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What Is Vindaloo?
Vindaloo is a traditional Indian curry particularly rooted in Goan cuisine and 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). The dish takes its name from the Portuguese carne de vinha d’alhos, a pork dish made with wine and garlic. In India, vinegar took the place of wine, and incorporated red Kashmiri chilies and other spices to become the vindaloo found today—which is also served with chicken, lamb, or potatoes.
How to Make Traditional Chicken Vindaloo
Vindaloo features a piquant blend of vinegar and red chilies, interwoven with sweeter notes of cinnamon, cumin, and cardamom. Meat is browned, and then braised in the juices and sauce. 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 Vindaloo
- Lamb. 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. To make pork vindaloo, swap the chicken for 2 lb. 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. When ready to cook, add pork after onions are lightly browned, add water/stock and salt, cover and cook for about 1 hour, or until pork is tender.
- Vegetarian. To make vegetarian vindaloo, simply substitute chicken with boiled potatoes and cauliflower. Cook separately and add to curry once the mixture has had a chance to reduce, about 30 minutes after you add your liquid of choice. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes more, stirring gently to not break apart the vegetables.
Classic Chicken Vindaloo Recipe
Prep Time30 min
Total Time1 hr 15 min
- 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. Lower the heat, and cook for 45-50 minutes, 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.)