Easy Coconut Shrimp Curry

This is one of those quick and easy weeknight dishes. Unadorned, but so satisfying. Convenient too, if you, like me, happen to keep a bag of shrimp in the freezer and a can of coconut milk in the pantry. You can cook the whole dish in 30 minutes or less, and that’s starting with frozen shrimp!

I made a momentous discovery while working on this recipe. The first batch we made ended up too thick, so we thought, why not use light coconut milk instead? Disaster. It tasted horrible. We then did a taste test comparing regular coconut milk to the light variety, in their cans. The regular coconut milk was lovely, rich and coconut-y. The light coconut milk? Coconut flavored milk of magnesia.

So, I recommend, if you are even considering using light coconut milk for this recipe, that you do a taste test before making the sauce. Just pull out half a spoonful from an opened can. Compare it with regular coconut milk. You want the best tasting coconut milk for this recipe or any recipe that calls for it!

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Easy Coconut Shrimp Curry Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

To thaw frozen shrimp, place shrimp in a large bowl, cover with cold, lightly salted water. Add a couple ice cubes. Let sit for 15 minutes until defrosted.

This is a basic recipe. Please feel free to dress it up. Add chopped celery or bell pepper to the onions and/or fresh ginger or diced tomatoes. Experiment with the curry spices you are using.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild yellow curry powder
  • Pinch of ground cardamom or the seeds from 1 cardamom pod, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk (use regular coconut milk NOT light)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pound raw, peeled, deveined shrimp (with or without tail)
  • Cilantro for garnish

Method

If you haven't already defrosted your shrimp, if using frozen, do that while you prepare the sauce. The shrimp will be thawed and ready to cook by the time the sauce is done.

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1 Heat olive oil in a medium sized sauté pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, cardamom, and salt. Cook for two more minutes.

coconut-shrimp-curry-3 coconut-shrimp-curry-4

2 Add the coconut milk and water, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

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3 Add the shrimp to the curry sauce and spread out evenly in the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp has turned from grey to pink and is just cooked through. Do not overcook or the shrimp will be rubbery.

Serve with cilantro for garnish. Serve with basmati rice or better yet, coconut basmati rice.

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Links:

Caribbean Creole Coconut Curry Shrimp from Jaden on Steamy Kitchen

Coconut Shrimp Curry with jalapeños and tomatoes from Taste Food

Indian Style Coconut Shrimp Curry from One Life to Eat

Thai Shrimp and Pineapple Curry from Rasa Malaysia

Coconut Shrimp Curry on Simply Recipes

38 Comments

  1. Natalie (Paper & Birch)

    Oh Elise, I’ve made so many of your recipes and they’re always incredible! I’m definitely making this one too! How can you go wrong with curry & coconut shrimp?! And bonus points that it’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight :)

    • jadson

      I cooked this today it was absolutely amzing. My children wanted some more. They couldnt believe how good it was. My dog loved as well. I have one question why must you put so much shrimp in the dish? OTHER THAN THAT I LOVE EVERYTHING YOU DO.

  2. Laura

    I made this tonight and it was amazing!!!
    Did make a few changes due to what was available.
    Used coconut oil, didn’t have cardamom so left out, used precooked prawns (added at end just to warm through), added some steamed pumpkin and chilli from the garden.
    Two thumbs up!

  3. Basant

    Hi Elise, i’m a new cooker from Egypt, i feel that your recipes are too easy to follow and learn from. also i hope one day be like you cause i love to cook and eat ^_^. i follow your steps in cooking field, so i start my own blog this month . it is in Arabic language. it only contains 5 recipes till now, i will be very happy if you just have a look . and i consider you as my teacher.

    thanks alot

  4. Padaek

    Wonderful recipe and great instructions – thank you for sharing it. :) It looks absolutely delicious! I agree, regular coconut milk in this dish would make it just perfect. I was just wondering why the water is lightly salted when thawing the prawns? Thank you. :)

    • Elise

      Hi Padaek, shrimp are naturally a little salty given that they live in salt water. When you defrost shrimp in plain water it leaches out some of that salt, resulting in a slightly less flavorful shrimp. So, just add a teaspoon of salt to a quart of your soaking water to help keep the natural salt from leaving the shrimp.

  5. Ashley W

    I’ve been in a bit of a cooking slump.. thanks for tonight’s dinner :)

  6. Karen

    Elise, I love your blog and regularly view your recipes. Thank you for the inspiration. As far as the shrimp curry… I am of the impression that you use the canned coconut milk. I keep the refrigerated carton of coconut milk ( no sugar added ) in my frig. Would I achieve the same results?

    • Elise

      Hi Karen, I don’t know. The canned coconut milk that I am using is very thick, which is why I add a little water to the mix. I’ve not seen refrigerated coconut milk in a carton. Coconut water, yes, but not coconut milk.

      • Sandy S

        I am glad Karen asked about this. I was wondering the same thing. Coconut milk is found near the refrigerated soy and almond milk along with the coconut coffee creamer and coconut yogurt. As much as I like all of these refrigerate coconut products, they are not thick like the canned coconut milk. I will stick to your recipe along with the Aromatic Coconut Rice! I am sure it will be another winner!

    • LB

      The refrigerated coconut milk that is found with the soy and almond milks, is meant to be a substitute for cow milk. It’s not the same as canned coconut milk.

    • Rosa @HHR

      I’m pretty sure that the refrigerated coconut milk is actually diluted down quite a bit. It’s much more watery than the coconut milk that comes in a can, and I don’t think the coconut flavor is quite as strong. It’s closer to cow milk or soy milk than what’s used here.

  7. michael j jackson

    Finally made the spaghetti squash and kale w/ sausage again it was great!!! You guys were right I did not have a spaghetti squash before the first time I tried the recipe. THANKS. Can anyone tell me how much Roux does 1/3cup of flour and 1/3cup oil make ?

  8. Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures

    Beautiful!

  9. Cheryl A.

    Hi, Like Ashley W., I have been in a cooking slump. Cannot wait to try this recipe. I know it will be delicious. Thank you so much…

  10. Laurie

    I have a can of light coconut milk in my pantry. Will the recipe not come together as well or is it just a matter of thickness of the sauce?

    • Elise

      The recipe won’t come together well. This is somewhat of a barebones recipe, with few ingredients. You might be able to mask the bad taste of light coconut milk if you had lots of other things going on in the recipe. But this one has few ingredients, so those ingredients need to be great. When we made a batch with light coconut milk we had to throw out all the sauce and start over, it was that bad. The next time you open a can of light coconut milk, I urge you to taste it directly from the can. You’ll see what I mean about the taste.

      • Tracy

        I’m just curious: Have you tried trader joe’s light coconut milk? In my experience it’s much creamier than other brands. (I haven’t compared the fat content.)
        Thanks for the recipe and advice!

        • Elise

          Hi Tracy, I have not tried Trader Joe’s brand. My concern is more with the taste than the consistency. Have you done a side by side taste test comparison with that brand?

  11. Aurora

    When you say yellow curry powder do you mean an Indian spice mix or a Thai yellow curry? In sure either would work, but I’m not sure which, if either, you mean.

  12. Janice

    Hi
    Made the coconut shrimp curry! It was really good, I had lost Internet connection so was going on memory
    Used a double dose of curry, 1/4 tsp of ground cardamom and 1/4 tsp of cumin(couldn’t remember if recipe called for it)

    Forgot salt but was really good
    I substituted black rice, nice nutty flavour
    Once again thank you

  13. sueeasty

    Does this make enough for 4 servings with ony 1 cup of milk ? does not sound like 4 servings to me or am I missing something? Is it served over rice to bulk up the servings.?

  14. Paulbear01

    This recipe looks wonderful. I cannot wait to try it.

  15. sueeasty

    Hi Elise — I made the shrimp curry tonight– I served it like you did in bowls with rice , curry on top with the cilantro. The cilantro adds great flavor –we loved this dish. I did add some sliced red pepper to onion and more spices – some cumin ,ginger and a pinch of red pepper flakes and a squirt of lime jucie. I will be making this again. I always have shrimp in my freezer and I will keep a supply of coconut milk on hand from now on too, as this is really an easy recipe – thanks for sharing with us.

  16. Cheryl A.

    Hi Elise,

    I was at Trader Joe’s this weekend and wanted the ingredients to make this dish. They had cans of Light Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream. No regular Coconut Milk – :(. I bought the Coconut Cream though – think it will work well or should I keep looking for Coconut Milk? Thank you in advance for your help!! Appreciate it!

    • Elise

      Here is a Kitchn article on the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream. The coconut milk I buy has always been rather thick, thicker than regular milk. Perhaps you can use the coconut cream and just thin it down with water if you need to? You might just have to experiment. Or just look for regular coconut milk.

      • Cheryl A.

        I might try with regular coconut milk first just to see what the texture should be like. I love this blog. Thanks for getting back to me – appreciate it.

  17. Andy

    This was absolutely fantastic. The only changes I made were I doubled the coconut milk and curry powder, and just before I served it I added some shredded coconut. Wow. I will definitely make this again. I think it would also be great with tofu or chicken instead of shrimp.

  18. Gord

    I have made this dish two times for my wife and she just loves it,the second time I made it I add mushrooms and green red and yellow peppers

  19. Liane

    This is a wonderful base recipe and as you said, very flexible! I added carrots, red pepper, ginger–all julienned– garlic, and soft tofu. I used the whole can of coconut milk because of all the extra ingredients. The advice about not overcooking the shrimp is key. I got shrimp with shells and then used the peeled shells to make a stock.

  20. John

    How would you change this recipe around using chicken instead of shrimp?

    • Elise

      I haven’t tried this recipe with chicken, but if I were to try, I would cut boneless skinless chicken breasts into cubes, and add them to the curry instead of the shrimp, then just cook until done.

      • John

        Will the 5 mins of simmering be enough to cook the cubed chicken thoroughly?

        • Elise

          Depends on how small you’ve cut the chicken pieces. My guess is that you’ll have to cook them longer. How long? It depends on the size of the pieces and if the chicken is going in straight from the fridge or if you’ve let it come to room temp. Just cook until done.

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