Vadouvan. Sounds like a piece of furniture, doesn’t it?!!

I first heard the word while watching Top Chef, and just had to look it up. Sometimes it’s difficult to look up unknown culinary terms or names because you don’t know if they’re being pronounced properly. But this one was easy, and I’d definitely never heard of it. I so love coming across new things!

Vadouvan is a combination of French influence on African curry – probably from during French rule. But wow! Doesn’t that sound like a perfect combination???!!!! It’s onions, shallots and garlic combined with a Berbere-style curry.

So I found a recipe and here is my version because I can never leave a recipe alone:


4 onions, I used 1 purple, all coarsely chopped
6 shallots, halved
Dozen cloves garlic
3 tablespoons plain oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon crushed dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground mustard
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.

Place the onions, shallots, and cloves in a jar of a food processor and pulse away until they are chopped.


Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion mixture to the oil and sauté the mixture for about 20 or 25 minutes.


The mixture will have reduced in volume and softened.


Meanwhile, get all your spices measured out. If you have whole spices, like cumin and mustard seeds, you can just use the approximate amount and grind them up. Also, I know that any whole spices could be roasted first for extra flavor in this recipe. When I make my own curry powder I pretty much toast every spice. Just don’t let them burn.

Have any of you used this? I can’t remember where I bought it, but I not only toast whole spices in it, but also sesame seeds, which tend to hop around when they’re hot. It’s very handy.


Add all of the spices and stir well. Oops, I forgot to crush the curry leaves first!


Pour the vadouvan onto a parchment-paper lined jelly-roll sheet and spread into uniform thickness as thin as you can get it.


Place the jelly-roll pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. It will brown, but make sure it does not burn. After that, turn off the oven and leave in the oven for about one hour.


Place the vadouvan in a sealable jar and refrigerate until use.

Verdict: I’m excited to use this mixture in all kinds of dishes. From the smell alone I know it’s going to be good. But I don’t understand why it’s dehydrated. Why can’t it just be left in the mush stage? Since I wasn’t familiar with vadouvan, I googled it to see what it’s supposed to look like, and it definitely looks like this. We’ll see…

29 thoughts on “Vadouvan

  1. Aren’t spices wonderful. Love the first image, invites you to read on.
    Thanks Chef Mimi for your recent visit to my blog, Savor the Food. I appreciate your comments and readership. I also Liked you on Face Book “Chef Mimi Cooks”. Way to go!! :) Great blog you have here.

    Chef Randall

  2. I would guess the reason for dehydration is to concentrate the flavors and also perhaps to extend the shelf life. This looks like it would be great fun to explore as well as wafting divine aromas into the air while doing so!

  3. The aroma has reached me here! This looks like a flavour rescue combo to help out when things don’t go quite to plan. I also wonder if this would be good served like dukkah!

  4. -I learned about Vadouvan for the first time reading on a blog not too long ago. According to the blog > “A couple of years back, Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet magazine, wrote about it and then published a recipe. It’s based on a popular Tamil spice mix called vadagam or vadakam, which is shaped into balls and dried in the sun to be stored for later use.”
    Your this post is a great step-by-step of how to make it. I am looking forward to seeing the recipe you will use it in. My mouth is watering just imagining the aroma of it. :P
    -Yes, I own a little pan like yours (for decades now), which I bought in a Japanese hardware store, originally to roast sesame seeds. Now, I roast all kinds of spices like you and also nuts in it. Yours look prettier than mine. May be it is time for me to purchase a new one. ;)

    • I’ve only used my pan three times!! That’s probably why it looks so new and clean!!! I’m planning on a spinach dish, as well as a chicken burger with vadouvan. Neither is African, but I thought I’d use the vadouvan just as a generic addition of flavors. I can’t find much information out about it.

    • I think you’re right about that, although I’m storing it in the fridge…
      I made a creamy vadouvan spinach that was divine, and I have in mind some chicken burgers maybe…

  5. Hi, Chef Mimi! I came by from Uru’s blog to tell you I enjoyed your guest post there, but I got sidetracked by the appeal of Vadouvan — flavor, flavor, flavor — gotta love it. Nice to “meet” you!

    • Thank you! Yes, the vadouvan is very interesting. I put it in some creamy spinach, and then some chickens burgers and they were both really good…

  6. Very nice chef!! ;) I love top chef, but normally I’m too distracted with the hurries and the competition to pay attention to any recipe… will try from now on ;)
    This one sounds incredibly appealing. How hot has to be the oven?

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