Normally, when I make curry dishes, whether Indian or Thai, I start with a shortcut – a ready-made curry spice paste that I can find in most grocery stores. But making the curry spice paste from scratch is just as easy, tastes infinitely fresher and the flavors of the aromatics really shine through in the coconut milk, instead of just being “spicy hot” like normal ready-made pastes.
The extra 5 minutes spent on grating the onion, ginger and mincing garlic is definitely worth it. This recipe is from Entice with Spice by Shubhra Ramineni. It’s her first book and published by Tuttle Publishing, the same company that published my own Steamy Kitchen book. It’s filled with simple Indian family recipes (and beautifully photographed dishes) that are perfect for busy families. This Indian Fish Coconut Curry is a fine example. Beginning to end, it took less than 20 minutes to make.
The ingredients are simple: garam masala (a very warm Indian spice blend), cayenne chili powder, coconut milk, chopped tomatoes, fresh fish fillets, ginger, fresh chilies (optional), garlic and half an onion).
Instead of chopping the onion, grate it using the large holes of a box grater. This way, you’ll get very fine onion that forms the basis of the curry spice paste.
I also grate the ginger this way too.
Cut the fish fillets into nice big chunks. This is fresh swordfish, but you can use any firm fish fillet.
The first step is to cook the aromatics very slowly – the onion, garlic and ginger go in first.
As you cook, you’ll see the aromatics turn to a soft golden color.
Add in the tomatoes.
And let that cook down too – as it cooks down, you’ll see that it forms a soft, paste-like consistency.
Add in the spices and seasonings.
Coconut milk and water.
Drop in a fresh halved chili pepper if you’d like.
Let the curry come to a boil and then add in your fish to cook. Four minutes later, it’s done!
Serve this with basmati rice or any Indian flatbreads.
Indian Fish Coconut Curry Recipe
- 1 pound boneless, skinless fish fillets
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion, grated on large holes of box grater
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 fully ripe tomato, diced or 1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (cayenne)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1-2 fresh chili peppers, cut in half lengthwise (optional)
- Wash the fish and pat very dry. Cut the fish into 2-inch pieces.
- Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and swirl in the oil. When the oil is heated, add the onion, ginger and garlic. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the aromatics cook slowly. Saute until very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Take care not to let it burn!
- Add the tomato and saute for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Use your spatula and smash the tomatoes a bit, to break them up.
- Add the garam masala, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes. This is the masala (spice base).
- Turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the coconut milk and the water. Add in the chili pepper if using. When the mixture comes to a good boil, add in the fish and cook for 4 minutes or so, until the fish is cooked through.
Hi, I have followed this recipe several times in the past, and have it saved in my favourites. But now the ingredients list and basic method is missing from the post. This may be a technical glitch but I’m very disappointed as I don’t remember the quantities of the ingredients.
The ingredients and method is missing of this post.
Lovely pictures and great recipe. We make fish curry with coconut in a slight different way. I am gonna try this anyways. Food lovers will always try varieties. Even I have a recipe area to publish my experiments. If get time look at this also.
Since I found this recipe, it’s become a firm favourite in our house and is requested weekly by my husband and children. It’s such a delicious dish! Thanks for sharing.
Made this at least 10 times, it’s an excellent recipe. I do think it’s 100x better with the addition of fresh curry leaves. I add them with the fish, about 12-15 or so.
Just made this tonight and can’t believe it tasted as good, if not better than, the local restaurant fish masala! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe – will become one of our favorites for fish.
Thanks Mike! -jaden
Made this recipe with swai fish. Absolutely delicious. Didn’t hv coconut milk used half & half instead. Thank you for the recipe.
You’re very welcome Vivi!
i love this recipe and i make it often, but i was wondering what would be the best way to substitute chicken?
Hi Arwen, just add in diced chicken in place of the fish! Cooking time should be similar, if you cut the chicken into smaller pieces.
Loved this fish curry — it was very tasty! Even my 18 month old really enjoyed the flavours of it. Will be making this again. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi Michelle – wow, I love that your baby is adventurous in food!
This was really tasty! I made it with basa fish. It was nice to find this recipe, as I like fish but was only ever baking it and that was getting boring!
Made this with halibut – wonderful! Definitely will make this again. Added a Tbs of brown sugar at the end to combat the bitterness of the chili peppers, and it was perfect. So easy to make in a wok – 5 stars!
Exotic fish dish I will try and add some of my flavours. Thanks a lot with love to you chef.
Brenda Ferns, India
Wow! This is delicious! I found swordfish at my supermarket too which was random.Amazing recipe! I didn’t add the fresh chilli but still had a nice temp to it.
I cooked this last night using baramundi fish it was delicious
can unsweetened coconut almond milk be substituted for the coconut milk?
Hi Heather, not sure that would taste right.
Loved trying this! For some reason, mine came out a little bland (maybe I didn’t add enough tomato?). I added some lemon juice and curry powder and that seemed to have fixed it. Thank you for this recipe!
This is a very nice sauce base. I wanted more coconut milk and less tomato, so I used 2 Tbsp tomato paste and 2 C (1 can) coconut milk. Served over cauliflower vegetable pilaf with a little raita made from the last of the yogurt I have today. A little cod and egg finished it off.
Wonderful recipe! I would love to know where you got your cooking pan, as shown in the photos – I’ve been on the hunt for something similar and this looks perfect!
Here I am stuck in Kentucky after taking on the fifth largest bank in the US while the US was after me! lol- and I was looking for a good recipe for cod and found this! I was so happy ! Glad to see you are doing well and looking great too! xoxo MM
You may want to clarify. The Indians call Paprika Chilli Powder because Paprika is dried, ground mild pepper. The spicy Chilli Powder they use is like our Cayenne Pepper.
You show a picture of Chili Powder, which is not made 100% from chiles. It’s made to season chili. So it contains a mishmash/hodgepodge of ingredients. It’s not to be used in Indian cuisine.
PS everyone liked the meal. I felt it was almost like a dessert, it was so delectably light, sweet and palate pleasing!
Did you thaw your frozen fish first or just throw it in from frozen?
Either! Add a couple of minutes to cooking, if frozen.
Could I use Chicken instead of fish for this recipe?
Hi Annie – yes sure!
This is the first time I have ever attempted a curry without the paste. I followed the recipe to a T (left out the chilis as the grocery store was out), used haddock because that’s what I had and it was fantastic. So easy too. My husband said it was the best recipe I’ve done in awhile. I will be making this again and again. Thanks!
Thank you so much Leigh!
I was looking for a brilliant and tasteful way for giving a chance to frozen cod fish. It came out AMAZINGLY and it is easy! My husband couldn’t gen enough.
We accompained it with simple basmati rice and a little salad of valerian, chicory, almonds, red onion and lemon in order to complete the palette of flavors with something fresh and slightly sour.
Very good! We’ll do it again!
Thank you Alessa!
Awesome. Added a little lime zest and just a hit of sugar to bring out the coconut milk.
Will cod work for this? If not, any suggestions?
Yes! Use any type of fish or seafood you like.
Great recipe! I used lake trout and shrimp and added lemon juice and cilantro.
Its about 4 A.M. today is my gf’s b’day. I want to cook for her. I found this recipe in nice & easy steps. Thank You. Now it’s time for cooking
When do you add the fresh chili pepper(s)??
I made this today but altered some ingredients but still, it turned out so good. Thanks 🙂
I used your Curry Fish recipe for the frozen sole fillets I had. It turned out so well! Spicy and absolutely delicious… my teenage kids and I love it. Thank you for this recipe.
I am using this recipe for my daughters 21st Birthday.
nice recipe, I like it…
Yummy, and easy to make!
Would fish curry reheat well? Frankly, reheating fish gives me the willies, which means since I’m cooking for one, I rarely cook fish at all. But maybe since this is more of a stew…
I just reheated it tonight (24 hours later), and it was fine. Including the fish (swordfish in my case)
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This was my first curry from scratch and it was fabulous!
Thank you for such a quick and simple AND DELICIOUS recipe.
Mackerel fish goes great with this recipe. A couple of fresh curry leaves as a final garnish works great too.
I made this again last night, Jaden. It is SO good!
I made this last night, Jaden and it was fantastic! I believe that the extra time spent grating the onion made a difference, too. I put some curry and turmeric in it, too. So good over rice. Thank you!
I am going to try this with hammour for tonite, let’s see how it goes.
Hammour may be a good idea. i am sure the curry will turn out great. We cook our fish curry, or for that matter all our curries only in pure-clay. The food turns out great and is extremely healthy. i got my pots from MEC cookware (google MEC cookware) these are made from tested & certified all-natural clay.
It not just looks amazing but the taste of it… sooooo delicious! We have tried it with fish and with chicken as well, there is no difference in satisfaction 🙂 I’m so glad that I found this recipe! Thank you!
I tried this recipe in my home… Very tasty… Thank You for great dish… Visit Fish
I’ve just made it but for me somehow the flavours were a bit weak. It’s absolutely delicious but I added some curry leaves into the mix as well.
This was dinner tonight. All I can say is, YUM!
This was so tasty!! I just started to discover Thai cuisine …
Love the spices ..
This was really delicious. I didn’t have any firm fish so I just used tilapia that was still a bit frozen and it turned out really well! Thanks, Jaden. 🙂
You’re welcome Autumn!
I just made this dish for dinner. It smells amazing and it took such little time! My fish was only 300g, so I added some broccoli. ( sounds odd, but it worked nice.) I am so glad somehow I got to your website. Seems like I will be coming back more often as I love making yummy dish for my husband♥Thanks Jaden!
This looks lovely and simple! And there is nothing, NOTHING like the smell of onion, ginger and garlic in a pan. Mmmmm, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
What a wonderful dish!
I’ve never heard of fish curry before so I would love to try it at home. It looks very simple so I hope I could do it at my dorm 🙂
Thanks for posting this recipe
That dish looks delicious Jaden. What kind of fish did you use on this? I like your wok it looks thick, is it cast iron? Thank you for sharing this yummy-looking fish curry Jaden. More success…
This is such an easy, excellent dish. i usually add ‘paanch phoron’ at the beginning. very nice step-by-step photos.
This is my first visit and surely won’t be my last. I love what I see. Curry is a common dish in my country. Ready curry paste is easily available too. I have yet to do a curry post in my blog. Your picture instructions is awesome.
I love coconut curry dishes, this one looks delicious!! Great pictures too.
Mmmm…yum. Not sure if it’s authentic or not, but I’d love to be able to make it more of a one-pot dish with the vegetables inside – maybe broccoli or greens.
Any tips on making a vegetarian or a mixed veggie and fish version?
For a veg version – tofu cubes, broccoli, carrot slices would be great!
Jaden, love your website. When I’m looking for a “go-to” recipe, yours is the first place I check. I’m looking for a new box grater, which kind is yours (featured in the picture grating onions)?
It’s made by Microplane. Love it – it’s comfortable to hold.
This looks so inviting. Now on my must try list.
I think I could do this. Looks so good!
This looks amazing, Jaden! I can’t help but notice your wok…it looks non-stick. Is it? Do you love it? Thanks so much!:-)
I lovelovelove this wok. It’s a nonstick by Anolon.
This looks fantastic! I bet it would be good with a variety of fish and some mussels thrown in too… kind of a curry fish stew. So much flavor!
Just made a salmon version for dinner tonight. We all loved it. Question about the coconut milk. I took off most of the fat that seperates at the top of the can, as I imagined it would be too greasy alongside the salmon, then added some in at the end as it needed more creaminess.. DO you use it or not?
depends on if I’m on a diet or not 😉 but generally yes, I do use the creamy fat in the coconut milk.
I’d love to add this and a link to my Lenten Menu- may I?
Hi, Jaden. Sounds wonderful and easy, but may I suggest blending or puree-ing roughly chopped onion, garlic, ginger and a red chilli pepper (or two if you like it spicy-hot! Instead of using cayenne pepper powder) instead of grating (which might make one’s eyes water)? Also, do cook the garam masala with the fresh paste at the beginning because that would give time for the dried ground spices to cook and mature (easier on sensitive tummies) – to become more aromatic? It makes a difference! 🙂
Thanks so much for making Curry doable! I am always intimidated- but this looks easy and delicious!
Sorry, didn’t read the recipe properly, you used tomatoes as well!
I just cooked this myself with mullet (locally fished off the North Mediterranean coast), but I added a tin of tomatoes and some turmeric and chilli instead of the garam masala,and added chopped cilantro (corriander) at the end…..very moorish!
glad you liked my coconut fish curry! I use monkfish, but so glad you liked it with swordfish as well! 🙂
something to make this weekend. thanks!
This looks delicious! I have never made curry from scratch. I’ll have to give it a try 🙂
Jaden, you read my mind! I was just thinking about making shrimp curry for dinner tonight. This looks so good, I can’t wait to try it.
I made it last night with chicken and first thing out of my daughter’s mouth was, “Mom, you’re a great cook.” Second thing was, “Why don’t we start eating food like this more often?” We will! Thank you for the recipe.
Very cool recipe. This curry is actually “pretty”!
Beautiful curry Jaden. I will use my favorite salmon 🙂
Hi, this fish curry comes from the south indian state called kerala, and it looks delicious in the pics you have posted. We add 4-5 green chilies (seeds and all), and few peppercorns too. But guess it would be too spicy for lots of people (not indians though)
Jaden, this looks like such a delicious curry! My husband and I would enjoy this so much. Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipe and mouthwatering photos! 🙂
Wow, loved the kadai you used in the picture. Coconut milk adds such sweetness to any Indian sauces. I love using it in my curries and I am sure everyone in your family would have loved the Indian menu 🙂
Spice bottles labeled “Chili Powder” usually contain a mixture of spices (paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic, cayenne, onion, etc.) and are intended for use in chili. If the bottle is labeled “Cayenne chili powder”, it most likely contains straight cayenne. As Jaden already wrote, you want the straight cayenne.
Thank you for the reminder that even though some shortcuts are good tasting (like curry pastes), it isn’t much more effort to make the same dish with fresh ingredients. I have some chicken I was going to cook up for dinner and I’ll try your recipe for a spicy chicken curry.
Just finished making this for dinner – smells wonderful.
I used salmon, 4 minutes cooking was perfect. Thanks Jaden for another great recipe.
This curry looks amazing! Love the fresh flavors. Perfect for spring!
I love all your recipes. My favorite so far is the roasted Kale. I certainly will try this fish curry though.
Hi. This recipe looks absolutely amazing and I really want to make it for my flat next week. Only thing is that I HATE onions – wont touch them, wont eat them! In your opinion will this recipe work without the onions? Should I add more ginger and garlic to compensate?
Thanks for your help 🙂
I have been intimidated away from making curry from scratch, but you made this seem so easy!
YUMMM. Quick question, though – in my pantry, “cayenne” and “chili powder” are two very different things (I also use McCormick). So should I be using the chili powder (which tastes like more of a blend and is what I use to make chili), or cayenne (pure heat which, to be fair, I already use in just about anything but definitely has a different flavor profile than the chili powder)?
Thanks for another great idea!!
You should use cayenne chili powder
Fantastic! Love it that you featured another fabulous Indian curry. The myth about how spicy and difficult to cook a curry is finally squashed by you Jaden 😀
How easy is that? Wow. That looks like it would be yummy with tofu or veggies as well. Wonder if I could get my kids to try it.
Oh, I want this right now! I can’t wait to make a curry — I never have.
I’d love this dish, sounds fantastic!