This glorious sweet and sour masala makes vindaloo so crave-able. As hot as you like, Instant Pot Chicken Vindaloo is a beautifully balanced quick, and easy chicken curry. Using ground spices with no browning and a quick marinade, this 30-minute cook is a perfect weeknight meal. If you want to make vindaloo on the stove with some additional bells and whistles, see my Goan pork vindaloo recipe.
Vindaloo ~ A Goan favorite
Vindaloo is one of the most popular Indian dishes. The Portuguese's 500-year stay in Goa's west coast state introduced cooking meat with wine for a dish they called "carne de vinha d'alhos." Traditional vindaloos were made with feni (a Goan spirit), tamarind, and pre-soaked whole red chilies. For the ease of weeknight cooking, I use ground spices and skip browning the chicken.
Modern vindaloos get their bright punch from vinegar instead of wine. I’ve used both cider vinegar and plain old white vinegar, and they both work well. Malt vinegar is also often called for, but that is not a pantry item for me, so I can’t vouch for it.
There is something miraculous that happens in the pressure cooking process. Happily, I have found that mixing all the ingredients and cooking everything in one go works beautifully.
Is the flavor as complex and nuanced as my Goan pork vindaloo? No, but it is good enough for my husband—who has an excellent palate, btw—to pronounce that this chicken vindaloo is a company-worthy dish. And after just 30 minutes in the kitchen to make dinner, that is saying something.
What Makes this Recipe Special?
- An fragrant and flavorful vindaloo in 30 minutes
- No browning or toasting involved
- The marinade is so well-spiced you only need to marinate for 15 minutes
- Hot or not, you decide
Known as a super-hot curry in some parts of the world—I am looking at you the U.K.—but not always in Goa. This stew is delicious, with or without spicy heat, so please your taste buds, and the people you are feeding.
This recipe is called chicken vindaloo, but cubes of pork shoulder, any ground meat, lamb, or even tofu, will work well. However, if you want to use cubed lamb, you will need to cook it on High Pressure for 10 minutes instead of 5, keeping the Natural Pressure Release to 10 minutes.
There is no need to toast whole spices then grind them. The Instant Pot method works miracles in melding the flavors together. And you don’t need anything too exotic, just ground cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and ground mustard.
Shortcut Note: If you have my Goan Garam Masala, 1 tablespoon of this spice mix can replace all of the spices in this recipe.
If you are learning to cook Indian food, I encourage you to find ground red Kashmiri chilies. They aren’t very hot but add a lovely red color and fruity and earthy undertones to whatever you are cooking. If you don’t have it for this recipe, substitute it with a small amount of cayenne pepper, which is much hotter. You can always add more at the end if you need to.
For fresh green chilies, use two small Indian chilies, or more. Serrano chilies are a choice as well, but if a jalapeño is what you have, use it. Also, see the Q&A section for substitutions.
Fresh ginger and garlic are essential to this vindaloo. If using a head of garlic and a whole knob of ginger, I like to break it down into a puree with a wand grater (Microplane). For convenience's sake, I also always have frozen garlic and ginger puree in the freezer. Trader Joe’s carries the Dorot brand which I like but find that frozen paste isn't quite as vibrant. However, there are no off-flavors like jarred pureés often have.
Tomatoes and potatoes
I use 1 cup of canned tomato puree for this recipe, but you can certainly use an equal amount of chopped fresh tomatoes. If using out-of-season fresh tomatoes the most flavorful varieties are plum, grape, or cherry tomatoes.
Adding potatoes to vindaloo is not traditional, but adding them to curries is, especially in Indian restaurants. Not only does it stretch a dish, but the potatoes become meltingly creamy and flavorful, having absorbed the gravy while cooking. If you want to add potatoes substitute 1/2 pound of chicken with 2 medium potatoes. Peel and cut them into 1 1/2-inch cubes if they aren’t small.
Ghee is the fat I prefer to use in this recipe, but coconut oil, avocado oil, or any other neutral-flavored oil will work well. Ghee is delicious and easy to make.
How to Make Vindaloo in an Instant Pot
For detailed photographs on how to make this weeknight vindaloo, see the Google Web Story.
This dish's beauty is that there is no chopping, toasting, pre-cooking of onions, or even mandatory marinating. If, however, you have time, allow the chicken to sit on the counter for 30 minutes. For longer marination, cover and pop the vindaloo in the refrigerator for an hour, up to overnight.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. (1) Then make the vindaloo paste by mixing all the marinade ingredients together. (2) Stir in the chicken and coat completely.
Vindaloo paste and marinade.
(3) Add the onion, sugar, and chilies. (4) Stir to combine.
The sauce ingredients added.
Chicken vindaloo ready for the Instant Pot.
Cook the chicken in an Instant Pot on High Pressure for 5 minutes. Natural Pressure Release for 10 minutes. (5) If you want a thicker sauce, remove the meat and select the Sauté mode for up to 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the gravy because it reduces quite quickly.
Chicken finished cooking in the IP
Weeknight chicken vindaloo.
Depending on what you are serving with your vindaloo, you may want it to have a generous amount of sauce. Or you can serve it on the dry side with the gravy just clinging to the meat. Taste for enough salt, sugar, and spice levels.
FAQ: Weeknight Vindaloo Questions
Vindaloo ranges from quite hot all the way to mild, even in its Goan home. Because this vibrant curry has a perfect balance of acid, sweetness, and spices, heat is not necessary.
Cooks in Kerala often use coconut so a vindaloo in that state would have one or both coconut oil and fresh coconut.
Yes! Cubed pork shoulder or any ground meat of your choice tastes great with this sauce. There is no need to make changes to the cooking instructions. Cubed lamb would also be delicious but you will need to cook it longer. I suggest cooking the lamb on High Pressure for 10 minutes, then Natural Pressure release for another 10 minutes.
Yes! Use 250 grams for extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes, and mix with the rest of the ingredients. As with chicken and pork, cook the mixture on High Pressure for 5 minutes, but instead of Natural Release Pressure, do a quick release. For more ideas about using tofu in this dish, see the Notes below. Lastly, substitute oil for ghee.
Tips and Tricks
You can manage the heat level by how you treat the chilies:
- If you don't have small Indian green chilies, Serranos are the next best option. Jalapeños are good if that is what you have. Understand the heat level of the chilies you are using to decide how many you want to add.
- To infuse the bright, earthy flavors of fresh green chilies without adding heat, remove the stem end but keep the chilies whole before adding them to the pot.
- For a bit of heat, slit the chili lengthwise, remove the ribs and seeds, then mince finely.
- If you want a hot curry, use the ribs and seeds as well.
Ground chili powder:
- Ground Kashmiri chilies are low on the heat scale, often used for their color and mild, fruity flavor.
- For a hotter option sub in cayenne beginning with 1/4 to 1/3 of the Kashmiri chili amount and a 1/2 teaspoon of paprika for color. You can always add more ground chili at the end.
Serving and Storing
As with most curries, chicken vindaloo is even better the next day. It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I find it also freezes quite well for up to two months if stored in an airtight zipped bag or container.
Some Perfect Sides
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please rate by clicking stars ⭐️ on the recipe card and/or let me know in the comments below. Thank you! ~Alonna
Recipe Card 📖
Weeknight Goan Chicken Vindaloo Instant Pot
- 2 pounds chicken thighs, skinless, boneless ~ Use chicken breast if you must. Optional: substitute 1/2 a pound of chicken with 1 1/2-inch cubes of potato
Vindaloo Paste (Marinade)
- 1 tablespoon ghee ~ Or coconut oil, or any neutral oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom ~ If you have my Goan Garam Masala use 1 tablespoon of that instead of all these spices from cardamom to black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard ~ Or 2 teaspoon djion mustard
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ See Notes below for substitutions
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/4 teaspoons sea or table salt ~ Or 2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons garlic ~ Pureéd or finely minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger ~ 2-inches garlic pureéd or grated
- 1 cup tomato pureé ~ Or sauce, or fresh tomatoes blended
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar ~ Or white or malt vinegar
For pressure cooking
- 1 1/2 cups onion ~ Finely diced
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar ~ Or white
- 2 small Indian green chilies ~ Stem end removed, see Notes below for substitutions
- 1/4 cup water
Final adjustments and option garnishes
- cilantro ~ Chopped
- 2 tablespoons cream ~ If needed to mellow the gray; also, coconut milk, or yogurt. More or less to your taste.
- Gather all your ingredients. If you have my Goan Garam Masala use 1 tablespoon of that instead of all the spices from cardamom to black pepper. Trim the chicken thighs and cut them into 3 or 4 pieces depending on their size.
- Mix all the vindaloo paste ingredients together, then stir in the chicken (or other protein). Allow it to sit on the counter while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. If you want a longer marinade, cover and refrigerate.
Cook the vindaloo
- Finely minced the onions and stir in the sugar, the green chilies, and 1/4 cup water. If cooking immediately, stir the onion mixture in with the chicken.
- Pour the vindaloo into the Instant Pot, close the pressure valve, and select High Pressure for 5 minutes. Allow the pressure to Natural Release for 10 minutes, then do a Quick Release manually.
- Check the gravy and if it is too thin for your liking, remove the chicken, meat, or tofu and select the Sauté function. If your Instant Pot as a low option, choose that. Simmer the sauce for up to 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it because the liquid will evaporate quickly.
- Taste for seasonings: salt, sugar, and heat level. Add some ground chili if needed. If you feel the sauce needs mellowing, start by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream, yogurt, or coconut milk until the flavors suit your tastebuds. Serve with rice and/or bread of your choice.
- Using fresh and dried chilies: Vindaloo is quite flavorful even without the heat if you prefer a mild curry. Omit the green chilies all together if you prefer, or scroll up to the Question and Answer section of this recipe if you want to play around with the heat using green chilies. For ground red chilies, if you don't have the mild Kashmiri chili powder, use about 1/4 to 1/3 of the amount of cayenne pepper.
- Using pork, ground meat, or lamb: All these choices are good but if you choose lamb you will need to cook it on High Pressure for 10 minutes, then Natural Pressure Release for 10 minutes.
- Using tofu: Use 250 grams for extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes, mix with the rest of the ingredients. As with chicken and pork, cook the mixture on High Pressure for 5 minutes, but instead of Natural Release, do a quick release. If the sauce is not thick enough for your taste, spoon out the tofu and select saute for up to 5 minutes until it has thickened to your liking. Keep an eye on it because I find the sauce reduces quickly. If you want to give the tofu a flavor boost, marinate it for 30 or more minutes. You may also want to go to the extra step of sautéing the marinated tofu in a couple of teaspoons of oil to give the outside of the tofu a firmer and crisper texture
- Optional flavoring: 10 curry leaves roughly chopped will add a rich herbaceous note to this chicken vindaloo.
- Marination: Like many curries, this chicken vindaloo will taste even better the next day. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.