This lamb curry, commonly known as Rogan Josh, is made with vinegar-marinated lamb that’s gently cooked with tomatoes, Kashmiri chile pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, and fragrant spices. Easy and authentic and the best we’ve ever had.
Also known as Rogan Josh, this lamb curry is gently simmered in a chile-spiked tomato sauce fragrant with spice. It’s from the Kashmir region, which is the namesake for the vibrant red Kashmiri chile peppers which pack a complex yet not incendiary heat. There are as many variations on this Indian lamb curry as there are home cooks in the region, although our testers are calling it “the best they’ve ever tried.” It’s THAT good.–Angie Zoobkoff
Lamb Curry ~ Rogan Josh
- 1 1/2 pounds boned leg of lamb trimmed of any visible fat and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 4 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil or light olive oil
- 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
- 2 cardamom pods preferably black cardamom, bruised
- 5 cloves
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons finely grated garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Kashmiri chile powder*
- One (14.5-oz) can chopped tomatoes undrained
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- Rice preferably basmati, or naan bread, for serving
- In a non-reactive bowl, combine the meat with the vinegar and salt. Rub well to fully coat the meat, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over low heat, melt 3 tablespoons ghee or butter with the oil. Add the cinnamon, cardamom pods, and cloves and let them sizzle for about 1 minute.
- Stir in the onion, increase the heat slightly, and cook until it softens, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is tinged a light brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle in the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and chile powder and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add half the tomatoes and juices and cook over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rest of the tomatoes and juices and continue to cook until the mixture resembles a thick paste and the oil separates, 11 to 15 minutes.
- Drain any juices that may have accumulated in the bowl with the lamb. Add the lamb to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook until the lamb has been seared on all sides. Pour in the water and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Depending on the specific type and cut of lamb you choose, it could take somewhat longer for the lamb to become tender. (You could let the lamb curry cool, cover, and refrigerate it overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Then simply rewarm over low heat.)
- In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon ghee or butter and gently cook the ground cardamom and nutmeg for 25 to 30 seconds. Pour the spiced butter over the meat and stir in half the chopped cilantro. Remove from the heat and garnish with the remaining cilantro.
- Serve hot with plenty of rice or warm naan bread for sopping up the sauce.
*Note: Kashmiri Chile Powder SubstitutionYou can easily find Kashmiri chile powder online or in Indian and Middle Eastern markets. However, you can also make a quick substitution using everyday ingredients by relying on a ratio of either 2:1 or 3:1 sweet paprika to cayenne pepper, depending on how hot you fancy your chile powder.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I love lamb and pretty much any preparation of it. This lamb curry was delicious and hot but not too hot and the lamb wonderfully tender. I rarely make Indian dishes and I do not know much of the complex regional cuisines. Sometimes, though, I improvise a curry with leftover leg of lamb. The layering of spice here gives a far deeper flavor than any I’ve achieved with my rudimentary attempts, though it took a while longer to achieve that tenderness than the recipe indicates.
I used the substitution of a 3:1 ratio of sweet paprika to cayenne in place of the Kashmiri chile powder.
As the aroma of this Rogan Josh cooking wafted through my kitchen (so tantalizing!), it brought back sensory memories of the year I shared a kitchen with Indian students when I studied in England. Now I stood in my kitchen and daydreamed about how to make this dish with leftover leg of lamb. It’s certainly worth buying raw meat to execute the recipe, but the red chili sauce is the co-star here, and leftover meat should work with some adjustments.
I served this with white rice, green beans, and butternut squash roasted with warm spices including nutmeg, cayenne, and hot smoked paprika.
I was so excited to see this recipe! I absolutely love Indian food and Rogan Josh is one of my favorites. I’ve been looking for an outstanding recipe for a number of years now and I think this is it.
Black cardamom is a spectacular spice and I jump at the chance to use it whenever I can. This recipe highlights it perfectly. Another reason I was looking forward to this recipe was the opportunity to cook up my own vat of ghee, which makes an amazing finishing touch to the dish.
I couldn’t find Kashmiri chile powder in time to make this, so I substituted a mixture of cayenne and sweet paprika for color and medium heat and I think it was an acceptable exchange.
There is a little work to this recipe but it is so worth it. The flavors are complex and gorgeous and the lamb is succulent and rich. The ghee-fried spices are so insanely good—everyone raved about them. I actually poured the spices over my rice as well and preferred it that way; it might be the only way I’ll ever eat rice again, to be honest.
I think the only thing I would change is that I would drain the fat after the lamb has seared. I found that there was quite a bit more fat than I would have liked, especially with the addition of the ghee at the end. Otherwise, this is the best Rogan Josh recipe I have ever tried and am looking forward to making it again and again. I served it with basmati rice, garlic naan, and curried cauliflower with peas.
In love with this curry! This is the best curry I have made. The flavors develop into a deeply spiced and complex sauce but really are not too much work.
I made two adjustments. First, since I did not have Kashmiri chile powder, I used a combination of paprika and a cayenne blend. Second, because I wasn’t certain that my cardamom labeled black was the same as brown, I added 2 small green pods as well. Although I used unsalted butter, this was a great reminder of how easy it is to make a batch of ghee and have it on hand, especially for the sizzle of spices just before serving.
While the lamb is marinating with the red wine vinegar and salt, you should have just enough time to gather, measure and prep the rest of the ingredients. Microplaning the garlic and ginger made for an easy and fresh prep of the puree. I freshly ground cumin and cardamon and grated the nutmeg. I was a little worried that the meat could not possibly brown in such a paste, but in fact it did just fine. I also think this is a forgiving recipe. At 45 minutes, the meat was tender, and I took the lid off for the next 5 minutes while I melted the butter to sizzle the spices.
The final sizzle of the spices and the chopped cilantro are the perfect touch at the end. (And for those who are less fond of cilantro, we tried it both with and without and agreed it is better with!) Take care to stand back from the stove a step when you add the sizzling spices as they sizzle even more as you add them to the lamb!
Because there were just the two of us, I divided the Rogan Josh before adding the cilantro and final spices. On the first night, we had it without cilantro. It was lovely and may be our favorite curry prepared at home ever. For the remaining servings, we gently reheated the lamb, adding a tablespoon or two of water, and served it with cilantro this time, and I dare say I think the lamb was even better the second time around. Maybe preparing ahead up to this last step is a good thing if you are going to serve this for company! The spicing seems to just improve and makes it an 11 in our book.
Easy to make ahead and may be improved by doing so. I did this on a Friday night and although we ended up a little later for dinner than usual, it is entirely doable with a little preplanning for weeknights, though more comfortable to make on the weekend.
Originally published February 12, 2019
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This is a rich dish! The spices are really well balanced, the heat level was just right, and the tomatoes brought just enough acidity to cut through the richness of the lamb and butter.
I trimmed the lamb well and between that and the vinegar soak, there was no gaminess at all to the finished dish. In fact, this would be a great dish to convert those people who think they don’t like lamb!
I used 1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder.
I served it with naan bread and a red lentil dahl. There is a generous amount of delicious sauce and it would be great served over rice as well.
I would suggest using bundling the cloves, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods in a little packet of cheese cloth for easy retrieval before serving. Biting into a whole clove could be a little overwhelming and they were hard to locate in the finished dish.
This easily served 6 along with the dahl, naan, and some fresh pickles and chutney.