Rogan Josh vs Vindaloo: How Do They Compare?

Written By Ollie Cartwright


Rogan Josh and Vindaloo, both originating from Indian cuisine, are popular options at the local takeaway. But, how do you differentiate the two? How do you know which to pick?

Rogan Josh is known for its aromatic, mild heat and tender meat, usually lamb, while Vindaloo, originally from Goa, stands out for its fiery spice level and tanginess, often featuring pork.

What is Rogan Josh?

Rogan Josh is a staple of Kashmiri cuisine, a region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.

Its name, sometimes spelled as “Roghan Ghosht,” is derived from Persian, meaning “clarified butter” and “meat”.

Traditionally made with lamb, it’s known for its deep red colour, achieved through the use of Kashmiri red chillies, which impart a vibrant hue without excessive heat.

The dish is made with a blend of spices including fennel, ginger, and bay leaves, and is often cooked in a base of yoghurt, which adds a creamy texture and mild tanginess.

How Spicy is Rogan Josh?

Rogan Josh, a classic Kashmiri dish, is moderately spicy. It uses aromatic spices like cardamom and cloves rather than a heavy dose of chillies. The heat level can be adjusted, but it’s generally more about deep, warm flavours than intense spiciness.

What is Vindaloo?

With its roots in Goan cuisine, Vindaloo has a fascinating Portuguese influence. If you don’t know your history, then this might come as a bit of a surprise.

Although variations exist, it’s a fiery, tangy dish often made with pork – another thing that may surprise you because many assume that pork is never consumed in India.

The name “Vindaloo” is a derivative of the Portuguese dish “Carne de Vinha d’Alhos,” which translates to “meat in garlic wine marinade.”

This Goan adaptation uses vinegar and a potent mix of spices, including red chillies, cumin, and mustard seeds. The dish is renowned for its high spice level, balanced by a subtle acidity, making it distinctively sharp and bold in flavour.

How Spicy is Vindaloo?

Vindaloo is known for being one of the spiciest Indian dishes. It traditionally features a fiery blend of chilli peppers and other spices, making it quite hot. The exact level of spiciness can vary depending on the recipe or restaurant.

Similarities Between Rogan Josh and Vindaloo

Although from above it’s pretty clear that they have a different spice level, there are a few things that make Rogan Josh and Vindaloo similar:

  • Indian Cuisine: Both dishes are integral to Indian cuisine, showcasing the diversity and richness of India’s culinary landscape.
  • Spice Blend: Despite their different heat levels, Rogan Josh and Vindaloo use a complex blend of spices essential to their respective flavour profiles.
  • Popularity: Rogan Josh and Vindaloo are widely popular, especially in Indian restaurants outside India, representing the global appeal of Indian flavours and cooking techniques.
  • Adaptability: Both dishes have evolved and adapted to local tastes and ingredients, resulting in various interpretations in different parts of the world.

Differences Between Rogan Josh and Vindaloo

Of course, the list of differences is a little more extensive. Here are the main ways that these two popular curries are completely unrelated:

  • Base Ingredient: Rogan Josh traditionally uses lamb as its primary protein, creating a rich, tender base, whereas Vindaloo typically features pork, contributing to its robust and hearty flavour.
  • Spice Level: Rogan Josh is milder, focusing more on aromatic spices, while Vindaloo is known for its high heat, often making it one of the spiciest items on an Indian menu.
  • Flavour Profile: The predominant flavour in Rogan Josh is a blend of aromatic spices and creaminess from yoghurt, whereas Vindaloo has a sharp tanginess from vinegar coupled with a bold spiciness.
  • Culinary Origin: Rogan Josh hails from Kashmiri cuisine, reflecting the region’s preference for aromatic and mild spices, whereas Vindaloo is a Goan dish with strong Portuguese influences, evident in its use of vinegar and fiery spices.
  • Colour and Texture: Rogan Josh has a distinctive deep red colour with a smoother, creamier texture, while Vindaloo often has a more rustic, thicker consistency with a vibrant red-orange hue.

Rogan Josh vs Vindaloo: Which Wins?

If you were to walk into an Indian takeaway tonight and you had to pick one of these dishes, which would get your vote? Let us know by voting in the poll below:

Do You Prefer Rogan Josh or Vindaloo

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