This Indian classic lamb rogan josh is made with mutton or lamb cooked with yogurt sauce and caramelized onions. Wonderful Indian spices perfume the lamb with rich authentic flavors, aroma, and color.
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I have fond memories of the Indian rogan josh as a kid. Mom made it with mutton. So, we called it mutton rogan josh. As kids, we simply called it mutton curry (what is mutton? we discussed it when I shared my recipe for Lamb Masala).
What is Rogan Josh?
This is an authentic North Indian dish and consists of cooking the meat in oil at intense heat. The name Rogan Josh means red passion. Rogan meaning red color and josh meaning passion or heat.
Often, people think this dish is spicy. But that's not true. In fact, this dish is red, and yet, not necessarily spicy. Having said that, an Indian curry without a little heat feels incomplete. And, we love that spicy edge to our curries.
Living overseas with non-Indian friends, this dish got a whole new meaning for me. In fact, there is not one Indian restaurant I know that does not have lamb Rogan Josh on its menu (Mutton Rogan Josh in some Indian restaurants). And often, a few different variations.
Today, I want to share with you my recipe for Rogan Josh. And, like many of my friends, you will be surprised at how simple, easy and effortless this lamb curry is.
About this recipe
People often perceive it to be a complicated recipe. When in truth it's a lot simpler than most other recipes. Originally, this dish has a lot more ghee in it. But we've used oil and fairly little. And yet, you are free to add a few more tablespoons if your feeling like being more authentic.
There are three main components to this dish. And each of these is simple and easy to make.
- The yogurt marinade - Simple plain Greek yogurt with Indian spices you probably already have in your kitchen.
- Spice mix - Whole spices that are lightly pounded to bring out the flavors. Cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and star anise are again things you probably have in your pantry. Alternatively, you can use store-bought garam masala.
- Onions - This is what makes this dish rich, sweet and scrumptious. The caramelized onions. And if you know the difference between sautéed onio
ns and caramelized onions, then you know this is not to be skipped.
Ingredients and substitutes
As you can see, this dish is fairly simple in terms of method and technique. Because what makes this dish a success
- Lamb - I prefer to use lamb shoulder or leg of lamb for this dish. The meat does take longer to cook, but it comes out tender and juicy and absorbs all those wonderful spices
- Onions - I love to use red onions. It adds a bit of sweetness which is very desirable. And it is very important that you cook the onions longer and slower. This will help caramelize the onions, which not just enhances the taste, but also adds that touch of deep red color to this dish (which I love).
- Yogurt - Meat and dairy cooked together have a unique taste. In addition, yogurt also tenderizes the meat and makes it cook faster. I've used Greek yogurt for that rich and creamy taste.
- Spices in yogurt - There really is no unique spices in this dish other than simple coriander, cumin, paprika, and cayenne, which you can find on any supermarket spice rack. Usually, as a substitute, I'd say you can use my curry powder, but a curry powder has a lot more in it. So, it won't be the same rogan josh, more like any other Indian lamb curry, and it would still be delicious.
- Spice mix - These are almost whole spices used to perfume the dish by lightly crushing them. And if you don't have the whole spices you can use garam masala. This is an Indian spice blend made with warm spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon similar to a gingerbread spice mix or pumpkin spice mix. It can be found easily is most supermarkets these days. I make my own and you can find my homemade garam masala spice mix here.
Step by step instructions
- Lamb - Trim off excess fat and cut lamb into 1 inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Marinade - Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl, and combine well.
- Then, add lamb to the marinade and set it aside to marinate for an hour on the counter or in the fridge overnight.
Pro tip - Always use glass or stainless steel to marinate. Do not use aluminum as it can oxidize with the acid in the marinade. Also, avoid plastic as it can get stained from the spices.
- Whole spice - Add the spices to a mortar and pestle. Lightly pound to crush them – you want the cardamoms to open and the cinnamon a bit smaller.
Pro tip - You can open the cardamom with a knife and leave the cinnamon whole if you don't want the flavor to be too strong. Alternatively, you can use ½ teaspoon garam masala at the end of the cooking in the recipe.
- In a heavy-bottom saute pan or non-stick pan, add one tablespoon oil or ghee. And sauté the whole spices for a minute.
- Then, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Saute onions until lightly golden – about 5 to 7 minutes.
Pro tip - Caramelizing the onions in this recipe is very important. So don't make haste and don't cook on very high heat. We want the onions caramelized not burnt.
- Once the onions have been caramelized, add the marinated lamb and remaining oil/ghee.
Pro tip - If the lamb you are using has excess fat, you can omit the extra oil or ghee.
- Cook on high for 2 minutes while stirring constantly until the meat is no longer pink.
Pro tip - The high heat will sear the meat on all sides keeping the pieces moist inside.
- Next, add ½ cup water and let come to a boil. Then, cover the pan, lower the heat, and let simmer on medium-low until the lamb is cooked to fork-tender.
Pro tip - If necessary add a little more water as needed. Alternatively, you can add 1 cup of water and cook it with gravy.
- When the lamb is fork-tender, taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with fresh herbs like cilantro.
Frequently asked questions
The authentic lamb rogan josh can be spicy but this one is not too spicy. In fact, I make it less spicy by using more sweet paprika for the color instead of all cayenne. The sweet smoked paprika gives the rogan josh that beautiful color.
You can use lamb or mutton and if that does not work for you, you can also use chicken. Call it chicken Rogan Josh. It's still delish.
Rogan josh is made with dairy yogurt. And yet, if you can't use dairy yogurt you can use coconut yogurt. Also, the dish will have the flavor of coconut, which is wonderful too.
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- 2 lbs (1 kg) Lamb sliced shoulder or leg
- 1 lb (500 g) Onions sliced, (about 3 large)
- 2 tablespoon (2 tablespoon) Oil or ghee
- ¼ cup Cilantro for garnish
- 1 cup (250 ml) Greek yogurt plain
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) Garlic 8 cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) Ginger fresh grated - 2-inch
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) Coriander powder
- ½ tablespoon (½ tablespoon) Cumin powder
- 2 tablespoon (2 tablespoon) Red smoked paprika sweet (optional for color)
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) Cayenne hot
- ¼ teaspoon (¼ teaspoon) Turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon (½ teaspoon) Ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon (½ teaspoon) Salt
- 2 tablespoon (2 tablespoon) Lemon juice
- 6 (6 ) Green cardamoms
- 4 (4 ) Black cardamoms
- 1 (1 ) Stick cinnamon
- 4 (4 ) Cloves
- ½ (½ ) Star anise
- 2 (2 ) Bay leaves
- Lamb - Trim off excess fat and cut lamb into - inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Marinade - Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl, and combine well.
- Whole spice - Add the spices to a mortar and pestle. Lightly pound to crush them – you want the cardamoms to open and the cinnamon a bit smaller.Tip - you can open the cardamom with a knife and leave the cinnamon whole if you don't want the flavor to be too strong. Alternatively, you can use ½ teaspoon garam masala at the end of the cooking in the recipe.
- In a heavy-bottom saute pan or non-stick pan add one tablespoon oil or ghee. Saute the whole spices for a minute.
- Then add the onions with a pinch of salt. Saute onions until lightly golden – about 5 to 7 minutes.Tip - caramelizing the onions in this recipe is very important so don't make haste and don't cook on very high heat. We want the onions caramelized not burnt.
- Once the onions have been caramelized add the marinated lamb and remaining oil/ghee.Tip - if the lamb you are using has excess fat you can omit the extra oil or ghee.
- Cook on high for 2 minutes while stirring constantly until the meat is no longer pink. Tip - the high heat will sear the meat on all sides keeping the pieces moist inside.
- Next, add ½ cup water and let come to a boil. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and let simmer on medium-low until the lamb is cooked to fork-tender.Tip - If necessary add a little more water as needed. Alternatively, you can add 1 cup of water and cook it with gravy.
- When the lamb is fork-tender taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with fresh herbs like cilantro.
The nutrition information and metric conversion are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee its accuracy. If this data is important to you please verify with your trusted nutrition calculator. Thank you