chicken vindaloo: how to make curry with only 5 ingredients
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]

chicken vindaloo-2

Since last year when I took my pledge to only every cook recipes with 5 ingredients or less for the rest of my life, I often get asked the same question. The conversation tends to go something a little like this.

FRIEND: ‘Hey Jules. Love what you’re doing on Stonesoup these days. Brilliant idea to focus on 5 ingredients 10 minutes’

ME: ‘Thanks!’

FRIEND: ‘But tell me, you aren’t really only ever cooking with just 5 ingredients? Are you?’

ME: ‘Absolutely. I couldn’t lie to my readers. Even for Christmas dinner I made it all 5 ingredients: 5 ingredients ham, 5 ingredients turkey, 5 ingredients brussels sprouts. But the best part is, my cooking has never tasted better. I keep surprising myself. It’s really exciting!’

FRIEND: ‘Wow!’

The other common comment is from people that cook a lot of Indian food, saying that they could never simplify like that. Which of course, inspired me to make delicious curries. I just use a curry paste, or a spice blend and make my own. Too easy.

I’m super excited about my latest favourite which demonstrates this – a chicken vindaloo. If you’re in the mood for cooking a few curries at a time, I highly recommend trying it with my butter chickpeas. So good.

8 tips for 5 ingredients success

use spice blends
Either make your own, 5 ingredient spice blend or use a commercial one.

use commercial sauces or make your own
Curry pastes, pesto, ketchup (tomato sauce for the Aussies), mayonnaise are all wonderful ways of getting more from each ingredient.

ditch the onion or garlic
While I know the smell of frying onion is one of the most divine things ever, the habit of always starting a dish by frying some onion or garlic can make it difficult to keep your ingredient count down. Not to mention minimising the time it takes. I tend to only use one or the other these days and sometimes I use chives to get that oniony hit without the cooking time.

use self-raising flour for baking
I’ve actually been toying with the idea of including baking powder as another ingredient not counted like salt, pepper & olive oil. It’s really more of a baking aid than something that ends up in the finished dish. The other option is to use self raising flour rather than adding flour and baking powder separately.

serve more than one dish as a meal
Most of the recipes in my e-cookbook 5 ingredients 10 minutes are pretty much designed to be served as a meal on their own, but when I’m cooking for myself, it’s rare that I would serve just one dish as a main meal. A green salad is my go-to recipe, but other salads or vegetable dishes are a great way to go.

challenge yourself
If you don’t try, you’ll never know how it tastes. Challenge yourself to try cutting back to 5 ingredients. Mostly you’ll be amazed at how great (and complex) simple food can taste.

use compound ingredients
While I don’t use them often, mixed frozen vegetables or mixed salad leaves are a great trick for getting a lot of variety and nutrition into one ingredient.

only use one type of each ingredient
If a recipe calls for mint and basil, choose only 1 herb to use. Same goes with sauces or vegetables.

chicken vindaloo-3

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
chicken almost-vindaloo

serves 3 -4

If you didn’t want to serve the curry with rice, I like to use canned lentils with wilted spinach to get some more veg into my meal.

And don’t feel constrained to chicken. Beef, lamb, tofu, chickpeas or lentils would all be delicious.

There are 2 ways to get tender meat in a curry. Either gently simmering in the sauce for hours OR stir frying finely sliced pieces of meat over a high heat to brown the outside of the meat, then removing the meat from the pan, making the sauce and adding the meat at the end to just heat though. In my experience, simmering for 1/2 hour or so usually gives tough meat.

Of course, if you have access to great commercial curry pastes, feel free to use them instead.

And as always when cooking with chilli, leaving the seeds in makes it hotter. And it’s better to err on the side of being not hot enough – you can always add more!

2 chicken breasts,(approx 500g / 1lb) finely sliced
4 tablespoons vindaloo curry paste (recipe below)
2 cans tomatoes (400g / 14oz)
4 -6 large green chillies
natural yoghurt, to serve, optional

1. Heat a few tablespoons peanut oil in a large frying pan or wok over very high heat.

2. Stir fry chicken, moving it constantly around the pan until it is no longer pink. Remove from the heat and place chicken in a clean bowl.

3. Return the pan to the heat. Add curry paste and stir fry for about 30 seconds.

4. Add tomato, crushing to break them up a little.

5. Add the chilli. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the sauce looks a little thickened. Taste and season.

6. Return chicken and and juices to the pan and allow to heat through.

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
vindaloo curry paste

makes about 4 tablespoons

If you can’t find curry powder, substitute a mixture of equal quantities of ground turmeric and ground cumin. I just used Keens brand from the supermarket and was really chuffed with the results.

If you don’t have a food processor, just chop everything by hand. It will be a little chunkier but that will be fine.

The curry paste will keep for a week or so in an airtight container in the fridge. If you want to, you could make a bigger batch and freeze for later use.

2 – 3 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
1 thumb-sized piece ginger
1 whole bunch coriander (cilantro), washed well
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin

1. Pop all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until everything is finely chopped.

2. Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil and whizz again until just combined.


video version of the recipe



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  • Looks good, but can you still call it vindaloo if you don’t use vinegar? That’s what the “vin” stands for after all…

  • bishnu
    ooh… you’ve got me there. I didn’t know that the vin was about vinegar… or I wonder if wine would be OK. will change the name to bastardised vindaloo!

  • While I love this site and the recipes it provides, I guess I don’t actually understand your definition of “ingredient” or the obsession with using 5 or less. Why should I ditch onion or garlic to keep my “ingredient” list down, but use things like mayo which in my definition themselves contain tons of ingredients? I’d rather cook well (using both onion AND garlic if I want to) , and not obsess about whether or not i’m using too many spices.

    Aren’t you cheating in a way when you say you use 5 ingredients but rely on premixed ingredients. Why not just count them for what they are? Does the chicken curry REALLY contain only 5 ingredients (the curry MIX contains 5, yes), and if it doesnt, is that so bad?

  • Hey Jules – thanks for another quick and tidy recipe that will taste good! We are having a vegan version tonight with leftover roast veg instead of chicken, and vindaloo curry paste.

    I think the discussion of use of premixed pastes has been adressed before in a fomer post – and i can understand that some will baulk at the ‘lack of authenticity’ but that isn’t what using 5 ingredients is about? Or have I misunderstood the point of your blog?

  • being an original brown person, here’s my question – when you say ‘curry’ powder, what do you mean? is it garam masala or that bottle of yellow looking curry powder one finds in supermarkets that has no identifiable smell other than a faint hint of being something indian?

  • Hmmm, the video says it is private and can’t be viewed. This recipe sounds good to me. I like easy, I like few ingredients and I like fast! I also like to be able to veganize a recipe in case my son is visiting. That means I absolutely have to try this.

  • Love your site. I’m learning new ways and recipes
    to cook with each blog post. Thanks for all your work.
    Vindaloo is new to me. I went to watch the video
    version of the post, but it’s private. Is it a members
    only area?

  • I just looked up vindaloo on Wikipedia and in The American Heritage dictionary. Wikipedia describes it as coming from Portugal where the original version used wine and the Indian version substituted vinegar.

    The dictionary described it as ”
    n., pl., -loos.
    1.A blend of red chilis, tamarind, and other spices, such as ginger, cumin, and mustard seeds.
    2.Any of various dishes of southern and central India made with this spice blend.”

    As with most recipes, there can be a lot of variation and what makes a key ingredient to one does not mean it’s the key ingredient for another. It’s always good to know where a recipe originates and how it’s changed over time and culture.

  • I agree with Alex. I am here to try and learn to cook (as a bloke who does very basic dishes), find out what minimalist cooking is, start to use fresh veggies rather than over reliance on frozen etc, and stay mostly healthy / wholefood – but not to the degree you see in some places where it’s not “every day” wholefod.
    And I joined up to learn cooking that I will actually use, not just read about. Worknight cooking for me is stressful, and I dont think I’m alone.
    So, I expect shortcuts, tips ‘n’ tricks etc. because I’m short on time!

    Anything that can help me expand my current skill set of a basic tomato pasta and a couple of stir fry’s is a win for me.

    This recipe above is one I’d actually try. I’d probably use an instant brown rice (without guilt) to go with it, and perhaps some leaves on the side / starter to get some green. I’d probably take the tip to make extra curry paste and freeze some for next time.

    I’d add onion too if I could be bothered. But when I get home from work tonight, and have to slice up the chicken etc, I may well not be bothered! Either way, it’s all still in the spirit of minimalism. And it’s still home cooking, and healthier than the takeout solution! :-)

    • That’s the spirit Steve! My feeling is – love it or leave it. If you don’t like the philosophy of this way of cooking – go away. Not everybody had the time for nit picking.

  • Love this recipe! Vindaloo is one of my go-to dishes at restaurants, and yet the few times I’ve tried to make it at home it’s been super complicated and never tastes right. Shall definitely try yours soon!

  • thanks for sharing your story steve.
    that’s exactly what stonesoup is about

    cintra, timaree & twin
    thanks for the heads up on the video – yesterday was not a great day for me. I’ve fixed the video so it’s no longer private!

    thanks for your diligence – it is fascinating discovering where recipes have come from and the significance of particular ingredients.

    You could use a lot of different types of curry powder, but one with flavour is a good starting point. Garam Marsala would also be OK – the flavour profile would be different but it will still work here.

    thanks alex,
    and you’re right – 5 ingredients is about taking the inspiration and making things as quick and simple as possible without compromising on flavour.

    seriously you can make a great curry in 10 minutes – although as discussed it may not be super authentic. I challenge you to try it yourself some time.

    I’m not saying that anyone else needs to keep their ingredient list down… I just wanted to share my thought processes.

    The reason for 5 is that it sets a line in the sand and challenges me to live what I speak. I don’t feel like I’m cheating or being dishonest by using ‘premixed’ ingredients or making them myself and counting them as one ingredient. I wanted to be open and honest about what I’m doing here. That’s all.

  • Hmmm…if I tried to make chocolate from scratch and it contained nothing that came from a cacao bean then I would have an interesting sweet but not what I could call ‘chocolate’. “Vindaloo” is a bastardised form of “Vin d’alho” which literally translates as wine (vinegar) of garlic. So if it doesn’t have vinegar and it doesn’t have garlic, it can’t be a vindalho. It could be an interesting “curry” though.

  • Hi Spiceandmore – I guess it come down to reading the ingredients on the packet – I checked my curry paste that I added last night and it contains both vinagar and garlic! I guess it comes down to what you choose when you dash to the shops (much like M’s question about what you mean when you refer to curry powder – I still remember mum buying curry powder at Franklin’s supermarket to add to sausages and being blown away by the smell, taste, depth and fire of my first curry paste (and powder blends) bought from the pakistani corner shop – I thought I must have made a mistake, as it iwas not what I had reffered to as curry for 16 years!!! LOL). Had I had more time I would have made my own (I love the smell of freshly made curry pastes and there is nothing better than the earthy colours of the ingredients that go into a blend). I just can’t manage during the week and any +5 meals are kept for the weekend when I can relax and enjoy.

    @M what is a brown person?

  • Reasons not to use self-raising flour:
    good flour gets stale – I prefer to grind my own or buy bulk and store properly
    not necessarily available in quality/variety I want
    no way of adjusting baking powder/flour ratio
    self-raising flour can only be used for baking – so now you have to keep 2 kinds of flour at home

  • Love the idea of making cooking not be too complicated, but I think the 5 ingredient rule is a little strict. The one that struck my eye was the baking powder + flour being two, but self-rising flour (what it’s called in the USA) only being one. Why the distinction? I figure that anything that takes less than about 30 seconds to add doesn’t count as an ‘ingredient’–something that takes effort to add to a dish.

  • Hi Chris
    5 ingredients isn’t too strict – I’m still able to make everything I love and more. The reason for the distinction between self-raising flour and baking powder + plain flour is that if you use the latter, you’re using 2 ingredients and the former is only 1…but it’s probably the weakest example I have.

  • I’ve been an avid fan for a long while & have sampled quite a few of your recipes – all of which were fantastic. Recently, I made this for a gathering & they absolutely loved it. Loved it. There was nothing left! Hopefully you’ve gained a few more readers after I divulged my secrets – thank you!

    Thanks so much for the great recipes & have a great day! :)

  • Hi, was about to comment about the ‘vin’ part when I saw Bishnu’s comment. You can use red wine vinegar I guess… They use malted dark Vinegar in Goa where the dish originated :)

    And since there is no ‘curry’ powder in India, a simple spice mix close to Vindaloo would be – Red Kashmiri Chilli powder + Basic Garam Masala.

    And I’d never skip the Onion… Ginger maybe, but not Onion.

  • McKai
    Yay! So glad you enjoyed the curry – hope you made sure you told them it was only almost a vindaloo because it doesn’t contain the vin (vinegar)!

    Thanks for sharing the curry powder tip – would love to get my hands on some Red Kashmiri Chilli Powder.

  • I love the idea of 5 ingredient cooking. My husband is the exact opposite and sounds like some of the folks commenting here. He wants to grind his spices and make his own curry, none of this store bought stuff! Me, I like simple and easy. Thanks!

  • While this is certainly nothing close to a vindaloo, I guess it could be called a curry. Of sorts. It is missing onion, ginger and garlic, at a bare minimum. The peanut oil is a another concern because it is an oil who adds its own flavors to a dish. However, I am sure this recipe still tastes good – it has been mislabeled. ;-) Truthfully, I would not have commented at all if this had just been labeled as a curry, because I’ve seen all sorts of odd things done to that concept. But I couldn’t stay quiet on a vindaloo. It happens to be my favorite Indian dish, so this struck close to my heart.

    Overall, I appreciate what you are doing with the concept of 5 Ingredients, but I am not sure how well it can be applied to Indian food. The beauty of Indian food is the complexity of the ingredients and the process of coaxing those flavors out. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one Indian dish that comes even close to just 5 ingredients – and it is a specialty dish from the state of Kerala.

    Still – 5 Ingredients? Interesting.

  • cagey
    thanks for the feedback. I’m glad that you’re a big vindaloo fan and appreciate that my ‘curry’ doesn’t live up to the purists! In Australia peanut oil is is pretty much flavourless but has a high smoke point so good for pan frying things, unless you get a natural oil that hasn’t been deodourised.

    LOVE the idea of the smoked tofu in this curry – will have to try it myself!

  • something i’ve been wanting to find online is a set of recipes for spice blends–it would really be handy to have a variety of good blends around to help make quick/easy meals.

    recipes for making your own spice blends would be a really great and valuable post!

  • Dear Jules,
    Your recipes are very inspiring, all the way round the world up to Massachusetts! Thanks so much for your delicious work! I have just made the Chicken Vindaloo using prawns(shrimp) and it came out fantastic.

    I didn’t use the green chilies, but I had plenty of cayenne pepper in the curry paste. I also forgot the garlic and used walnut oil instead of peanut oil. I also had to use ground ginger as I didn’t have any fresh. Additionally, I added baby spinach to the vindaloo and paired it all with a side of brown basmati rice. Yummmmm. Thanks again!

  • “The name vindaloo derives from the Portuguese term “vin d’alho,” or garlic wine (roughly pronounced “veen dalyoo”). “Vin d’alho” (or, alternately, “vinha d’alho”) originally referred to a stew of (or a marinade for) meat, usually pork, and was made with red wine. In the colonies, where wine was less easy to come by, vinegar was substituted, and in India local spices were added (the Portuguese dish was not spicy).” — from

  • I think this looks fantastic! Most “foodie” bloggers would be super-strict with a self-imposed 5 ingredient rule (ie not using premade spice mixes) and make everyone else feel inferior for not being just as dedicated, so I love that you’re a little more lenient about that. I also love the idea behind what you’re doing. Simplifying your life is something I can totally get behind! Although I do have to say there’s something cathartic sometimes in cooking an elaborate, 20-ingredient meal. :)

    And LOL@ everyone freaking out about this not being a REAL vindaloo because of VINEGAR. Jesus. The dish’s original name was “Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos.” CARNE. That’s red meat. Funny that people are focusing on the vinegar when they should be focusing more on the chicken. But they’re okay with that- why? OH, right…because that’s the ACCEPTED variation of the dish. There are reasons that recipes have wild variations- personal taste.

  • I came across your blog by way of Gojee and although I never leave comments, I felt the need to after reading all the negative feedback you’ve been receiving.
    I will agree that this does not fall under the category of “authentic” vindaloo. But I think most of us would be hard pressed to find all the necessary ingredients and put in the proper effort and time to make the authentic dish. While making your own spice blend, pesto, mayonnaise, etc can be extremely rewarding (and tastes way better than the store bought versions) this is not practical on a daily basis for most. We all use less than “authentic” ingredients daily (I don’t whip up my own jam for toast and mayo for my sandwich every day).
    I appreciate that you are trying to simplify recipes that would normally be very overwhelming for beginner cooks or simply busy cooks. It allows people to sample new flavours without having to order take out or buy a million ingredients (that they won’t likely use again anytime soon) and spend a whole bunch of time cooking.
    So I think it’s terribly rude that you’ve received such an uproar about this recipe. We don’t always do everything from scratch (we couldn’t possibly). And for those that would like to condemn you for oversimplifying, I challenge them to go out and raise their own chicken so they can really make it “authentic”. Get a grip people!

  • Hi Jules, I want to try this one but would like to add vegies – would that work? if so, what would be best? A

  • Hi there,
    I just came across your site. I love what you stand for and your commitment. Just one thing i noticed. In places where you use certain pre-made sauces, such as, curry paste, that particular ingredient is made up of several spices, acids, vegetables.

    • That’s right Saira
      My philosophy is that if you can buy it as an ingredient it only counts for one ingredient.. It’s about the general focus on simplicity rather than nit picking.

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  • Oh my goodness. I am a busy mom and have loved food all my life. I started cooking at a young age and read cookbooks like novels. I love the results of a complicated recipe. However, over these busy years, as life became complicated, it became less of a thrill to stand at the stove. I do so appreciate the idea of a quick, 5-ingredient, healthy meal. It seems to me that is the purpose of this blog. If Jules threw in a sixth or seventh ingredient from time to time, it would matter not to me! Why people are taking this so seriously and nit-picking is beyond me. I appreciate you Jules. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes and all your hard work.

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