the meat for a long time, but with paneer or tofu it can just sit for a bit to get flavor).Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. 

2. Puree the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor and set aside. 

3. Combine the oil (or ghee) and the cinnamon stick in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until the cinnamon stick begins to unfurl (1-2 minutes). Add the onion puree and salt and cook, stirring, until the onion turns a light golden brown. If the onion begins to stick and burn instead of browning, add a teaspoon or two of water to the pan and keep stirring. 

4. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric and chili powder and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, give the sauce a stir, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the cream, stir well, bring to a simmer and remove sauce from heat. 

5. Spread the marinated paneer or tofu cubes on a lightly greased baking tin and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. The bottom side of the paneer should be golden. 

6. Add the baked paneer into the sauce, stir well, and warm over medium heat for a few minutes, until heated through. Serve with rice and/or Indian bread. 

To make simple homemade paneer: 
 - 1 pound (about 500 grams) whole-milk ricotta cheese
1.  Preheat oven to 450 F/ 230 C. Spread the ricotta evenly in a bread pan and bake until the cheese is lightly browned on top and firm, but not dry, about 40 minutes. Let cool (it will firm as it cools).


  1. Too bad I saw this after grocery shopping for the week - I'll definitely try it next week and let you know how it turns out. I'm excited to try making my own paneer.

  2. Let me know how it goes.

    I only made the homemade paneer once. It was pretty good, if I recall, although obviously it is easier to just use store-bought.