Chicken Vindaloo is a flavor-packed curry made with a unique blend of mild Indian red chilies, aromatics, and vinegar to give it its signature taste. It is a warming, smokey and comforting meal made in the Instant Pot or on the Stove.
What is Chicken Vindaloo?
Chicken Vindaloo is a local adaptation of the Portuguese dish called carne de vinha d'alhos, which literally means, "meat marinated in wine and garlic."
Natives from the Konkani region in Goa prepared a marinade by pureeing together pre-soaked dried red chilies, local Goan wine called Feni, tamarind paste, fresh garlic and ginger, and an assortment of toasted whole spices.
I adapted the traditional recipe for vindaloo chicken to the Instant pot, so all the flavors infuse in the meat while it pressure cooks. With a few simple tweaks, I turned it into a weeknight-friendly dish, that's ready in 40 minutes!
Ingredients - Notes & Substitutions
The ingredient list for this chicken vindaloo recipe makes good use of your spice cabinet. Here's a look at what we need:
Chicken: My family and I like the richer and fattier chicken thighs. If you prefer to use chicken breasts, cut into approx 1-inch pieces and adjust the cooking time to 4 minutes.
Olive Oil: Use olive oil, ghee, or any clear oil.
Onion, Ginger & Garlic: One medium red or yellow onion provides just the right amount of aroma and savory flavor. Fresh ginger or already prepared ginger paste can be used. Use fresh garlic or a few teaspoons of garlic paste, if you already have some on hand.
Dried Whole Red Chilies: I use whole Kashmiri Red Chilies for this recipe. These chilies have the perfect balance of heat, smokiness, and flavor. They're mild to medium-hot in taste, which lets all the flavors shine. Substitutions are mentioned below.
Red Wine Vinegar: I use red wine vinegar as a substitute for the local Goan "Feni" wine. Red wine vinegar has a nice sweet, tart, and sharp flavor, which is a close match to the wine.
Tamarind Concentrate: Tamarind adds just another level of sweet and tart flavor notes that really elevate this dish. Look for it in the global section of grocery stores.
Coriander Seeds: Use whole coriander seeds to blend right into the sauce. Alternatively, use ground coriander.
Cumin Seeds: For a smokey and savory flavor, whole cumin seeds offer the most pronounced flavor, but if cumin powder is all you have, that'll work.
Garam Masala: I always have a jar of homemade garam masala in my spice cabinet, but your favorite store-bought brand is the next best thing.
Paprika: Sweet or hot paprika both work depending on your desired level of spice. I discuss different combinations of chiles to use down below.
Salt & Coconut Palm Sugar: A little touch of salt and sweetness balances the acidity of the vinegar. Regular sugar can also be used.
Cilantro: Chop fine and sprinkle on top at the very end for a colorful, herby finish.
What Chilies to use for Vindaloo Recipe
If you cannot find Kashmiri red chiles, here are a few substitutes:
- A combination of dried whole Arbol and Ancho chilies, OR,
- 4-6 whole Guajillo chilies + ¼-½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder, OR,
- 2-2½ tablespoons of paprika + ¼-½ teaspoon of cayenne powder
Scroll to the recipe card for a detailed list of ingredients and quantities.
How to Make Chicken Vindaloo
This is my simplified take on vindaloo chicken using either the Instant Pot or Stove.
Step 1: Make Spice Paste and Saute Chicken
Method 1: Instant Pot Chicken Vindaloo
Soak dry chilies in ½ cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes (Pic 1). Transfer to a blender with 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid, ginger, garlic, vinegar, tamarind, dry spices, salt, and sugar (Pic 2). Purée into a smooth paste.
Turn ON Instant pot on sauté mode. Add oil and heat for 30 seconds. Then, add chopped onions and sauté for 3 minutes, until soft (Pic 3).
Add the chicken pieces along with spice paste and saute for 2 minutes (Pic 4).
Add the remaining ½ cup of soaking liquid (or water), and stir well. Use the liquid to scrape any brown bits stuck at the bottom of the pot (Pic 5).
Step 2: Pressure Cook
Close the lid and set the valve to sealing position. Set Pressure Cook or Manual for 6 minutes at high pressure (Pic 6). After that, wait 5 minutes then release the pressure manually. Open the lid after the pin drops.
Check for taste and adjust salt if needed. If the curry looks liquidy, turn on saute and simmer for 2-3 minutes to your desired thickness (Pic 7). When ready, garnish with chopped cilantro (Pic 8).
Method 2: Stovetop Chicken Vindaloo
Follow Steps 1 to 3 from the Instant Pot recipe above.
When the curry starts simmering, cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken cooks through. Stir 2-3 times in between to prevent the sauce from burning.
When ready, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.
Serve this chicken vindaloo any night of the week. Here are some of my favorite sides:
Goan Style: Traditionally, a vindaloo curry is served with toasted dinner rolls called Pav, pronounced as Pa-aw, in Hindi. A close and delicious substitute would be toasted french baguette.
Low-Carb or Keto: Pair it with cauliflower rice. Alternatively, add cauliflower florets and chopped carrots to make a stew-like meal.
How to Store
Leftover chicken vindaloo curry will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
To freeze, store in a freezer-safe container for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
Try a Variation: Lamb Vindaloo
You can just as easily make Lamb Vindaloo with this recipe by using lamb stew meat cut into bite-size pieces. Simply increase the pressure cooking time to 20 minutes.
When making lamb vindaloo, prepare the vindaloo sauce as per instructions. Then, brown the lamb pieces for 3-4 minutes before adding the sauce. It adds a depth of flavor to the vindaloo curry.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Make ahead: The vindaloo paste can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 month.
- Increase the spice level: Up the number of dried chilies and add a dash or two of cayenne.
- Reduce the spice: If you prefer a milder flavor, de-seed the dry chilies before soaking them in water, OR, do half the chilies along with 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika.
Frequently Asked Questions
Chicken Vindaloo is made with a red chile paste seasoned with ginger, garlic, red wine vinegar, tamarind, and spices.
Although commonly thought of as the spiciest curry, vindaloo is more of an aromatic and warming spicy, rather than a hot spicy. That being said, the spice level can be turned up or down depending on the combination of chilies you use.
Chicken vindaloo has an earthy and aromatic spice with tangy, bright, acidic notes thanks to the addition of vinegar.
I tried a few batches where I browned the chicken pieces before adding in the sauce, but I didn't notice any major difference in taste. So now I skip the browning process when making this dish with chicken.
Vindaloo is a blend of chilies, ginger, garlic, vinegar, tamarind, and spices originally from Goa. Curry is a family of dishes flavored by a spiced sauce, originating from South Asia.
There are two common misconceptions about a traditional vindaloo recipe:
1. It's a spicy curry: The recipe for a typical vindaloo curry includes pureeing a handful of dried chilies, but these chilies are more for flavor and color rather than spice. The end flavors are 'earthy and aromatic spicy', not 'hot spicy'.
2. There is potato in it: The Hindi word for potato is u0022aloou0022, which coincidentally rhymes with the name of this curry, Vindaloo. There is no connection between potatoes and vindaloo curry. But, when you order this dish at your local Indian restaurant, chances are, it'll have potato cubes too.
More Delicious Chicken Curry Recipes
These are part of the Indian Chicken Recipes collection:
- 6-8 dried whole red dried chillies or any mild Indian or Mexican chilies
- 1 inch ginger
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds or coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons paprika (regular)
- ¾ teaspoon salt adjust after cooking
- 1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar or regular sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter or ghee
- 1 cup onion finely chopped
- 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs fat trimmed, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
Instant Pot Recipe
- Soak dry chilies in ½ cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a blender with 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid, ginger, garlic, vinegar, tamarind, dry spices, salt, and sugar. Purée into a smooth paste.
- Turn ON Instant pot on sauté mode. Add oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add chopped onions and sauté for 3 minutes, until soft.
- Add the chicken pieces along with spice paste and saute for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup of soaking liquid (or water), and stir well. Use the liquid to scrape any brown bits stuck at the bottom of the pot.
- Close the lid and set the valve to sealing position. Set Pressure Cook or Manual for 6 minutes at high pressure. After the time is up, wait 5 minutes then release the pressure manually. Open the lid after the pin drops.
- Check for taste and adjust salt if needed. If the curry looks runny, turn on saute and simmer for 2-3 minutes to your desired thickness. When ready, garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy with rice or naan.
- Follow Steps 1 to 3 from the instant pot recipe above.
- When the curry starts simmering, cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken cooks through. Stir 2-3 times in between to prevent the sauce from burning.
- When ready, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.
- Make ahead: The vindaloo paste can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 month.
- Increase the spice level: Up the quantity of dried chilies and add a dash or two of cayenne.
- Reduce the spice: If you prefer a milder flavor, de-seed the dry chilies before soaking them in water, OR, do half the chilies along with 1 tablespoon sweet paprika.