Fish Curry Recipe
This Fish Curry is satisfying, nutritious and packed with a burst of Indian flavors. Onions, tomatoes, spices & herbs enrich the taste & aroma of this Fish curry that is sure to delight the entire family. Chapati, roti, Naan or a bowl of steaming hot rice with this Fish Masala is comfort food at its best!
About Fish Curry
Fish curry is a staple in a lot of Asian countries and is made in various ways using different locally available ingredients like coconut, poppy seeds, tamarind etc. In this post I show you how to make it the easiest way with the most basic ingredients – the panty staples.
The coastal cuisines of India are incomplete without a delicious Fish Curry. Traditionally fresh caught fish were cleaned, minimally spiced & cooked in clay cookware that would impart delicious flavors.
This fish curry is made much the same traditional way by sautéing onions, ginger garlic, tomatoes & ground spices. Later this onion tomato masala is simmered to cook down the ingredients & bring out the flavors.
Marinated fish is seared on a pan and then cooked briefly in the prepared curry.
A lot of people add the fish directly to the simmering curry. But we personally prefer to marinate and sear first as this cuts down the fishy smell. Though this step is optional I highly recommend this if you are new to seafood curries & stews.
I prefer to blend the onion tomato masala to give the curry/gravy a thicker texture with superior flavors. This is what makes this dish the best!
This recipe uses a small amount of coconut. You can use fresh grated or frozen coconut or coconut milk. If you don’t consume coconut, you may simply leave out that or substitute with cashews.
This recipe is easily adaptable & you can play around with the ingredients. If you love tamarind in your Fish curry, feel free to add some while you make the curry. You can also squeeze some lemon juice before serving. To use amchur, add it at the finishing stage.
More Fish Recipes
Ingredients & Substitutes
Fish: While you can make a fish curry with any kind of firm flesh fish, I would suggest to use something you love. Because everyone has their own favourite fish and you may not compromise on that. The following fishes are a good choice and go well in a curry.
(Spanish mackerel or King mackerel)
Ginger garlic paste is nothing but ground ginger and garlic in equal quantities. If you don’t have that, you can simply use them in minced or grated form. You can make it following my recipe here – ginger garlic paste or use a store bought paste. There is no substitute to this. However you may use dried ginger and garlic powder at the finishing stage.
Curry leaves impart a unique flavor to the dish. Do not use dried curry leaves. It is okay not to use them or simply use a Indian bay leaf.
Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend that is easily available in Asian stores. I do not have a recommended brand for that because I make my own following this recipe – Garam masala. It is important to use a flavorsome masala as it is the key ingredient that flavors your dish.
Fennel seeds are my favourite spice as it adds natural sweet tones and balances the pungent flavors of the other spices. You may skip if you don’t have.
Coconut milk: If you like more coconut flavors in your curry, add as much coconut milk as you want but note that it brings down the flavors. So increase the garam masala and other spices proportionately.
How To Make Fish Curry (Stepwise Photos)
Make Masala Paste
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add cumin and allow to splutter. Then add onions & saute until golden.
2. Add ginger garlic and fry for 30 to 60 seconds. When they turn fragrant, add tomatoes and half tsp salt.
3. Fry until the raw smell goes away.
4. Add coconut, red chili powder, turmeric and fennel seeds (optional).
5. Fry everything well until the onion masala smells good. Ensure the raw smell has gone. Cool this completely.
6. This one and next step are optional. Marinate fish with red chili powder, turmeric, very little salt and ginger garlic paste. Do not leave this marinated fish aside, just fry them right away.
7. Heat a pan with 1 tsp oil, fry the fish until the raw smell of the ginger garlic paste has gone. You can use the same pan used to fry the onions, I used a different one since I used a steel pan. Set this aside.
8. Add the cooled ingredients to a blender jar along with 2 to 4 tbsps of water.
9. Blend to a coarse or smooth paste to suit your taste. We prefer coarse texture in our curry so I made a coarse paste. If you prefer a smooth texture, make a smooth paste.
How to Make Fish Curry
10. Add another tbsp. oil & heat on a low flame. When the oil turns slightly hot, add curry leaves and green chilies.
11. When the leaves splutter, add the ground paste. Mix everything well .
12. Sprinkle garam masala and salt. You can add more red chilli powder at this stage to adjust the heat. I added a bit more. Fry everything well until the masala smells good.
13. Pour 1 ¼ cup water and mix well to make lump free gravy. You may need to adjust the amount of water slightly.
14. On a medium flame boil until the oil begins to separate and the gravy thickens. This may take about 5 mins. Check the salt and spice now. Adjust any taste that is needed. If you like to use tamarind, you can soak some tamarind in hot water. Extract and filter the juice to the gravy. We do not prefer tamarind so i have not used, the sourness from tomatoes is good enough.
15. Add the fish pieces to the gravy and cook for few mins. Flip them and cook until they bulge, meaning they are cooked completely. If desired garnish with coriander leaves.
Serve fish curry with rice or chapathi.
More Indian curry recipes
Fish Curry Recipe | Indian Fish Masala
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1.1 lbs. Fish (half kg, 500 grams, any firm fish)
- ½ tbsp ginger garlic paste
- ⅛ tsp turmeric
- ¼ to ½ tsp red chilli powder
- ¼ tsp salt or as needed
To saute & puree
- 1 tbsp oil (adjust as needed)
- ½ tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
- 2 medium onions sliced about 1 cup sliced
- ½ tbsp ginger garlic minced or paste
- 2 medium tomatoes ripe (¾ to 1 cup chopped)
- ½ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust as needed)
- ⅛ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp fennel seeds (optional) (saunf)
- 2 tbsp coconut (grated or ¼ cup coconut milk or 12 cashew nuts)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 sprig curry leaves or small bay leaf
- 1 to 2 green chili (chopped or slit)
- 1 to 1 ½ tsp garam masala or curry powder as needed (refer notes)
- 1¼ to 1½ cup water
- Marinate fish with ½ tbsp ginger garlic paste, ⅛ tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp red chilli powder & ¼ tsp salt.
- On a flat fry pan, heat 1 tsp oil. Fry fish pieces slightly until the raw smell goes away just for 2 to 3 mins on both sides. You can also sear the fish. Keep this aside. (refer picture below)
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot and add cumin. When they sputter, add onions and saute until lightly golden.
- Next add ginger garlic paste and saute for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes & ½ tsp salt. Saute until tomatoes turn soft and mushy.
- Next add coconut, fennel seeds (optional), red chili powder & turmeric. Fry until the mixture turns fragrant & raw smell has gone away.
- Cool this & add to a blender jar along with 2 to 4 tbsps water. Blend to a smooth or coarse paste to suit your liking. (refer notes). You can also use a immersion blender. Keep this aside.
How to Make Fish Curry
- Add 1 tbsp more oil to the same pot used earlier. Heat up on a low flame.
- When the oil turns slightly hot, add curry leaves & green chilies.
- When they splutter, add the ground onion tomato paste and garam masala. Taste test the paste and add more chilli powder at this stage if you want more heat or more deeper color.
- Saute until the mixture smells good.
- Pour 1 ¼ to 1½ cup water. Mix and bring it to a boil. Cook until you see traces of oil on the surface and the gravy thickens a bit.
- Gently slide the fish pieces and cook covered on a medium heat.
- Carefully flip or turn the pieces to the other side after 3 to 4 mins.
- Cook until the fish pieces bulge a bit. This is the indication they are cooked completely. Taste the curry and add more salt if needed.
- Optionally garnish fish curry with coriander leaves if desired.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me
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I used wild sockeye salmon from Alaska with your recipe and it turned out delicious. Thank you!
Glad you like it Karla. Thank you
I’m not a great cook, followed your recipe as it looked straightforward. And, it turned out really delicious. My first fish curry. I tried with the tamarind and with the optional steps too. Great recipe. I’m tempted to try your chicken tikka masala recipe next.
Thanks Hari for trying the recipe. Glad it turned out delicious.
When the recipe asks for cumin, Are you adding cumin powder or cumin seeds? Looks very delicious can’t wait to try.
Use cumin seeds. If you don’t have you may leave out.
Made this exactly as your instructions – absolutely fantastic flavours ☺️👍👏
I made this with sockeye salmon. I also added a few mustard seeds with the cumin and used the tamarind for a little extra sourness. Even though I didn’t have curry leaves, it turned out delicious. Better than my local restaurant. My friend from India loved it as well.
Thank you Bobby
Glad your fish curry turned out good.
My family is hooked on this recipe. In two weeks I have made it five times. My son who never ate fish at home, keeps raving about it. I follow the recipe as such and it is awesome every time, says my family.
Over past two years, I have learned that if I need an Indian recipe, this is the only website I need to look at.
That’s Awesome! So happy to know! Thank you so much Snehil!
I have been making this recipe for a few years now and I can’t emphasize enough how good it turns out each time. I get compliments always. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
Thank you so much Shivin
Glad to know!
Thank you very much!!! My friends think I am an expert cook thanks to your recipes and this one gets top rank for its taste. Never thought fish curry can taste better without tamarind!!
So glad to know Srini! Thank you!
I stumbled upon this recipe quite recently….and I have made it some 10 times. This fool proof delicacy has never let me down.
Try and enjoy
Thank you so much for this! It rivals the fish curry that a store sells near where I live! First time i try making fish curry and its just perfect! I omitted the coconut & cashewnuts and just added extra crushed canned tomatoes because it’s all I had. Love all your recipes!!
So Glad to know Lara, Thank you!
mouth watering, soon will try this
When to add coconut milk ? ND how much ? Please reply.
After adding chilli powder, turmeric and fennel seeds, saute the masala for a few seconds. Later pour thick coconut milk.
I live in South America and don’t have curry leaves or green chili. Is there anything I can substitute or is it better to just leave them out? Thanks
Yes skip both. You can add an handful of chopped coriander leaves/ cilantro after the dish is done.
You are amazing! all of your recipes turn out beautifully and my kids are well feed because of you.
Thank you so much!
Thank you so much! So Happy to know your kids enjoy the food! Thanks again!
Hey, this recipe looks delicious! I don’t have access to great freshwater fish so wondered of something like halibut or monkfish would work as I’ve used them in stews in the past with good results?
Yes you can use.
can I use coley fish for this recipe
Yes. Coley cooks faster. Be careful not to overcook.
Tasty and easy to make. Thank you.
Glad you like it. Thank you
Hi Swasthi, I love all your recipes! One more than the next! Your website is really a delight! Would cod fish work for this recipe? Also, if I want to use cashew nuts instead of coconut, at what stage should I add them? Thanks so much!
Thank you so much! So happy to know! Yes cod fish works. Add them with the onion and tomatoes. If you don’t mind grinding the cashews separately in a small grinder, blend them with little water to a very smooth consistency and pour it just before you finish off the dish. Hope you enjoy the dish
I have been trying out Swasthi’s recipe off-late and all are just fool-proof. This fish curry is priceless!
Tried this today and family loved it
What kind of fish???