Shrimp Curry

This Shrimp Curry recipe is exploding with flavor but incredibly easy to make with pantry friendly ingredients. You will lose your mind over good it is!

This Coconut Curry Shrimp is huge on flavor, low on effort, customizable, pantry friendly and can’t-stop-eating-delicious.  It’s made with juicy, plump shrimp in a fragrant, lusciously creamy, coconut curry tomato sauce laced with a tapestry of spices, aromatic ginger, garlic and cilantro.  I’ve made this shrimp curry recipe with my favorite potatoes, cauliflower and bell peppers but you can use whatever veggies you love or have on hand.  Serve this recipe over rice, zoodles, etc. with naan and prepare for the barrage of compliments!

We are huge fans of curry over here from Indian inspired lentil curry, to Thai inspired coconut curry, yellow curry, green curry and red curry, which one will you try next?!  

top view of cooking curry shrimp in a pan garnished with cilantro

HOW TO MAKE curry shrimp VIDEo

serving curry shrimp over rice garnished by cilantro

Ingredients in Shrimp Curry Recipe 

This easy shrimp curry recipe is packed with the flavors of Indian spices, creamy coconut, aromatic ginger, garlic and onion.  The juicy shrimp are marinated in lime juice and a few choice spices to ensure that every layer of the dish is seasoned. You’ll need the following ingredients to make the coconut shrimp curry (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Shrimp: Purchase extra-large shrimp, 26-30 count (which means there are 26-30 shrimp in a pound). Extra-large shrimp boast a more appealing texture and stay super juicy because they are more difficult to accidently overcook. This easy curry shrimp can still be made with smaller shrimp, but you’ll need to be more careful to not overcook.
  • Coconut milk: Please use full fat coconut milk if you would like restaurant-style creamy, flavorful curry. Light coconut milk simply isn’t as thick or nearly as flavorful so you’re missing out on both flavor and texture.  If you do use light coconut milk, I suggest adding an additional ½ tablespoon cornstarch to help thicken it up.
  • Crushed tomatoes:  You will need one 14/15 ounce can crushed tomatoes (often called crushed tomatoes in puree). Take care your crushed tomatoes don’t have any additional seasonings or salt added.  I recommend the brands San Marzano, Cento and Muir Glen. 
  • Chicken broth: Use low sodium chicken broth so we can control the salt. Chicken broth is more flavorful than vegetable broth, so I wouldn’t swap it out unless necessary.  
  • Cornstarch: This helps to thicken the curry so it’s even more lusciously creamy without having to simmer it for ages on the stovetop. 
  • Aromatics: Onions, ginger and garlic elevate the curry shrimp and are essential to all curries.  If you are feeling extra lazy, you may substitute the fresh ingredients with powders.  The typical rule of thumb is 3:1, so one part dried/ground to three parts fresh.
  • Yellow curry powder: This is the curry powder you find in the spices section of your grocery store.  It will probably be labeled “curry powder” and not “yellow curry powder.” The beauty of yellow curry powder is that it’s a combination of many ingredients that result in delightfully complex flavors – but all the work has been done for you!  Curry powder typically contains ground turmeric, ground coriander seeds, ground cumin seeds, ground galangal, ground fennel seeds, ground mustard seeds, ground peppercorns, ground cloves and chili powder.
  • Vegetables: Use your favorites! I added Yukon gold potatoes, cauliflower florets, and bell peppers to this shrimp curry recipe for a blend of creamy, hearty and sweet. If you don’t add potatoes, then reduce the chicken broth because you won’t need to need to simmer the curry as long. 
  • Spices:  The curry powder is enhanced by cumin, dried coriander, paprika, turmeric, chili powder, dried basil, salt and cayenne pepper. Use more or less to taste.
  • Lime juice:  A splash of citrus is used both in the quick curried shrimp marinade and to finish the sauce after simmering to awaken all the flavors. You may use fresh or bottled lime juice. 

INGREDIENT VARIATIONS

  • Powdered ginger and garlic:  If you don’t have fresh ginger and garlic on hand and need to make this curry shrimp NOW (I get you), you may substitute with powders.  Use 1 tsp each and add to the recipe with the curry powder.
  • Crushed tomatoes: If you can only find a 28 oz. can, use roughly half the can and freeze the rest.
  • Heavy cream:   You may substitute the coconut milk for heavy cream.  You will be missing the coconut flavor, but it will still be tasty.
showing how to make coconut curry shrimp by simmering shrimp with coconut milk, crushed tomatoes and Indian spices

FAQs About Prepping Shrimp

If you are new to cooking shrimp, here is some helpful information to prepare and cook shrimp perfectly every time, whether for this coconut curry shrimp recipe or any of my other fabulous shrimp recipes:

Can I Make This Recipe with Frozen Shrimp? 

Yes! I use frozen shrimp all the time. Just make sure you thaw the shrimp completely and pat it dry before using in the recipe.

How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp

There are two options for thawing your frozen shrimp:
 
1. Easy Thaw Method: The most hands-off method is to transfer your bag of shrimp to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight.

2. Quick Thaw Method: Transfer the shrimp to a freezer size bag and tightly seal. Add the bag to a large bowl and submerge with cold tap water; place a heavy bowl (you can fill it with cans) over the shrimp so it doesn’t float and stays completely submerged. Let the shrimp sit for 10-20 minutes.   After 10 minutes, replace the water with new cold tap water and submerge the shrimp again.  Let shrimp sit an additional 10- 20 minutes.  If the shrimp isn’t completely thawed, repeat as needed. 

What’s the Easiest Way to Peel and Devein Shrimp? 

I like to purchase shrimp that is already peeled and deveined so all the work is done for me!  If you purchase shrimp that is not deveined, it will still have the dark, sandy intestinal tract running along the back of the shrimp just beneath the surface. Sometimes it will be very dark and sometimes it will be more difficult to spot depending on when the shrimp ate last.

While eating the shrimp with the veins won’t harm you, it can add grittiness and distract from the clean shrimp taste so I highly recommended removing it.  

To devein shrimp:
 
1. First, locate the vein in the shrimp running along its back.
2. Make a shallow cut along the back and use the tip of the knife to lift it out.
3. The veins and shells can then be thrown away.
4. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry.

Do I have to devein both sides of the shrimp?

You may have noticed a second dark tract running along the shrimp’s belly even if you have purchased “deveined” shrimp. This tract is NOT another digestive tract but the nerve cord and does not need to be removed.

How Long Can You Marinate Shrimp? 

Shrimp is such an easy protein to work with because it doesn’t need long to marinate at all! I typically marinate the shrimp for this shrimp curry recipe for roughly 15 minutes while I prep the remaining ingredients. Shrimp should not be marinated longer than 60 minutes because the seasonings will draw moisture out of the shrimp and make it dry and the acid (lime juice in this case, can also be lemon or vinegar in other recipes) can break down the delicate meat and make it mushy. Larger shrimp is more forgiving, but I still wouldn’t push it.

How to Make Shrimp Curry 

Now that we’ve covered the basics of prepping the ingredients for this coconut shrimp curry recipe, it’s time to get cooking! Full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of the post, but here’s a brief walkthrough followed by my top tips for curried shrimp success:

  • Step 1: Marinate the shrimp. Whisk together the lime juice, curry powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and turn to evenly coat. Set aside while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
showing how to make coconut shrimp curry recipe by marinating shrimp with lime juice and curry powder
  • Step 2: Cook the shrimp. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan (this is the exact braiser I use). Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook just until opaque, flipping halfway through. Transfer to a plate until ready to add back to the skillet. 
showing how to make coconut shrimp curry recipe by sautéing shrimp in a pan with oil
  • Step 3: Sauté the veggies and aromatics. Add another drizzle of oil to the pan. Add the onion and potatoes and cook until the onions soften. Add the cauliflower, bell peppers, ginger, garlic and all seasonings and cook for one additional minute.
a collage showing how to make coconut shrimp curry recipe by sautéing onions and potatoes, then adding Indian spices, cauliflower and bell peppers
  • Step 4: Add the coconut milk. Whisk some the coconut milk with the cornstarch and add to the skillet along with the crushed tomatoes, chicken broth and basil.
showing how to make coconut shrimp curry recipe by adding coconut milk and crushed tomatoes
  • Step 5: Simmer the curry sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer with the lid slightly askew with about a 1-inch opening.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.
showing how to make coconut shrimp curry recipe by simmering the shrimp curry
  • Step 5: Finish the sauce. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro followed by the shrimp. Season to taste with salt, pepper or cayenne pepper to taste.
a collage showing how to make shrimp curry recipe by adding cilantro, lime juice and shrimp
up close of serving coconut curry recipe showing how creamy it is
  • Don’t use a cast iron pan.  When cooking a tomato-based dish, avoid using a cast iron pan. Instead, use an enameled cast iron, ceramic or stainless-steel skillet (this is the exact one I use).
  • Chop the potatoes small enough.  The smaller the potatoes, the quicker they will cook, aim for about ½ inch.
  • Purchase prepared shrimp. Use shrimp that is already shelled and deveined to save you TONS of prep time.
  • Use extra-large shrimp. Using large shrimp is an insurance policy for juicy shrimp. It is slightly more forgiving when overcooked than smaller shrimp.
  • Don’t overmarinate shrimp. Don’t marinate the shrimp longer than 60 minutes or it won’t be as juicy.
  • Don’t overcook shrimp. Cook shrimp just until opaque for the juiciest shrimp. As soon as the shrimp turn pinkish white and start to curl, they’re done. Don’t be tempted to cook them a second longer! This only takes a few minutes so have a plate ready to transfer the shrimp to so they stop cooking.
  • Cook shrimp with the tails on. I recommend cooking your shrimp with the tails on because the tail shells contain flavor that seeps out and we get more robust shrimp flavor. Once your shrimp is cooked and resting you can remove the tails if desired.
  • Measure out the spices while you’re sautéing the onions so you don’t have to pause and measure out each spice when the recipe calls for them.
  • Adjust to taste to make it YOUR favorite shrimp curry.   Taste and season with additional salt, cayenne or lime juice.
  • Control curry consistency.  If the shrimp curry is too thick, thin it out with additional broth. 
top view of serving Coconut Shrimp Curry in a bowl with rice
  • Grill the shrimp. Instead of pan searing the shrimp, grill it at 400 degrees F for about 2 minutes per side. You can grill the shrimp directly on the grates or on skewers.
  • Customize the spice level.  The curried shrimp is mild without any cayenne pepper.  Adding ⅛ teaspoon to the shrimp marinade and the curry sauce is mild-medium and adding ¼ teaspoon is medium and should be perfect for most palates.  If you aren’t sure how much to add because you’re not a fan of heat, then I suggest adding ⅛ teaspoon to the shrimp and waiting to add the cayenne pepper to taste after the curry sauce is done simmering.  You can also add heat to individual servings. 
  • Add vegetables. Feel free to add any of your favorite vegetables such as zucchini, squash, eggplant, snow peas, broccoli, mushrooms butternut squash, spinach, etc.  If you omit the potatoes, then reduce the simmering time to 10 minutes and reduce the broth to ¼ cup.
  • Swap the protein.  You can use chopped chicken, cubed pork tenderloin or fish.  For chicken and pork, brown with the curry powder and simmer with the curry sauce to finish cooking.  For fish, cook separately then add back to the curry at the end of cooking. You can also stir in cooked protein (great way to use up leftovers) the last 5 minutes of cooking to warm through.
  • Add tofu.  Use extra firm tofu and prep by placing it in a pie plate, topping with a heavy plate and weighing down with 2 heavy cans (to release water). Set aside for 10 minutes to drain.  After 10 minutes, cube the tofu.  Sauté the tofu in oil until crispy then set aside.  Gently stir into the curry shrimp the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  • Make it vegan. Use tofu (above) and vegetable broth or stock in place of the chicken broth. 
  • Use light coconut milk.  If you’re looking to save some calories, you can use light coconut milk whisked with 1 tablespoon cornstarch.  It won’t be nearly as flavorful or creamy as full-fat coconut milk, so please adjust your expectations.

 

up close of curry shrimp showing how juicy the shrimp is

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top view of cooking curry shrimp in a pan garnished with cilantro

Shrimp Curry

This Coconut Curry Shrimp is huge on flavor, low on effort, customizable, pantry friendly and can’t-stop-eating-delicious.  It’s made with juicy, plump shrimp in a fragrant, lusciously creamy, coconut curry tomato sauce laced with a tapestry of spices, aromatic ginger, garlic and cilantro.  I’ve made this shrimp curry recipe with my favorite potatoes, cauliflower and bell peppers but you can use whatever veggies you love or have on hand.  Serve this recipe over rice, zoodles, etc. with naan and prepare for the barrage of compliments!
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 45 mins
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins

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Ingredients

SHRIMP

CURRY

ADD LATER

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Instructions

  • Marinate shrimp: Whisk 1 tablespoon lime juice and Shrimp seasonings together in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and turn to evenly coat. Set aside while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  • Cook Shrimp: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in large saucepan/braiser (this is the exact one I use). Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook just until opaque, flipping halfway through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. You can remove the tails once cooled, if desired.
  • Curry sauce: Whisk the coconut milk and cornstarch together in a liquid measuring cup (or bowl); set aside.
  • Add another drizzle of oil to the pan if needed. Add the onions and potatoes and cook over medium-high heat, until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. (I recommend measuring out the spices in between stirring the onions/potatoes).
  • Add the cauliflower, bell peppers, ginger, garlic and all seasonings and cook 1 additional minute. Stir in the coconut milk, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth and basil.
  • Cover with the lid slightly askew, with about a 1-inch opening, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, stirring and replacing the lid occasionally so the bottom doesn't burn. Add additional broth as needed to achieve your desired sauce consistency.
  • Stir in the lime juice and cilantro, followed by the shrimp. Season with additional cayenne pepper (taste first!) and garnish with additional cilantro and lime if desired. Serve with rice, zoodles, etc.

Video

Notes

  • Spice level:  The curried shrimp is mild without any cayenne pepper.  Adding ⅛ teaspoon to the shrimp marinade and ⅛ teaspoon to the curry sauce is mild-medium and adding ¼ teaspoon to both is medium.  If you’re not a fan of heat, I suggest adding ⅛ teaspoon to the shrimp and waiting to add the cayenne pepper to taste after the curry sauce is done simmering.  You can also add heat to individual servings. 
  • Prep ahead:  Chop the cauliflower and bell peppers and store in the refrigerator, chop the potatoes and submerge in water in the refrigerator, chop and refrigerate aromatics, and measure the spices.
  • Meal prep:  Divide the curry shrimp between airtight containers along with rice, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Storage:  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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2 Comments

  1. John Rutherford says

    Made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious and will definitely be made again. I substituted chickpeas for cauliflower because I didn’t have cauliflower. My husband loves spicy food and I made sure this dish fit the bill. I used a hot red curry in the shrimp marinade plus added 1/4 tsp cayenne. The curry sauce got 1/2 tsp of cayenne as well. Finally, I grilled the shrimp because I prefer it that way. When I came back into the house after grilling the shrimp, the entire house smelled amazing.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for the glowing review John, I’m so pleased you loved this recipe! Fabulous idea to grill the shrimp and I love that you LOVE heat!

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