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." If you prefer to cook this chicken vindaloo on the stovetop, see my recipe for Goan pork vindaloo.
So we have this glorious sweet and sour masala that makes vindaloo so crave-able. 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. Many Instant Pot recipes for curries have you use the sauté function in the way you would cook on the stovetop. This means you cook the aromatics and temper the spices before bringing the pressure cooker up to temperature.
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 good enough for company. And after just 30 minutes in the kitchen to make dinner, that is saying something.
Hot or not
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 itself. This stew is delicious, with or without spicy heat, so please your taste buds, and the people you are feeding. You can manage the heat level by how you treat the fresh chilies:
- 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.
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 spice 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 mustard seeds.
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 section above called 'hot or not.'
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 an Indian stew is quite common, and not only does it stretch a dish, but they also become meltingly creamy and flavorful, having absorbed the gravy while cooking. If you want to add 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 chicken vindaloo Instant Pot
This dish's beauty is that there is no chopping, toasting, pre-cooking of onions, or even mandatory marinating. If, however, you have time, mix up the marinade ingredients, stir in your protein, and allow it to sit on the counter for 30 minutes. If you have time for longer marination, cover and pop the vindaloo in the refrigerator for an hour, up to overnight.
This 30-minute method has you cut the meat into bite-sized pieces, mix with the rest of the ingredients and cook in the Instant Pot on High Pressure for 5 minutes. Natural Pressure Release for 10 minutes, and then you ready to taste the masala for seasonings. 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.
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 sauce just clinging to the meat. Taste for enough salt, sugar, and spice levels.
Serve this delicious curry with plain basmati rice and some naan or bread of your choice.
FAQ: Weeknight Vidnaloo Questions
Is vindaloo a good curry to make if I don’t like spicy food?
Vindaloo range from quite hot all the way to mild in its Goan home. So, you do you, understand the heat of the chilies you are using, and use my trick of removing the stem end of the chili, but keep them whole if you want the chili flavor without heat.
Does vindaloo freeze well?
Vindaloo freezes very well. Store in an airtight bag or container. If you have the time, defrost vindaloo in the refrigerator a day ahead. Add a tablespoon of water to reheat it in a heavy pan.
Can I make Instant Pot vindaloo ahead?
Yes, and it is even better the next day, so you can make this dish when it suits you. It will keep well in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Can I use other protein than chicken?
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.
Do I need a special vinegar?
Happily no. Cider vinegar is what I tend to reach for in my kitchen, but plain white vinegar is good too.
Is oil a good replacement for ghee?
Yes, ghee adds flavor but this curry already is so highly seasoned that it won’t be missed. It's easy to make your own ghee, try my recipe.
Can I make this vegetarian or vegan?
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.
If the sauce is not thick enough for your taste follow the instructions in the recipe card. For more ideas about using tofu in this dish, see the Notes below. Lastly, substitute oil for the ghee.
Make it your own
The joy of this recipe is that you can have chicken vindaloo on the table in 30 minutes. So wow your family, and feel quite pleased with yourself! If you have more time to cook and want to make a more complex curry, try my Goan pork vindaloo recipe.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Here are recipes for some perfect vindaloo sides:
Weeknight Chicken Vindaloo Instant Pot
- 1.5 pounds chicken thighs, skinless, boneless ~ Use chicken breast if you must
- 1 tbsp ghee ~ Or coconut oil, or any neutral oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ See Notes below for substitutions
- 2 tbsp garlic ~ Pureéd or finely minced
- 1 tbsp 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
- 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 tbsp cream ~ If needed to mellow the gray; also, coconut milk, or yogurt. More or less to your taste.
- Mix all the marinade 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.
Ingredients to 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. 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.