This Pork Vindaloo curry is beautifully balanced with a hint of sugar, tarted up with vinegar, and heated through with fresh and dried chilies. Make it as hot or mild as you wish. And choose your cooking method—slow cooker, stovetop, or a slow braise in the oven.
What is Vindaloo?
Vindaloo is a memorable marriage of Goan flavors and the Portuguese dish ‘carne de vinho e alhos.' Carne is meat, vinho means wine, and alhos is the word for garlic.
To preserve meat, the Portuguese created a marinade of vinegar, salt, garlic, and wine. Goa's contribution is a mix of warming spices— cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, black pepper, and coconut vinegar.
Hot or Not
Vindaloo in the West has the image of being infused with an incendiary amount of chili heat. The following recipe will not blow off the top of your head with its fieriness but it has a nice one-two punch from both fresh and dried chilies. Feel free to add more or less of either to your taste.
Lots to Love!
- This curry is even better after one or two days of mellowing
- Vindaloo hits all the irresistible flavor notes: sweet, sour, and heat
- Choose your protein, method of cooking, and heat level
- One of the world's most popular curries for a reason
Vindaloo spices: The spices for the marinade are Kashmiri chilis, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and black pepper. Or instead of these spices, you could sub in a Goan spice mix.
The marinade: The spice mix above, turmeric, vinegar, and pork other meat.
The masala: Oil, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, onion, ginger, garlic, green chili, tomato, marinated pork, sugar, and tamarind or lemon juice.
How to Make Vindaloo
If you prefer using chicken, detailed instructions are included in the recipe card below.
Toast the spices in a dry pan. Allow them to cool, then grind to a fine powder.
Whole toasted spices
Freshly ground spices
Mix the pork with vinegar and spices and allow it to marinate as long as it takes to make the sauce or up to 24 hours.
VINDALOO MASALA (SAUCE)
- Heat the oil and pop the mustard and cumin seeds.
- Cook the onions until they are golden.
- Add the garlic and ginger paste and the green chilies to the onions and cook for a few minutes.
Cook the aromatics
Cook down the tomatoes
- Add the puréed tomatoes and curry leaves (if using) until you have a thick paste and the tomatoes are a shade darker.
- Stir in the pork, sugar, and tamarind or lemon juice to the pan and bring to a simmer.
- Stovetop: Cover and cook the pork on a low simmer covered for an hour. Remove the cover and uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.
- Oven: After cooking the sauce place the vindaloo in a preheated oven for an hour. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the meat is tender.
- Slow cooker: After cooking the sauce place the vindaloo in a slow cooker. Cook on High for 4 to 6 hours, or Low for 8 to 10 hours until the pork is tender.
Lamb, beef, goat, duck, and chicken all are delicious in this sauce. See the Question & Answer section for some vegetarian ideas.
In Goa, the acid is coconut vinegar made from a liquor of fermented cashews called feni. Not to worry, if you are not living in Goa, we have an acceptable substitute in easily found apple cider or malt vinegar.
Fresh green chilies
I've included a range of green chili amounts to use depending on how hot you want your vindaloo. Finger chilies (Indian chilies), Serranos, and Thai green chilies are all great choices, though you will need to adjust the amount given their different sizes.
For a milder effect, keep the chilies whole, but make a slit on two opposite sides lengthwise.
Ground red chili
Kashmiri chilies are loved for their mild fruity flavor and bright color. Korean gochugaru is a good substitute. For a hotter option, there is always cayenne.
For an equivalent heat level to Kashmiri chili powder, use half the amount of cayenne because it is much hotter. If you are cooking a dish that is known for its red color use this substitution: one part cayenne and three parts paprika (not smoked).
And if you are wanting to buy spices online head over to my article on the best Indian grocery stores online for great sources.
Jaggery or gur is unrefined cane sugar. Happily, brown sugar is a great substitute.
Lemon juice or tamarind
While tamarind is a more traditional choice to add the signature zip to vindaloo, an equal amount of lemon juice works beautifully.
Instead of the whole spices in this dish, you can sub in my homemade Goan spice mix. I haven't tried it, but Madras curry powder is not a bad choice either. A good brand of either of these masalas will do nicely if you don't want to make one yourself.
Questions & Answers
Yes! Since this sauce is so flavorful your curry will still be great. Its low and slow cook will ensure that whatever protein you are using will be infused with flavor.
I’ve made my pork vindaloo with added potatoes and they are a great addition. (Be sure to peel and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes so they cook through.) You could go all potato if you wish. I have also seen vindaloo recipes for paneer, tofu, and other vegetables. However, I have not tried them all yet. Depending on the ingredient you are highlighting, you will need to adjust the marination and cook times.
Vindaloo is made from a blend of chilies, tamarind, mustard seeds, ginger, and warming spices with a good bit of acid. Kormas are a mild and creamy curry bathed in a sauce of yogurt, coconut, or a purée of nuts, with base spices of coriander and cumin.
As long are you watch how much oil you use, vindaloos are a healthy dish. Most vindaloo recipes use 1/4 cup of oil. I have found that half that amount works beautifully and there is no full-fat dairy in the form of yogurt, cream, or ghee in the sauce.
Tips and Tricks
- The beauty of vindaloo is that it is even better when made one, two, or even three days in advance. This allows you to have it easy on the day you will be serving it. So the wait allows the vinegar and spices to marry into a meltingly delicious centerpiece for your table.
- Follow the marinade times. Since the marinade has acid in it it is important not to soak meat or poultry for too long or it can become mushy.
- This curry is meant to be sweet and sour so don't be tempted to add too much more sugar, though certainly adjust the seasonings to your taste.
- If you want to use a store-bought spice mix see my recipe for a Goan spice mix for brand recommendations.
- One of the keys to cooking Indian curries is to resist hurrying the cooking of the onions and tomatoes. Cooking out the rawness and caramelizing the flavors of these two ingredients is essential to building a well-rounded sauce.
Serving, Storing, & Reheating
Rice and any sort of flatbread make the perfect accompaniment. Goan pork vindaloo keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
It also freezes well. Using a ziplock bag or airtight container it will keep for 1 to 2 months.
Reheating: Ideally, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, but a quick thaw and reheating in the microwave also works. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of liquid; any sort of milk or even water will do.
Some other Delicious South Indian Recipes
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 📖
Goan Pork Vindaloo
SPICE MIX-See Notes for a spice substitutes
- 3 whole dried Kashmiri chilies ~ Or 2 teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder. See: substitutions
- 8 whole green cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 8 whole cloves ~ Optional
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon whole black or brown mustard seeds ~ Yellow mustard seeds will also work
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3 cups onions ~ Finely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Or to your taste
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste ~ Buy or make
- 1 to 4 small Indian green chilies ~ Finely minced. See Notes below
- 14.5 ounce 1 can of tomato purée ~ Or 4 tomatoes chopped (1 1/2 cups), or canned crushed tomatoes, substitutes
- 10 curry leaves ~ Optional, about
- 1 tablespoon jaggery ~ Or brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste ~ Or equal amount of lemon juice
- 1/4 cup cilantro ~ Coarsely chopped
- Gather all your marinade ingredients.
- See NOTES for a Goan garam masala substitute: Toast all the whole spices in the spice mix. In a dry skillet over medium-high heat toast the spices until fragrant, stirring constantly so they toast evenly. Look for them to darken slightly; about 2 minutes. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes.
- Using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, grind the spices. Dump the ground spices (or two tablespoons of Goan garam masala) into a small bowl and stir in the turmeric and salt. Add the vinegar. If you didn’t use whole chilies, add the ground chilies now.
- Cut your meat of choice into the size of cubes that you prefer. Rub the marinade into your meat and allow it to rest at room temperature while you make the sauce or pop it in the fridge for three to four hours. Please see the Notes 3 and 4 below.
- Heat the oil in a wide, heavy bottomed and lidded pan over a medium-high flame, and sauté the mustard and cumin seeds until they sizzle and pop; about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the onions and salt. Cook until the onions are soft and golden on the edges. Stir frequently, adding a splash of water if needed to keep the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Don’t hurry this phase because you are building flavor. This step can take anywhere from 10 to 16 minutes.
- Add the garlic and ginger paste and the green chilies to the onions. Cook stirring frequently for another 2 minutes, or until the garlic smells cooked.
- Add the puréed tomatoes and curry leaves (if using), and cook stirring frequently until you have a thick paste and the tomatoes are a shade darker; about 8 to 10 minutes. If using crushed or fresh tomatoes, it will take 3 to 4 minutes longer.
- Add the pork or chicken and marinade to the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir well and add sugar and tamarind. Bring to a simmer, and cover tightly.
- Turn the heat to low and cook on the stovetop for an hour.
- Check for liquid levels at least twice during the cooking time, and if it is dry (the meat should be almost covered), add a 1/4 cup of water or more as needed. If you are cooking skinless boneless chicken, this step may only take 15 minutes or so until the meat is tender. Bone-in thighs will take roughly 45 to 60 minutes depending on their size.
- For the pork: After an hour with the lid on, uncover and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce has thickened. For the chicken: Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes over low heat to reduce the sauce and mellow out the flavors.
- After cooking the sauce through Step 5, place the vindaloo in a preheated oven at 325F° (160°C), for an hour. Check for liquid levels as described above and the cook time and instructions are the same as the stovetop method.
- After cooking the sauce through Step 5, place the vindaloo in a slow cooker. For the pork: Cook on High for 4 to 6 hours, or Low for 8 to 10 hours until the pork is tender.For the chicken: If using skinless boneless chicken leave the chicken thighs whole. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, or until the chicken thigh registers 175°F (80°C). If you used skinless boneless chicken thighs, remove them from the slow cooker and cut into 1-inch pieces and stir them back into the sauce. Skip this step if using bone-in thighs.
- If the sauce is not as thick as you want it you can: #1 remove the lid and cook on High for 20 to 30 minutes. Or, #2 remove the meat from the sauce and cook the sauce on the stove uncovered on medium-high heat until it is as thick as you want it.
- Allow the vindaloo to stand uncovered off the heat for 10 minutes. Taste for the acid, heat, salt, and sweetness. Garnish with coarsely chopped cilantro and serve over rice.
- Spice substitute: Use 2 tablespoons of Goan garam masala instead of the marinade spices.
- Kashmiri chilies are not particularly hot and are used to add flavor and color to the dish. If you wish to have a hotter dish, you can use dried guajillo peppers, or for even more heat, chile de arbol. I suggest that you start with a modest hit of chilies, and you can always add cayenne or hot sauce at the end. If you aren’t near an Indian grocery, Thai green chilies are the best fresh chili substitution or one serrano for every 2 smaller chilies.
- Pork: Any cut of pork can be used for Goan pork vindaloo. If using pork shoulder, cut following the muscle of the meat, and remove most of the silver skin and fat as you go. My preference is to have the meat in large chunks, roughly 2-inches by 2-inches, so that you can taste the meat as well as the sauce. Traditionally, the meat is cut into small 1/4-inch cubes. The size you cut your meat will affect how long it will take to cook.
- If using chicken legs/thighs on the bone reduce the marinating time to 2 hours, or one hour if using boneless skinless thighs. And your cook time will be much shorter than if using pork. Make vindaloo with chicken breast at your peril; it will probably be dry. NOTE: If cooking skinless boneless chicken thighs in the slow cooker, keep the thighs whole until after they are cooked. They will stay juicier.
- Fresh green chilies: Serranos or Thai chilies are the best sub, but use what you have. If you want some chili flavor but not the heat, keep the chili whole and make a slit on opposite sides of the chili lengthwise.
- I prefer to braise pork in the oven because the heat is more evenly distributed, but cooking on the stovetop on low heat works well too.
- Vindaloo is tasty the day it is made, but if you have the time, it is even better the next day or even the next!