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This easy Thai-inspired salmon coconut curry has tender pan-seared salmon in a creamy red curry coconut milk sauce. It’s super flavorful and comforting!
Why you’ll love it
Pan-frying salmon is a skill that’s simple for home cooks to learn, and one of the most impressive ways to serve salmon is this red curry. Thai-style flavors are often a go-to for quick weeknight meals for me since they’re so fragrant and delicious.
I can’t resist a good coconut milk sauce, and there’s lots of sauce here! Thai red curry paste, extra garlic, onion, a bit of fish sauce, and lime juice is a symphony of flavors dancing on your tastebuds. Throw in some veggies and herbs, and it’s the perfect dish.
What you’ll need
- Salmon – we’re using fresh salmon cut into four smaller pieces
- Olive oil and butter – for pan frying
- Onion and garlic – I like using sweet (Vidalia) onions, and add even more garlic if you’re a big fan
- Thai red curry paste – it has red chili peppers, bright lemongrass, and spices. I buy Thai Kitchen brand, which is mild, but be aware that some brands are spicy.
- Fish sauce – you don’t have to add it, but if you haven’t tried it before, I strongly recommend it. It adds another layer of flavor to the dish. Don’t worry, the flavor mellows out a lot (it smells quite fishy out of the bottle). It also lasts a long time in the fridge!
- Full-fat coconut milk – for the rich, velvety quality of the sauce and to keep the fish tender
- Brown sugar – it balances out all the flavors without making it sweet
- Carrots and broccolini – for added nutrition, texture, and color. I used the pre-cut matchstick-cut carrots for convenience, but you can definitely julienne them yourself (or cut them into very thin rings). You can use regular broccoli if you wish, but be sure to cut it into small pieces so it cooks fast as well.
- Lime juice – a little acidity and burst of citrus flavor
- Basil and cilantro – these fresh herbs finish it all off for a pop of herb-y flavor
- The coconut milk you buy really matters. I prefer Thai Kitchen full-fat coconut milk. It’s rich and creamy. Other brands I’ve found can be watery. You can find it in the Asian section of the grocery store along with the red curry paste and fish sauce.
- Pan-searing salmon isn’t difficult, but it can be stressful if it’s sticking to the pan when you want to flip it. Some tips to avoid that from happening: pat the salmon dry, ensure the pan is good and hot, don’t move the fish around the pan, and let it cook a little longer so it releases naturally.
How to make Thai coconut salmon curry
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Cut the salmon, pat dry, and season with salt & pepper. Pan fry skin-side down, then flip it. Transfer it to a plate, and remove the skin if desired. Spoon out the oil less one tablespoon. Sauté the onion until golden, then stir in the garlic and curry paste.
After cooking for a minute, add in the fish sauce, coconut milk, sugar, carrots, and broccolini. Let it gently bubble until the veggies are tender-crisp. Stir in the lime juice, and return the salmon. Warm through, add extra salt & pepper if needed, and top with the fresh basil and cilantro.
Tools for this recipe
Check out Natasha’s favorite kitchen essentials, gadgets, and cookware!
Substitutions and variations
- Swap out the carrots and broccoli for something different if you want; just be sure they’re cut up small enough that they cook fast. Try peas (or snow peas), red bell peppers, and or even cut-up asparagus.
- Try adding some chopped fresh Thai chilis or some dried red pepper flakes if you like it spicy!
- If you’re not a cilantro person, feel free to leave it out. You could also garnish the dish with scallions if you like.
What to serve with Thai salmon curry
- You can’t go wrong serving this coconut curry salmon with rice to soak up all that yummy creamy broth. Try jasmine or basmati.
- Eat it as-is with a slice of fresh crusty bread or naan or roti bread, or make lettuce cups. I ended up eating the leftover salmon cold in a salad the next day, and that worked out nicely as well!
- Craving salad to complement this curry? Try my Thai Quinoa Salad.
Leftovers and storage
- Store any leftover salmon curry in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Reheat over a low heat in a saucepan slowly until warmed through.
- I don’t recommend freezing this one. The texture of both the fish and the vegetables will change.
If you tried this salmon curry with coconut milk, please leave a star rating and review below! Questions? Talk to me. You can also find me on Instagram.
Salmon Coconut Curry
- 1 pound fresh salmon
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 heaping tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (optional but recommended, see note)
- 1 (13.5 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/2 cup matchstick cut carrots
- 1 heaping cup chopped broccolini
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoons torn/chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- Cut the salmon into 4 equal pieces. Pat both sides dry with paper towel and season with salt & pepper.
- Add the oil and butter to a skillet over medium-high heat. Let the pan heat up for a few minutes.
- Cook the salmon, skin-side down, for 5 minutes. Flip it and cook for another 2-3 minutes (the fish should be almost done). If the fish is sticking at any point, give it a little longer to release naturally (don't force it).
- Take the salmon out of the pan and transfer it to a plate. If you don't want to eat the salmon skin, you can easily slide it off before adding the salmon back into the pan.
- Spoon some of the oil out of the skillet so you have about a tablespoon of it left in there.
- Add the onion to the skillet and sauté for about 3 minutes (should be getting lightly browned), then stir in the garlic and curry paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Add in the fish sauce, coconut milk, sugar, carrots, and broccolini. Let it gently bubble for about 5 minutes or so. The veggies should be tender-crisp, but you can cook them for a little longer if you prefer.
- Stir in the lime juice, then add the fish back to the pan. Let it warm through for a couple of minutes. Season with more salt & pepper as needed. Sprinkle with the basil and cilantro and serve immediately.
- I used Thai Kitchen coconut milk and highly recommend it because it’s thick and creamy and not watery like some other brands. I also used Thai Kitchen red curry paste.
- If you don’t want to buy fish sauce just for this recipe, you can swap with soy sauce, but it won’t have quite the same effect. I always keep some in my fridge… it really enhances Asian-inspired cooking!
- You can chop (julienne) your own carrots vs. using the pre-cut kind that I did and use broccoli instead of broccolini… just be sure to cut everything very small.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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This recipe was originally published on September 25, 2020. It’s been updated with new photos and better instructions but is the same great recipe!