First post of the new year, and I’m presenting something somewhat derivative of an old recipe to you. I would be ashamed under normal circumstances, but there is truly no shame in this recipe for tandoori paneer.
The first time I made tandoori chicken, it was for a party I was hosting. The first time I made tandoori paneer was also for a party — I was throwing a housewarming a few years ago and had grand plans for pulled chicken sliders to feed the crowd, but also wanted some vegetarian options. Since I already had one chicken dish, I wasn’t going to make tandoori chicken. But then my mother — who taught me how to make the chicken — suggested that I make tandoori paneer.
“How would I do that?” I asked. And she said all I really needed to do was create a marinade much like the one made for the chicken and I would be all set. Perhaps I could put the paneer and veggies on skewers to boost the presentation, too. I thought about it a little longer and realized it wasn’t a bad idea at all, so I gave it a shot.
And they turned out great. The vegetarians weren’t the only ones reaching for their share of paneer — the meat lovers were helping themselves too, with one friend even asking if she could take a few pieces home as I offered up some leftovers at the end of the night.
Since then, I’ve made tandoori paneer a few more times. Sometimes while entertaining, for sure. Other times, it will get made on weekends when boyfriend and I want something special but don’t want to splurge on takeout. That’s why I made the paneer recently and it reminded me that I should make it more often.
Now, because I’m not fully transformed into a good Indian girl just yet, I haven’t actually learned the art of making my paneer from scratch. If you make yours from scratch, good on you — keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re not ready to tackle the world of paneer making, or perhaps you do make fresh paneer when the fancy strikes, but don’t always have time for that step, you can buy readymade paneer at your local Indian store. I have also seen paneer at Costco, so there are definitely chances you’ll be able to find it in a non-Indian store too. Either way, you have options.
I also use a pre-made tandoori masala mix, just like I do when making tandoori chicken, though there are also recipes out there to concoct your own. And just like with my chicken recipe, I do add a little additional spice, amongst other things, to create the marinade.
And that’s it. You let the paneer and chopped up peppers and onions sit for a bit in this marinade you might normally use for chicken, then you poke the pieces through some bamboo skewers and pop them in the oven for some baking time and voila — tandoori paneer. It can play many roles as an appetizer, main dish or side.
So if you’re interested, the recipe is below. Like the tandoori chicken, you can play around with the flavors loosely, but I did take some notes while making this paneer recently, so I’ve tried to put together some more specific-sounding guidelines for those of you trying this out for the first time.
- 12 ounces paneer
- 1 small red pepper
- 3/4 green pepper
- 1 small-to-medium red onion
- 5 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 2.5 teaspoons tandoori masala
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder*
- 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- Yields about 4 servings if used as a main dish or significant side dish; serves more as an appetizer
- Make sure to soak some bamboo skewers (I needed six 12-inch skewers) in water for about 30 minutes; preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before you put the marinated paneer and veggies in the oven.
- 1. Cut up the paneer into bite size rectangles or cubes (I ended up with 23 pieces from my 12-ounce block), then cut up the bell peppers and onion into pieces that are a similar or slightly smaller size.
- 2. Mix the yogurt, tandoori masala, salt, ground cumin, coriander powder, garlic powder, red chili powder, neutral cooking oil and juice from lime in a medium-to-large bowl. Make sure the resulting mixture has all ingredients evenly distributed.
- 3. Add the chopped up paneer, peppers and onions to the marinade-filled bowl and coat them thoroughly with the mixture.
- 4. Allow the paneer concoction to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (I've let it do so about 3-4 hours before I actually intend to put it in the oven).
- 5. When ready to make the paneer in the oven, just stick onions, peppers and paneer — alternating their order — onto the soaked bamboo skewers.**
- 6. Place the paneer, onion and pepper skewers on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then stick in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes. Rotate the skewers halfway through the baking time. The paneer and veggies will come out a little browned (you could let them bake a little longer if you want them slightly browner) when ready.
- * If you're using a strong chili powder like the Indian deggi mirch, and don't want it too spicy, err on the side of caution and use a smaller amount of chili powder. If what you are using a fairly mild version of red chili powder, you can probably put a little more than I'm suggesting.
- ** I alternated onions, followed by one piece of red pepper, one piece of green pepper, then paneer, and generally repeated this pattern, ending up with four pieces of paneer sandwiched between onions and peppers on all but one skewer (which just had three pieces of paneer). Do whatever seems aesthetically pleasing and balanced flavor-wise to you. In some instances, I had multiple pieces of onion followed by peppers and paneer on one skewer, while other skewers had less pieces. It doesn't have to be perfect.
- Put together with some guidance that follows Mama Rad's Tandoori Chicken recipe.
There is something very chill, atmospheric and soothing about this track, with its smooth vocals, which makes it rather well-suited to creating a tandoori marinade and allowing one’s paneer to heat up in an oven. Just don’t let yourself zone out to this tune for too long — you can’t risk burning that paneer!