Easy Coconut Shrimp Curry

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.

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


  • 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


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.

1 Sauté onion, curry, cardamom: 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.

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

3 Add shrimp: 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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  • Dia

    This is so delicious and easy to make!

  • Roberta

    Delicious! Quick, easy and versatile. I followed an earlier comment, adding cumin, ginger, sliced red pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, chopped broccoli, julienned carrots and fresh mushrooms, Awesome. Thanks!

  • Laura

    I’ve been intimated by cooking with coconut milk (though had in my pantry), but am no longer. Perfectly delicious!! Thank you.

    • Marcia

      Growing up in the Caribbean Island of Jamaica I love using my fresh coconut milk ….buy one whole dried coconut break it open , husk it out from the shell cut coconut in cubes out in a blender with warm water and blend. Pour into a bowl add more water if needed squeeze together with your hand pour into a strainer and continue to squeeze . That is much better than those can stuff.

  • Mary Richter

    Amazingly simple and tastes great.

  • Suzanne

    What did you do to thin the recipe from when it was too thick? Just added the water? I want to try and make coconut curry shrimp stuffed mushrooms. I guess I’ll just simmer until reduced enough and then add the shrimp unless you have another idea. I am trying to make a Paleo appetizer to bring to a BBQ (yes in February) so no grains, beans, dairy. Thanks!

    • Mary Richter

      great idea with the mushrooms. I will try them but will also try to remember to leave out the water so I won’t have to cook the sauce down. I am also going to try this sauce with flounder filet. It tastes so good

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.?

    • Elise

      Coconut milk is quite rich. I usually serve this over rice, though you don’t have to.

  • Janice

    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

  • 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.

    • Elise

      I’m using an Indian curry mix, but I’m guessing that either would work.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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 ?

  • 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.

  • Ashley W

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

  • 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.

  • 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!