Duck Vindaloo

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent

Mangoes & Curry Leaves

By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Published 2005

  • About

Duck is not a traditional food in Goa, as far as we know, but we thought it would make a wonderful vindaloo, and so it does. (For more about the vindaloo tradition, see Goan Pork Vindaloo.) The sake, vodka, or Chinese rice wine are our suggested substitutes for the traditional local liquor called feni.

This vindaloo has heat, but it’s not overwhelming. It makes a great main dish for a dinner party because it can be made ahead, giving the flavors even more time to blend. Start a day ahead—the duck has the most flavor if it marinates for 12 to 24 hours, though you can get away with less (4 to 5 hours) if pressed for time.


  • 1 whole duck or 1½ to 2 pounds bone-in duck breasts
  • teaspoons salt
  • 5 dried red chiles, stemmed and crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 whole clove or a pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger or ginger mashed to a paste
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup rendered duck fat or raw sesame oil or coconut oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup medium-dry sake, vodka, or Chinese rice wine


Strip most of the skin and fat off the duck and set aside (for how to render fat, see Oils and Fats in the Glossary). Use a cleaver to cut the duck into pieces, leaving the meat on the bone; we usually cut the thighs as well as drumsticks into two pieces, and we cut the breasts into pieces slightly smaller than 2 inches by 2 inches. Place the duck in a large bowl with the salt and turn to ensure that it is salted all over. Set aside, loosely covered.

To prepare the spice paste using a spice/coffee grinder, place the dried chiles and the whole spices in the grinder and reduce to a powder. Turn out into a small bowl and add the ground cloves, if using. Add the garlic, ginger, and 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Stir to mix, then use a spoon to smear the mixture against the side of the bowl to blend well. To use a mortar and a pestle, start by pounding or grinding the dried chiles and whole spices, then add the garlic and ginger and pound or grind to a paste, moistening the mixture with a little of the vinegar, up to 2 tablespoons. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the ground cloves, if using. If you didn’t add a full 2 tablespoons vinegar as you were grinding, add the balance now.

Stir the sugar into the spice paste. Add the spice paste to the bowl with the duck and turn and stir to coat the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours, or as long as 24 hours, whatever is most convenient.

Place 2 tablespoons of the duck fat or oil in a wide heavy skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add the onion and sauté until tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Turn out into a bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons duck fat or oil in the same pan. Add the duck pieces (reserve any excess marinade) and turn and stir to expose all sides of the duck to the hot surface of the pan. Once the duck is browned on all sides, add the onion, the reserved marinade, if any, the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, and the sake, vodka, or wine. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly, lower the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the duck is tender. Transfer to a platter and serve hot or warm.

Serve with rice and a mild or slightly sweet side dish, such as Pea Shoots for a Crowd, Cauliflower Dum, or Aromatic Pumpkin and Coconut, as well as a plate of crisp sliced cucumbers and some of Zinet’s Young Ginger Pickle.