Lamb Vindaloo—a savory and slightly spicy dish of tender braised lamb bites. This Indian-inspired dish is the perfect recipe for a date night in. The lamb is FULL of flavor from bold spices and is delicious served over a grain pilaf or with tender naan bread.
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Lamb vindaloo starts with a tender cut of lamb that gets marinated in an ultra-spiced marinade of chiles, spices, aromatics and vinegar. The mixture is simmered low and slow until meat is fall-apart tender and the flavors have melded.
Plus, all of the steps are simple and easy to follow—not too much technique. And, we promise, the end result is well worth it!
What is Lamb Vindaloo Curry?
Although vindaloo curry is typically associated with Indian cuisine, it has roots back to 15th century Portugal. Originally made in the unique style of cooking known as Carne de Vinha d’alhos, this curried dish was derived as a way to not only preserve but also enhance its flavor.
At the most basic level, lamb vindaloo is a spicy braised lamb dish seasoned with bold flavors from dried chiles, peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves (to name a few). Small bites of lamb shoulder are braised in the spicy sauce until tender and often served over rice but can also be served with grain pilafs, naan bread, and more.
The spices used in this vindaloo are the real star of this dish. Peppercorns, dried chiles, ginger, cardamom, cloves, turmeric and cumin seeds make up some of the piquant and balanced spice blend. The addition of these spices makes the dish incredibly aromatic and flavorful.
We recommend calling around to local grocery stores and butchers and inquiring about what types and cuts they have on hand. Lamb shoulder is classic for vindaloo—it’s tender and flavorful.
The important thing to remember here is to use shoulder roast, not shoulder chops. For vindaloo you want chunks of shoulder meat because they braise the best. Likewise, be sure to get boneless shoulder roast. It will make your life easier and will ensure you have the right amount of meat for the dish.
If you do end up getting bone-in shoulder roast, you’ll need the total weight of the cut to increase by about 8–12 ounces more (so you’ll need a 2½–2¾ pound bone-in shoulder roast as opposed to a 2 pound boneless shoulder roast).
Chiles de Arbol
Chiles de Arbol are a small yet potent dried chile typically used in chile-based sauces and marinades. Look for them in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store or at any international market. You can also buy them online.
How to Make Vindaloo
- Make the spice marinade by toasting the spices and blending with vinegar, ginger, tamarind paste, and turmeric.
- Toss the lamb with the spice marinade and marinate for 1–4 hours.
- Cook onion, chiles, garlic and sugar in a Dutch oven until onion starts to soften.
- Add the lamb and marinade to pot along with water. Bring mixture to a boil.
- Transfer pot to oven and cook until lamb is tender, about 1 ½ hours.
- Remove pot from oven, scrap down sides of pan and stir in bell pepper. Let the vindaloo sit for a few minutes before skimming excess grease off the top.
How to Serve
While this dish is traditionally served over Basmati rice, we like to serve lamb vindaloo over a grain pilaf made of barley, currants, kalamata olives, and cilantro. However, there are a variety of ways you can serve lamb vindaloo:
- Traditional but with a twist: pair with plain or flavored rice such as this cilantro lime brown rice, or even cauliflower rice.
- Soft and chewy naan bread (or garlic naan bread!) compliments the textures in this dish wonderfully. And is the ideal vehicle for scooping up the rich, spiced sauce.
- For a hearty and satisfying dinner, serve vindaloo over mashed or roasted potatoes.
More Indian-Inspired Recipes to Try
- Lamb Kofta is another Indian-inspired lamb dish that’s a must-try. It’s bold, easy to make and so satisfying. If you end up liking the lamb kofta, try our Beef Kofta!
- Our Meatball Curry is such a cozy Sunday night dinner. Serve with rice for a full, satisfying meal.
- Another cozy dinner to try is our Lamb Tikka Masala or Tofu Tikka Masala. Both recipes feature a rich, spiced sauce that is to die for!
- Madras Lentils is a great vegetarian dish to enjoy with warm, homemade naan.
The tart, sour flavor in vindaloo comes from the addition of white wine vinegar. It’s the base liquid for the lamb marinade.
The difference between madras curry powder and vindaloo curry powder is the heat level. Vindaloo curry powder is hotter than madras curry powder.
If your curry is too spicy, add a dash of sugar or honey. We also recommend serving it with a dollop of yogurt and naan bread.
Tindaloo is essentially vindaloo, but spicier!
Lamb Vindaloo Recipe
- 2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- kosher salt
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 5 chiles de árbol, stemmed, seeded and torn in half*
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅓ cup white wine vinegar
- 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste or molasses
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds**
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 8 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 small red or green Thai chile or red jalapeño, stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 red bell pepper, diced (optional)
- cooked rice bulgar, or barley for serving
- Toss lamb with 2 teaspoons salt; set aside.
- Toast peppercorns, dried chiles, cardamom, cloves, and cumin seeds in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer spices to a blender with vinegar, ginger, tamarind paste, and turmeric; blend, scraping down sides as needed, until smooth.
- Add spice purée to lamb and toss to coat; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours (or set aside at room temperature for 1 hour).
- Heat oven to 325ºF with rack set in lower-middle position.
- Heat oil in now empty Dutch oven over medium-high; cook mustard seeds and cinnamon until seeds pop, 1–2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, chiles, and sugar; cook until onion has softened and starts to brown, about 8 minutes.
- Stir in lamb along with marinade and 1 cup water (or white wine). Bring to a boil. Cover pot, transfer to oven and cook until lamb is tender, about 1 ½ hours.
- Using wooden spoon or rubber spatula, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir into sauce; stir in bell pepper, if using, and let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
- Skim and discard grease from surface of sauce. Season vindaloo with salt to taste and serve.
More Indian-Inspired Recipes to Try
- Switch up Taco Tuesday with Spicy Harissa Lamb Tacos in just 25 minutes!
- Quick and easy Madras Lentils is a delicious and satisfying vegetarian dish full of bold flavors.
- Looking for more deliciously tender lamb recipes? Try our Easy Creamy Lamb Tikka Masala for a cozy, comforting dinner.
- Dig into a steaming bowl of healthy comfort food with this recipe for Curried Chicken Lentil Soup.
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I made this recipe substituting ground spices for most of the whole spices that are listed in the ingredients, because that’s all I had on hand, but it still turned out delicious, and very authentic in taste according to my husband, who loves this dish. I also took the liberty of adding one large diced tomato, to thicken and color the sauce, and also added potatoes (cooked together with the meat), as so many restaurant Vindaloos are made with potatoes. The flavor combination of white wine vinegar and white wine and all the spices was fantastic! Thank you! I will be making this again.
I mad this with what I had on hand most of all the seasonings were ground and the Chili’s were Dried New Mexican red hatch. It was soooiiiiooooooooooo goood.
Alert, I made this recipe with several substitutions, proving that you can substitute and end up with a ca most forgiving recipe and delicious flavors. I had not used lamb shoulder before. The spices were wonderful, I included fenugreek seeds, grinding them with the other toasted seeds (used my coffee grinder (no blender) I figured, any ground coffee in a grinder would enhance flavors to this bold, delicious vindaloo. I substituted tamarind paste instead, I used brown sugar. I browned the lamb meat, added red wine, and grated a large red tomato skin on until there was only a small shred of tomato skin left- this impart’s a rich tomato flavor to the gravy sauce being made. I also increased the cooking time, from three hours @ 200 degrees (The shoulder meat needed additional cooking time) to six hours @ 200 degrees, even with this, over 1/2 of the meat was chewy, instead of soft. The end product was an exceedingly flavorful, tender meat, delicious, with a large fig laced yogurt spooned on the serving.
I Carlene! I love hearing about the substitutions you made! it sounds delicious!