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Recipe for slow cooker chicken vindaloo {gluten-free}

Chicken vindaloo

For many years, my husband Ted and I have scratched our itch for great Indian food at the Jackson Diner in New York City. Though it's in the Queens neighborhood where our kids now live, the Diner has been a favorite since we first discovered it with friends in the 1980s. Whenever we go, we share an order of vindaloo, either lamb or chicken. Vindaloo originated in Goa, the western coastal state in India once colonized by the Portuguese, and the use of vinegar in the dish reflects that culinary heritage. I made my first-ever slow cooker version of chicken vindaloo this past weekend, and it's a winner. You can adjust the heat level by adding more, or fewer, chile peppers. The amount I've given makes a mildly spicy dish, far less fiery than a traditional vindaloo, but one that allows the flavor of the other spices to dance on your tongue. As with many Indian dishes, it seems like there are many steps involved, but there are really only three: cook and puree onions, make a paste in the food processor, and grind some spices. Then combine it all with chicken in the slow cooker, and walk away until dinner time.

Chicken vindaloo

Slow cooker chicken vindaloo

From the pantry, you'll need: canola oil, onions, white wine vinegar, ginger root, garlic, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cinnamon, black peppercorns, garam masala, coarse sea salt, dried chile peppers, frozen chicken breasts (or thighs, whichever you prefer).

Slightly adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker. I used a 4-quart slow cooker; a 3-quart cooker would be fine. Serves 6, with basmati rice; can be doubled.


2 Tbsp canola oil
3 large yellow onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 4-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into chunks
10 cloves garlic, peeled
5 dried red Thai or serrano chile peppers, stems removed (use 2-3 more if you like a fiery vindaloo)
1/2 Tbsp turmeric
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 Tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 Tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 Tbsp brown or black mustard seeds
2-1/4 lbs (approximately 4 large) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, and/or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces


Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are brown but not burned, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Transfer the mixture to a food processor fitted with the metal blade, along with the remaining tablespoon of oil, and puree. Scrape the puree into the slow cooker. Do not wash the food processor.

Now, add the ginger, garlic, chile peppers, turmeric, coriander, garam masala and cinnamon to the food processor. Process into a paste. Scrape the paste into the slow cooker.

With a mortar and pestle or a dedicated spice grinder (a coffee grinder works well, as long as you're not using it for coffee!), combine the black peppercorns, salt and mustard seed, and crush together into a coarse powder. Add that mixture to the slow cooker.

Add the chicken and 1/4 cup of water to the slow cooker and, with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir everything together. Set the cooker to LOW and cook for 6 hours. Lift the lid (yes, it's fine to do that) after the first 4-1/2 hours, and give the vindaloo a good stir.

Serve hot, with steamed basmati rice or naan.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Salmon tikka
Mushroom bhaji
Curried green tomatoes
Saag aloo (potatoes with spiced spinach)
Chicken tikka

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Roasted cauliflower with garam masala, from Stephencooks
Indian chicken wings, from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook
Spicy chicken masala curry, from Sailu's Kitchen
Indian butter chicken, from This Week for Dinner
Vindaloo vegetables, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


i need to get a slow cooker myself. this dish looks delicous.

gosh just the smell alone of this cooking makes me very happy.
i think i have all those spices....i really want to make this. is there any left at your house? maybe i should just drive over. lol

I absolutely love the sound of this! Would love to come home to this in the slow cooker! (Now I need to figure out why your feed has disappeared from my feed reader. Am re-subscribing now.)

Oh I wish this was my dinner tonite!

Ruth, I'm still fairly new to slow cookers, but I can't imagine how I've managed without them!

Vanillasugar, not a drop left (the leftovers were delicious the next day). You'll have to make your own batch, and you'll be glad.

Kalyn, my small slow cooker doesn't have a very tight seal, so the aroma of this dish cooking permeated the entire house. It was fabulous.

Soma, get out your slow cooker. It could be your dinner tomorrow night!

Wow. This looks really good, Lydia. And easy, too! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

What a wonderful looking dish, Lydia! I am trying more and more Indian food and loving it. :-) I laughed when I read your instruction not to wash the food processor. I am always throwing something in the soapy water in the sink and finding out that, oops, I still needed that. So I end up doing double washing unnecessarily. Your note would save me from that. ;-)


Fantastic recipe, Lydia! We are fans of Indian dishes and prepare it fairly often. As much as I enjoy tending a simmering curry on the stovetop, I have to admit that throwing everything in the crockpot would be awfully handy on a busy weeknight.

I want to love my slow cooker more. In fact I have two of them! But I only have a handful of recipes that actually turn our great in a slow cooker. The problem I have is the inconsistencies of cooking meat. For example, I know to never cook boneless chicken breasts or thighs for more than 2 - 3 hours in a crock pot (any crock pot )or it becomes dry and mealy in texture. The majority of the recipes I try do not work out as written and it drives me crazy.

I love Indian food and have tried some crock pot recipes as of late and have been disappointed. I have had success with the recipes I have tried from "Perfect Pantry" and want to love this recipe- so I am going to give it a try. But I do know I will use thighs and reduce the time- just based on my 20 years of trying to love my crock pot.

One of my favorite Indian meals!

Never ever thought to use a slow cooker for it!

I've never had vindaloo before but your recipe is truly inspiring! I'll be making this soon. Thanks Lydia!

Homegrown CountryGirl, I love how easy it is. So often, Indian food requires many steps, but this recipe simplifies the dish without sacrificing any flavor.

Shirley, I'm glad that tip is helpful! It really does save time.

Cookin' Canuck, I used to think that I didn't need a slow cooker because I work at home and have time to tend a stovetop dish. Now, I'm sold on how convenient the slow cooker can be. My first one was a very large 7-quart size; then I bought the 4-quart, which I use once or twice a week to make soup stock. I can understand why people have collections of slow cookers in every size!

Lisa, I absolutely get what you're saying, and I must admit that as a rule I like my chicken on the slightly dry side, which is why I use chicken breasts. If you use the thighs, you will get a more moist vindaloo. I still wouldn't reduce the time too much, because this dish cooks on low. But please experiment and let us know the results.

Nick, it's a revelation. Try it!

Christine, vindaloo scares some people because of its reputation as the hottest of Indian dishes. But when you make it at home, you can control the heat level. I think you'll like this if you like the Indian spice palate.

I know you are in RI.. is there an Indian store you go to to get your spices?

Amy, I think Not Just Spices on Hope Street (near Seven Stars) has the best selection of Indian ingredients. If you have another local source, I'd love to know about it.

Yum, I'm going to make this one -- though not too hot.....

Lydia, that sounds so delicious! I am in love with Indian cooking, especially the spices - line up my little bowls, drop spices into the sizzling oil until they start popping - it smells so good! I just made my own garam masala last week, for a lemony ground lamb with mint and cilantro recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's newest book. Mmmmm. (I know you don't like cilantro, but I love it.)

I don't own a slow cooker, for the same reason you mentioned. Can I just do this in a Dutch oven?

I have my Indian friend and I love the meal she prepared. It is always spicy and I love it. I tried to prepare some indian dishes by myself and my husband loves it. Now I will try to cook this one.

Mary, you can pull back on the number of chile peppers as much as you wish, but don't eliminate them altogether as will affect the balance of the dish.

Judy, yes, you can use a Dutch oven. Be sure to increase the amount of water in the recipe, to 1/2 cup at the outset. Add more as needed to keep the dish from burning/sticking while it cooks. Also, you can reduce the cooking time, perhaps to as little as one hour.

Anna, I hope you enjoy it.

Will be trying out this one for sure.
@ Lisa above: I agree -I am always trying love my slow cooker. I am always adjusting recipes. I do think in general with my model that the time to cook is always less than the recipe so that is an adjustment I have to make.

I loved loved loved Jackson Diner. Too bad I live on the west coast now. Thanks for the recipe. I will make this for dinner tomorrow!~

Carol, this dish is so flavorful. And so easy. Please try it.

Win, so glad the Jackson Diner has good memories for you, too. We get there a few times a year, and it's just as good as ever.

This has been in my slow cooker all afternoon smelling wonderful, can't wait for dinner! I added about 1/4 cup of coconut milk as the spices were tasting a little raw, and it took that raw edge off.

Silly question, but is it supposed to be so *green*?

Kolbie, I guess that's more a reflection on my less-than-wonderful photography skills! It's more brown than green, in real life.

I make a slow cooker black bean dish - and use chicken breast. The trick is to wait until the dish is DONE and then slice the breast in 1/2 inch pieces, (not cubed) and drop it in and cover with the other ingredients and "poach" for 10 -15 minutes, depending on your dish, sauce, and temperature. Melt in your mouth tender chicken! My husband was watching and I could tell he was very skeptical ... and the RAVED about how tender it was. ;) No need to brown it prior either.

I've got this cooking now. A bit confused about the ginger....is it really a 4 inch piece of ginger? Seemed like way too much ginger, so I used a lot less.
I'm also using beef instead of chicken and I put some fresh bell chillies in with the onion because we like it HOT. It smells great but really has turned very green so I hope it's going to turn out OK. Got a few more hours to wait......
Thanks for the recipe :)

I have this cooking right now and it looks and smells amazing! It started cooking around 7pm last night on low for about 4 hours. I turned the cooker to warm for the rest of the night. Its 11am now and I have turned it back to low until time to eat. Thanks for the recipe, I love curry and spice and cannot wait to try this!

Great recipe! I've made this several times and we love it. A few posters have commented previously about how *green* this gets, and I don't think they're referring to your photo. Two of the three times I've made this, it does turn green. Very green--like scary unnatural "is this safe to eat?" green. It starts around the edges as the crock pot gets hot and moves inward as the heat spreads. It even tints the chicken green. Funky looking, but still tastes great. I can only think something is reacting with the intense yellow turmeric, but I'm very curious to know if anyone else has the same results and/or suggestions as to what it is.

Jim, I confess I'm puzzled about the green. I wonder whether something is reacting with some slow cookers -- maybe the vinegar? I honestly don't know, so I ask readers to share your experience and maybe we can puzzle it out.

Hi Lydia, is there a substitute for white wine vinegar?

Shanique, rice vinegar is a good substitute.

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