Chicken Vindaloo

Vindaloo curry is a staple in most Indian restaurants, and actually is based on a stew brought to Goa, India by the Portuguese. There are plenty of variations on specific ingredients so this is my stab at this tangy, fiery curry.

If a made-from-scratch curry is intimidating, then this is a good place to start. I make a spice mix first (which can be done well ahead of time, stored, and even used for other applications like grilled chicken), then incorporate it into a curry paste in a mortar and pestle. This can also be done ahead of time and stored in the fridge for a week or more.

From here, it’s just a matter of a quick sauté with some diced chicken thigh and diced canned tomatoes. It’s not exactly authentic, but it’s tasty. I prefer to serve with boiled then pan fried potatoes, but basmati rice is an easy, equally good side to soak up the delicious spicy curry.

(Serves 2-3)


For the spice mix (double to have extra for future uses):

  • 1 TBSP cumin seeds
  • 1 TBSP coriander seeds
  • 1 TBSP black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds (optional)
  • About a dozen small dried chiles, like arbol or japonese, stemmed
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne pepper

For the curry paste:

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 of a small shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 TBSP white or rice vinegar
  • A pinch of coarse sea salt

For the final dish:

  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1.5 lb yukon gold potatoes or 1 cup uncooked basmati rice
  • 14 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (non-fire-roasted work just fine)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 TBSP canola oil
  • Chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and thinly sliced green chiles for garnish



For the spice mix:

  1. Toast the dried chiles in a pan over medium-high heat until slightly darkened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind into a coarse powder. It’s okay if there are some large strands of the chiles still there.
  2. Toast all the seeds and peppercorns in the same pan over medium heat, adding the cumin last, as it will be the first to burn. Shake and toast for only about a minute until fragrant. Transfer to mortar and pestle and grind into a coarse powder using a circular motion.
  3. Add turmeric, paprika, and cayenne and keep grinding until everything is well integrated. Feel free to ad lib and add onion powder, more cayenne, or more turmeric for a brighter color. Transfer to a bowl for immediate use or a sealed container for future use.

For the curry paste:

  1. Add garlic and ginger to a mortar and pestle with a generous pinch of course sea salt. Starting gently, pound until a rough paste has formed, then add shallots and pound for about a minute longer. You’re looking to pound against the bottom portion of the sides of the mortar, not directly into the center. This will prevent ingredients from flying up in your face.
  2. Add about 1/4 cup of the spice mix, and pound to incorporate with the paste. It will become quite thick, so scrape the pestle with a spoon or small rubber spatula from time to time. Add 1 TBSP more of the spice mix, then 1 TBSP vinegar and continue to incorporate. Repeat with 1 more TBSP of each. If it’s too thick, add a tiny bit more vinegar. You’re looking for a consistency something like this once all is said and done. Set aside or seal and keep refrigerated for up to about a week.



For the final dish:

  1. Cut potatoes into small chunks and boil until tender to the touch of a fork but not mushy. Drain and set aside. Alternatively, bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup basmati rice and a pinch of salt. Simmer on low heat while you make the Vindaloo.
  2. Heat 2 TBSP canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute more. Add chicken and about 1/4 cup of the curry paste, stirring so the chicken is well-coated. Then add a couple more TBSP of the curry paste for good measure and cook for 3-4 minutes or until there is some light browning on the chicken.
  3. Add the can of diced tomatoes to the pan, stir, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the tomatoes to break down and all the spices from the curry paste to form a thick sauce. If it’s looking too thick, add a splash of chicken stock and stir to combine.
  4. In the meantime, heat 1 TBSP canola oil in another skillet over high heat, then add the potatoes and cook, shaking or turning occasionally for about 10 minutes. You want to get some nice browning on all sides. Add a few pinches of salt and a few splashes of olive oil towards the end. Alternatively, remove the basmati rice from heat, uncover, and fluff with a fork.
  5. Plate potatoes or rice in wide bowls and ladle the Vindaloo on top or on the side. Garnish with cilantro, chiles, or lime wedges.




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