On the Lamb

In English, Rogan Josh sounds like it could be a proper legal name. It’s fitting for a dish with such distinct character and personality. They’re the person that everyone talks about candidly, in any company, with open admiration. Have you met my friend here, Rogan Josh, before? If you haven’t, I’d love to formally introduce you.

What is Rogan Josh/Roghan Ghosht?

Known today as a staple of Kashmiri Indian cuisine, the dish originated in Persia. The words themselves can be translated to “butter” and “stew,” although that strikes me as a curious way of burying the lede. Sure, ghee is applied generously for tempering the spices and sauteing the vegetables, but it’s far from the main character of this story. Meat is at the heart of this highly aromatic stew, typically in the form of lamb (mutton) or goat. Braised in a crimson red bath of chilies, low and slow, sometimes for hours before serving, I wonder if the “butter” here refers instead to how it becomes so tender that it practically melts in your mouth?

Plant-based meat has the clear advantage here. Seitan, AKA wheat meat, can cook in a fraction of the time while soaking in that intensely spicy broth like a high-protein sponge. Working in concert with equal parts Sugimoto Shiitake mushrooms, you get the hearty umami flavor and chewy caps for a perfect hearty bite. Donko shiitake have the ideal texture for this kind of application, both blending in seamlessly enhance to unique the rich palate of spices and standing out as the drumbeat moving the parade forward. Even the water used to soak and rehydrate the mushrooms gets put to good use, maximizing every drop of savory potential.

What Can Be Used Instead of Seitan?

If gluten is a concern, fear not. There are plenty of other plant-based proteins that would be excellent alternatives, such as:

  • Soy curls or chunks
  • Chopped tempeh
  • Cubed extra- or super-firm tofu
  • Vegan beef chunks or strips
  • Cooked chickpeas

Typically, the creamy component in this curry comes from plain yogurt, but I wanted something that would further bolster the lamb-like impact here. A big part of what makes game meat so distinctive is a unique grassy flavor, since they’re free to graze on wild grasses, of course. While that’s usually a negative aspect that cooks try to downplay, I’m bringing it back in to imitate that tasting experience. Hemp seeds have a similar earthy aspect, like a fresh bale of hay, which works in our favor this time around. Blended to a smooth consistency alongside tart, unsweetened yogurt, we get the best of all worlds.

What Does Rogan Josh Taste Like?

It’s hard to accurately describe the full volume flavor of the finished tomato curry sauce, but it’s one you’ll never forget. For the heat-seekers and hot sauce fanatics, this song is going out to you. Tune is melodious, haunting at first, like something familiar but long forgotten. Slowly the intensity grows, rising to a crescendo until you’re on the dance floor, electrified by the sensation. In other words, keep a tall glass of non-dairy milk nearby to douse the flames, or consider scaling back on the kashmiri chili powder in the first place.

What Can You Serve with Rogan Josh?

It would be a crime to let any of that luscious sauce go to waste. While it’s a complete dish that’s fully capable of standing alone on the dinner table, it’s even better with a side to soak up every last drop. My favorite options include:

To combat the fiery heat, some refreshing contrasting flavors help, such as:

  • Cucumber salad
  • Raita or plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • Mango lassi

Despite starting with melted coconut milk instead of clarified dairy, there’s no denying the downright decadent and impossibly buttery results. Simply having a well-stocked spice rack is more than half the battle in all good cooking. Knowing how and when to apply the umami power of shiitake mushrooms takes care of the rest.

Yield: Makes 6 Servings

Vegan Rogan Josh

Vegan Rogan Josh

Vegan rogan josh is every bit as meaty, rich, and intensely spicy as the classic Kashmiri curry. You'll love this easy recipe!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


Rogan Josh:

  • 3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1 (2-Inch) Cinnamon Stick
  • 6 Whole Green Cardamom Pods
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • 1 Teaspoon Whole Fennel Seeds
  • 1 Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Inch Fresh Ginger, Minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 Teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 8 Ounces Seitan, Cut or Torn into Chunks
  • 1 (2.47-Ounce) Package Donko Shiitake, Soaked Overnight and Quartered
  • 1 1/2 - 2 Cups Reserved Shiitake Soaking Water

Hemp Cream:

  • 1/3 Cup Hulled Hemp Seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Plain, Unsweetened Vegan Yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt

To Serve (Optional):

  • Fresh Cilantro, Minced
  • Cooked Basmati Rice


  1. Set a large pot over medium heat. Melt the coconut oil and add the cinnamon stick, cardamom, cloves, and fennel, sauteing for 2 minutes, until aromatic. Add onion and cook for 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown.

  2. Add the garlic and ginger, cooking for another minute before adding all the ground spices (kashmiri chili, cumin, coriander, garam masala, paprika, turmeric, and nutmeg). Toast for another minute to bring out the full flavor of all the spices.

  3. Add the tomato paste and soy sauce, mixing well to fully incorporate. Introduce the seitan, quartered shiitake, and 1 1/2 cups of the shiitake soaking water last. Stir well and cover. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to keep at a gentle simmer for about 30 - 45 minutes. Add more of the shiitake soaking liquid as needed to keep the stew moist but not watery.

  4. Meanwhile, prepare the hemp cream by combining the hemp seeds, yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and salt in your blender. Puree on high speed, pausing to scrape down the sides of the canister as needed to keep everything incorporated, until completely smooth. Slowly add more water if needed to thin the mixture to a pourable consistency.

  5. Once the curry is thick and nearly done cooking, stir in 1/2 - 1 cup of the hemp cream, to taste. You can save any extras for drizzling over individual servings.

  6. Enjoy hot, alongside basmati rice and topped with fresh cilantro, if desired.


Stored in an airtight container, the curry will keep for 5 - 7 days in the fridge or 3 - 6 months in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave, stirring well every 60 seconds, until hot.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 265Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 855mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 18g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with SUGIMOTO Co. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

6 thoughts on “On the Lamb

  1. This dish had my mouth watering Hannah… It is several years since I tasted a proper Rogan Josh at a restaurant, but the experience is unforgettable
    It was a little TOOO. hot for my liking, lol… But I lived and learned, and you have to try .. I stick now to the milder Korma types lol… :-)

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