chicken paneer vs chicken tikka

Chicken Paneer Masala vs Chicken Tikka Masala: Everything You Need To Know

Indian foods and cooking styles are quite diverse, and yes, any Indian restaurant has a variety of chicken and paneer hybrids which might confuse many. So, we are demystifying everything about chicken paneer masala vs chicken tikka masala, as these two popular dishes often might confuse many folks.

Chicken in paneer masala or a curry with both chicken and paneer as the source of protein is not uncommon in Indian dishes. Use the same good-old ingredients like garam masala, coriander powder, heavy cream, cashew paste, and ripe and juicy tomato paste, among others.

Chicken tikka masala obviously uses only chicken as the source of protein. It is all about that spiced yogurt and a similar creamy gravy base that goes into the making of this Indian curry. It also has a vegetarian version in the form of paneer tikka masala.

So, what really differentiates the two curries in Indian cuisine? Are they both really all that similar? Or is it all about paneer vs chicken? Let us find out!

What Are Chicken Paneer Masala & Chicken Tikka Masala?

So, before we delve into chicken paneer masala vs chicken tikka masala, let us understand each of these Indian curries better! Both are quite similar when it comes to taste and consistency, but little nuances make them both individually special.

Well, chicken paneer masala is a rich, creamy curry that can be cooked with or without cashew paste (just like butter chicken). There are several variations of chicken paneer curry across India, and the spice mix also vary accordingly. But chicken paneer masala essentially is a great blend of spicy and subtle flavor profiles with both chicken and paneer pieces as protein.

Chicken tikka masala preparation is quite common across India, on the other hand. Most chicken tikka masala recipes include marinating pieces of chicken or skinless chicken thighs with yogurt spiked with spices. This chicken is then skewered and charred or grilled for barbecue-style flavors and finally tossed in a velvety, creamy gravy that is rich and subtle.

But what are the actual differences and similarities between chicken tikka masala and chicken paneer masala? We explore that here:

Chicken Paneer Masala vs Chicken Tikka Masala: Are They Similar?

Yes! They are quite similar in so many ways. But that again depends on the recipe you follow for chicken paneer masala. 

Both dishes use a similar tomato sauce as their base. Both use lots of ghee or butter and cream. However, to understand the similarities between chicken paneer masala and chicken tikka masala, keep reading the space ahead:

Gravy base

They are quite similar when it comes to the method of preparation used for the gravy base. Both include creamy, decadent gravies that are made out of tomato sauce or purees, heavy cream, spice blend of pepper, garam masala, kasoori methi, and lots of butter. This gives these curries a mild and slightly sweet taste.

Diverse uses

Both chicken paneer masala and chicken tikka masala have quite diverse uses in the Indian main course. In fact, chicken paneer masala has more uses than just the Indian kitchen (more on this below). You can eat both these curries with butter naan, tandoori roti, paratha, steamed basmati rice, pulao, and more.

Easy to make

Both chicken paneer masala and chicken tikka masala are quite easy to make. Furthermore, chicken paneer masala might have an edge on being slightly easier as no grilling is necessary here. But you can learn how to make paneer in an instant pot, and the world of paneer tikka masala becomes as easy.

Protein cooked separately

Both chicken paneer masala and chicken tikka masala also include cooking the protein separately before tossing it into the rich, creamy gravy. For the former, chicken and paneer are both fried separately before putting into the gravy and for the latter, chicken is marinated and grilled before it meets the gravy.

So, of course, you can use paneer cubes (learn how to thaw frozen paneer block) or chicken breast (or leg pieces) to make these gravies taste quite similar. But, at the end of the day, both these curries are quite different. Let’s delve into the differences now:

What Is The Difference Between Chicken Paneer Masala vs Chicken Tikka Masala?

There are so many nuances included in the preparation of chicken paneer masala across India that it is impossible for it to be exactly similar to chicken tikka masala. They are, after all, two different styles of curries. Some regions in India also use a paste of bell pepper instead of tomato for chicken paneer masala.

Despite a similar tomato sauce that goes into the making, tikka seems a bit spicier than chicken paneer masala. But there is more to them than their creamy sauce and subtle taste! So, here are the differences that make them each unique.

Source of protein

The most obvious difference between chicken tikka masala and chicken paneer masala is, of course, the source of protein. It is uncommon to use both chicken pieces and paneer cubes in the same dish, and chicken paneer masala is one of those rare curries that use both. However, chicken tikka masala uses only chicken as the source of protein.


Both dishes also find different origins across the globe. So, chicken paneer masala is definitely an Indian-style gravy. But is chicken tikka masala actually Indian? No, because chicken tikka masala was actually invented in Scotland by a Bangladeshi chef to add gravy to tandoori chicken.


While the method of preparation of gravies for both curries is quite similar, the protein preparation is equally different. You can just fry the paneer and chicken for chicken paneer masala until golden brown and call it a day. But chicken preparation of chicken tikka masala includes marination with spicy yogurt (you can add spices to greek yogurt) and then grilling it on a barbeque bar or in the over.

Overall, both chicken paneer masala and chicken tikka masala have their own quirks, be it chunks of chicken marinated in greek yogurt or fried until golden brown. However, tikka masala is heavier and spicier in general.

Nutritional values

Nutritional values of chicken paneer masala vs chicken tikka masala also vary. While both gravies are rich in cream and butter, tikka masala also uses yogurt in marination and hence is fattier.

So, is chicken tikka masala unhealthy?

Well, it is certainly steeped in calories but doesn’t hurt once in a while.

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