Prawn Curry (Prawn Masala)

Updated: June 19, 2024, By Swasthi

This Prawn Curry is super simple to make and you will love the amazing Indian flavors. Prawns are cooked in a spicy and fragrant masala made with onions, tomatoes, Indian spices and herbs. It goes well with plain steamed rice, cumin rice, plain dosa, appam and with flatbreads like naan, roti, plain parathas or chapati.

My recipe is easy enough for beginners and customizable to your palate, with the help of my expert tips section below. Indian cuisine comprises of many regional cuisines that use different cooking styles and practices. So the ingredients used may be different from one region to the other.

Prawn Curry - Prawn Masala



This recipe is generic and made with easily available ingredients. I prefer my curry/masala to be smoother because that gives a better texture to the dish and coats the prawns well. So I prefer to blend the sautéed onion tomato masala.

However if you prefer a coarse texture, you can simply omit that step. I have a similar dish on the blog but made without coconut and tomatoes. You may have a look at it here – Royyala iguru.

I use fresh tiger prawns but you can also use fresh or frozen shrimp or smaller variety of prawns. Make sure you devein, clean & rinse them well before using in the recipe or buy pre-cleaned from the stores. If you are new to prawns, read how to choose prawns, how to prepare sections below. Here are more details on the ingredients & substitutes for this recipe.

Ingredients and Substitutes

  • Onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and green chilies form the base of the curry. If you don’t have green chilies you may omit them. They are used for flavour and heat. You may use yellow onion or shallots.
  • Ground spices: Garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric, coriander powder, black pepper (optional) are the key ground spices to use. While garam masala is used for flavour, red chili powder is used more for heat and color. Coriander powder is a filler and helps balance the strong flavors of garam masala. Black pepper adds some pungent flavors. For the best prawn curry, use a good aromatic garam masala and for low heat use Kashmiri or Byadgi chili powder.
  • Whole spices: I use only cumin seeds as we prefer lesser whole spices in this dish. But you may use a pinch of mustard, a small cinnamon piece and green cardamoms but I feel they are too intense for this dish, especially if you are using a good garam masala.
  • Curry leaves: Fresh curry leaves are classic in any South Indian dishes. But feel free to omit them if you do not have. Dried curry leaves are not a substitute for fresh.
  • Coconut: I have made this recipe with raw coconut (grated frozen coconut). You can substitute it with ¼ cup thick coconut milk or 10 cashews. Raw coconut is easily available in the chiller or frozen section of Indian grocery stores. Also note using cashews will make the dish taste more like a North Indian restaurant curry.
  • Tamarind: In a lot of coastal regions, tamarind or kokum is used for a tangy flavor. Growing up I have never seen my Mom (though from coastal region) using these ingredients. Her meat dishes were always served with a sprinkle of lemon juice. So I do the same here and don’t use tamarind or kokum. If you want you may use it.

More similar recipes
Shrimp Tikka Masala
Spicy prawns fry
Prawn biryani
Chilli prawns
Prawn pulao
Spicy prawns pakora

Photo Guide

Step by Step Photo Instructions

Devein and wash the prawns well with running cold water. Drain the water completely. Optionally toss them in a pinch of salt, chili powder and garam masala if you want. I do not do that.

1. Heat a tablespoon oil in a pan and saute ¾ cup sliced onions (1 medium onion) until they turn pink, for 5 to 6 mins. Add ¾ tsp each chopped ginger and garlic (or 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste). Saute for a minute.

golden fried onions

2. Add ¾ cup chopped tomatoes (1 large tomato), sprinkle ½ teaspoon sea salt and ⅛ teaspoon turmeric. Saute till the tomatoes turn mushy & break down completely, for about 5 mins.

frying chopped tomatoes to make

3. Add ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, ½ to ¾ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder and ¼ cup grated raw coconut. (I used tightly pressed frozen raw coconut). You can also use ¼ cup coconut milk or 10 cashew nuts.

addition of spice powders coconut for prawn curry recipe

4. Saute on a medium heat till the mixture is nicely roasted, for about 3 to 5 minutes. Take care not to burn. Cool down completely.

roasting coconut garam masala

5. Transfer to a blender with ¾ cup water. If you want add half to 1 tsp of tamarind paste (not concentrate) and blend to a smooth puree (or slightly coarse paste if you want). Be careful with tamarind as there is no way back.

blend masala in a jar to smooth

6. Heat the same pan with 1 to 1½ tablespoon oil. This step is optional and you may instead cook the prawns directly in the gravy later. Place the prawns in the pan and cook just for 2 mins, 1 min on each side. I also added a few curry leaves with the prawns for flavor. Remove to a plate.

sauteing prawns for 2 minutes to prepare prawn curry recipe

7. Add ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 slit green chili (optional) and 1 chopped garlic clove. Wait till the garlic is lightly roasted then add 1 sprig curry leaves. Fry till the garlic turns aromatic and the leaves turn crispy.

frying garlic in a pan for tempering prawn curry

8. Pour the onion tomato mixture and mix well. If required add more water or coconut milk to bring to a slightly runny consistency. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until it is thick and traces of oil are seen on the curry. Reduce the heat completely, and add the prawns. Simmer just until the tails curl up to “C” shape, meaning they are fully cooked.

Overcooking will make them hard. Switch off the stove. Taste test and add more salt or ¼ teaspoon black pepper if you want. If you have not used tamarind like me, sprinkle some lemon juice for a tang.

addition of ground onion coconut masala

Garnish prawn curry with coriander leaves. Serve with rice or roti, naan or chapathi, Ghee rice or Jeera rice.

Prawn Curry (Prawn Masala)

Expert Tips

  • Your masala/curry will taste the best with elevated flavors only if the onion tomato masala is sautéed well. Do not undercook these.
  • Store bought garam masala is low in flavour. I use homemade so the quantity I use here is lesser. Feel free to use more if required at the finishing stage.
  • Coconut is used to round out the flavors and give thickness to the curry. The dish still tastes good but I cannot assure if everyone likes that. If you decide to omit it, do not blend. Fine chop onions, tomatoes and keep the masala coarse.
  • For a more creamy and rich taste, double the amount of coconut milk (not cashews). You can use either canned coconut milk or fresh homemade coconut milk. If you prefer to make your own blend a cup of raw coconut with half cup of water. Filter it and use in the recipe. Use half to blend and use the rest at the finishing stage.
  • If you love your curry tangy, use little tamarind paste or tamarind water while blending. Or soak a few kokum and add them while blending. But be sure to add in lesser amounts, there is no way to go back.
  • For a really hot and spicy curry, soak some dried red chilies and blend them with the sauteed ingredients. In this case you may omit the red chili powder.

How to choose prawns for curry

  1. Choose prawns that have the shell on as they are fresher.
  2. Avoid buying prawns that have a fishy smell. Fresh prawns do not have any odor or fishy smell.
  3. If buying from the fresh market, look out for prawns on the ice as they are well kept. Avoid prepacked ones unless they are frozen.
  4. When you touch the prawn with shell, it has to be firm. Avoid buying prawns that are slimy & limp as this indicates they are not fresh & are a sign of decay. They will not taste good too.
  5. Look out for the right color of prawn. Fresh prawns are white or grey in color. However brown prawns will be brown in color.
  6. The meat of the prawns should be white without any black spots on them. Black spots begin to appear first on the head and then on the body of the prawns which are an indication of losing the freshness.

Prepare prawns

  1. Discard any spoilt or discolored prawns.
  2. Shell them first by removing the head. legs & tail. Devein them.
  3. Then transfer them to a bowl and pour 2 to 3 cups of cold water. Drain and repeat rinsing them a few times. If using frozen prawns defrost them the same way and avoid thawing or defrosting in microwave or using hot water as the prawns lose their taste and texture.
  4. Rinse each prawn well, drain the water & place them in a bowl.
  5. Use them up immediately to make the prawn curry.

Fresh vs frozen prawns

Most times I use fresh prawns as they are easy accessible here. But if you are using frozen prawns, then defrost them for 20 to 30 mins at room temperature before using.

Devein them and rinse well. Drain and use them in the recipe.

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

Prawn Curry - Prawn Masala

Prawn Curry (Prawn Masala)

4.95 from 260 votes
Prawn curry is a simple delicious Indian gravy made with fresh prawns, onion, tomatoes & spice powders. Serve it with steamed rice, chapati, naan, parathas or roti.
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings2
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

For the Masala

  • 2 to 2½ tablespoons oil (divided)
  • ¾ cup (1 medium) onion chopped or sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste (or ½ inch ginger & 2 to 3 garlic cloves, read notes)
  • ¾ cup (1 large) tomato chopped or pureed
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon sea salt (more to adjust)
  • ¼ cup raw coconut (or coconut milk or 10 cashews)
  • teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala (use as much as you want)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper (adjust to taste, optional)

Other Ingredients

  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
  • 1 green chilli chopped or slit
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove chopped – optional
  • 250 grams (9 oz) prawns (more if you want)
  • cup water or 1 cup water + ¼ cup coconut milk (read notes)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves fine chopped to garnish – optional
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (or lemon juice to serve) optional


Instructions

  • Prep-up prawns: Devein and wash the prawns well with cold water. Drain the water completely. Optionally toss them in a pinch of salt, chili powder and garam masala.
  • Make the masala: Heat half of the oil in a pan and saute onions till transparent. Stir in ginger garlic and saute for a minute. Add tomatoes, salt and turmeric. Saute until they break down, for 5 mins. Stir in chili powder, garam masala, coriander powder and coconut. Saute well for 3 to 5 mins until aromatic.
  • Blend: Cool this and blend with half of the water and tamarind (optional) to a smooth puree.
  • Cook the curry: Pour the rest of the oil and optionally fry the prawns on a medium heat, just for 2 mins. Remove them to a plate.
  • Add cumin, green chili, garlic and curry leaves to the pan. Saute till the garlic smells aromatic, for 40 to 50 seconds. Pour the ground masala and add more water or coconut milk only if needed. It should have a slightly runny consistency.
  • Make prawn curry: Bring to a rolling boil on a high heat and reduce to medium. Cook until the curry/masala is thick and you see traces of oil on top. Reduce the heat completely and add the prawns. Cook just until the tails curl up to C shape, meaning they are cooked. Avoid overcooking to prevent them rubbery. Taste test and add more salt or black pepper if you want.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and squeeze lemon if you want. Serve prawn curry with any jeera rice, plain rice or roti, naan or chapati.


Notes

  • I have given the substitutes for ginger garlic paste. ½ inch ginger & 2 to 3 medium garlic cloves may not be accurate as it depends on many factors. To be more precise you may use ¾ tsp each chopped.
  • Little more or less coconut is okay, but adjust quantity of spices accordingly. If you like more add more, up to 1/2 cup (loosely measured raw coconut or coconut milk)
  • Use water only as needed.
  • Tamarind paste is different from concentrate which is stronger. Start with less and add more if you want. I use lemon at the garnishing stage and omit tamarind.

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Prawn Curry (Prawn Masala)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 285 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 315mg105%
Sodium 1075mg47%
Potassium 321mg9%
Carbohydrates 11g4%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 27g54%
Vitamin A 455IU9%
Vitamin C 46.7mg57%
Calcium 221mg22%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @SwasthisRecipes or tag #swasthisrecipes!

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About Swasthi

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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Recipe Rating




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5 stars
Easy to make and turned out well!

5 stars
Thank you Swasthi, this recipe speaks to my heart ❤️. My father Mauritian ( Hindu) , English mum , my son has Caribbean heritage. Delicious proper food!

5 stars
recipe is good, i tried. taste yummy.

5 stars
This prawn curry recipe was the best that I have ever tasted. Either at home or eating out! Absolutely suburb recipe Swasthi. Restaurant quality. Thank you so much.

5 stars
All your recipies are good ? my daughter likes it

5 stars
Big fan of you!!!All your recipes are excellent, they never fail?

5 stars
I was out of coriander powder midway cooking and substituted home made kulambu masala (which has mainly coriander) for it. Must say, I’ve never tasted anything this tasty in a long time. Thank you, this recipe is timeless and going to stay with me for a long time.

5 stars
This recipe is brilliant. I’d run out of curry leaves, but used fresh kaffir lime leaves from my daughter’s plant instead. It was wonderfully fragrant. Can’t wait to try it with curry leaves. I intend to try many of your other recipes. Thank you.

I have a question – when I scale the recipe to double/triple it, the number of cashews didn’t change. Is that right or an error? If I triple the recipe, do I use 30 cashews? thanks in advance for responding :).

5 stars
Now I cook like a chef, salute to the Author.

5 stars
Thank you ?
The recipient turned out really nice
?

5 stars
Fabulous! I didn’t have coconut or cashews so used 1 tbsp ground almonds. Restaurant quality curry – mwah! 5 stars from me

when you say substitute cashews- do you mean raw? Do you chop them or grind them?

Swasthi can I use passata instead of fresh tomatoes?

5 stars
Wowzers – this is SO delicious!! Easy to make, and so full of flavour! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!!!!! Love love love

Hi how do I make it more saucy please? Thanks

5 stars
Amazing recipes both veg and non veg. Your ingredients are available in every kitchen you rock dear Swasthi

5 stars
I like all your recipes ..they’re simple ang easy to follow

5 stars
Fantastic thank you

5 stars
This has become my signature dish. Absolutely delicious. Thank you!!!

5 stars
Just blended the masala and it made all the difference! Daughter insisted that I share my review as she simply loved the way the prawns curry turned out ? I always follow your recipes, Swathi. Simple to make with a fantastic taste. Thank you ?