Vindaloo Vs. Madras Curry Powder: SPICEography Showdown

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Both Madras and vindaloo curry powders clearly reflect the South Indian tradition of spice blends. They both consist of South Indian spices and are known for their peppery heat. Another quality that they both have in common is their European heritage—these are both spice blends formulated by Europeans using Indian ingredients. All that said, they are two different spice blends and you should as much as possible before using them. Let’s break things down via our vindaloo curry powder vs. Madras curry powder SPICEography Showdown.

How does vindaloo curry powder differ from Madras curry powder?

The most important difference between the two blends is flavor profile. The blends have different histories and were formulated for different groups of Europeans. Vindaloo curry powder’s origins lie in a Portuguese dish called carne de vinha d’alhos or vinha d’alhos for short. Over the years, both the name and the dish itself have been modified by Indians in the state of Goa. Goa was once a Portuguese colony. Vindaloo curry powder is known for being very hot. The extreme heat is the most noticeable addition by the Goans.

Unlike vindaloo curry powder, Madras curry powder is not used in India. The reason may be that it did not have an identity before coming to India in the way that vindaloo did; rather, the first Madras curry powder was an attempt to make Indian spices appealing to 19th-century British eaters. For the British, it was an exotic spice blend in an easy-to-use form. Madras curry powder is hotter than standard curry powder, but not as hot as vindaloo curry powder.

The difference in the amount of chile pepper in each blend also leads to another difference: appearance. Vindaloo curry powder has a deeper red color when compared to Madras curry powder, which is typically somewhere between orange and yellow.

It is important to note that the flavor differences between the two spice blends may not be dramatic when vindaloo and Madras curry dishes are made in restaurants. The vindaloo curry powder in many Indian restaurants consists of Madras curry powder with extra chili powder.

Can you use vindaloo curry powder in place of Madras curry powder and vice versa?

If you want to remain faithful to the flavor profile of your dish, vindaloo curry powder can make an adequate Madras curry powder substitute when it is diluted with standard curry powder to help neutralize some of the heat. You can also add dairy to the dish to make it milder. Even with these steps, it will not be ideal and should not be your first choice when seeking a Madras curry powder substitute. Madras curry powder can be used as a vindaloo curry powder substitute by adding more chili powder to it.

If you want to tweak a recipe to suit your preferences, vindaloo curry powder can be used in place of Madras curry powder to make a dish hotter. Similarly, you can use Madras curry powder in place of vindaloo curry powder to make a dish milder.

When should you use vindaloo curry powder and when should you use Madras curry powder?

Use vindaloo curry powder if you like spicy food. More specifically, use it to make any of the variations of vindaloo such as beef or goat vindaloo. Use Madras curry powder to make classic British curry dishes like mulligatawny soup.


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