Easy Fish Curry with Tomato and Coconut Recipe

This is one of those recipes I’m super excited to have added to my repertoire: it’s very (very) easy, it can be whipped up from 100% pantry ingredients, and once it’s on the table it tastes and feels like a much more sophisticated dish, the kind that makes you sigh with pride and content and say, “We eat pretty well around here, don’t we?”

It started out as the 20-minute fish curry in Meera Sodha’s excellent book, Made in India, Cooked in Britain, which I own in its British edition and have used multiple times with great success. Her original recipe is for an Indian-style curry without the coconut milk, but after several iterations in my kitchen it has taken on Southeast Asian flavors (lemongrass, basil or cilantro, lime juice) that make it a little bit Thai as well.

An amazingly easy fish curry

I apologize to purists of either cuisine in advance, but the result is a fine curry, richly favorful and clean-tasting, that does really well on its own or served over rice. My current preference goes to this sticky rice, which I throw into the rice cooker Maxence talked me into buying despite my reluctance (rice cooks just fine in a regular pan on the stove! we don’t need a specialized appliance!), and I now love and cherish (perfect rice! every time! no need to watch or time or anything!).

Since settling on this wonderful fish curry formula, I now make sure I keep on hand a can of coconut milk, a jar of whole peeled tomatoes, and fish fillets in the freezer at all times (the spices, onions, and fresh ginger I always have around), and I throw the curry together almost on a weekly basis. Although I’ve only made it for our family meals so far, it is without a doubt a company-worthy dish, one you could even pull off for a weeknight dinner party, possibly followed by this vanilla-roasted pineapple.

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Easy Tomato and Coconut Fish Curry

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Easy Tomato and Coconut Fish Curry Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Serves 4.

Easy Tomato and Coconut Fish Curry Recipe


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 400 grams (14 ounces) tomatoes, either fresh and coarsely chopped, or drained from a jar of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 200 ml (6 3/4 ounces) full-fat coconut milk (= half of a standard can)
  • 1 small fresh chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Optional vegetables: green peas, sugar peas, sliced chard greens or spinach leaves
  • 600 grams (1 1/3 pounds) fillets of mild-flavored, sustainable white fish of your choice
  • Fresh Thai basil, thinly sliced, or cilantro leaves
  • Lime juice, for serving
  • Thai or basmati rice, cooked, for serving


  1. In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, coriander, mustard, cumin, and salt, and stir to combine. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant.
  2. Add the tomatoes and, if they are from a jar, crush them into chunks with your spoon or spatula. (I use these Earlywood flat spatulas in most of my cooking, and they are especially handy here.)
  3. Add the coconut milk and chili pepper, if using, stir, and bring to a simmer. If you wish to include some of the optional vegetables listed, add them now. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and the optional vegetables are al dente.
  4. Dice the fish into 2- to 4-cm (3/4- to 1 1/2-inch) pieces, depending on how firm the flesh of that fish is: if it's a fish that tends to flake easily when cooked, it's best to keep it in larger pieces so it won't fall apart in the sauce too much.
  5. Add the fish to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.
  6. Top with herbs and a squeeze of lime juice, and serve immediately, over rice if desired.
  • This looks fantastic, coconut milk curries are awesome. I must say, I really love my zojirushi rice cooker. it was quite expensive, but it cooks all grains pretty much perfectly, I bought it to cook steel cut oats in overnight, which is a favorite winter breakfast. It was well worth the investment for us.

    • I agree, it’s not the right appliance for everyone, but when it is, it’s a game-changer! Mine isn’t quite as sophisticated, but it works well.

  • Oh my this looks amazing!! I will definitely be adding this recipe to my To try out recipes. Love curry recipes


  • Shai Khan

    It was totally so delicious.I ;love your blog because i found a huge of recipes and daily daily i will try your new recipes.Thanks for sharing..

    Life Begins

  • Annabel Smyth

    You could use the rest of the can of coconut to make your delicious toasted coconut ice-cream! I must make that again soon. I tend to use coconut milk powder, so if I were to make that (which I probably will – I wanted something quick to make for Thursday, so thank you), I’d use the whole tin of tomato, not drained, and add a spoonful or two of the powder.

    My current favourite thing to make is fried rice which is quick. The link is to salmon fried rice; I tried making it with white fish, but should have kept the fish separate as it rather went to nothing. You can also make it with diced ham or lardons…. inauthentic, but delicious!

    • Annabel Smyth

      Update: I just made this, and it was delicious but I made a silly mistake – the vegetables I added were marrow, the end of an aubergine that wanted used, and ½ punnet of mushrooms that also wanted used. Of course, I shouldn’t have added any extra water with that little lot, but should have relied on the vegetable juices, and the juice from the tin of tomatoes, to dissolve the fish stock and coconut milk powder. But I added a tinful of water, and the result was fish curry soup! Delicious, but far, far too wet…. Ah well.

    • I love fried rice! I make extra when I cook rice so I can fry it the next day…

    • Wynne Kelch

      How funny–I made this fish curry tonight rather than another because I wanted leftover rice to fry. Delicious! I will make this again, especially because I’d like to try it with the suggested chard. I do wish I had used full-fat coconut milk instead of lite.

      • You’re right, it definitely makes a difference in the creaminess of the sauce!

  • This is a great recipe, will be making it for sure.

  • These look AMAZING…. Now I want them for breakfast!

  • This looks delicious, will try it this weekend !


    • Please do, and report back!

      • Hello Clotilde,

        Wanted to give you a feedback because I finally tried your recipe on monday for a family / friends dinner at my parents’ home. It was a total hit !!! Spicy, fresh, and light ! I had compliments all night and the next day. So, thank you, your recipe is perfect, will do it again !


  • Excellent share Thanks a lot.

  • Elsie Demers

    I made this last night and it was delicious.

    • That’s great to hear, Elsie, I hope it serves you as well as it does me!

  • This looks great, I have to make this. My weeknight-friendliest recipes must be soup, mostly chicken broth with carrots and semolina dumplings or any kind of vegetable soup, creamed or not. And for quite a while now this one: http://www.whereismyspoon.co/baked-tomatoes-and-poached-eggs/ I just love anything with a poached egg on top. :)

    • Those all sound lovely! What kind of semolina dumplings? Do you make your own?

      • Yes, I make my own dumplings, standard Romanian recipe, I don’t think there is one person in Romania who doesn’t eat this soup regularly. I never weigh the semolina amount I use, I just beat two eggs with salt and pepper and add semolina in a constant flow while stirring all the time with a fork until I have a thick mixture. I scoop teaspoons full of the stuff and cook them in the soup on low heat until they fluff up and are cooked through. It takes some practice until you get the feeling of how much semolina you need to get the right consistency, but once you figured that out, it is easy. and sooooooooooooooo good. :)

        • Thank you for these details! What sort of semolina would that be? Pretty finely ground I imagine?

          • Hi. There are 2 sorts sold in Germany, soft and durum wheat semolina. I take the second one, which is the rougher. The softer I normally use for making semolina pudding (like semolina au lait:) ).

          • Thank you!

  • Anna

    looks delicious!! need to try it :)


  • FISH with COCONUT OIL is one of the best combination of delicious food. Its a South-Indian recipe. I cooked it lots of time.
    Delhi Food Events

  • Brittany Powell Parich

    I made this last week (with about 1/2 the fish called for and with added broccoli). We loved it. Since we don’t have a rice cooker and were in the middle of a heat wave, I served it over couscous, which was an ok substitute.

  • Thank you for these details! This looks excellent, I have to make this.

  • YesGrrrl

    I have to chime in: I made this last week with frozen cod pieces from Trader Joe’s (a good use, since frozen fish doesn’t usually come out so well) and spinach. SO GOOD! It got rave reviews and I will definitely be putting this into my regular rotation. Merci!

  • Fatima

    I made this last night all the way from Sierra Leone! It was amazing! I couldn’t find mustards seeds

  • Fatima

    I made this all the way in Sierra Leone last night and it was amazing! I couldn’t find mustard seeds anywhere but it was still tasty without. I learned to cook in London where we are spoiled with every ingredient readily available the supermarkets. I’ve had to adjust since moving here to cooking with what’s locally available and that’s meant learning to cook in a different way and with seafood as that is what is most readily available. I’m trying to grow some of the herbs that just aren’t available here but it’s handy that this recipe used a lot of cupboard ingredients as those are easier to get hold of. I’ll definitely check out other recipes on your site. Thank you!

    • I’m delighted to hear that, Fatima. What brought you to Sierra Leone?

  • Lainey

    Hello! Do you use frozen or fresh fish fillets? Thank you!

    • Both will work, depending on convenience. If you use frozen, you’ll need to thaw the fillets just enough to be able to cut them into pieces.

  • Nathalie d’Abbadie

    I just made this for dinner and it was really lovely! Very fresh-tasting and light. I mopped up the extra sauce with a naan. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m so pleased, thank you for reporting back! Did you make the naan yourself? ^^

      • Nathalie d’Abbadie

        I wish I had! It was store bought but I intend to try making my own soon enough :)

        • It’s actually one of the easier bread-baking projects one can take on. ^^

  • yannka

    Tried this recipe last weekend, could not believe such an awesome curry actually came out of my kitchen! Definitely a keeper, thanks so much! It’s not easy to find recipes where frozen fish works.
    A little dessert tip: I used the other half of the coconut milk for a simple panna cotta which I served with pinapple salsa spiked with rum:).

  • Velia

    You did not mention the kind of fish suitable for this dish. My friend’s hubby goes fishing quite often here in San Diego, CA, therefore I have been the recipient of huge amounts of frozen tuna, not yellow fin. She and I would like some suggestions as to how else to prepare it since we are getting tired of (she grills it) I cook it Spanish style Cod in a thick tomato sauce. Thanks in advance

    • The fish I recommend for this dish is the mild-flavored, sustainable white fish of your choice — options are so different depending on where you live that I prefer not to name any specific variety. But tuna would work beautifully here too!

      • Velia

        I am hesitant to use my tuna in this dish, the flavor of it is way too strung for your dish that sounds so mild and aromatic. I’ll try tilapia.

  • Kristi Petersen

    My garden gave up lemon grass, tomatoes, & Serrano chilis to make this last night. Half recipe is perfect for 2- spicing is a good mix and mild for us- a touch of cayenne perks this up to our taste- quick, easy & delicious- thanks C&Z for many great ideas!!

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