Paneer tikka is a popular restaurant dish, especially for vegetarians who are not eating chicken. For years it has been my go-to food to bring to barbecues, where vegetarian options are often limited. I have recently adapted it to the air fryer for a convenient, low-fuss meal or appetizer.
About the Recipe
This is an air fryer recipe that comes from a recipe I have been making in different ways for years. I used to make it often on the stovetop. Then I started making it in the barbecue, where the heat and charcoal smoke added an extra flavor. When I have served it at barbecues, it has been popular not just with vegetarians but the meat eaters too. More recently, I adapted it to the air fryer, which makes it incredibly convenient.
This is a great recipe to serve your vegetarian guests, especially when grilled meats are being served, and you want to offer them an alternative. It has many of the same flavors and aromas as chicken tikka. Other paneer dishes you might consider serving alongside it are saag paneer and paneer pulao.
Why Follow this Recipe?
- It’s very easy. The marinade is a simple blend of ingredients, and it can be cooked by any method you find most convenient: air fryer, barbecue, or stovetop. The air fryer gives it that cravable grill texture, a mix of crispy outside and soft inside.
- My recipe does not use any food coloring but still gives it that spectacular red tikka color due to the beet.
- I have served this recipe countless times at barbecues and get-togethers, and it is always a crowd favorite.
Paneer — India’s cheese. It holds up well to heat.
Yogurt — provides the base for the marinade.
Ginger-Garlic Paste – use ginger-garlic paste if you have it, or mince some ginger and garlic. I have made this successfully for people who do not eat garlic by doubling the ginger.
Beet – the beet is strictly to add color because I don’t like adding food coloring. I grate it with a microplane to avoid adding texture to the paneer. It gives it a beautiful red color. Restaurants would use red food coloring, you can also use Kashmiri chili powder, or omit the color altogether if you prefer.
Garam masala or Tikka masala — tikka masala is a spice blend made especially for dishes like chicken tikka and paneer tikka. Garam masala works just as well if you don’t have it.
- Serve with sliced onions, lemon juice, and grilled bell peppers. It is excellent with flatbread and green chutney or on its own.
- This is an easy, forgiving dish. The only thing to watch for is not overcooking and burning it because the paneer will become tough. On the grill, it can quickly become black, with too much of a charred, burnt taste.
- Use granulated garlic and powdered ginger in place of fresh – works great
- If you don’t eat garlic, you can leave out the garlic and double the ginger
- Instead of the beets, use food coloring or extra Kashmiri chili powder, which is more traditional. Or leave it out entirely.
- I don’t add turmeric to my recipe to keep the bright red color. But turmeric can be added if you want. Use 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.
Refrigerates well for up to 3-4 days. Reheat it in the microwave or eat it cold. It freezes well for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Double-wrap it to protect against freezer burn. Paneer will quickly take on other flavors. It can be reheated in the air fryer at 380°F for 4-6 minutes, on the stovetop, or in the microwave.
Air Fryer Paneer Tikka
- Air Fryer optional
- 12 oz paneer (350 g)
- ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tsp ginger garlic paste
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
- 1 Tbsp beet grated
- 1 ½ tsp garam masala or tikka masala
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- Spray oil
- 2 Tbsp cilantro
- Cut paneer into 2-inch by 1-1/2-inch steaks.
- In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, beets, and spices. Whisk until smooth.
- Arrange the paneer onto a plate and coat all sides with the marinade. Be gentle to avoid breaking the paneer.
- Spray the air fryer tray with oil. Arrange paneer. Spray the top of the paneer with oil.
- Cook in an air fryer at 380°F (190°C) for 11-13 minutes. Turn the paneer at the halfway point.
- Serve with lemon, sliced onion, and cilantro.