Achari Paneer Tikka is a popular north indian (punjabi) vegetarian appetizer made with paneer marinated in achaar masala (indian pickle spices). If you love indian pickles, you will love this spicy, tangy & smoky paneer tikka.I am sharing both the tawa (stove top) and oven method in this post. These spicy, tangy & smoky paneer tikka are gluten free and keto friendly. Serve with green chutney and sliced onions .
What are Achari Dishes?
Achari comes from the hindi word "Achaar" which means pickle. Indian pickles are made using lots of bold spices and loads of oil. Achari dishes are cooked using those robust flavors to make curries or appetizers.
Be it any region of India, the achar masala is quite pungent and sharp from spices like fenugreek (methi dana), hing(asafetida), mustard (rai) & nigella(kalonji) seeds. Achari dishes taste unique.
My grandmother kept busy making homemade achaars using garlic, limes (nimbu achar) or chillies all year round and mom made a lot of achari dishes using those spice mixes. Like most indian families, in our family too, achaars like garlic a are everyone's favorite.
When we went out to eat, I remember the achari tikka from the Great Kebab Factory in Delhi. Their achaari paneer tikka always used to stand out and it was my favorite with naan and green chutney.
Achari Paneer Description
Achari Paneer Tikka is one of the many delicious paneer starters from the Punjabi cuisine. The dishes in punjabi cuisine have a distinct flavor and aroma from use of piquant indian spices and mustard oil.
To make achari paneer tikka, we marinate the paneer chunks in achar masala (indian pickle spices) and then cook on high heat till smoky. These paneer tikka are perfect to serve at barbecue or cocktail parties. They taste different than tandoori or malai tikka. If you are hosting a summer bbq party anytime soon, do include these in your menu for something different & delish!
What is Achari Paneer Tikka Made With? (Ingredients)
Here are the ingredients (picture) you will need for making achari paneer tikka.
- Paneer - I like using malai paneer which is creamy and turns soft and delicious after cooking. You can also use homemade paneer (best taste!)
- Achaar Spices- Fenugreek seeds, Yellow Mustard (substitute with brown mustard, see recipe for notes), fennel seeds, kalonji(nigella seeds), ajwain. Skip any spices you do not have. You can skip the hassle of grinding achaari spices if you are in a hurry and buy pre made dry achaar masala available in any indian store.
- Achaar Masala - Okay so this is my mom's way. She adds a tiny bit of fermented pickle masala from jar of garlic or mango or mirch achar whichever kind we have in our pantry. Seriously, you have to trust me that a teaspoon or two really brings in the kick to the marinade!!
- Besan (Gram Flour)- Not only helps in making the marinade thick but also lends a nutty taste.
- Yogurt- Thick, full fat. Hung curd (if you are making in india). Greek yogurt is fine too. Don't choose very sour yogurt.
- Mustard Oil. Adds a sharp pungent note to punjabi dishes. You can use neutral oils like sunflower or avocado instead.
- Ginger Garlic Paste - Fresh paste is best, however feel free to use store bought ginger garlic paste in this recipe. The preserving agent in store bough taste will not interfere with the taste of marinade because of the sharp flavor and aroma of pickle spices.
- Other Ingredients - Lemon juice, Kala Namak (rock salt), white salt
How to Make Achari Paneer Tikka At Home (Step Pictures)
Make the Achari Marinade
- Add the whole achari spices- fennel, mustard, ajwain and fenugreek to a spice or coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder. I don't grind the kalonji coz it makes the marinade blackish in color.
- Dry roast the besan on low heat in a small pan.
- Mix thick yogurt with the ground spices, turmeric & chilli powder, ginger garlic paste, lemon juice, mustard oil, mashed achar masala, green chillies, roasted besan, kala namak and salt.
- Using a whisk, mix the marinade very well.
Marinate the Paneer
Cut the paneer into large chunks. I usually go for 2.5 to 3 inch big chunks. Add paneer to the achari marinade and mix very well.
Tip- If you wish, you can use bell peppers, onions or cherry tomatoes. I suggest marinating the paneer and vegetables separately. Reason being that the marination times are different. Vegetables only need 30-40 minutes of marination else they will become watery.
Marination - Marinate the paneer for at least 4 to 6 hours. I marinated it overnight (highly recommend). For the vegetables, marinate them for maximum 40 minutes. You can save some of the achari marinade for the vegetables before adding paneer.
Cook Achari Paneer Tikka
Using ONE of the below methods. Please adjust time as needed depending on how large the paneer cubes are.
- Airfryer Method - Place the marinated paneer cubes in the air fryer tray. Air fry at 400F for 7-8 minutes.You will need to flip mid way. Tikka should be browned on edges.
- Stove Top Method - Heat a heavy cast iron skillet or grill pan or a tawa (griddle) on medium (not smoky hot). Brush the pan liberally with oil and layer the marinated paneer and vegetable chunks in a single layer. Let cook till browned on one side, brush oil on the top side, flip and let cook till slightly charred on the other.
- Grill - Thread the paneer and vegetables on to metal or bamboo skewers. Fire up the grill and place the paneer skewers on it. Keep basting with oil every now and then and cook on all sides. The tikka should be nicely charred for a smoky taste.
- In the oven - Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking tray with aluminum foil or parchment. Bake for 15-20 minutes turning the skewers mid way and brushing with oil. Tip :- Place a small rack on the baking sheet if available and place the skewers on the rack, this helps in good air flow around the tikka and does not make them watery.
- Paneer Quality - Use good quality fresh paneer. Avoid paneer made with skim or toned milk.
- Go an extra mile :- For extra flavor and if you have the time, once you have made the marinade, let the marinade marinate for 2 hours or so in the fridge. My mom used to make - ahead just the marinades and let them sit. It really makes a difference.
- Cutting Paneer :- Cut the paneer in large thick pieces, not only they look good while serving, they won't dry out.
- Juicy Tikka :- One of the best ways to keep any tikka or kebab moist is to liberally bast it with ghee or oil.
- Don't Cook Cold Marinated Panner. Take out the marinated paneer from the refrigerator an hour or so before cooking the tikka. This makes sure that the tikka is soft and succulent.
- Non Vegetarian Variation - You can use this same marinade with boneless chicken thighs or lamb. Do marinate for 12-18 hours in that case.
- Vegetarian Variation - Use the same marinade with par boiled baby potatoes or cauliflower. You can marinate mushrooms and baby corn as well.
- Vegan Achaari Tikka - Use extra firm tofu in place of paneer and use cashew yogurt for marinating.
- For best taste and flavor, make and serve these achari paneer tikka rightaway. Reheating makes the paneer chewy, I would not recommend it.
- Scaling - You can double this recipe. Make sure that your are using large bowls for marination else the paneer might break while mixing.
How to Serve
- Serve achaari paneer tikka as a starter with green chutney & laccha onions. Or pair with tawa kulcha or naan for a full meal.
- Make Achari Paneer tikka wraps. Slather green chutney on a paratha or roti, add 2-3 chunks of paneer along with sliced onions and chopped cillantro. Sprinkle chaat masala and squeee lemon juice on top. Roll to make a wrap.
- Serve to top of salad greens as a healthy lunch.
- Cut the tikka into small bits and make tacos or burritos adding shredded cheese, pico de gallo and salsa.
Cut large (2 to 3 inch) chunks of paneer when you are making tikka. Cut thick chunks. Small paneer pieces will become chewy and dry out while cooking tikka on high heat.
Ideally, overnight. But if you are in a hurry, at least 4 o 6 hours for a good robust flavor in the tikka. Since we are cutting the paneer in large thick chunks, it won't fall apart due to long marination.
Definitely you can use it( judiciously). Store bought achaar masala have citric acid or preservatives which can sometimes make the marinade taste funky. Keep tasting as you go.
Achari Paneer Tikka Recipe
Achari Spices (Skip any you dont have)
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds (or ½ tablespoon black mustard seeds)
- 1 teaspoon ajwain carrom seeds
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds methi dana
- ¼ teaspoon nigella seeds kalonji
For The Tikka
- 2-3 tablespoon besan gram flour
- ½ teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder or paprika
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder adjust to taste
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon kala namak rock salt
- 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- ¾ cup greek yogurt or hung curd
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil
- 2 teaspoon achaar masala any pickle you have at home
- 1.5 tablespoon lemon juice
- 14 oz (~400g) paneer cut into 2.5 to 3 inch chunks
- oil for cooking
Make the Marinade
- Add all the spices(except nigella seeds) listed under achaari spices to a coffee or spice grinder and grind to a powder to get achaari spice mix.
- In a sauce pan, dry roast the besan on low heat until its brown and smells nutty.
- In a large bowl combine the yogurt, achaari spice mix, nigella seeds, ginger & garlic paste, mustard oil, turmeric and red chilli powder, lemon juice, kala namak, achaar masala & salt. Whisk well to mix. Tip:- The marinade should be thick and pasty. Runny marinade will slide off when you cook the tikka. If the marinade appears runny, add extra tablespoon of roasted besan. Also keep in mind some juices will be released while marination .
Marinate The Paneer
- Combine the paneer with the achari marinade. Toss gently using your hands to make sure that the paneer chunks are covered in the marinade. Cover the bowl with a cling film and set to marinate foratleast 4 to 6 hours. I usually leave it marinated overnight,refrigerated. If you are using vegetables like onions or bell peppers marinate them seperately, 1 hour prior to making the tikka.
Cook the Paneer Tikka (Use ONE of the below methods)
- Airfryer Method - Place the paneer and vegetables in the air tray. Air fry at 400F for 7-9 minutes. You will need to flip mid way. Tikka should be browned on edges. Adjust time depending on how large the paneer chunks are.
- Stove Top Method - Heat a heavy cast iron skillet or grill pan or a tawa (griddle) on medium (not smoky hot). Brush the pan liberally with oil and layer the marinated paneer and vegetable chunks in a single layer. Let cook till browned on one side, brush oil on the top side, flip and let cook till slightly charred on the other. Adjust time depending on how large the paneer chunks are.
- Grill - Thread the paneer and vegetables on to metal or wooden skewers. Fire up the grill and place the paneer skewers on it. Keep basting with oil every now and then and cook on all sides. The tikka should be nicely charred for a smoky taste. Adjust time depending on how large the paneer chunks are.
- In the oven - Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment. Bake for 15-18 minutes turning the skewers mid way and brushing with oil. Keep and eye and adjust time depending on how large the paneer chunks are. Tip :- Place a small rack on the baking sheet if available and place the skewers on the rack, this helps in good air flow around the tikka and does not make them watery.