Kinda, sorta like Indian chili con carne
Vindaloo has an incendiary reputation. But no worries if you’re heat-adverse — it’s easy to tame this dish by lightening up on the chile.
Which means you can share this vindaloo with even the most finicky dinner guests (and the flavor is so good, you’ll want to). You can also tell them that pork is really, truly authentic in this dish (more on that below). The vindaloos they’ve had in restaurants are copycats. They’ll feel honored to be at your table.
Recipe: Spicy Pork Vindaloo
In restaurants, you rarely see this dish made with pork (most of India’s population is Hindu or Muslim, and pork just isn’t a dish they tend to consume). Restaurants often serve vindaloo made with lamb, beef, or chicken.
But vindaloo was created in Goa, an area in western India. It was settled by Portuguese Christians, who do eat pork. They developed vindaloo from a Portuguese dish that used a wine- and garlic-based marinade.
Because this dish is spicy, and contains mainly meat and chilies, it reminds us a bit of an Indian Chili con Carne (the kind made without beans). Chili con carne literally means “chilies with meat,” and that’s what vindaloo is all about. The spicing is different, of course, and vindaloo doesn’t have as much sauce as chili. But both have a fiery, downhome goodness that we find extremely satisfying.
This dish has a long ingredients list. That’s because it requires a lot of different spices to make the paste that flavors the meat. Don’t have some of the spices on hand? No problem — just skip them. The critical ones are coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne, and paprika.
This dish traditionally is served over fluffy white rice. Or with an Indian bread like naan. If using rice, we like to serve Aromatic Yellow Rice — both the flavor and the color really complement the vindaloo.
This vindaloo is even better served over our easy Oven Polenta (we suggest skipping the cheese in the recipe) or Grits (again, skip the cheese). Neither of these options is traditional, but the spicy vindaloo combines wonderfully with the cornmeal in polenta or grits. (BTW, in the pictures we are using polenta.)
Prep time for this dish is about 30 minutes. Add an hour to let the meat marinate, then another 2 hours to brown the meat and let it simmer. This isn’t a quick recipe, but most of the cooking time is unattended.
This dish yields about 8 servings. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1½ teaspoons black or brown mustard seeds (not yellow; see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 teaspoons dried ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons dried ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper (to taste; see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon paprika (preferably Hungarian hot paprika)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (half that if using regular table salt; see Notes)
- 5 tablespoons vinegar (we like cider vinegar, but white or rice vinegar will also work well)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 onion (medium or large)
- 2-inch piece of ginger root
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves (to taste)
- ~2½ pounds boneless pork shoulder (a bit more or less is OK)
- ~2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (not traditional, but we like it)
- ½ cup water
- 1 red bell pepper for garnish (optional)
- ~1 cup frozen peas for garnish (optional)
- serve with rice, Indian bread, polenta, or grits (see Headnote)
- Using a spice grinder or a clean coffee grinder, grind the mustard seeds and pepper corns to a fine powder. (Note: If any of the other spices you’re using are in whole rather than ground form—like cumin, coriander, or cardamom seed, for example—grind them in this step too.)
- Pour the powdered spices into a small bowl, then add the pre-ground spices (cardamom, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and paprika), along with the kosher salt. Mix all the ingredients together. Add the vinegar and brown sugar. Mix again, then set aside.
- Peel the onion, ginger root, and garlic. Chop all of them coarsely. Then pulse them in a mini-food processor until they form a paste.
- Add the spice/vinegar mixture (from Step 2) to the mini-food processor, and pulse until the paste is well blended.
- Trim the pork shoulder of excess fat, then cut into cubes of about 1 inch. Place the pieces in a bowl, then add the spice paste from Step 4. Rub the pork so that each piece is covered with the spice paste. Allow the pork pieces to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. (See Notes if you want to complete this step ahead of time.)
- Place a 4- to 6-quart saucepan (one with a heavy bottom; or use a Dutch oven) over medium stovetop heat. When it’s hot, add the oil. When the oil is heated (it’ll shimmer), add as many pork chunks as will fit comfortably in the bottom of the pan. Brown each pork piece on all sides (this will take 6 or 7 minutes). Lower the heat if necessary—you don’t want to burn the spice paste. When the pork pieces are browned, remove them from the pan and allow them to drain on paper towels. Then add more pork pieces to the pan, browning in batches. Continue until all the pork pieces are browned (add more oil to the pan if necessary).
- Return the browned pork pieces to the cooking pot. Add the diced tomato and water. Bring the mixture to a low simmer, then cover the pan. Allow the mixture to cook for 1½ hours. Stir it every half hour or so, and check on the liquid level. Most of the liquid should evaporate as the dish cooks, but a small amount should remain (you want just a bit of sauce), so add more water if necessary.
- Meanwhile, clean the red bell pepper and cut it into dice of about 1 inch.
- After the pork has been cooking for 1½ hours (Step 7), test to make sure it’s tender. If it’s not, cook another half hour. Adjust seasoning if necessary. About 10 minutes before serving, add the red bell pepper pieces (from Step 8) to the cooking pot. About 5 minutes before serving, add the frozen peas to the cooking pot.
- Dish it up!
|Pork Vindaloo served with Indian Carrot Salad with mustard seeds|
- You can prepare this recipe through Step 5 several hours ahead of the time you begin to cook the dish (in Step 6). Rather than let the meat sit out at room temperature as directed in Step 5, cover the bowl containing the meat with shrink wrap, and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Then proceed with the recipe in Step 6.
- This dish traditionally is made with tamarind paste, which gives vindaloo its characteristic “sour” flavor. It’s not an ingredient that most of us have on hand, however (and not always easy to find), so we’ve omitted it from our recipe. If you happen to have some, add a tablespoon or so in Step 7 when you add the tomato and water.
- Don’t skip the sugar in this dish. In combination with the vinegar, it helps mimic the flavor of tamarind.
- Indian mustard seeds are black or brown (either will do in this recipe). Don’t use the yellow mustard seeds that are more common in western supermarkets. If you can’t find black or brown mustard seeds, just omit them.
- Cayenne pepper is hot stuff (literally). So adjust the amount to your taste. If you’re wondering about the amount we suggest, start with just a teaspoon. Taste the dish after it’s cooked for ½ hour or so, and then add more if desired.
- Instead of cayenne pepper, you could add several Thai chiles or chiles de árbol (stem them and grind them with the spices in Step 1). Or use Kashmiri red chile powder (which would be more traditional).
- Hungarian hot paprika has flavoring similar to that of Kashmiri chile powder, so we suggest using it in this recipe. If you don’t have Hungarian hot paprika, just use regular paprika—this dish will still taste fine.
- We use kosher salt in our kitchen (sea salt at table). Kosher salt has bigger flakes than table salt, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly.” Hence, it’s less salty by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, use only half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- The red bell pepper and green-pea garnishes are not part of the original recipe for this dish. But they look and taste good, so we like to add them.
- Restaurants often include potatoes in this dish. They weren’t in the original Goan version, but they’re a nice addition. We suggest using waxy (boiling) potatoes. Just cut the potatoes into cubes and pre-cook, then add them to the dish during the last half hour of cooking.
- You can substitute lamb or beef for the pork in this dish. Cooking time may be a bit longer—just keep testing, and cook until done.
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “You really spiced this well.”
“Yup, I lost count of the number of spices I put in the paste,” I said. “But hey, spice is the variety of life.”
“Oh, for cayenne out loud,” said Mrs K R.
“So I guess we’re going to pepper each other with puns again?” I said.
“If you’ve got the thyme, I’ve got some sage words,” said Mrs K R.
Probably better stop now though. Don’t want to make a big dill of this.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Texas-Style Chili con Carne
Aromatic Yellow Rice
Easy No-Stir Oven Polenta
Spicy Potatoes with Ginger and Garlic
Indian Carrot Salad with Mustard Seeds
Pink Dal with Swiss Chard
Or check out the index for more recipes