What is a Vindaloo?

Understanding Spices

Vindaloo is a popular Indian curry originating from the Goa region on the west coast of India. It’s a hot, fiery and tangy dish made with meat, vegetables and plenty of spices.

It’s commonly believed that vindaloo is influenced by Portugese cuisine, brought to India by Portugese explorers in the 15th century. In fact, the word ‘vindaloo’ is thought to be a mispronunciation of ‘carne de vinha d’alhos’, a Portugese dish of meat marinated in wine vinegar and garlic. Meat was marinated in vinegar as a way of preserving it, so that the explorers had a plentiful supply for months of travelling.

As with many other foreign foods introduced to a country, the local people put their own spin on it. As there was no wine vinegar in India, palm wine was used instead. Locally available spices like tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom were also added. The most important spice in the dish is chilli peppers, arguably a legacy of Portugal’s global empire. However, chilli peppers are often substituted with Kashmiri chillies.

In East India, you’ll find a version of the dish called tintaloo, which is much spicier than vindaloo.

How do I cook a vindaloo?

Traditionally, vindaloo is made using pork, but nowadays you can find versions using beef, chicken and lamb. If you’re vegetarian, the dish also works really well with vegetables like courgettes, potatoes and bell peppers. In this post, we’ll be showing you how to make a chicken vindaloo, which is a popular alternative to pork vindaloo.

The most important part of the dish is the masala (spice mix). The spices used in vindaloo vary depending on who’s cooking, but the most common spices include:

  • Ground turmeric
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • White cumin
  • Brown mustard seeds
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne chillies
  • Ground ginger

Don’t have the time (or patience!) to purchase and measure out each individual spice? A quick and easy alternative is to use our Vindaloo Spice Blend.

If you do choose to cook vindaloo from scratch, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s pretty straightforward. First of all, you should dry roast your whole spices on a medium low heat, making sure not to burn them.

Next, combine the roasted spices together with the rest of the spices in a blender, adding a dash of vinegar and blending to make a smooth paste.

Heat some oil in a pan and lightly fry some diced onions. Add the chicken and fry for a few minutes before adding the spice paste and some tomato puree.

Add a little bit of water and leave to simmer until the chicken has absorbed all the juices. 

And there you have it! Vindaloo is best served with basmati rice, naan, potatoes, chapatis or wraps. If you have a little more time on your hands, you can also marinate the meat together with the spice taste for a stronger, more intense flavour.

If you fancy using pork, you can find a full recipe for Goan Pork Vindaloo here.

For more Goan recipes, check out The Spice Pioneers Goan food box here.

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