Shahi Paneer vs Paneer Tikka Masala

Shahi Paneer vs Paneer Tikka Masala: Everything You Need to Know

Last modified on May 20, 2022

Every vegetarian knows that a party is incomplete without a paneer dish on the menu. This soft and creamy ingredient works best for both snacks and the main course. Two of the most popular delicacies using cottage cheese are shahi paneer and paneer tikka masala. In their preparations, few similar ingredients are used. 

In the recipe card for dishes with cottage cheese, you can find tons of variations of these dishes. Since India is a large and diverse country itself, people experiment and come up with new recipes involving homemade cottage cheese.

Another reason is that this ingredient has circulated all over the world. Due to this, the original dishes have undergone many modifications to adapt to the local tastes and availability of ingredients. 

Similarly, shahi paneer and paneer tikka masala have gone through various modifications. But are they similar? To answer this, we will break down the vital aspects such as ingredients, taste, and preparation methods.

Shahi Paneer vs Paneer Tikka Masala: Knowing the Indian Cuisines

In an Indian restaurant, these two cuisines are one of the most ordered dishes. In fact, these are the first things that any Indian would look for in the food menu. 

Before establishing the differences and similarities, let us know more about these dishes. 

Shahi Paneer

Shahi paneer, in itself, signifies royalty. Its origins date way back to when the Mughals ruled India. Since it is a Mughlai cuisine, the term “shahi” was incorporated into the dish’s name. It refers to the royal title of Shahanshah (ruler) in Mughal India.

This Indian dish has an orange color and is prepared with emulsifying onions, tomatoes, clarified butter, ground cashews, and creamy curry. It helps to create the thick gravy of the cuisine. Some even use dry fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi) in their dishes.

Traditionally, this royal dish has a sweet taste and is usually eaten with Indian flatbread like roti or other food items like jeera rice, basmati rice, naan, etc. Etymologically, paneer is derived from the Persian word for cheese. Whereas shahi is a term for royals (was frequently used in the Mughal Empire). Kadai paneer, paneer makhani, paneer butter masala, and mutter paneer (check out shahi paneer vs mutter paneer) are prepared in the same way as this dish.

The minute difference between the dishes is that more of the whole spices are used in butter masala, making it a spicy dish. Contrarily, shahi paneer possesses a sweeter taste than its other variants.

Paneer Tikka Masala

Paneer tikka masala is another famous cuisine made with the help of Indian cottage cheese. As a matter of fact, it is used as a vegetarian alternative to tandoori chicken. 

Its production process involves two steps. The first one is marinating and grilling cottage cheese to make the tikka. The second one includes the production of spicy gravy. Want to know how to prepare tikka masala? Click below.

In Indian cooking, cheese is traditionally grilled in a Tandoor (cylindrical clay oven) which gets medium heat from an ignited wood. Once it gets grilled, it is poured into the masala gravy. The masala gravy is produced by mixing several spices.

Since paneer butter masala and tikka masala have many similarities, it confuses people. Therefore, you may want to see paneer butter masala vs paneer tikka masala.

Paneer Tikka Masala vs Shahi Paneer: Are They Similar?

There sure are some similarities between these two Indian cuisines. For example, they both use some similar ingredients to make their gravy. Further, the key ingredient in both is the Indian cottage cheese. 

However, the differences outnumber the similarities. The shahi paneer gravy and the tikka masala gravy are different, resulting in non-similar tastes.

First, let us look at the similarities between the two dishes.


Both dishes have their origins rooted in the Indian subcontinent. 

Onion-Tomato Base Gravy

Fresh tomatoes and onions are the quintessential ingredients for preparing both the gravies. If these two ingredients are not included, you cannot make either of the cuisines.

However, the onion-tomato puree made with a powerful blender jar does not result in the same taste because of other ingredients involved in the preparations. Some chefs may even use different techniques to produce a creamy texture with an onion-tomato mixture.


As their name suggests, both the Indian curry employ fresh Indian cottage cheese as their star ingredient. 

It is a type of cheese produced by first curdling the milk by adding acidic substances. Alternatively, you can substitute cottage cheese with tofu. Firm tofu is ideal for people following a vegan diet.

Make sure you choose fresh paneer cubes for the preparation, as the frozen ones can alter the taste and the coarse and smooth texture of the dishes. If not, you can make homemade paneer. Furthermore, you can also choose from Paneer Nanak vs Deep and use it in your dishes.

Cashew Paste

Ground cashews are necessary if you need a replacement for heavy cream or cooking cream. Furthermore, cashew nuts give a better creamy texture to both dishes. Therefore, it is used in each curry.

What is the Difference Between Shahi Paneer and Paneer Tikka Masala?

There are a few subtle differences between shahi paneer and paneer tikka masala.


Shahi paneer comes with a rich and creamy taste because it uses butter, fresh cream, etc. With a slight sweetness, it is sure to satisfy your taste buds. To get a sweet taste, you can add about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. 

Tikka masala gravy has an earthy and smoky flavor. This is because it is primarily made in tandoor. Furthermore, its flavoring absorbs more heat than the other recipes. 

Tikkas become more delicious when served with a relatively spicy gravy, resulting in its spicy and sour taste.


Another aspect of shahi paneer vs paneer tikka masala is their colors. The former has a bright orangish-red color. It is due to the makhani gravy involved in its preparations.

On the other hand, Tikka masala gravy primarily utilizes a paste of cashew nuts, bay leaf, and onion-tomato to form its sauce. Therefore, the color is usually reddish-orange.


In shahi paneer vs paneer tikka masala, the texture is a vital aspect for comparison. Makhani translates as smooth, meaning that the gravy should have a fine texture. There shouldn’t be any trace of crushed spices or broken cashew nuts.

Furthermore, you may need to sieve the gravy during the latter part of the preparations to acquire a fine texture. Contrarily, tikka masala gravy is allowed to be coarse, mixed with bay leaf, garam masala including green cardamom, black cardamom, and more spices.


Butter is used to prepare the makhani gravy. It also influences the color of the dish and gives it a buttery taste. A vegan can go for other vegan butter options available.

However, when we look at the tikka masala recipe, there is not a single trace of butter. If you want to use butter for tikka masala, you can use it alongside any oil. 

Using butter gravy would result in a boost of flavor, but it may not be suitable for the earthy flavors of tikka masala.


When making a shahi paneer, you won’t need to marinate the cubed cheese. You can use salt, lemon juice, and turmeric powder to marinate if you really want to. 

For the tikka masala gravy, it is necessary to marinate the pieces before putting them in the oven. Not marinating them will result in a clear downfall in the cuisine’s taste. Therefore, you should learn how to marinate paneer.

Marination is a vital step in preparing this curry, and there’s no reason for you to skip it.

Preparation Time

Preparation time depends on the number of additional steps involved in preparing these delicacies. Shahi paneer usually takes less time to prepare.

On the other side of shahi paneer vs paneer tikka masala, it takes a bit more time to prepare tikka masala. Why? Because you may need to make the tikkas and gravies separately. 

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