Madras vs Vindaloo: What’s the Difference?

Written By Acacia Crossley


Madras and Vindaloo are popular Indian dishes (especially in BIR) that tantalize the taste buds with their rich, spicy flavours. Both dishes have deep roots in Indian culinary traditions but how do they differ?

Close up of madras and vindaloo curries side-by-side with labels for comparison

Madras is generally a medium-hot curry known for its rich tomato base and aromatic spices, whereas Vindaloo is known for its fiery heat and tangy vinegar notes. While both dishes use chillies and a complex spice mix, they differ significantly in heat level.

What is Madras?

Madras curry, named after the city now known as Chennai in Tamil Nadu, South India, is a robust, earthy curry. It’s typically made with meat (often chicken or lamb), cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, and a blend of ground spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chilli.

The dish is known for its deep red colour, often achieved by using Kashmiri chillies, which are relatively mild and offer a vibrant hue.

What is Vindaloo?

Vindaloo is a fiery dish originating from Goa, a coastal region in western India with Portuguese colonial influences.

Traditionally made with pork, Vindaloo has evolved to include other meats like chicken or beef. Its hallmark is the use of vinegar and a generous amount of hot chillies, combined with garlic, ginger, and spices like cumin, mustard, and fenugreek.

This combination gives Vindaloo its distinctive tangy, spicy flavour and intense heat.

Is a Vindaloo the Spiciest Curry in the World?

Vindaloo is among the spicier curries but not the spiciest in the world. Other curries, like the Phaal curry, are known to be hotter. Phaal is often considered one of the spiciest, made with a scorching combination of chilli peppers. Vindaloo’s heat is significant but not at the extreme end of the scale.

Similarities Between Madras and Vindaloo

There are some fairly obvious things that make Madras and Vindaloo curries somewhat similar:

  • Use of Spices: Both curries incorporate a complex blend of spices, including cumin, coriander, and turmeric, contributing to their rich flavours.
  • Chilli Content: Despite the difference in heat levels, both dishes use chillies, which are a staple in Indian curries.
  • Popularity: Madras and Vindaloo are widely popular, not only in India but also in Indian restaurants globally, often featured as menu highlights.
  • Adaptability: Both dishes have adapted over time, incorporating local ingredients and preferences, leading to various interpretations in different regions.

Differences Between Madras and Vindaloo

Of course, they are not the same. The list of differences between these two popular curries is quite lengthy:

  • Heat Level: Vindaloo is notably hotter than Madras, often considered one of the spiciest dishes in Indian cuisine.
  • Sauce Base: Madras uses a tomato-based sauce, giving it a rich, slightly sweet flavour. In contrast, Vindaloo features a vinegar-based sauce, contributing to its tangy profile.
  • Regional Origin: Madras has its roots in South India, while Vindaloo originates from the Goan region, influenced by Portuguese cooking styles.
  • Meat Used: Although both can be made with different meats, traditional Vindaloo is most commonly made with pork, a reflection of the Portuguese influence, whereas Madras is more versatile in its choice of protein.
  • Colour and Consistency: Madras usually has a deeper red colour and a thicker consistency, whereas Vindaloo is often lighter in colour with a thinner sauce.
Is Vinadaloo Hotter Than Madras?

Vindaloo is generally spicier than Madras curry. Originating from Goa, Vindaloo typically has a higher level of heat due to its greater use of chillies, compared to the Madras curry which is also hot but often slightly milder and more aromatic.

Madras vs Vindaloo: Which Wins?

If you had to pick which of these curries to enjoy, which would you vote for when comparing madras vs vindaloo? Of course, there’s also a chance both will be too spicy for you.

Do You Prefer Madras vs Vinadloo?

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