Lamb Vindaloo Tacos with Cucumber Raita

Lamb Vindaloo Tacos

Whether it’s an ingredient that traveled to a new land, or an old-world recipe reinvented with local ingredients, food has been evolving for as long as humans have roamed the Earth. It’s been a way for newcomers to assimilate and to cross cultural gaps. It’s also how some of the most delicious dishes were born. Whether you’re talking about Kimchi, Ramen, or Macaroni and Cheese, many of today’s hottest foods were born from a migration of people and ingredients around the world.

Our guest blogger this week, Vijay Nathan is the Editor and “Chief Nosher” at NoshOn.It, a daily email featuring a hand-picked recipe and expert cooking tips to inspire you to get in your kitchen and cook. Drawing inspiration from his background and childhood, he’s created a mouthwatering lamb taco that melds the Tex-Mex of his youth with the flavors of his South Asian roots. Read on for Vijay’s Tacos and sign up for NoshOn.It’s newletter for a daily dose of culinary inspiration.

Hello No Recipes readers! In many ways, writing this guest post is a bit surreal for me. When I started reading food blogs years ago, No Recipes was one of the first sites that I stumbled upon and, 5 years later, I find myself coming back day after day so this is a true honor. Marc and I share a passion for exploring boldly flavored foods from cultures around the world. We also share a mutual appreciation for digging deep into the roots of traditional ethnic recipes and treating them with respect – staying true to authentic ingredients and techniques whenever possible and simply elevating a recipe to perfection.

Which is why today I’m rebelling in full force and unapologetically sharing a recipe mash-up that’s only partially authentic. We all have to break out of the box at some point, right? I present to you: Lamb Vindaloo Tacos with Cucumber Raita. Trust me, it works.

Growing up in a South Asian household in Houston, Texas, I was heavily influenced by both Indian and Tex-Mex food, which to this day are what I crave the most. They might seem different at first glance, but even at thousands of miles apart, the cuisines and ingredients of these cultures share curious similarities – cumin, coriander, dried chiles, onions, and garlic. Flatbreads to wrap around and dip into slowly simmered gravies. Rich deep flavors contrasted with something bright and sharp. When thinking about what recipe I wanted to share with you, I knew I wanted it to be a blend of these two cultures that mean so much to me. And so, Indian tacos were born.

Lamb Vindaloo Tacos

The core of this recipe was inspired by one of my favorite Indian restaurant dishes – Vindaloo. A Goan curry typically made with pork, vindaloo consists of meat marinated overnight in a fiery blend of spices, sugar, and vinegar, giving it a uniquely sweet-sour-spicy flavor. Instead of using pork, I used lamb (which is often seen in restaurants) because I think the dark, lightly gamey meat is a better contrast to the rest of the ingredients. Also, I admittedly tested this recipe several times and ultimately settled on lamb shanks as the cut of choice because it’s so forgiving and shreds easily.

The lamb is marinated for several hours in a loose spice paste that includes dried Mexican chilies, vinegar, coconut milk (for sweetness), and a host of spices. You simply brown the lamb and simmer it in the reserved marinade until it falls apart. While vindaloo would typically be served with rice or an Indian flatbread, I Tex-Mex-ified it by putting it in a taco. To accompany the rich filling, I like to serve thinly sliced onions that have been soaked in lemon juice for a tangy bite and a cooling cucumber raita. It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but the technique is actually quite simple. And traditional…sort of.

Lamb Vindaloo Tacos

The result is a dish with layers of flavors that seem to go on forever. The vinegar in the marinade lends a unique acidity to the braised meat that’s laced with warm and savory spices. The “pickled” onions cuts through the fat of the lamb and the raita serves as a fire extinguisher to your palate. These turned out pretty darn well, if I should say so myself. I hope you’ll give them a shot and let me know what you think. And, be sure to come on over to NoshOn.It and say hello. Thanks again to Marc for having me!

Equipment you'll need:

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    Lamb Vindaloo Tacos with Cucumber Raita
ServingsPrep TimeCook TimePassive Time
6 people 40 minutes 120 minutes 240 minutes


  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 3 dried Guajillo chilies (or other not too spicy dried chilies), seeds and stem removed
  • 3 dried Chile De Arbol (or other spicy dried chilies), seeds and stem removed
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken in half
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 pods green cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2.5 centimeters ginger - fresh peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1.4 kilograms lamb shanks
  • 1/2 cup yogurt - plain (preferably greek yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cucumber - hot house (or other seedless cucumber) diced fine
  • 1 small yellow onion halved and sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar (for finishing)
  • cilantro chopped (for garnish)
  • 15 corn tortillas (for serving)
Servings: people


  1. First, make the marinade for the lamb. In a bowl, combine the vinegar, dried chilies, cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom. Allow to soak for 20 minutes to soften the chilies. Pour into a blender and add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, garlic, ginger, coconut milk, and salt. Puree for 2-3 minutes until completely smooth, adding extra vinegar to get a paste that’s not too thick. Pour the marinade over the lamb, rub, and marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 hours.
  2. Make the raita: In a bowl, combine the yogurt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the cucumber. Stir thoroughly and refrigerate until ready for serving. The raita can be made up to 2 days in advance.
  3. Make the “pickled” onions: In a bowl, combine the thinly sliced onions, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours until the onions are slightly softened and lose some of their bite.
  4. When the lamb has finished marinating, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. On the stove, heat a large deep, oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Brush off any excess marinade from the lamb shanks, saving anything that remains.
  6. Add the lamb shanks to the hot oil and brown for 4-5 minutes on either side until deeply caramelized. Remove to a plate.
  7. To the remaining oil in the pot, add the diced onions and saute until golden brown, 4-5 minutes, adding more oil if needed.
  8. Add the reserved marinade to the pot along with 2 cups of water. Add the coriander powder. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to lift up all of the bits.
  9. Add the reserved lamb shanks and any juices they have released. Add enough extra water to the pot so that it comes ¾ of the way up the sides of the shanks.
  10. Cover with a tight-fitting (oven-proof) lid or 2 layers of foil. Place on the middle rack in the oven and cook for 2 hours, turning the shanks over once in the middle. By the end, the meat should be falling off the bone.
  11. Remove the shanks from the pot and, once cool enough to handle, shred the meat away from the bone. Discard the bones (or reserve for stock).
  12. Place the pot with the braising liquid back on the stove and bring to a simmer. Reduce until it has the consistency of a thick stew. Add the shredded lamb meat to the liquid and add the garam masala powder and additional tablespoon of vinegar. Stir to combine and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  13. To serve, heat corn tortillas on a griddle until lightly charred. Fill each tortilla with the braised lamb and top with the raita, onions, and chopped cilantro.
  • Jessica Nagel

    mmmmm, these look so good! I can’t wait to try it! A perfect topping would be those authentic mexican pickles you get at the taco stands. YUM!

    I am from Phoenix, Az and can’t help but mash up latin flavors into almost everything. Like you, when I’m homesick, I gravitate toward Mole and Green Chili sauces – especially New Mexico Hatch Green Chilis!

    When I started expanding my palate, I was surprised at how similar Indian and Mexican flavors were. So this marriage in your recipe does not surprise me. It’s very Mole-ish but with coconut milk and not chocolate!

    • Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

      Thanks so much Jessica – they were absolutely delicious! You’re so right, Indian and Mexican flavors (and cultures) are really similar. Indians have rotis, Mexicans use tortillas. This just made sense to me! If you’ve had Mexican barbacao, this is my “Indian-ified” version of that. And, you’re so lucky to have hatch green chiles at your doorstep. I always snatch them up when I see them here in Boston!

  • Amanda

    I’m wondering why you add the ground coriander after the marinade? Is there a particular reason? It just struck me as odd…thanks!

    • Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

      @disqus_bInKUpSADV:disqus That’s a great question! You could of course use coriander in the marinade if you like as well but typically in Indian curries, coriander powder is added part way through the cooking process so some of the earthy flavors still shine through. Unlike cumin, it doesn’t need to be cooked out as much. Does this answer your question?

  • kimchi_mom

    Wow Vijay! This looks and sounds amazing. I love all the flavors and textures you have going on here. Must make this soon…

    • Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

      Thanks Amy! I hope you enjoy it!

  • genfurukawa

    Vijay–great post, looks delicious with beautiful imagery too!! I think I may have seen something along the same lines in an Iron Chef competition that you handily won a few years ago….we have a different ethos towards tacos in sunny San Diego, geared more towards a quick fried fish or sauteed fish. That makes it a good option for a quick and easy weeknight dish. Any shortcuts you can recommend to cut down on the cook/prep time without sacrificing the deep flavors?

    • Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

      Thanks Gen! For that Iron Chef competition, I believe I did carnitas if I’m not mistaken…but I do like my tacos =). This is one of those dishes that really does need the long cooking time, but a couple of things I can suggest to make it easier. First, you can easily marinate the lamb overnight so just get it going the night before. Second, I’m sure this would be delicious in the slow cooker. If you can, sear the lamb and then add it to your slow cooker. But, you could probably just toss it all in the morning and let it go all day. Dinner ready when you get home!

  • chao an

    Would you please specify in the ingredient list which ingredient is for which part of the dish? I have no idea what ingredients i should combine to make the raita.

    • Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

      Hi Chao! Sorry about that – for the raita, it’s the 1/2 cup of yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 hothouse cucumber diced

      • chao an

        Thanks a lot! I will try it soon :)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Sorry about that, my fault. Vijay had the ingredients sectioned off by what they went into, but my recipe platform doesn’t allow for headings in the ingredients. I’ve gone and updated the recipe to include the ingredients for the raita and pickles.

      • chao an

        Don’t worry, it is very clear now. Thanks :)

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  • Aimee (Cooking the Strip)

    Love this creative fusion of different cuisines.

    • Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

      Thanks Aimee! Hope you’ll try it

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