Rabbit Vindaloo

wild rabbits

Most people in Britain probably think of vindaloo as a spicy lamb dish, sold in Indian restaurants and as a ready meal from supermarkets. However, vindaloo actually started off as a Portuguese pork or rabbit dish – Carne de vinha d’alhos, meat marinated with wine and garlic.

The Portuguese discovered India in 1498 and established their colony and trading posts over the next 100 years or so. Carne de vinha d’alhos came with the sailors, packed in barrels. Some say the pork was layered with garlic and wine, though centuries earlier, the Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans arriving in Iberia were well aware of the preserving properties of vinegar and the Moors who filled the Roman vacuum were known to have preserved meat and fish (in escabeche like dishes) with vinegar thereafter. So to my mind Portuguese sailors would have used wine vinegar, not wine, to preserve their meat, as Portuguese chefs do today.


Vindaloo became a staple food in Portuguese Goa, made by Franciscan priests, who’d gone to “save” the natives. Since wine vinegar was unavailable to the Franciscans, they made an alternative from fermented palm wine instead. Local ingredients, such as cinnamon, tamarind, black pepper and cardamom were added, along with chilli from Portuguese colonies in South America. When the British arrived in India, they liked vindaloo so much they brought it home. Duck vindaloo was a particular favourite. Early English cookbooks stuck to the traditional Goan recipe, though over the last century or so, British vindaloo has became a hot curry, without the vinegar marinade.

So here’s my take on a Portuguese Indian dish, made with rabbit – a popular meat on both continents and often used in Portuguese carne de vinha d’alhos.

First of all, make a masala (which can be a wet or dry mixture) to marinate the meat.

The Masala (spice mix for the marinade):

75ml red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons hot Pimentón de la Vera
2 teaspoons dulce pimentón de la vera
a level teaspoonful ground cinnamon
a level teaspoonful ground turmeric
8 cardamom pods
20 black peppercorns
8 cloves
1 level teaspoon coriander seeds
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds

warmed spices

Warm all the whole masala spices (not the powdered ingredients) in a dry frying pan until they start to give off an aroma (don’t get them too hot, as they will burn) – this will bring out the flavours.

ground spices

Remove the warm spices to a mortar (remove the cardamom seeds from their pods) and grind them up with a pestle.

Rabbit Vindaloo (serves 4):

2 strips of pork belly (rind removed and cubed)
1 rabbit chopped into about 14 pieces
2 large onions (chopped)
1 head of garlic (finely chopped)
3 large tomatoes (grated)
3 small red and green chillies (chopped)
a piece of ginger about the size of thumb (grated)
2 dessertspoonfuls of tomato purée
a squirt of anchovy paste
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
a large pinch of crushed dried chillies
a large pinch of sea salt
additional red wine vinegar to taste (if required)
The rabbit’s blood – mix this with a little red wine vinegar to stop it congealing, cover and keep it in the fridge until required

pork belly

I added  two strips of chopped pork belly to the rabbit, for fat and flavour (…and of course one does want to keep the Inquisition at bay!), as wild rabbit is rather lean.


Chop the rabbit into about 14 pieces and put all the meat into a container that will fit in the fridge.


Sprinkle on all the masala spices and pour on the red wine vinegar.


Mix the meat and marinade with your hands – it’s messy, but probably does the best job. Cover and allow the meat to marinate for 24 hours or so. Do take the meat out of the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.


When you are ready to cook, fry two large onions in olive oil, until they go translucent.

ginger and garlic

Stir the chopped garlic and grated ginger into the onions,


before adding the red and green chillis.

grated tomato

Grate three large tomatoes into the onion mixture


and allow this to cook for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle on the crushed chilli, black mustard seeds and sea salt, along with a squirt of anchovy paste and tomato purée,

marinated meat

Stir all the meat and marinade into the vegetables, bring to a gentle simmer, cover and allow to cook for an hour.

rabbit blood

After 60 minutes, taste the vindaloo and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Stir in the rabbit blood and vinegar mixture to thicken the sauce. Cook uncovered for a further 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Do add a little water if the sauce gets too thick.

rabbit vindaloo

Serve with basmati rice, chapatis or nan bread. I’m very fond of aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower in a spicy sauce) as an accompaniment and perhaps a little lemon pickle (which is very hard to find in the UK).

I recommend drinking a Portuguese Douro red wine with vindaloo, such as a Quinta do Vallado or a Goa Beer.

Other Rabbit posts

About Mad Dog

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21 Responses to Rabbit Vindaloo

  1. Eha says:

    Delightful! I know my local butcher, who is the only one able to get rabbits, will smile and ask ‘Oh, your friend has published a rabbit recipe again’ 🙂 ? The Australian restaurants I know all use the vinegar marinade: I mean that is the idea behind the dish after all ! Must also look up my Goan recipe collection for extra clues. Love your masala – have not used cinnamon . . . and no blood available with the beasties I can buy! And our rabbits may be cut into 6 or 8 but hardly 14 🙂 ! Can’t wait to try and naturally there is homework I want to do . . . as always with a ‘Mad’ recipe . . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Eha – I’m sure you butcher will be pleased. The blood’s an optional extra – as it’s not to everyone’s taste and not always available. Wild rabbits are quite small here too – I normally cut them into about 6 pieces, but this kind of dish and for some Spanish ones I’ve done, call for bite sized pieces, but regardless it’s your choice at the end of the day. I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Ron says:

    MD – you’ve managed to take my taste buds for quite a journey today. I’ve had what was described to me as a vindaloo in a Goan restaurant in Kolkata, but it was made with duck as I recall. I remember it being very spicy and tangy at the same time. A bit too spicy for me. I’m intrigued by your Portuguese recipe as it looks to be very tasty and not too spicy. Don’t know if I can find rabbit currently, so I’m thinking of using pork shank or maybe lamb.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Ron – pork would be perfect, but it’s extremely good with lamb too! The good thing about making curry is that you get to control the heat to suit your own taste buds.

  3. Karen says:

    The seasons in this recipe certainly must add up to a very flavorful meal. Love your posts like this where you give us so much history behind the dish…very interesting.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Karen – I love this kind of recipe, when you can see where the influences came from and who moved the ingredients round the world.

  4. Ooh that must have been amazing. All those gorgeous spices. Am back in England soon and can’t wait to get back to my spices in the kitchen as I’m really missing dishes like this 😁

  5. Michelle says:

    Oh, how interesting! Unfortunately the folks we used to buy rabbits from have quit raising them. Boo.

  6. Fascinating history and an incredibly delicious recipe. Those spices look so good. You had to start the post with the dead rabbits?! I like your drink recs too. I like a slow stewed recipe built up little by little until it’s a wonderful mix of flavors. I hope you enjoyed!

    • Mad Dog says:

      I love Bugs Bunny as much as the next person, but these were thoroughly wild rabbits intent on eating my farmer’s crop and it illustrates a problem with what we eat. Most people buy factory farmed meat wrapped in plastic from supermarkets. Sadly the same even applies to vegetables!
      Thanks Amanda – it good to hear from you. I bet you could come up with a fantastic vindaloo using mushrooms and pulses. Indian cuisine has so many delicious meat free dishes.

  7. Thank you for such an interesting read! I love vindaloo. Your recipe sounds inviting.

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