Vegetable Vindaloo

When the flower children went east looking for spiritual enlightenment, it is not surprising that many ended up in Goa, a lush paradise along India’s scenic west coast.Not surprising because not only is Goa indescribably gorgeous, but because it also is the home of an inclusive, diverse, happy people steeped in the intoxicating culture of “susegado” — taking it easy.The locals joke that there are three things Goans do best: khavap, pivap, nidap. Or eat, drink, and sleep. The drinking, of course, refers to Feni, a popular homestyle liquor that runs thicker than blood in many veins here and that is brewed from the quirky, upside-down cashew fruit that grows abundantly in Goa’s emerald valleys.My stepmother is a Goan, and as a girl I spent many summers in this tiny state attending family weddings, events, or just visiting with a big, extended family of cousins and aunts and uncles. My father lives there now, and each time I return to India I look forward to spending some time rediscovering this land that, despite the inevitable scars of progress and overwhelming tourism, holds on to its seductive innocence.
Goa played host to Portuguese colonists from the 1500s all the way until 1961 and modern-day Goa is a mix of this past alien culture and the demands of its present in a globalized India. Old, faded but magnificent Portuguese-era homes with wide verandahs and intricate iron grillwork in the windows sit on the narrow streets that were once lazy pedestrian pathways and are now clogged with noisy cars spitting out gray exhaust. The beaches, once strewn with Goans and hippies who assimilated effortlessly with the locals, are now consumed by expensive resorts accessed by a privileged few.Young people dream of leaving homes tucked in scenic valleys dotted with mango and jackfruit orchards to work at one of the many call centers that have sprung up around the state.Goa
But despite the changes, Goa’s charm is hard to smother, as is the delightful nature of its diversity. The state has large populations of both Hindus and Christians who speak the same language, Konkani, with vastly different accents. Churches like the Basilica of Bom Jesus are as much at home here as the colorful domes of the Mangeshi temple. In fact, Hindus and Christians cross-worship at each other’s churches and temples with unbridled gusto. “The more gods to get blessed by, the merrier,” my Goan aunt, Vilas maushi, an avid temple- and church-goer herself, once explained very logically.
The cuisine of Goa– or rather the cuisines– are just as diverse and delightful. Both the Hindus and the Christians cook a good deal with rice and fish but they cook these ingredients up into vastly different dishes. The Christian cuisine includes dishes like Cafreal, a spicy preparation made usually with chicken and with spices and herbs like coriander, pepper, ginger and garlic. Then there’s Bebinca, a multi-layered sweet made with flour and eggs and coconut milk and often sold fresh by the roadside. And Ambot-tik, a spicy-sour dry curry made usually with fish, among many other dishes.

The Hindus, on the other hand, cook fish curries fragrant with triphal, a small, round spice, and mellowed with coconut paste, and vegetable stews like khatkhate and Ambyache Sasam (made with ripe mangoes which also grow abundantly here).

The dish I am sharing today, Vindaloo, is a Goan classic but it is not something my stepmom made in her Hindu kitchen. The reason was it is usually made with pork which is a popular meat among the Christians of Goa but which, for some reason, is a meat even Hindus who are not vegetarian seemed to shun, at least in those days.

I shun pork because I would rather not eat a cute little pig (did you know they are smarter than dogs ?). So my vindaloo is made with two veggies I love and that make great meat substitutes– eggplant and mushrooms. Trust me, you’ll never miss the meat.

I adore vindaloo because it is gloriously vibrant, with the contrasting flavors of vinegar, garlic, chilli powder and mustard. It goes beautifully with boiled rice but I also love scooping it up with a laadi pav roll, sold fresh in Goa by pav-wallahs who make the rounds of neighborhoods each morning on their bicycles.

And now for the recipe. Enjoy, all!


Vegetable Vindaloo
A recipe for Goan Vindaloo
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1 large eggplant (I prefer this kind for this dish because it has a heftier texture), cut into a chunky dice
  • 12-15 crimini mushrooms (use button or even shiitake if you prefer), halved or quartered if large
  • 2 medium red onions, chopped
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 4 spring onions or scallions, white and green parts chopped (optional)
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • Grind to a paste in a blender the following ingredients:
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar (this recipe traditionally uses white vinegar but I prefer balsamic because it's sweeter and the flavor goes better with the veggies)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • A 1-inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 2 level tbsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (use more or less per your taste)
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds, ground
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Marinate the mushrooms and eggplant in the paste and set aside for at least an hour.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot.
  3. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Do not hurry through this- you want the onions to develop a lot of flavor
  4. Add the marinated vegetables and cook, stirring about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to simmer. Cover the pot and allow the curry to cook for about an hour, stirring once in a while to ensure the veggies get cooked evenly.
  6. Once the vegetables are really tender, add more salt if needed and stir in the mustard seeds.
  7. Stir in the coriander leaves and garnish with the spring onions, if using.
  8. Serve hot.
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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  1. says

    Whenever I have heard of a vindaloo dish it is with meat…the vegetarian version sounds very interesting…looks tasty too…I have to give this a try :)

  2. says

    Hi! I’d love to make this delicious sounding dish. What type of mustard seeds should we stir in at the end and how much? I don’t see mustard seeds listed besides the ground mustard for the paste? Peace, Stephanie

  3. says

    Gita, Cham, Preeti, Pomegranate, A and N, Pavani: Thanks!

    BangaloreBaker– absolutely. In fact, I intended to add a note on that and forgot, so thanks for reminding me. Potatoes would be great in this vindaloo.

    Stephanie, thanks for pointing out, and I’ve added the mustard seeds to the recipe– you need 2 tsp of black mustard seeds.

  4. says

    Loved reading about Goa coz i also grew up in an island where people do best khavap, pivap, nidap. Hope to try this recipe coz teh combination of the 2 veg already experimented in other dishes is really deli:)

  5. says

    I really enjoyed this post. I’ve been to Goa only once but would love to go back there. It was three days of pure lazy bliss. The vindaloo looks amazing.

  6. says

    Vindaloo is one of the few dishes I have memories of my mother making (she passed away when I was 5)and I have always wanted to make it (albeit she made it with egg I think not pork). This looks a fab place to start.
    Goa is a my fav place to visit, I have gone every year there since we honeymooned there in 1997 and its wonderful every single time!

  7. says

    Hi! I relived Goa through ur post. I have lived there for a while and would love to visit in any day. I have never been a fan of Vindaloo especially because of the strong flavor of Vinegar in it but balsamic vinegar sounds good.

  8. says

    I very much enjoyed your post because I’ve often thought of going to Goa one day. It was good to hear about it from someone who knows it well. The Vindaloo also looks delicious.

  9. Anonymous says

    Hi Vaishali

    Never imagined that Vindaloo can be easily made vegan and with ingredients that are already in the pantry. Will give it a try soon.

  10. says

    Hi Vaishali!

    this one is impossible to not comment, mainly because I’m Portuguese :). I’ve been away from commenting, I’m moving back to my home country and there’s a lot of stuff to take care of!it’s overwhelming!Although I have your website opened permanently in my web browser (I’ve tried so many of yours recipes so far- they’re delicious!, taking pictures of them, I truly hope that someday your blog will be featured somewhere, or perhaps a book :),but I will definitely give my contribution to it! ), I just do a quick reading and don’t have time for more.
    But this post is special, because it talks about the past relationship between ours home countries.
    Throughout my school years we had several History classes, we’re very pride of our history, despite all the “dark aspects” of it, and I remember very well when my History teacher told us about the Route of Spices, it’s how the Portuguese people called the way/path (by sea)that the sailors did to get in to Goa and how they exchanged their merchandise by India merchandise and spices.
    Goa is one of the places that I would like to visit one day, but there are others in India.
    About the recipe :) the thing about being a eggplant lover is that all of your recipes that call for eggplant are mouth-watering :). I will definitely try this one!

    A warm hug,

  11. says

    Sharmila, absolutely– substituting with veggies means no time lost marinating etc. Cherry on the icing! :)

    Radha, Bharti, Uma, Thanks.

    Miri, yes, I remember egg vindaloo is also a popular version. And I’m not surprised you go to Goa each year– it’s definitely an addictive place.

    Pari, Joyful, Priya, Anon, Nithya, Thanks.

    Susana, good to hear from you, and glad you enjoyed the post. I am sure you’d love Goa– there’s still so much Portuguese history there.
    Must be exciting moving back to your home country. Have a smooth move! :)

    Zengirl, yes, eggplant is definitely one of my favorite veggies and it features on our menu often :) Can’t have enough of it!

  12. says

    Loved your vegetarian version of vindaloo and it has eggplant one of my favorite vegetables. Looks absolutely inviting …enjoyed the read about Goa and its history I spent a very brief week there once and loved what I saw…

  13. says

    Hi, had a chance to try my hand at this today. Wonderful blend of flavors, really bright notes carrying through – I believe by the coriander seeds?
    I skipped the mushrooms, and I blame myself for not picking up a suitable substitute for that. I missed out on those savory flavors.
    All in all, excellent sauce and a recipe that can easily contain a medley of vegetables.

  14. Angela says

    Hello again, Vaishali:

    Thank you for this awesome recipe that I thoroughly enjoyed, and for sharing your heritage with us as well.

    I tried many of your recipes within the past few months, and I have no complaints, because they are all fabulous; probably even better when you cook them!

    Enjoy your day!


    • says

      Hi Angela, thanks so much for your lovely message! It’s great you enjoyed the vindaloo recipe– one of my absolute favorites! I am also happy you’ve enjoyed the other recipes. Thanks for letting me know, and hope you have a lovely day! :)

  15. Shaun says

    This is so good! I recently went vegan in order to bring my weight under control. I wish I had stumbled over your website earlier on. I am so looking forward to making many more of your recipes. Thank you for this.

    • says

      Thanks, Shaun! Welcome to the blog, and congrats on beginning your vegan journey. You are going to love it! Feel free to ask if you have questions.

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