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Coconut Curry Salmon (30 Minutes)

Salmon gets an Asian flare in this coconut curry salmon dish. It makes a spicy, flavorful, delicious meal in just 30 minutes. Great for a busy weeknight or company.

The creamy coconut curry sauce is the star of the show. The salmon is poached right in the sauce.

coconut curry salmon on top of rice on black plate.

Poaching fish is a wonderful way to keep it soft and moist. You simply submerge and cook the fish in liquid – in this case the sauce – at a gentle heat. 

What to expect

Simple ingredients: Though the flavors are rich and complex, this salmon coconut curry recipe uses simple ingredients you can easily find in mainstream grocery stores.

A versatile recipe: As always, there are lots of variations you could try. For example, shrimp or any white fish will work. I could just as easily have called this recipe coconut curry fish.

Diet-friendly: The salmon curry is a dairy free and gluten free recipe. You can also make it a vegetarian dish as well.

A good choice for non fish lovers: The flavor of the salmon is somewhat masked by the bold, robust flavored sauce, so this may be a great recipe for those who don’t love fish.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

salmon, coconut milk, seasonings, aromatics, spinach, cilantro, diced tomatoes, onions

Salmon– Use fresh salmon filet portions or a whole filet cut into into smaller pieces. Remove the salmon skin before poaching. If you buy frozen salmon, defrost it first.

Diced tomatoes- in a can creates the base for the sauce. You can use regular canned tomatoes or fire roasted tomatoes for a more robust flavor.

Spices, herbs and aromatics– include garlic, ginger, curry powder, red curry paste, salt and black pepper. I use a store-bought curry paste, but here’s a great recipe if you prefer to make your own easy red curry paste in 10 minutes.

Coconut milk- Full-fat coconut milk is best for a richer taste in this sauce. You can use a low fat or light coconut milk, though, if you prefer.

Here are a few variations and substitutions to try:

Instead of salmon:

  • poach shrimp for 3-4 minutes in the sauce
  • poach a different fish such as halibut or cod or any white fish fillet.
  • try a vegetarian version with cooked pasta, tofu or gnocchi. .

Sauce variations:

  • Add other vegetables when sauteing the onions such as sliced bell pepper or mushrooms.
  • Play around with the amounts of spices, herbs and aromatics to achieve the best flavors for you.
  • Instead of cilantro, use parsley.
  • If you don’t have diced tomatoes, crush up whole canned tomatoes (I use my hands) or, in a pinch, use a plain Marinara tomato sauce. 
  • Add more or less spice by adjusting the red curry paste.
  • Try poaching the salmon portions in this spicy cherry tomato sauce if you prefer middle eastern flavors instead of Thai curry flavors.

Garnish variations:

  • For an additional fresh pop of flavor, you can add a squeeze of fresh lime juice or fresh lime zest to the sauce.

Step by step instructions

sauteed onions with curry and garlic in pan
Sauté diced onion in a large skillet until tender, then add seasonings.
onions, tomatoes, coconut milk and cilantro in pan
Add the liquid ingredients and bring to a boil.
poached salmon in coconut curry sauce in pan
Stir in spinach to wilt. Poach salmon in the sauce, covered, for about 5 minutes at medium low, then 5 minutes with the heat off. 
coconut curry salmon over rice in on plate
Serve over rice, pasta or quinoa with lime wedges.

What to serve with salmon curry

The two ways I love to serve this salmon curry recipe are:

  1. Over Basmati rice, Jasmine rice, pasta or quinoa
  2. In a bowl with crispy homemade garlic croutons or with fresh warm crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

For a lighter side dish, you can serve it with microwave green beans, a salad or over a simple bed of cauliflower rice stir fry

Shortcuts

  • Buy frozen cubes of garlic and ginger or use the kind in a tube or jar.
  • Buy fresh salmon with the skin off or ask your fish monger to remove the skin.

Make Ahead 

Make the sauce 4-5 days ahead and keep it in the fridge. When ready to serve, heat the sauce, add the spinach (if using) and then poach the salmon for 6-8 minutes.

Tips for cooking salmon

  1. For best results, cook fresh salmon the same day you buy it.
  2. Unless you are poaching salmon, it’s best to leave the skin on when cooking. The skin acts as a fatty layer to help protect it from drying out.
  3. Avoid seasoning salmon too far in advance (more than 15-20 minutes), especially salt which draws out the moisture and can result in dried out filets.
  4. Don’t overcook salmon. Properly cooked salmon should have opaque, warm pink center and you will be able to separate the flesh easily with a sharp knife.

Recipe FAQs

Is salmon healthy?

Salmon is a very nutritious source of protein. Plus, it’s an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and other vitamins and minerals.

In fact, Healthline says salmon is a nutritional powerhouse that provides several health benefits and that at least two servings per week can help you meet your nutrient needs and reduce the risk of several diseases.

How much salmon do I need per person?

For an average size portion, plan on 3-4 ounces (85-113g), but most adults will eat 6-8 ounces (170-227g). Since we are bulking up this salmon with a creamy sauce, a smaller portion may work, depending on the sides you serve.

Can I use frozen spinach in this recipe?

You certainly can. A 10-ounce package of frozen spinach is equivalent to about a pound of fresh spinach, so for this recipe you would only use about 1/4 of a package.

What temperature should properly cooked salmon be?

The best internal temperature for cooked salmon with an instant read thermometer is 130-135F (54-57C) for a warm pink salmon. Keep in mind, the temperature will rise a bit as it rests.

coconut curry salmon over white rice in a bowl

Other curry recipes you might like

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coconut curry salmon on top of rice on black plate.
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4.69 from 54 votes

Coconut Curry Salmon (30 Minutes)

Salmon gets an Asian flare in this coconut curry salmon dish. It makes a spicy, flavorful, delicious meal in just 30 minutes. Great for a busy weeknight or company.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Thai-Style
Servings: 3 (or 2 bigger portions)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup/52g)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes with juices from 14-ounce can Or use tomato sauce if you like.
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk from can
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups baby spinach, fresh (optional)
  • 1 pound salmon fillets, skin removed (2-3 fillets)

Seasonings and Aromatics

  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves or 2 frozen cubes)
  • 2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (or 1/2 tsp ginger powder or 2 frozen cubes)
  • 1/2 tablespoon red curry paste pretty spicy (use less if you want)
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • SAUTE: Heat oil in large skillet to medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, ginger and all seasonings. Stir and sauté until fragrant for another 1-2 minutes.
  • ADD LIQUIDS AND SIMMER: Add diced tomatoes with juices, coconut milk and cilantro. (If using whole tomatoes, crush by hand). Bring to boil, then lower to medium heat and simmer, uncovered for 8-10 minutes until slightly thickened. Add fresh spinach, if using, and stir until wilted for an additional minute.
  • POACH SALMON: Remove salmon skin with a sharp knife and blot with a paper towel to get rid of excess moisture. Add salmon to skillet and spoon sauce on top of it. Cover skillet and simmer on medium low heat for 5 minutes. Then turn off heat and let it sit for 5 minutes, covered, to finish cooking. Tip: If salmon is not an even thickness, the thin part will cook more quickly, so cut that off and add the thin part for just a few minutes toward the end of cooking. Note 1. Serve in bowls over rice, pasta or quinoa. Or with warm crusty bread.

Recipe Notes

  1. How to tell if salmon is cooked: Salmon will be opaque and warm pink in the middle and you will be able to separate the flesh easily with a sharp knife with no resistance. It should not be white and flaky – this is a sign of over cooked fish. 
  2. Variations and substitutions
    • Instead of salmon
      • poach shrimp for 3-4 minutes in the sauce
      • poach a different fish such as halibut or cod or any white fish fillet.
      • try a vegetarian version with cooked pasta, tofu or gnocchi.
    • Sauce variations:
      • Add other vegetables when sauteing the onions such as sliced bell pepper or mushrooms.
      • Play around with the amounts of spices, herbs and aromatics to achieve the best flavors for you.
      • If you don’t have diced tomatoes, crush up whole canned tomatoes (I use my hands) or, in a pinch, use a plain Marinara tomato sauce. 
      • Add more or less spice by adjusting the red curry paste.
      • Instead of cilantro, use parsley.
      • Substitute fresh spinach with frozen (you will need about 1/4 of a 10-ounce package)
      • try poaching the salmon portions in this spicy cherry tomato sauce instead of the curry sauce if you love middle eastern flavors.
    • Garnish variations:
      • For an additional fresh pop of flavor, you can add a squeeze of fresh lime juice or fresh lime zest to the sauce.
  3. Make Ahead: The sauce can be made 4-5 days ahead and kept in the fridge. When ready to serve, heat the sauce, add the spinach (if using) and then poach the salmon as per the recipe.
  •  
Nutrition values are estimates for 3 portions. They will be higher if the full recipe is used for 2 servings only. 

Nutrition

Calories: 392kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 649mg | Potassium: 1226mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2488IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

Coconut curry salmon, originally published in 2018, has been updated with new pictures and information. Also, I better portioned the the amount of sauce to the salmon. It was originally doubled to have leftovers for other uses (which you can still do if you like). 

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Recipe Rating




18 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Served this to a “non-fish” eater and the comment was ‘remember the dish you made with fish that didn’t taste like fish?” It was tasty and since there is also “I don’t like spicey, I opted for green chile sauce. Seriously, a BIG HIT!

  2. 5 stars
    This was soooooo good, I’m not much of a cook so had some challenge with the skinning of the salmon and I used green curry paste just to tone down the head. Lovely looking dish and every scrap was eaten.

    1. Hi Shelly. I usually figure 1/3-1/2 pound of shrimp per person. So for 3, I’d use 1 to 1 1/4 lbs of thawed peeled and deveined shrimp. Hope you like it.

  3. Quick, easy and tasty! I made this with tilapia. We eat fish at least once per week so I’m always looking for new fish recipes. So glad I found the is one!

  4. 5 stars
    Delish! Easy to follow to directions and quick to make. Loaded with flavor and some kick from the curry paste I added. I also used an entire can of coconut milk, which worked out well. I used salmon fillets and added shrimp. It’s like a one pot stew!