Paneer Tikka Masala is a flavorful and aromatic curry, made with marinated and grilled paneer cubes simmered in a rich onion tomato gravy along with warm spices. This restaurant quality Paneer Tikka Masala is so easy to make in the instant pot, that you will not consider take-out again.

Paneer tikka masala in a bowl garnished with cilantro
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Almost a year back, I shared my most popular paneer recipe called, Paneer Butter Masala. This recipe is similar, but has an added flavor from the marinated and grilled paneer. If you are looking for a chicken recipe, try this Chicken Tikka Masala made in the instant pot or this Salmon Tikka Masala for the seafood lovers.

Paneer Tikka Masala is one of the most popular dish ordered in Indian restaurants, as is the delicious Mango Lassi. It is also a favorite on special occasions and parties. You might think that it is hard to get the restaurant quality flavor for Paneer Tikka Masala at home. However once you have the basic Indian spices, it is fairly easy to make this curry in the pressure cooker or even on the stovetop.

Watch How to Make Paneer Tikka Masala

What is paneer tikka masala?

Paneer tikka masala is a dish of chunks of roasted marinated paneer (paneer tikka) in a spiced curry sauce. The sauce is usually creamy and dark orange colored. We will change it up a bit to make it easy to make it in the instant pot, with the same great taste.

What is paneer?

Paneer is fresh, soft but firm cottage cheese popular in Indian cuisine. Paneer is a very versatile dairy product and used in an assortment of Indian curries, snacks and sweets.

You can find paneer at any local Indian grocery stores. Some Costco stores also carry paneer..yay! If you are unable to find paneer in a store, you can also make it from scratch in your instant pot. Just search and there are many recipes.

If you love paneer, check out this collection of 20+ Best Paneer Recipes.

What is tikka?

Tikka is small pieces of meat or vegetables marinated in a spice mixture. These pieces are then grilled or sautéed to give a wonderful flavor to the dish.

See this tandoori paneer tikka, hariyali paneer tikka and chicken tikka kebab recipe.

What is masala?

Masala means a mix of spices. In case of paneer tikka masala, Masala means a sauce with onions, tomatoes and warming spices.

You will love this Paneer Tikka Masala because:

√ It is warm, flavorful and comforting

√ It is vegetarian and gluten free. Reduce the amount of onions and it is low carb too.

√ It is easy to make in the instant pot

√ You can get a restaurant quality dinner at home!

√ The thick and creamy sauce is perfect with rice or for dipping naan

Instant Pot Paneer Tikka Masala served in a bowl with some naan and limes on the side.

Difference between Paneer Tikka Masala and Paneer Butter Masala?

The two dishes are very similar but certainly have some subtle differences in how they are made.

Paneer Tikka Masala, has the below characteristics –

  • uses paneer tikka as it’s base, which is marinated grilled paneer cooked in a tandoor or on a grill (we will modify this aspect a bit to simplify the recipe)
  • has a spicier tomato based sauce
  • no butter used
  • very less cream used
  • lemon juice added

Paneer Butter Masala has the below distinctive features –

  • has a tomato based sauce, but less tomatoey than tikka masala.
  • more buttery & more creamy
  • very mild
  • cashew, honey used to sweeten

How to make paneer tikka masala

There are 4 main steps to make Paneer Tikka Masala in the instant pot.

  1. Marinate the paneer
  2. Brown the paneer
  3. Make the sauce
  4. Pressure cook

Let’s get started with the easy step-by step paneer tikka masala recipe.

Marinate the Paneer 

  • For making paneer tikka, we marinate the paneer pieces with yogurt and some spices and then pan roast them before putting them in the curry. I also like to add bell peppers and onions when marinating the paneer.
  • Add the yogurt, spices, ginger, garlic, lime juice to a bowl and mix them. Now add in the paneer, bell pepper and onion pieces and coat them with the marinade on all sides. Refrigerate this paneer tikka marinade for 15 to 30 minutes.
Steps to Marinate paneer with yogurt and spices

Brown the paneer

  • In a flat pan, heat some oil and place the marinated pieces of paneer, peppers and onions. Slightly brown then on all sides. This adds a wonderful flavor to the paneer, and the curry!
  • You can do this step while the sauce is cooking in the instant pot. Also, this step is optional. You can also add the marinated paneer and veggies directly to the sauce.
Fry marinated paneer in a pan

Change from the traditional Paneer Tikka Masala recipe

This is the part that is different than the traditional Paneer Tikka Masala recipe. Ideally the marinated paneer pieces would be cooked in a tandoor (or grill) or oven until they start to char and then added to the sauce.

To go the traditional route, add the marinated paneer, peppers and onions to skewers (one piece at a time in that order). Bake and broil in the oven until they start to brown on the edges.

We are simplifying the recipe by browning the paneer in a pan. The only thing we lose is a bit of the smoky flavor. But trust me, you will still love this version of paneer tikka masala and will not hesitate to enjoy it for a quick weeknight dinner.

Make the Paneer tikka masala sauce

I like to have lots of sauce in my curries, so I can enjoy them with rice or naan. We will make the sauce in the instant pot. If you are new to the instant pot, check out this Instant Pot Quick Setup Guide to get you started.

Heat some oil in the instant pot. Add onions, ginger and garlic. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Add tomato, spices, cashews and water. You can cut the tomatoes in large pieces, as we are going to puree the sauce after pressure cooking.

Onions and tomatoes cooking in the instant pot

Pressure cook the Paneer Tikka Masala curry 

  • Close and pressure cook for 5 minutes, followed by 5 minute NPR (release pressure manually 5 minutes after the beep).
  • Then blend the cooked ingredients using an immersion blender or in a regular blender.  I used my immersion blender, which I could use directly in the pot.  If using a regular blender, you would have to pour the contents into the blender and may need to let them cool before blending. Then pour them back to the instant pot after blending.  The gravy is now ready.
  • Add cream, Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and the browned paneer & veggies. You can also add the marinated paneer and veggies without browning, to make this recipe easier. Stir well and let the curry sauté for 2 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

steps to make paneer tikka masala gravy in the instant pot

This Paneer Tikka Masala is so creamy & so good!

Can this Paneer Tikka Masala be made on stovetop without instant pot?

Yes, of course. The instant pot just helps to make the cooking faster with cooking food under pressure. You can cook the exact same recipe in a skillet or a stovetop pressure cooker.

For a stovetop pressure cooker, cook the sauce ingredients for 2 whistles. For a skillet, after adding the sauce ingredients, cover and simmer until the onions and tomatoes are well cooked in about 15 minutes. Then puree and add the marinated paneer.

Paneer Tikka Masala made in Instant Pot served in a bowl with some naan and limes on the side.

Tips for perfect Paneer Tikka Masala

  • Use ghee or butter in place of oil to enhance the flavor.
  • Use plain full fat or greek yogurt for the marinade.
  • I use Kashmiri chili powder which is mild, but adds a beautiful color to the curry
  • I use fresh tomatoes, however canned diced tomatoes will work too.

Vegan version of Paneer Tikka Masala

I have made Vegan Tikka Masala with tofu, and here are my suggestions to make Tofu Tikka Masala.

  • Use olive oil or another fav plant-based oil
  • Use tofu for paneer in the marinade
  • Skip the yogurt when marinating the tofu, just marinate in spices.
  • Use coconut milk in place of heavy cream

What to serve with Paneer Tikka Masala

We love to enjoy this paneer tikka masala with garlic naan, paratha or roti.

Rice is another great option. You can use brown or white basmati rice. If you like flavored rice, check out my cumin/jeera rice and matar pulao recipe. It goes really well with this curry.

For healthier alternatives, use quinoa or cauliflower rice as a side with this paneer tikka masala!

Hope you enjoy this Paneer Tikka Masala!

Looking for more paneer recipes, check out my popular recipes:

4.86 from 74 votes

Paneer Tikka Masala Recipe in Instant Pot

Paneer Tikka Masala is a flavorful and aromatic curry made with marinated and grilled paneer cubes simmered in a rich onion tomato gravy along with warm spices. This restaurant quality Paneer Tikka Masala is so easy to make in the instant pot, that you will not consider take-out again.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 5

Ingredients 

  • 12 ounces Paneer, cut in small cubes
  • 3/4 cup Onion, cubed, layers separated
  • 3/4 cup Bell Pepper, cubed

For Marinade

For sauce

Spices for sauce

Instructions 

Marinate the Paneer

  • Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and mix well. Add paneer, onions and bell pepper. Stir and coat with the marinade on all sides. Let is rest 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Brown the marinated Paneer (optional – This step can be done while the curry is cooking in the instant pot)

  • Heat a pan on stovetop on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoon oil. Spread the paneer, onions and bell pepper pieces and lightly brown on each side for about 2 minutes.

Prepare the sauce

  • Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the instant pot. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes, spices, cashews and mix well. 
  • Add water and deglaze the pot making sure nothing is stuck to the bottom. Press cancel and close the lid with vent in sealing position.

Pressure Cook the Curry

  • Change the instant pot setting to high pressure for 5 minutes. When the instant pot beeps, let it rest for 5 minutes then manually release the pressure.
  • Blend the contents in the instant pot with an immersion blender or regular blender to a smooth paste. If using regular blender, you may need to cool the ingredients before blending. Get the contents back to the instant pot. 
  • Add roasted paneer, onions and bell peppers. Add cream, kasoori methi and any leftover marinade. Stir well and let the curry sauté for 2 minutes. 
  • Garnish with cilantro. Paneer tikka masala is ready. Enjoy with basmati rice and naan.

Video

Notes

Marination: Use plain full fat or greek yogurt for the marinade. 
In a hurry? You can skip sautéing the marinated paneer and veggies when in a hurry. Dont skip marinating for at least 15 minutes (while you get the other things ready). 
Make it Vegan: I have not tried making this vegan version, but here would be my suggestions to make Vegan Paneer Tikka Masala.
  • Use olive oil or another fav plant based oil
  • Use tofu for paneer in the marinade
  • Skip the yogurt when marinating the tofu, just marinate in spices.
  • Use coconut milk in place of heavy cream
Make it the traditional way: Add the marinated paneer, peppers and onions to skewers (one piece at a time in that order). Bake and broil in the oven until they start to brown on the edges. Then use add to the sauce.
Stovetop Method: For a stovetop pressure cooker, cook the sauce ingredients for 2 whistles. For a pan, after adding the sauce ingredients, cover and simmer until the onions and tomatoes are well cooked in about 15 minutes. Then puree and add the marinated paneer. 
Tomatoes: I use fresh tomatoes in this recipe. You can replace with 1 cup of canned diced tomatoes.
Created: This recipe was created in a 6qt Instant Pot DUO60 Multi-use Pressure Cooker.

Nutrition

Calories: 403kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 13gFat: 32gSaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 528mgPotassium: 451mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 2185IUVitamin C: 47.6mgCalcium: 375mgIron: 1.2mg

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, North Indian
Diet: Gluten-free, Vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Mention @pipingpotcurry or tag #pipingpotcurry!

About Meeta

I strongly believe that each one of us has a chef inside us, we just need to explore the ingredients and create great food. My passion is to share easy, healthy, and wholesome recipes made using Instant Pot & Air Fryer, that are well tested, so you can cook with confidence.

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47 Comments

  1. I made the recipe in the Instant Pot, using all the ingredients called for above (most of them, except the cream, obtained conveniently at the Indian market only a few blocks from my house). I used ghee (both in the Instant Pot and when sautéing the onions and bell peppers) rather than another kind of oil.

    The recipe was delicious! I loved the color, the flavor, which was a bit on the spicy side, and also the texture: the sauce was nice and thick; there were a few small tomato bits that survived the immersion blending and offered a bit of gentle crunchiness, which was a nice contrast with the softness of the paneer. I bet the sauce would be great for Chicken Tikka Masala too!

    1. Hi Donald – So glad you enjoyed the paneer tikka masala. You are right, this sauce will work well for chicken tikka masala as well!

      1. I’d put a portion of the recipe in the refrigerator, and when I warmed it up the next day, I noticed how nicely the flavors had blended. The sauce tasted even better the next day!

  2. I love paneer recipes but rarely make it myself, mainly because browning the paneer in a pan always seems to spatter and make a mess. I was wondering if perhaps I could do the “browning of the paneer, onions and peppers in an air fryer with a bit of oil or maybe even in a regular oven?
    I look forward to your recipes. Thanks Meeta.

    1. Hio Khambata – Yes, absolutely. You can brown the paneer, onions, and peppers in the air fryer. It is definitely quicker and less messy.

  3. I was nervous about trying this recipe but it turned out to be quite simple and was absolutely delicious! In fact I prefer to do the restaurant version which tends to be rather heavy. So far, every one of Meeta’s recipes has turned out fantastically, she has now become my go to for everything. Thank you Meeta

    1. Hi Uma – That’s awesome to hear! It’s great when a recipe turns out to be easier than expected and still delicious. Thank you for sharing your positive experience! 😊👍