With chunks of paneer, crunchy sweet peppers, and onions marinated in yogurt and warm spices and cooked to perfection, Paneer Tikka makes for the best Indian appetizer. Traditionally the skewers are cooked in a tandoor oven. But here is my EASY and simple version that can be cooked in an air fryer or an oven in just 10 minutes.
What is Paneer Tikka
Paneer tikka is a popular North Indian appetizer. The pillowy soft cubed paneer is threaded onto skewers between pieces of sweet and crunchy onions and peppers. These skewers are then cooked in a Tandoor (clay oven) until slightly charred and smokey.
My EASY restaurant-style Paneer Tikka recipe with authentic North Indian flavors uses modern cooking techniques. It uses warm spices like turmeric, red chili powder, and garam masala.
Here are some of the key ingredients:
- Paneer - Use good quality paneer. I love Gopi brand paneer. It's available at Indian grocery stores, Whole Foods, and Costco.
- Yogurt - Use plain full-fat yogurt for a thick creamy marinade.
- Chili Powder - Many restaurants use food coloring in their Tandoori dishes. I like adding mild Kashmiri red chili powder that gives the final dish a beautiful orange hue without too much heat.
- Garam Masala - Fresh Homemade garam masala elevates the flavors of this tandoori paneer tikka dish
- Dried Fenugreek Leaves - Also known as Kasoori methi often used in North Indian dishes. This dry hern is not the same as fenugreek seeds or powder. If you don't have the dried leaves simply skip them as there is no substitute
- Smoked Paprika - I love the added smokey flavors to the tikka bites.
- Chat Masala - This tangy and hot spice mix has black sea salt as its main ingredient. Simply sprinkle a few pinches as a garnish just before serving for a boost of flavor
How to Make Paneer Tikka
- Make the tandoori marinade by mixing together yogurt, dry spices, and lemon juice.
- Marinate the Cubed Paneer and peppers
- Thread the Paneer and peppers into skewers. Wooden skewers work for air fryers, ovens, and indoor grills while metal skewers are best for outdoor grilling.
Method 1: Air Fryer Paneer Tikka
- Preheat the air fryer at 400 F for five minutes
- Line 4 to 5 skewers in the air fryer basket and air fry at 360°F (180° C) for 8 minutes.
Method 2 : Grilled Paneer Tikka
- Preheat the outdoor grill or stovetop griddle and brush the with oil.
- Place the skewers on the grill, brush with oil, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through. Note: Lining the outdoor grill with aluminum foil will prevent the paneer from sticking to the grates.
Method 3: Oven Baked Paneer Tikka
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Line the skewers on a baking rack. Place the rack on a baking tray and brush with oil. Bake for 10 minutes.
- For slightly charred edges, finish the cooking by broiling the skewers on high for 2 minutes.
Here are my pro tips for the best-tasting and EASY paneer tikka recipe:
- Marinate the paneer for at least 30 minutes or even overnight for deep flavors
- If using frozen paneer, make sure to thaw it completely before marinating. To thaw the paneer simply keep it in the refrigerator overnight. You can also keep it at room temperature or in warm water for an hour
- Pat dry the paneer to remove any excess moisture. Also, dry the peppers well before cutting them so there is no excess moisture in the marinade. Traditionally onions and mixed peppers are used in this recipe. But feel free to use other veggies like mushrooms or zucchini that taste delicious with paneer
- To reheat the paneer tikka simply, place it back in the air fryer basket and cook for 2 minutes at 360 F
- I like to use small wooden skewers when serving as an appetizer or entertaining.
- I use the stainless steel skewers when making this as a main meal and place them over the skewer rack, which allows better airflow and no need to flip them after 5 minutes. The stainless steel skewers and rack are part of the Cosori accessory set.
- You can also make paneer tikka without the skewers. Simply place the marinated paneer and peppers directly in the air fryer basket, just remember not to overcrowd it and spray the basket with oil before.
To serve as a main meal, serve over cumin rice and a side of crunchy cucumber salad. You can even wrap the cooked pieces of panner and peppers in homemade parathas or serve over warm pillowy naan and a glass of mango lassi.
- Paneer tikka skewers are best when enjoyed hot. When they cool down too much the paneer can sometimes become dry, so to reheat simply place the skewers back in the air fryer basket and reheat for 2 to 3 minutes at 360 degrees F
- Marinated paneer can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours
- The cooked paneer will stay well refrigerated for up to 3 days
Did you enjoy this quick and easy recipe? Here are more Indian recipes to try:
Air Fryer Paneer Tikka
- ½ cup plain yogurt full fat
- ½ tablespoon ginger paste
- ½ tablespoon garlic paste
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon chat masala optional
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika optional
- 1 pound paneer cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 medium green pepper cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 medium red pepper cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 medium red onion cut into 1-inch cubes
Marinating and Preparing Skewers
- In a medium-sized bowl add yogurt, ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt, red chili powder, garam masala, and chat masala. Crush the dried fenugreek leaves on the palm of your hands and add them to the bowl. Add lemon juice and mix all the ingredients to make the marinade.
- Add paneer, peppers, and onions to the marinade and mix everything together coating the paneer and veggies well with the marinade.
- Cover the bowl and allow it to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 10 minutes which prevents them from burning.
- Thread the Paneer and peppers into the skewers alternating the paneer, peppers, and onions. Note: If you do not have skewers you can also cook the paneer and veggies directly in the air fryer, oven or grill.
Air Fryer Paneer Tikka
- Preheat the air fryer at 400 F for 5 minutes.
- Lightly spray or brush the air fryer basket with oil. Line 4 to 5 skewers and spray over lightly with oil. Cook for 5 minutes at 360°F (180° C). Turn the skewers, spray lightly with oil and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Oven Baked Paneer Tikka
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Line the skewers on a baking rack and place the rack on a baking tray. Spray over lightly with oil. Bake for 10 minutes. For slightly charred edges, finish the cooking by broiling the skewers on high for 2 minutes.
Grilled Paneer Tikka
- Preheat outdoor grill or stovetop griddle. Line the outdoor grill with aluminum foil to prevent the paneer from sticking.
- Brush the griddle (or aluminum foil on the grill) with oil. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning halfway through
- Serve immediately with chutney fresh lemon wedges.