How to Marinate Paneer (For Grill, Oven + Impossibly-Tasty Curry)

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Learn how to marinate paneer with this easy recipe that’s PACKED with flavor.

Showing how to marinate paneer.

Why You Will Love Marinated Paneer

Let’s face it: store-bought paneer (Indian cottage cheese) can taste a bit flat. Not super fresh, sometimes a bit rubbery, missing a little salt.

Marinating chunks of paneer (even for 15 minutes) totally transforms it. A quick soak in flavorful and acidic ingredients tenderizes it and seasons it deeply.

Marinated paneer can be grilled for a BBQ, baked in the oven, pan-fried, cooked in an air fryer, or added to your favorite curries and tikka recipes.

Trust me, adding marinated paneer to your curry gravy can make it taste 1000% better.

Prepare for incredible new levels of deliciousness.

How to Marinate Paneer: What You’ll Need

Gather the right ingredients, consider some variations, and grab the simple tools you’ll need to marinate paneer perfectly.

Palak Paneer and Butter Paneer recipes with naan.

Ingredients for Marinating Paneer

Let’s break down what you’ll need for a flavorful marination.

  • Paneer: The star of the recipe, acts as a sponge for all the flavors. You can easily make your own paneer by curdling milk and straining out the whey. It’s also available at most grocery stores.
  • Vegetable Oil: Helps to bind the spices to the paneer and adds moisture. Swap in mustard oil for an authentic flavor.
  • Lemon or Lime Juice: Adds a tangy zest, tenderizing the paneer.
  • Minced Garlic: A few fresh cloves garlic infuse a sharp, aromatic flavor.
  • Garam Masala: A teaspoon garam masala brings warmth and depth with its blend of spices. This spice mixture includes cumin powder, coriander powder, cinnamon, cloves and other spices.
  • Turmeric: A half teaspoon turmeric (or “Yellow Powder” as my Indian mother-in-law calls it) offers a vibrant color and a hint of earthiness.
  • Cayenne or Kashmiri Red Chili Powder: Introduces heat and color, enhancing the overall taste. If you want color without heat, swap in paprika.
  • Salt: Balances and enhances the flavors of the marinade.
  • Optional: a tablespoon fresh grated ginger (or swap 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste for the garlic)
Marinate Paneer Ingredients

Variations and Substitutions

Here are some ideas to tweak the recipe to your liking.

  • Yogurt: For a creamier marinade, add a bit. It also helps in tenderizing.
  • Fresh Herbs: Like cilantro or mint, for a fresh flavor twist.
  • Spice Levels: Adjust the cayenne or chili powder to make it milder or spicier.
  • Lemon Zest: For an extra citrus kick, add some zest into the marinade.
  • Tofu: A great vegan alternative to paneer, absorbs flavors well too.

Greek yogurt or thick curd mixed with besan (gram flour) or kasuri methi (fenugreek leaves) can be used in the marinade to tenderize the paneer and give it that classic tandoor or clay oven taste. Perfect served as-is or tossed into a paneer tikka recipe.

cutting paneer into cubes

Grab These Tools

A few basic kitchen tools will make the process smooth.

  • Mixing Bowl: For combining the marinade ingredients.
  • Whisk or Spoon: To mix everything thoroughly.
  • Cutting Board and Knife: For cutting paneer into desired shapes.
  • Measuring Spoons: To accurately measure your spices and liquids.
  • Container with Lid or Plastic Wrap: For marinating the paneer in the fridge.

How to Marinate Paneer: An Easy Guide

Transforming paneer into a flavor bomb is simple and worth the extra 5 minutes of effort. Here’s how to do it step by step.

Paneer Cubes in plate

Preparing the Paneer

  • Start by deciding the shape of your paneer. Cubes are great for curries and skewers, while slabs are perfect for grilling or BBQ.
  • Use a sharp knife and a cutting board to cut the paneer. This ensures uniform pieces for even marination.
adding garam masala in paneer

Mixing the Paneer Marinade

  • In a mixing bowl, combine vegetable oil, lemon or lime juice, minced garlic, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne or Kashmiri red chili powder, and salt.
  • Whisk or stir the mixture until all the ingredients are well blended. This creates a flavorful base for the paneer.
adding other spices in paneer

Marinating the Paneer

  • Gently add the paneer pieces to the marinade. Carefully toss them to coat each piece evenly.
  • It’s best to use your hands for this step. This ensures a gentle yet thorough coating without breaking the paneer.
  • Allow the paneer to marinate. A minimum of 15-30 minutes is recommended, but a longer marination period, like an hour or two in the fridge, will enhance the flavors more deeply.
mixing everything

Cooking the Marinated Paneer

  • Once marinated, the paneer is ready to be cooked according to your preference. It can be grilled, pan-fried, or added to curries.
  • Cooking brings out the marinated flavors, adding a delicious layer to your dish.

Final Touches

  • If using the marinated paneer in a curry, remember to adjust the amount of salt and spices in the curry itself. This ensures a balanced flavor.
  • Always taste your dish before serving. This lets you adjust seasoning if necessary, ensuring the perfect flavor profile.
adding paneer mixture to pan

Make Ahead and Storage

Marinated paneer is not just delicious; it’s also great for planning meals ahead. Here’s how to store it for future use.

  • Make Ahead: You can marinate the paneer up to 2 days in advance. This allows the flavors to deepen even more.
  • Refrigerator Storage: Keep marinated paneer in an airtight container in the fridge. It will stay fresh for up to 3-4 days.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, freeze the marinated paneer in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer it to a freezer bag. It can last up to two months.
  • Thawing: Thaw frozen paneer in the refrigerator overnight before use.
  • Cooked Paneer Storage: If you’ve already cooked the marinated paneer, store it in the fridge. Use within 3-4 days.
Marinated Paneer in pan

How to Cook Marinated Paneer

Cooking marinated paneer can be done in several delicious ways. Whether you’re looking to air fry, grill, bake in an oven, or simmer on the stove-top, or add it to your favorite paneer recipes.

Air Frying Marinated Paneer

Air frying is a quick and healthy way to cook marinated paneer.

  • Preheat your air fryer to 375°F (190°C).
  • Place the marinated paneer pieces in the air fryer basket. Ensure they’re not touching for even cooking.
  • Cook for about 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. The paneer should be golden and slightly crisp on the outside.
  • Serve immediately as a snack or add to salads for a protein boost.

Grilling Marinated Paneer

Grilling gives marinated paneer a wonderful charred flavor.

  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  • If using skewers, thread the marinated paneer onto them. If not, place the paneer directly on the grill.
  • You can add veggies like bell peppers, baby corn, mushrooms, and/or chunks of red onion to the skewers if you like.
  • Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side until char marks appear and the paneer is heated through.
  • Enjoy as a main dish or a side, complemented by fresh salad and lemon wedges.
Butter paneer in a pan with naan.

Using Marinated Paneer in Curries

Store-bought paneer can taste a bit flat, but marinating Indian cottage cheese chunks even for 15 minutes before adding it to your curry gravy can make it taste 1000% better.

  • Gently add the marinated paneer pieces to simmering curry suace. Stir carefully to avoid breaking them.
  • Cook for about 5-10 minutes on low heat, allowing the paneer to absorb the curry flavors.
  • Serve with rice or bread, garnishing with fresh herbs if desired.

If you love chicken tikka, this method is perfect for making a Paneer Tikka Masala.

Stove-Top Method

Cooking marinated paneer on the stove-top is a quick and easy method.

  • Heat a tawa or non-stick pan over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil.
  • Place the marinated paneer pieces on the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • This method is ideal for when you want to add a bit of crisp to the paneer without using too much oil.
  • Serve as an appetizer or add to veggies for a complete meal. It’s a favorite among vegetarians.

Sprinkle a dash of chaat masala over the cooked paneer to add an extra zing. A perfect starter.

Oven Method

Baking marinated paneer in an oven mimics the tandoori dishes you might find in restaurants.

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a tray with foil for easy cleanup.
  • Arrange the paneer on a rack over the tray to allow air circulation for even cooking.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway through, until the edges are slightly charred.
  • This method is great for making restaurant-style paneer tikka or tandoori paneer tikka.

Serve your baked paneer with mint chutney and onion slices like you would serve tandoori chicken.

Side Dishes for Marinated Paneer

Complement your marinated paneer with these sides:

  • Indian Flatbreads: Try my viral butter naan, soft roti, or paratha. Perfect for scooping up paneer and sauces.
  • Rice: Serve alongside basmati or jeera rice for a complete meal. Here’s my Indian mother-in-law’s foolproof basmati rice recipe.
  • Salad: A simple cucumber, tomato, and onion salad with lemon dressing pairs well. I love my father-in-law’s cucumber yogurt salad.
Butter Paneer in pan

FAQs About How to Marinate Paneer

Just skimming through? Here are some quick answers to the commonly-asked questions.

Can I marinate paneer overnight?

Yes, you can marinate paneer overnight. Doing so deepens the flavors, making the paneer even more delicious. Just make sure to store it in the refrigerator.

Can marinated paneer be frozen for later use?

Yes, marinated paneer can be frozen for later use. Freeze it in a single layer before transferring to a freezer bag. It keeps well for up to two months.

Does marinating paneer help?

Yes, marinating paneer significantly enhances its flavor and texture. It absorbs the spices, becoming more tender and tasty.

Should you soak paneer before cooking?

Soaking paneer in warm water before cooking makes it softer and more absorbent of flavors, especially if it’s been refrigerated.

How long can you keep marinated paneer in the fridge?

Marinated paneer stays good in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Keep it in an airtight container to maintain freshness.

How to make paneer soft and not chewy?

To ensure paneer stays soft and not chewy, marinate it properly and avoid overcooking. Gentle cooking is key.

How to make chewy paneer soft?

Making chewy paneer soft again involves soaking it in warm water or milk for about 20 minutes before use.

Why is restaurant paneer soft?

Restaurant paneer is often soft because it’s freshly made, well-hydrated, and cooked carefully to avoid toughening.

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How to Marinate Paneer (For Grilling or Curries)

Learn how to marinate paneer with this easy recipe. It can be grilled, air fried, or added to your favorite curries for incredible tastiness.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Marinating: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • 12 oz package paneer
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic or ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne or kashmiri red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp salt
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Instructions 

  • Start by cutting the paneer into cubes or 1/2″ slabs (cubes for curry or skewers, slabs for grill or bbq).
  • In a bowl, mix the oil, lemon juice, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne powder and salt.
  • Add the paneer cubes to the bowl. Gently toss them with the marinade, making sure each piece is well coated. Be careful not to break the paneer. I find it easiest to use my hands.
  • Let the paneer marinate. Even 15-30 minutes can make a difference, but if you have time, letting it sit for an hour or two in the fridge will deepen the flavors.
  • After marinating, you can cook the paneer as desired. It’s great grilled, pan-fried, or added directly to your paneer curries for that extra layer of flavor.

Notes

  • If using marinated paneer in recipes (which I recommend – it’s so good!), reduce the amount of salt and cayenne (or kashmiri chilli powder) in the curry by 1/2 tsp to account for the salt and cayenne added directly to the paneer.
  • Then, taste a spoonful of the curry with a bite of paneer before you decide if you should add more salt or cayenne/chilli powder to the sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 282kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 313mg | Potassium: 13mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 105IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 411mg | Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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