Goan Prawn Curry or Shrimp Curry is an authentic recipe from the coastal state of Goa in India. Shrimp is simmered in a delicious curry made with coconut milk, aromatic spices, curry leaves, and seasoned with curry leaves. Pairs perfectly with steamed basmati rice.
(Original recipe published in 2018, updated with stovetop instructions in addition to Instant Pot instructions)
What is Goan Prawn Curry and why should you make this recipe
Goan Shrimp Curry, is a staple meal in Goan households, and a dish that I grew up eating. I spent my childhood in Goa, devouring Goan Prawn Curry with rice on a nearly daily basis! I've had my fair share of Shrimp Curries - several versions that were homemade, as well as restaurant-style curries. I've always favoured the homestyle recipe which is made with some staple ingredients that are characteristic of coastal states of India such as coconut oil, kokum (souring agent), and curry leaves. Served over a hot steaming bed of rice, this is truly a dish for the soul!
Goan food is known for its deliciously comforting, flavorful curries such as Fish curry and Goan Prawn Curry - these curries are part of the staple cuisine and are made in Goan homes very often.
This recipe for an authentic Goan Shrimp Curry is unique from other shrimp curries because it isn't heavy on the masalas. The spices are a simple combination of turmeric, Kashmiri chili powder, and coriander powder. The tang comes in through the addition of kokum, which is a souring agent that is commonly used in Goan curries. Kokum can also be substituted by tamarind. Vinegar is added to enhance the tang, and coconut milk balances out the flavours nicely. The result is a delicious harmony of simple ingredients.
Ingredients you will need (with notes and substitutions)
To make Goan Prawn Curry, you will need:
Shrimp or Prawns - Use fresh or frozen shrimp. The shrimp should be deveined and ideally, shelled before you start to cook. If you are using frozen prawns, thaw them at room-temperature water for around 2-3 hours, or thaw them by keeping the frozen shrimp in the refrigerator overnight.
Souring Agent (Kokum or Tamarind): Kokum acts as the tangy essence that elevates the curry's taste. Kokum is used in some Southern Indian states in a similar way to tamarind and has a sour, fruity, and almost salty flavour. If you cannot get hold of dried kokum, opt for whole tamarind which is a good substitute.
Kashmiri Red Chili Powder, Turmeric Powder, and Coriander Powder impart the curry with its vibrant color and aromatic essence, adding depth and richness to the dish.
Curry Leaves: These aromatic leaves infuse a distinctive flavor, enhancing the authenticity of this Goan specialty.
Whole Cumin: Offering a nutty, earthy flavor, whole cumin seeds bring a delightful texture and aroma to the curry.
Onions and Garlic: Chopped onions and garlic cloves form the base of the curry, providing a savory foundation.
Tomatoes: Diced tomatoes add a refreshing sweetness and a hint of tanginess, balancing the dish's flavors perfectly.
Coconut Milk: Coconut milk brings a creamy, tropical richness to the curry, enhancing its texture and giving it its characteristic taste.
Vinegar (Balsamic Recommended): Balsamic vinegar works wonders by harmonizing the sweet and sour elements in the dish, contributing a nuanced balance to the flavor profile. Optionally, use regular cooking vinegar instead of balsamic.
Oil: Use coconut oil for the most authentic taste. Vegetable oils will not give the shrimp curry as much flavor.
Salt to season
How to Make Prawn Curry - step-by-step instructions
To make shrimp curry on the stovetop, you will need a large pot such as a Dutch oven or any heavy-bottom pot.
Start by heating coconut oil in a large pot. Add the chopped onions, and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, whole cumin, and the spice powders. Saute until the tomatoes are soft.
Add 3/4 cup of water and using an immersion blender/stick blender, blends the ingredients. The curry doesn't have to be a fine sauce, you can leave it slightly chunky, and that's fine.
Then add the curry leaves and kokum and cook on medium heat.
Add coconut milk and vinegar followed by the shrimp.
Season with salt and simmer on low heat for 6-8 minutes. The prawns should be cooked in around 8 minutes. Overcooking the prawns will make the flesh tough.
Your authentic Goan prawn curry is now ready. Serve the curry over steaming hot rice.
Instant Pot Instructions
The stove-top version of prawn curry stands the risk of overcooking the prawns and making them tough. The prawns need time to soak up that flavor from the gravy, yet, need to remain tender and not over-cooked. You can also make the Shrimp Curry in the Instant Pot instead of the stovetop (see video for the detailed recipe). The advantages of cooking shrimp curry in the Instant Pot are mainly:
- Mostly hands-off, hardly any monitoring necessary
- No risk of overcooking the shrimp!
Here is how you make the Prawn Coconut Curry in the Instant Pot:
- Turn the IP to 'Saute' mode in the 'More' setting.
- Add the coconut oil, followed by the chopped red onions, the finely chopped garlic, and the whole cumin.
- Saute for around 2 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and stir for another minute, until the tomatoes start to soften. Add the turmeric, coriander powder, and cumin and stir.
- Add the curry leaves and stir. Add the coconut milk and vinegar and mix well to combine.
- Add the prawns and mix well.
- Put on the lid of the IP, and with the vent in the 'sealing' position, switch to 'Pressure Cook' mode, in 'Low Pressure' setting. Set the time for 2 minutes. Let the prawns cook. Once done, the IP will beep. Do a 'Quick Release' ie, turn the valve from sealing to venting position to release the steam quickly.
- Open the lid, add the salt to season the shrimp curry, and mix it well. Serve the Prawn Coconut Curry with some steamed rice.
Tips for Cooking with Shrimps
- Fresh prawns are certainly preferable to frozen, but if you have no access to fresh prawns, then frozen shrimp is a good option. Make sure you let the frozen shrimp thaw before you add them to the gravy. Thawing prawns takes 15 minutes if you keep a packet of frozen prawns in a bowl of room-temperature water.
- Make sure you clean your prawns by removing the infamous 'poop chute', aka, the intestinal tract before you cook them.
- Prawns do not need to be cooked on the stove top for longer than 4-5 minutes, else they tend to get tough and chewy. In the Instant Pot, pressure cook shrimps for 2 minutes, then release the pressure manually.
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Shrimp Curry Recipe
- 1 Large Pot or Dutch Oven
- 500 grams Shrimp Deveined and shelled, deforested if using frozen prawns
- 1 tablespoon Coconut oil
- 1 Red Onion diced
- 4 cloves Garlic finely chopped
- 1 whole Tomato diced
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
- 1.5 teaspoon Kashmiri Red Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon Whole Cumin
- 9-10 Curry leaves
- 5-6 Kokum pieces (see notes for substitution)
- 2 tablespoons Vinegar regular or balsamic vinegar (see notes)
- ¾ cup Coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon Salt for seasoning
- Start by heating a large pot on the stovetop. Add the coconut oil and let it heat up.
- Add the chopped onions, garlic and saute until the onions are translucent.
- Add the tomatoes, whole cumin, and the spice powders. Saute until the tomatoes are soft.
- Add 3/4 cup of water and using an immersion blender/stick blender, blend the ingredients. The curry doesn't have to be a fine sauce, you can leave it slightly chunky.
- Add the curry leaves and kokum, followed by the vinegar and cook on medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
- Add coconut milk, followed by the shrimp.
- Season with salt and simmer on low heat for 6-8 minutes. The prawns should be cooked in around 8 minutes. Overcooking the prawns will make the flesh tough.
- Your authentic Goan prawn curry is now ready. Serve the curry over steaming hot rice.
- Kokum can be substituted with tamarind water - Tamarind water can be made from store-bought tamarind paste and a little water. Mix together 1/4 cup of concentrated tamarind paste in 1/4 cup of warm water. Stir to combine. You can also use fresh tamarind if you don't have access to store-bought tamarind paste. Break off a piece of tamarind and soak it in enough warm water to just immerse it. After soaking for 30 minutes, gently break the tamarind apart with your hands. The paste will separate from the fibers. Using a sieve, strain out the pulp.
- You can also add grated coconut to the curry and let it simmer together with the coconut milk. Grated coconut can be made fresh, by grinding coconut slices, or use frozen grated coconut. Optionally, use desiccated coconut.
- Vinegar - Authentic Goan Shrimp Curry uses palm vinegar, however, I like using balsamic vinegar which is slightly sweet.