Paneer tikka is without a doubt the most popular vegetarian tandoori dish. Paneer is Indian cottage cheese. Traditionally this dish was made in a tandoor or clay oven but you can also make this in a regular oven.
To make the marinade for the paneer tikka, I start with sautéing onion, ginger, garlic in some oil. I then mix together roasted gram flour. Once the mixture cools down, I mix in hung yogurt and spices.
This marinade is a bit different than the usual marinade for tikka which is prepared using raw onion, ginger and garlic paste. This leaves a strong taste of onion and garlic in the paneer tikka – especially because paneer cooks so fast, the marinade doesn’t get time to cook. This doesn’t go well with the mild flavours of paneer and bell pepper. So, in my version, I cook the onion, ginger and garlic before adding to the marinade – with a little extra effort the taste of the dish increases manyfold! However, you can stick to raw onion, ginger, garlic paste in marinades for meat – as meat takes longer to cook, the marinade will be cooked along with the meat.
If you don’t have access to an oven, you can prepare the paneer tikka in a skillet or tava also – though the result won’t be as good. To make them on a skillet, lightly brush all sides of the skewered paneer and vegetables with some oil. Heat the skillet on medium heat and place the skewers on the skillet. Cover and cook for a minute. Turn the skewer and cook on each side until they are lightly charred.
The paneer tikkas are perfect for summer barbeques and a great alternative to meat kebabs! Cubes of paneer and vegetables, crunchy & crumbly on the outside, soft & juicy inside.
For a vegan option, you may replace the paneer with tofu.
For a surprising twist, try using halloumi instead of paneer 🙂
Paneer (cottage cheese) – 250 grams, cut into cubes and dried on paper towel
Hung yogurt – ¼ cup (I use greek yogurt as it is naturally thicker)
Capsicum – 1 cup, cut into cubes (I used red, yellow and green)
Red Onion – 1 medium, cut into cubes
For the marinade:
Onion – 1 small, finely chopped
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp or to taset
Ginger – ¼ inch, grated or ½ tsp ginger paste
Garlic – 1-2 cloves, grated or ½ tsp garlic paste
Salt – to taste
Lime juice – 1 tsp
Roasted chana dal powder (Besan) – 1 tbsp
Coriander leaves – a handful, finely chopped
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tbsp
Dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) – 1 tsp
To make the marinade:
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a fry pan or kadhai and add cumin seeds. Once it splutters, add the chopped onions and sauté till light brown colour
- Add ginger, garlic, red chilli powder and sauté for a minute or two. Add roasted gram flour and mix well. Cool completely
- Once the onion is cooled, mix together the rest of the ingredients for marinade
To make the tikka:
- Add the paneer cubes to the marinade. Then add the cubes of onion, capsicum and mix well.
- Skewer the paneer and the assorted cubed vegetables
- Preheat oven at 200 deg C.
- Place the skewers on a wire rack – for best results suspend them on a skewer rack. (Suspending the skewer is important as it ensures the tikkas are uniformly cooked on all sides, and the dripping juices do not touch the base of the tikkas. Also, it keeps the paneer from touching hot surfaces, which it tends to stick to.)
- Cook for 15-20 minutes till lightly charred
- Serve hot with mint chutney