Vindaloo is a traditional Indian curry that’s not for the faint hearted! Chunks of beef are slow-cooked to tender perfection in a fiery-red sauce packed with big, bold curry flavours. Is it spicy? Heck yes, as it should be! For serious curry lovers, it’s hard to top this.
Serve with naan for mopping and yogurt to cool that fire.
Vindaloo Beef Curry
Vindaloo is a traditional tomato-based curry gifted to the world from Goa, a sunny pocket of paradise on the Western coast of India.
The origins of Vindaloo can be traced back to the time when Portugal ruled Goa in the sixteenth century. In fact, the name Vindaloo comes from carne de vinha d’alhos, a Portuguese dish of pork, wine, and garlic. Local chefs added a stack of spices, switched the wine for vinegar, and that’s how Vindaloo as we know it today came about (in a nutshell!)
A staple of Indian restaurant menus around the world, this curry is one for spicy food lovers!! 🌶 Vindaloo is loved for its fiery heat and intense sauce, which packs a generous combination of spices and is sharpened with a good whack of vinegar. It can be made with most proteins, including lamb, goat, pork, prawns, chicken and you could even do a vegetarian number.
While pork is actually traditional, here in Australia beef is the most popular version in Indian restaurants so that’s what I’m sharing today. Chunks of meat are slow-cooked for two hours in the Vindaloo sauce until it’s so tender it easily yields to the touch of a spoon!
What does Vindaloo taste like?
Unlike the easygoing and luscious Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala, Vindaloo is a swinging punch to the head! Plenty of Kashmiri chilli powder – a key spice in Vindaloo – brings flavour, heat and the famously rich red colour to the curry. There’s also warm spices in the form of cumin, coriander, cardamom, a little cinnamon and a few others. Finally, a distinct tang from vinegar is a signature Vindaloo flavour that balances the curry and gives it backbone.
It’s strong, hot and intense! If you’re wondering how spicy it actually is, I’d say it’s an 7 out of 10. Those who are accustomed to spicy food will no doubt scoff this down without breaking a sweat. I may talk a big chilli-heat game but I can’t actually handle very spicy food, and I don’t find this Vindaloo brutally hot.
So for you spice-wimps out there? Don’t worry, see the recipe notes for how to lower the Scoville units in this dish! 😂
Ingredients in Vindaloo
Let’s go through what you need to make this amazing curry! First, the Vindaloo curry paste which is used to marinate the beef and help form the sauce. (Other proteins are covered in the recipe notes.)
1. The beef and the curry paste marinade
Spices – Most of these spices are fairly accessible these days in the spice section of large grocery stores in Australia. The two exceptions are Kashmiri chilli and fenugreek seeds – see next points;
Kashmiri chilli – This is an Indian chilli that is a little smoky as well as spicy. The Kashmiri chilli gives the curry sauce its signature bright red colour and chilli heat.
Find at: Indian* and some Asian grocery stores (some have Indian sections). Believe it or not, it’s also sold at some Coles grocery stores (Indian section).
Best substitute: It’s a key ingredient (we use 6 tablespoons!) so I really urge you to make the effort to find it. But if you can’t and you’re desperate to try this dish (I don’t blame you!), substitute with a mix of sweet paprika + smoked paprika + chilli powder (pure chilli powder, not US Chili Powder which is a blend) / cayenne pepper.
Fenugreek seeds – Another Indian specific cooking spice that actually kind of smells like maple syrup, though doesn’t taste like it when raw.
Find it at some Harris Farms, or Indian* and some Asian grocery stores (some have Indian sections). Use leftover for Palak Paneer!
Can’t find it? Just leave it out.
Beef chuck– An economical cut of beef that is best slow cooked until tender. Try to get it in a block piece so you can cut the pieces yourself. Most butchers and grocery stores cut it too small so the pieces cook too quickly, before the sauce develops enough flavour.
Alternative beef: Boneless ribs will also work as would beef osso bucco (use 1.2kg / 2.4lb including bone, keep them whole, the meat will fall off in pieces once slow cooked). If you can get well marbled brisket, that will also work but I find a brisket a bit stringy cooked in stew-like form.
Other proteins – Slow cooking cuts of lamb (mutton), goat and pork. Chicken will work too but the cook time needs to be shortened. See recipe notes;
Sugar – Just a touch to balance out the vinegar; and
Garlic and ginger – Fresh, just roughly chopped because it’s blitzed up with the spices to make the curry paste.
* I go to the Indian Emporium in Dee Why, Sydney.
2. Other ingredients in the Vindaloo Sauce
Much of the curry flavour of the Vindaloo Sauce comes from the Vindaloo Curry Paste (above) used to marinade the beef. But there’s a few extra ingredients we use to pep up the base of the sauce flavour:
Beef stock – Stock or broth rather than water to add greater depth of flavour into the Vindaloo curry sauce. I did try with just water, but found the sauce a bit lacking.
Ordinarily I’m an advocate of using the best quality beef stock within your budget because producers are yet to successfully mass-produce cheap beef stock to a decent level of quality. However in this case, average store bought beef stock or broth is fine because by the spices are the dominant flavour here! But you get bonus points if you use homemade beef stock. I use homemade when I’m making to impress. 😇
Curry leaves – It smells like curry powder, but in fresh curry leaf form! (Though just so you know, curry powder isn’t derived from curry leaves 🙂) Curry leaves add incredible curry perfume into anything it’s used in in a way that can’t be replicated with powders. Fairly accessible nowadays for Sydney-siders, sold at Harris Farms, most Coles and Woolworths. I have a plant!
Store leftovers in the fridge (several weeks) or freeze for months.
Also used in: Eggplant Curry, Dal, Vegetable Samosa Pie, Cabbage Thoran. Throw in 10 or so when cooking Curried Rice, or into this Indian Chickpea Curry or Vegetable Curry – it will really take it to a new level!
Substitute: dried curry leaves (not quite the same, but it’s the best sub) or Garam Masala powder;
Ghee (or butter) – The fat used in Indian cooking which adds an intense buttery flavour. Ghee is basically the same thing as clarified butter. This is simply normal butter but with milk solids and water removed, leaving behind pure butter fat.
You can either make your own Ghee (it’s cheaper, really easy and keeps for months), buy it, or just use normal butter;
Black mustard seeds – they look like poppyseeds but have a slight wasabi-like bite to them. And they smell Indian, not Japanese! Not spicy, more a fresh zing. It’s about $1.50 in small packs at Indian grocery stores – I go to Indian Emporium in Dee Why on the Northern Beaches, Sydney. Also sold in the Indian food section at some Woolworths (Australia) $1.70, and online – small, light pack so postage should be minimal!
Ginger and garlic – It’s rare to see an Indian recipe that don’t include these, and Vindaloo is no exception!
How to make Vindaloo Curry
Vindaloo starts with a curry paste made by blitzing or grinding a generous amount of chilli and spices, fresh garlic and ginger. This is then used to marinate beef before before slow cooking in a sauce until the meat is fall-apart-tender.
1. Vindaloo curry paste beef marinade
Vindaloo Curry Paste – Place the curry paste ingredients in a small food processor or Nutribullet (pictured) and blitz until it becomes a paste. We use a bit of water which makes it easy to blend until smooth;
Marinate beef – Pour the Vindaloo curry paste over the beef, then marinate for 2 hours minimum. Up to 24 hours is fine, but it doesn’t make the end result any better because the spice flavour is so strong it penetrates into the beef pieces during the slow cooking time.
2. Making the Vindaloo curry sauce base
Make sauce base – The Vindaloo curry sauce starts by sautéing garlic, ginger and onion before adding the black mustard seeds which will sizzle and pop dramatically. Then we cook off the tomato paste (this takes off the raw edge) before mixing in the beef stock;
Transfer to jug – I then transfer the mixture in a jug so the mixture can be pureed with a stick blender. This is necessary because there’s not enough volume to do this in the pot because the head of the stick blender won’t be submerged. Trust me, I tried – and ended up with most of it on my face!!
Puree – The use a stick blender to puree until smooth. You could do this step in a blender or food processor too. The purpose here is to puree the onion, garlic and ginger until smooth which releases flavour and makes the sauce smooth. I didn’t do this for earlier versions of the recipe (and many recipes online do not call for this) but once I added this step, the Vindaloo Sauce flavour noticeably improved;
Back into pot – Then pour the sauce back into the pot, and we’re ready to proceed with slow cooking the beef!
3. Slow cook beef until tender
I like to do the slow cooking step in the oven because it’s entirely hands off. No stirring, no need to worry about the base catching. But if can also be done on a very low heat on the stove.
Add beef – Add the beef and every scrap of marinade into the pot with the pureed sauce;
Stir and bring to a simmer;
Slow cook – Then transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours. This is the length of time needed to make 3cm / 1.2″ cubes of chuck beef “fall-apart-tender” and for the sauce to thicken, develop flavour and darken in colour to the signature vibrant red colour.
The oven temperature is 190°C/375°F (170°C standard) which sounds higher than you might expect. But this is the temperature that replicates a low heat on the stove. If you take a peek in the pot midway through cooking, you’ll see that the surface of the liquid is barely bubbling – if at all – which is exactly what you want. I use this same temperature for other slow cooked stew-type things such as Beef Bourguignon, Massaman Lamb Shanks. For other dishes, I will cook for longer at a lower heat where they benefit from the longer cook times.
Ready to serve! When you take it out of the oven, the sauce should be a deep red colour (as long as you didn’t skimp on the kashmiri chilli!), thickened so it coats the beef pieces, and the beef should be tender enough to cut into with a fork. If not, just cover and stick it back in the oven!
What to serve with Vindaloo curry
Serve over basmati rice which is the traditional rice for Indian food, though any type of plain rice will work fine here (white, jasmine, brown, or low-carb cauliflower rice). Add a dollop of plain yogurt which will cool the spiciness and a sprinkle of coriander/cilantro (for freshness).
Complete your Indian menu!
And if you’re going all out, complete your Indian feast with:
Samosas to start. Golden parcels of crispy pastry filled with spiced potato, this Indian street food is a popular starter in Indian restaurants around the world. This recipe is fun to make and ridiculously good!
Parkoras – Another starter option. Vegetable fritters – the Indian way!
Homemade Naan (it’s naturally no knead!) – The whole RecipeTin team got involved coming up with what we think is the best possible naan that a home cook can make on the stove, just in case you happen not to have a tandoor sitting in the middle of your kitchen! It’s fluffy with the signature chewiness just like you get at restaurants, and you’d never mistake this for another basic flatbread. No yeast? Make this simple No Yeast Flatbread instead!
Interestingly, Indian food doesn’t have side salads like we do in Western countries. My theory is because vegetarian food is so prevalent in Indian cooking. However, here are some vegetable sides that I think work well with Indian themed menus:
Watch how to make it
- 800g / 1.6 lb beef chuck , cut into 3cm / 1.2″ cubes (Note 1)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder (Note 2)
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 3 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 cloves
- 4 cardamom pods (green)
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger , roughly chopped
- 10 garlic cloves (yes, 10!)
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds (Note 3)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 7 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 50g / 3 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter (Note 4)
- 1 onion , finely chopped (brown, yellow, white)
- 2 tsp ginger , finely grated
- 4 garlic cloves , finely minced
- 1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (Note 5)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 10 curry leaves , fresh (Note 6)
- 2 cups beef stock , low sodium (if using homemade, add 1/2 tsp salt)
- 2 tbsp coriander/cilantro leaves , roughly chopped
- Salt beef: Toss beef in salt.
- Curry Paste: Place Curry Paste ingredients in a Nutribullet or small food processor with 1 cup of the water. Blitz until smooth. Pour over beef. Pour remaining 1 cup water into Nutribullet, shake (to clean out remaining curry paste), then pour/scrape over beef.
- Marinate beef: Mix beef in curry paste, cover, then marinate 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F (170°C fan).
- Curry sauce: Melt ghee over medium high. Cook onion, ginger and garlic until they become translucent – about 3 minutes.
- Mustard seeds: Add black mustard seeds then cook until onion is tinged with gold. Stir in tomato paste, cook 1 minute.
- Puree sauce: Add beef stock, stir. Transfer into a jug then use a stick blender to puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot.
- Add beef: Add beef and curry leaves, stir then bring to boil.
- Slow cook: Cover with a lid, then place in the oven for 2 hours or until beef is fall apart tender and the sauce has darkened in colour and thickened. (See Note 7 if sauce hasn't reduced enough).
1. Beef – Beef chuck works well because it’s a tough cut that becomes “fall apart tender” after slow cooking. Boneless ribs will also work as would beef osso bucco (use 1.2kg / 2.4lb inc bone, keep them whole, the meat will fall off in pieces once slow cooked). If you can get well marbled brisket, that will also work but I find a brisket a bit stringy cooked in stew-like form. Other proteins – Lamb shoulder and pork shoulder will work too. For chicken, use about 1 kg / 2lb bone in chicken thighs but remove the skin. Cut in half along bone (equal size pieces). Make recipe as written except cook in oven for 50 minutes. Remove chicken pieces (make sure they are pretty tender), then simmer sauce on stove (very low heat) to reduce and thicken sauce (see video for how it should look, ~ 30 min I think). Return chicken into pot, serve! 2. Kashmiri chilli – spicy, smokey Indian chilli powder that gives this curry the red colour. Sub with 4 tbsp smoked paprika + 1 tsp chilli powder (not US Chili Powder which is a blend) or cayenne pepper. Pretty close flavour but, you won’t get quite the same red colour. Find at Indian store (I go to Indian Emporium in Dee Why, Sydney). Also used in: Goan Fish Curry, Tandoori Chicken 3. Fenugreek seeds – Available at stores that carry a decent range of spices. I found it at Harris Farms (Australia). Also, of course, at Indian grocery stores! Use leftover for Palak Paneer. 4. Ghee is clarified butter, one of the traditional fats used in Indian cooking. It is simply butter without the water and milk solids, so you have pure butter fat, it has a more intense flavour than butter. Either buy it, make it (easy and keeps for months) or just use normal butter! 5. Black mustard seeds – key ingredient for authentic flavour. Look like poppyseeds, wasabi bite, Indian aroma! ~ $1.50 in small packs at Indian grocery stores (my local is Indian Emporium in Dee Why, Sydney). Also sold in the Indian food section at some Woolworths (Australia) $1.70, otherwise try online. Also used in: Eggplant Curry, Dal, Vegetable Samosa Pie, Cabbage Thoran Substitutes (starting with best): Brown mustard seeds, yellow mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard powder*, 1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala (different flavour, but is intended to make up for absence) 6. Fresh curry leaves – key ingredient for authentic flavour! Sub dried curry leaves. Fairly accessible nowadays for Sydney-siders, sold at Harris Farms, most Coles and Woolworths. Store leftovers in fridge (weeks) or freezer (months). Also used in: Eggplant Brinjal Curry, Vegetable Samosa Pie, Cabbage Thoran (seriously good!), Lentil curry Substitute: dried curry leaves, 1.5 tsp Garam Masala powder (add it with rest of spices, different flavour but compensates). 7. Sauce thickness – If the sauce is not darker and thicker at the end of the slow cooking time, then just reduce on the stove on low heat with the lid off. This can happen if you didn’t use a heavy based pot like a dutch oven (heat retention is better = sauce cooks as intended). 8. Slow cooker / pressure cooker / Instant Pot – Won’t work for this, I’m afraid. Really need the oven to caramelise the edges and surface of the sauce which makes it darken and adds flavour, plus some evaporation which helps thicken the sauce. Slow cooker just won’t taste as good. 9. Storage – Leftovers will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. But I find with curries (unlike Western stews) they are best eaten on the day, or the next day. After this, the intensity of the spice flavours will start to fade. 10. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings. Excludes rice.
Life of Dozer
Still waiting for the one in a million moment that a slab of beef hits the floor.