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What Is Vindaloo?
Vindaloo is a traditional Indian curry particularly rooted in Goan cuisine and enjoyed throughout the western coastal region of Konkan. Vindaloo’s origins can be traced to the arrival of Portuguese colonists in the sixteenth century (the Portuguese ruled Goa until 1961).
In fact, the dish takes its name from carne de vinha d’alhos, a Portuguese dish made with pork, wine, and garlic. In India, Goan chefs substituted vinegar for wine, replaced pork with chicken, and incorporated red Kashmiri chilies and other spices to create the vindaloo found today. In addition to chicken, vindaloo with lamb or potatoes is also common.
How to Make Traditional Chicken Vindaloo in 2 Steps
Vindaloo begins with several spices typical of Indian food: a piquant blend of vinegar and red chilies, interwoven with sweeter notes of cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom.
- The spices are toasted in a dry pan to deepen their flavors, then combined with garlic, vinegar, and tamarind to create a paste.
- Meanwhile, chicken thighs are seared in a pan, then braised over low heat in a savory blend of chicken broth, tomato paste, and the spice mixture.
Vindaloo is best enjoyed alongside plain basmati rice, bread like rotis, naan, or dosa—and perhaps with a bowl of raita nearby to calm the heat.
3 Variations on Classic Chicken Vindaloo
While chicken vindaloo is perhaps the most well-known preparation, other vindaloo recipes are also common. Here are 3 vindaloo variations.
- Lamb Vindaloo. To make lamb vindaloo, swap the chicken for four lamb shanks. Brown the shanks as directed in the pot, and increase cooking time to 3 hours on low heat, until lamb is tender and falling apart in the sauce.
- Pork Vindaloo. To make pork vindaloo, swap the chicken for 2 pounds of boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces. After blending the spices into a paste, add to a large bowl along with the pork. Toss to coat, cover, and allow to marinate for 3 hours in the fridge. Cook your onions until they’re lightly browned, then add marinated pork, water/stock, and salt. Cover and cook for about 1 hour, or until pork is tender.
- Vegetable Vindaloo. To make vegetarian vindaloo, simply substitute chicken with boiled potatoes and cauliflower. Cook your vegetables separately, then add to curry once the liquid has had a chance to reduce (this should take about 30 minutes). Cook uncovered for 10 minutes more, stirring gently to avoid breaking apart the vegetables.
Classic Chicken Vindaloo Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time1 hr 15 min
Cook Time1 hr
- 10-12 dry red chilies
- 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 3-4 whole cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2-3 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 ½ tbsp tamarind paste
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups onion, rough chopped
- 1-2 lbs small chicken thighs and/or breasts, cut into medium-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a Dutch oven, dry roast the chilies, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, cumin, and mustard seeds until fragrant and lightly browned, but not burned. Remove from heat and transfer a food processor or blender.
- Add ginger, garlic, vinegar, and tamarind to toasted spices and blend until smooth and well-combined. It should resemble a paste; add teaspoons of water if you find it’s too dry.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until edges are beginning to brown.
- Salt and pepper the chicken, then place in the pot, allowing to fry for 3-4 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside; it will not be cooked through.
- Add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, spice mixture, and turmeric to pot, scraping the bottom to incorporate onions and any bits of chicken. (That’s the flavorful bit!) Salt and pepper to taste.
- Arrange the chicken back in the pot, and add 1 cup water or chicken broth. Cover. Cook over low heat for 45-50 minutes, or until chicken is tender and separates easily with a fork.
- Serve hot, with basmati rice, naan, or rotis. (Learn how to make the perfect basmati rice here, or learn how to make your own naan here.)
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