Kerala Fish Curry


Kerala Fish Curry by Ashley of

This Kerala fish curry comes to you from the Malabar coast – it’s flavorful, slightly spicy, and it features two ingredients that are aplenty in the South Indian state of Kerala: fish and coconut. The spiced creamy coconut sauce in this Kerala fish curry is so full of flavor! You can serve this with matta rice, or if you can’t get your hands on that type of rice, basmati rice works too!

What is Kerala Fish Curry?

I learned how to make this fish stew from my mom-in-law, a marvelous cook who makes incredible Keralite food. I’m always amazed by the flavors in this type of food – it’s so different from the North Indian food I grew up eating (e.g., butter chicken, shami kebab, sarson ka saag). Just goes to show, “Indian food” is far more diverse than most realize.

If you’re familiar with this Keralite dish, you may notice that this recipe is very similar to a dish known as meen moilee (pronounced “Molly”), the main difference being that for this dish, we’re cooking the fish in the stew, whereas with meen moilee, the fish is first shallow fried and then put into the stew. You can always take that extra step, if you’d like.

For this stew, we prefer to use wild-caught rockfish. In Kerala though, they typically use karimeen, which is also known as pearlspot fish. You can use any type of fish – just make sure it’s a firm, meaty fish because otherwise, it’ll fall apart in the curry.

Kerala Fish Curry by Ashley of

While this stew is easy enough to make any time, I typically reserve it for special occasions. It’s a staple at our Easter brunch (along with honey ham, biryani, and beef croquettes). These are some photos from Easter at my husband’s house (he’s wearing the bunny ears, you can’t miss him lol). You can’t see the fish stew, but I assure you, we ate some that day, haha.

Kerala Fish Curry by

This Kerala fish stew is a light, yet filling dish. It’s perfect for spring or summer. I hope you love it so much that it becomes part of your holiday celebrations too. 🙂

Kerala Fish Curry by Ashley of

Kerala Fish Curry

Kerala Fish Curry by Ashley of

Kerala Fish Curry

5 from 9 reviews
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  • 2 pounds of Rockfish or another firm white fish , cut into large chunks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric

To make Curry:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 medium red onions thinly sliced
  • 12 pearl onions cut in half
  • 40 small curry leaves divided
  • 2 Serrano peppers slit but intact
  • ½ inch knob ginger minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ cans of coconut milk full-fat, divided
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Optional garnish: cashews sauteed in coconut oil or ghee


  • Marinate fish with salt and turmeric. Set aside for now.
  • Melt coconut oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, then saute the onions, pearl onions, 20 curry leaves, Serrano peppers. Sauté for 15 minutes, or until the onions turn brown.
  • Add the ginger and spices (black pepper, salt, turmeric). Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove half of this mixture and set aside for garnish.
  • Add the fish, 1 can of coconut milk, ¼ cup of water and the remaining curry leaves. Cook for 2 minutes, then cover the pan with a lid and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the remaining ½ can of coconut milk and the apple cider vinegar to the pan. Continue cooking until the fish is done.
  • Garnish with the onion mixture that you set aside earlier, then serve.
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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. Renee Davis says

    My husband and I were so blessed to spend 3 weeks in India a few years ago and Kerala was my absolute favorite place as we did the overnight houseboat. It was just magical and ALL the food was amazing there so I can’t wait to try this and your other recipes. I’ve been following you for years and you never disappoint!! Thank you so much for sharing. :-). PS. Curious if you have ever tried the MOTHER brand of Indian seasoning pouches from Indian market. Are they clean enough for Paleo? The Kerala Prawns was so good that my hubby asked for it again 2 days later, was great for a quick and easy meal.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Renee, that is wonderful! And thank you – happy to hear you like my recipes 🙂 I haven’t tried that brand – I typically use 24 Mantra, Simply Organic or Pure Indian Foods for spices. I hope you’ll let me know what other recipes you try from my blog!

  2. Shameem A says

    wow… this is something like a stew that we normally see in Christian’s functions..something which worth trying….

  3. BEE says

    5 stars
    My son loves this!! I make it with rockfish and sometimes shrimp. I omit the peppers as he doesn’t like spicy food. We have this with rose Matta. Thank you for this.

  4. aa says

    5 stars
    This is probably one of the most stunning curry recipes I’ve ever made. I don’t know why this doesn’t show up at the top of any Google search, but it is one of the few recipes I share with everyone. I can’t believe curry leaves make this much of a difference, but bravo on this gem of a recipe.

  5. Abhinav says

    5 stars
    I tried this recipe at home this recipe awesome recipe. And my family member like this recipe. Thank U Ashley

  6. Michelle Faria says

    Hi there from OZ, I was looking to find a recipe to go with hoppers & low & behold I came across your blog.

    I was wanting to prepare this for my daughters 16th
    Birthday. Fingers crossed it’s a hit! I followed it as per..,

    Thanks 🙏🏻 for sharing this as my in-laws are from
    Karela so hope this takes them bk in time.

  7. Shraddha says

    Hi Ashley,

    I made this curry for the second time this week because my husband and kids loved it so much! Thanks for a great and simple recipe!! I love food from kerela and this is now one of my favs.


  8. Sybil says

    Hi, Ashley! Love your blog! Can you tell me what I might substitute if I can’t get fresh curry leaves? The reviews on Amazon aren’t encouraging. Would dried, ground fenugreek be acceptable? If so, how much? Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Thanks, Sybil!! Curry leaves have a very unique flavor – unlike fenugreek or curry powder. I would wait to make the recipe until you can get your hands on some fresh leaves. If you have an Indian grocery store near by, they should have fresh curry leaves there.

  9. Jay says

    5 stars
    Hey Ashley,
    I’m from Kerala and love your blog. It has made my switch to Paleo infinitely easier. FYI there is a traditional Kerala fish curry made in a clay pot and malabar tamarind (aka kudampuli) that is absolutely brilliant with an oily fish like Mackarel or Salmon. Would be a great recipe to try.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Jay! I’m really happy to hear that you like my blog 🙂 I think I have a recipe for that curry on my blog – is this the one? It’s my mom-in-law’s recipe and it really is delicious! Sadly, I don’t think any readers have tried it yet – I assume because they may not be able to find kudampuli. If you try it, let me know what you think! And let me know if there are any other Keralite dishes that you think I should try/post.

      • Jay says

        Yes, that is the one, though subtly different from the one my mom makes. Recommendation..well too many to name, a lot of our food is naturally paleo. Fish I would recommend Fish Molee which is a delicate fish stew, Meen pollichathu which is a whole fish stuffed with masala and cooked in banana leaves, traditionally made with Pearl spot, but in the US I have made it with Snapper, you can make Meen Peera with tilapia or anchovies if you can get fresh ones. That’s just for fish, there are so many variations of chicken and beef curries. I’ll think of some and post later.

  10. jo says

    5 stars
    I LOVE this! I was trying to find a recipe that would take me back there and this DID it! Thanks so much, will share it!

  11. Gale says

    I absolutely love fish curry, and this recipe sounds great! I live in Munich, Germany and was so excited recently to find fresh curry leaves at an Indian market here. Nothing else tastes the same and they really make this dish. Can’t wait to try your recipe!

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