Goan Beef Curry, Veganized

Goan Beef Curry
Beef is not a word you will often find on an Indian menu and the reason for that of course is that Hindus do not consume cows for religious reasons. But beef is not absent from the very secular India’s food tapestry– in fact it features regularly in the cuisines of Christians and Muslims who constitute a sizable chunk of the country’s billion-plus population.

I have for you today a vegan version of a beef curry that’s cooked in the Catholic kitchens of Goa, a former Portuguese colony that sits languidly along India’s west coast. I have written before on these pages about Goa’s distinctive cuisine which — although not something you’ll often find featured on Indian restaurant menus — is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite you will ever taste. Goan Christian cuisine is heavily influenced by the land’s Portuguese colonizers and it sparkles with ingredients like vinegar, an ingredient not commonly used in other Indian cuisines. But it also incorporates some very Indian ingredients that are available easily along the coast, like coconut and spices.

Beef Curry, vegan

Vegan Beef Curry

For my vegan beef curry I used two types of meat substitutes: tempeh and some beefless strips from Gardein. That’s because I wanted to incorporate a variety of textures to replace the mouth-feel of the meat and also pack a protein wallop (there’s nearly 19 grams of protein in each serving). You can go with one or the other, use a completely different meat substitute, or even cook this entirely with vegetables. Mushrooms and/or eggplant would be great here.

To make this a recipe where no one will miss the meat I added layers and layers of flavor, using aromatic vegetables and herbs. In went some green peppers, mint and coriander. And in the end, to mellow down the puckering sourness of the vinegar, I added a sweet dash of coconut milk.

This is a good dish to serve when you need to please different palates, including carnivorous ones. This is also a good dish to make the day before– the flavors meld and merge beautifully when the curry has time to stand. Keep in mind you need to marinate the meat substitutes for at least two hours– I wouldn’t recommend cutting on the time because the substitutes need it to absorb the marinade to give you the most flavor. Once that’s done, this dish comes together in minutes.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Goan beef curry

Goan Beef Curry, Vegan
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 8 servings
  • 1 8-oz package of tempeh, cut in ½-inch cubes
  • 1 11.5-oz package of Gardein Beefless Strips
  • 4 medium potatoes,cubed and placed in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 tbsp of water. Cover and zap for five minutes or until the potatoes are just tender and not mushy.
  • 1 green bell pepper, minced
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 medium onion, one half roughly chopped, the other half minced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • ½-inch knob of ginger, chopped
  • 12 curry leaves
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup coriander leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 moderately hot red chilli pepper, like byadgi, that’s eaten widely in Goa. You can substitute with a poblano pepper or, if you don’t have any of these, skip the chilli at this stage and add more paprika and a dash of cayenne when you add the powdered spices later in the recipe.
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp grated jaggery (can substitute with brown sugar)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ⅓ cup thick coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. In a small skillet roast the cumin, coriander, mustard, chilli pepper, cardamom and cinnamon until the coriander seeds are golden and a few shades darker. Keep stirring so you don’t burn anything. Remove the spices to a blender.
  2. To the blender add one half of the onion (the half you chopped), the vinegar, and the lemon juice.
  3. Blend until you have a smooth paste and then scrape the paste onto the meat substitutes, in a bowl. Mix well so all the pieces are coated and set aside to marinade at least 2 hours.
  4. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and curry leaves and saute until golden spots appear on the onions. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the mint leaves, turmeric, ginger and garlic and stir fry for a few seconds.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high again, add the green peppers and coriander leaves, and stir-fry for another three or four minutes or until the peppers start to soften.
  6. Add the cooked potatoes, stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the tomato paste and mix well to coat all the vegetables. Add the beef substitutes with all the marinade. Stir well.
  7. Add 1-2 cups of water, depending on the thickness you desire for the curry, stir well, and let the curry come to a boil. Add the grated jaggery or sugar. Lower the heat and let it simmer about five minutes for all the flavors to come together.
  8. Stir in the coconut milk and turn off the heat. Garnish with coriander leaves.
  9. Serve hot with some crusty bread or boiled rice.


Vegan Beef Curry nutrition information
A beautiful old Portuguese-era home in Goa
Coconuts are a staple of the Goan diet and coconut palms are everywhere in Goa. See how the homeowner has cut a hole in the roof to allow the tree to grow.
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Goan Feijoada

My Goan stepmother is a talented and adventurous cook. The last time we were visiting with her and my dad in Goa, she pulled out some pink beans from her pantry and introduced them to us as “Portuguese beans.”

While Indian cuisine is rich in all sorts of beans and legumes, pink beans are not something I had ever encountered before in India (although I always have them in my pantry here in the United States). No wonder my stepmother was proud of her find. She used them that afternoon to cook up a delicious, coconut-based curry very much like this Feijoada I have for you today– a dish Goa adopted and adapted from its Portuguese colonizers.

Half a century after the Portuguese left Goa, their memory lingers on. You can hear it in the names of Goans and in their language, see it  in the beautiful churches and buildings that dot the landscape, and taste it in Goan cuisine which includes dishes like Xacuti, Balchao, and Vindaloo.

The food of former colonies like Goa offers an interesting study in how occupiers cross-pollinated culinary traditions across the distant lands they held. Those food legacies were readily embraced by the natives and they persisted long after the occupiers left, as opposed to other colonial legacies that were unwelcome and are deliberately erased or lost over time. The names of cities, for instance, are easily changed back to what they used to be, and political forces even attempt to rewrite history books to put a spin on events. But connections forged through food linger and are embedded unshakably within cultures, impossible to erase. In fact, who would want to?

People here in the United States might recognize Feijoada as a meat-and-sausage stew that is often referred to as Brazil’s national dish–yes, the Portuguese took it there too. But the Goans added to their version the signature ingredients of their own cuisine, like coconut, tamarind, and warm, fragrant spices. The result was a delicious stew that’s easy to veganize without losing an iota of flavor.

My stepmom’s version is entirely vegan, although I added some vegan sausage to my translation for two reasons: the traditional Goan Feijoada, cooked usually by the state’s Christian population, does contain pork sausage. Second, I just wanted more protein in my curry. You could leave out the sausage if you wish and the stew would be no less delicious.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!

Goan Feijoada

(Makes four servings)


1 cup pink beans or pinto beans (red beans are fine too). Soak the beans overnight and cook them until tender but not mushy. Alternately, use two cups of canned beans, rinsed thoroughly.

2 vegan sausage links (optional). Chop lengthwise into 1/2-inch rounds

1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 red chilies (use less if you’re sensitive to heat)

4 cloves garlic, crushed

10 cloves

10 peppercorns

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp tamarind pulp. Alternately, soak a 1-inch ball of tamarind in 1/4 cup warm water for 30 minutes and extract the pulp by crushing the tamarind between your fingers. Discard the solids.

1 cup shredded or grated coconut (use 1 cup coconut milk if you don’t have this)

Salt to taste

Chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Heat a saucepan. Add the red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and cloves. Dry-roast the ingredients for five minutes over medium-low heat until fragrant and a couple of shades darker.

Remove the ingredients to a blender. In the same pan, dry-roast the garlic until golden-brown spots appear. Add to the blender. Then roast the grated coconut over low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly golden. Add to the blender along with 1 cup water. If you are using coconut milk just skip the roasting step and add the coconut milk directly to the blender.

Blend the masala until you get a smooth paste.

Add oil to the same saucepan.

Add the chopped onions and saute, stirring frequently, until they start to turn golden-brown.

Add the sausages, if using, and saute until they start to get a crust.

Add the tamarind paste and the ground masala paste. Stir well to mix and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about five minutes.

Add the beans along with a cup of water or cooking liquid. If your curry is already water, add less liquid. Add salt to taste.

Let the curry come to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes so all the flavors mix together.

Garnish with coriander leaves, and serve hot with some rice or a crusty bread.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Eggplant and Mushroom 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.
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!
Eggplant and Mushroom Vindaloo


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

1/4 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:

1/3 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

1/2 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

Marinate the mushrooms and eggplant in the paste and set aside for at least an hour.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.

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

Add the marinated vegetables and cook, stirring about 5 minutes.

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.

Once the vegetables are really tender, add more salt if needed and stir in the mustard seeds.

Stir in the coriander leaves and garnish with the spring onions, if using.

Serve hot.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.