Creamy Coconut Shrimp with coconut milk, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and basil is a delicious Whole30 and Paleo-friendly meal that comes together in less than 20 minutes.
This Creamy Coconut Shrimp made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, fresh basil, tomatoes, and tender shrimp in a creamy coconut sauce is seriously good. Like we were licking the sauce off our plates good.
I have always been a huge fan of shrimp curry. It's something I make all the time but I realize it isn't for everyone since the flavors can be strong and pungent. That's where this simple dish comes in.
It reminds me of a delicious curry dish but without the actual curry. You still get the creamy coconut milk, you still get garlic and ginger, you still get a touch of spice, but you don't get any of the funkiness of curry that some people don't like. It's so so good. You will make this shrimp again and again.
The other amazing thing about this Creamy Coconut Shrimp recipe is that it is ready in less than twenty minutes. This means that it's easy enough for any busy weeknight.
Why You'll Love Creamy Coconut Shrimp
There are so many reasons to love this recipe.
- Ready in 20 minutes: This restaurant-worthy dinner is ready in just 20 minutes and has just 9 ingredients.
- Great for meal prep: If you want a healthy, protein-packed meal for meal prep, this is it. Add steamed rice and veggies for a complete meal.
- Easy and healthy: This dish doesn't require any fancy equipment or prep work. It's healthy, packed with protein and healthy fats, and tastes delicious. It's also Whole30, Paleo, low-carb, gluten-free, and dairy free.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here is everything you need to make this tasty shrimp in coconut milk.
- Shrimp: This recipe works with any size shrimp you like. Usually, I use medium to large shrimp. Make sure they are fully defrosted and cleaned. You can leave the tail on or off. If you aren't a fan of shrimp, this dish is also delicious with chicken, tofu, scallops, and fish.
- Onion, garlic, and ginger: To build flavor and add a touch of spice, this recipe starts with sauteed onion, ginger, and garlic. Any type of onion can be used including white, yellow, red, and green onions. Try to use fresh ginger and garlic for the best flavor.
- Red pepper flakes: Most curry has some heat, so red pepper flakes add some spice to the dish. Swap in diced jalapenos or a couple of whole dried red Thai chilies if you prefer.
- Diced tomatoes: Normally I make this recipe with fresh cherry tomatoes since they add natural sweetness to balance the spice. Use any fresh tomatoes you have on hand or swap in canned diced tomatoes. Just make sure to drain them first.
- Coconut milk: There are three types of canned coconut milk you can use in this recipe. Canned coconut cream (normally solid in the can) will give you the creamiest, thickest sauce. Full-fat canned coconut milk makes for a really creamy sauce with tons of coconut flavor. Lite canned coconut milk adds less creaminess but is also lower in calories and saturated fat. Do not use the bottled coconut milk that is sold as a milk replacement with soy milk and almond milk. It isn't thick enough and will result in a watery sauce.
- Basil: This dish needs some brightness and basil is the perfect addition. It's a common addition to curries. You can also add cilantro, mint, or Thai basil.
- Salt and pepper: Make sure to finish the fish with kosher salt and pepper to taste. If it tastes bland at all, it is. lack of salt. You can also use soy sauce or coconut aminos to season this dish.
Note: If you prefer a more curry-forward flavor, add 1-2 tablespoons of red curry paste (or curry powder) to the saute pan along with the onion, garlic, and ginger.
How to Make Creamy Shrimp with Coconut Milk
This dish couldn't be easier to make!
1. Make the tomato coconut milk sauce
Start by sauteing the onions in a large skillet in coconut oil. Once they begin to soften, add the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and basil. Cook this all for about 1 minute until it is nice and fragrant. It should smell amazing.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes until they begin to burst and release their liquid. If you are using canned tomatoes, simply saute them for 1-2 minutes to deepen the flavor.
Add the canned coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes. It should begin to thicken. If for any reason it hasn't thickened, you can add a touch of cornstarch to the sauce to help it thicken.
2. Cook the shrimp
Add the shrimp directly to the skillet with the sauce. Let the shrimp cook for about 4-6 minutes until it is cooked through and opaque. Shrimp slightly curls inward when it is cooked. If it begins to curl into a circle, it is overcooking. The exact cooking time depends on the size of the shrimp.
Make sure to season the shrimp with salt and pepper to taste. Then top with extra fresh basil, fresh lime juice, fresh lime zest, chopped green onions, and any other garnish you like.
Side Dishes for Creamy Coconut Shrimp
When it comes to serving this dish, there are endless options.
- Low-carb options: Normally I serve it on a bed of zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or cauliflower rice for a low-carb and Whole30/Paleo-friendly option.
- Grains and noodles: It's also delish over brown rice, quinoa, steamed white rice, or soba noodles.
- Turn it into soup: If you love soup, add some chicken, fish, or shrimp broth and it quickly becomes a soup. You can throw in some veggies, rice noodles, or quinoa. Prepared this way, it kind of reminds me of traditional Thai coconut milk soup, especially if you squeeze in some lime juice.
- Veggies: This shrimp is really delicious with some roasted bok choy, Asian sauteed broccolini, or roasted cabbage.
Recipe Ideas and Variations
This recipe is easy to customize depending on what you have on hand or what you like.
- Use canned tomatoes: If you don't have fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes work just fine in this recipe. Drain the tomatoes before adding them so that you get a thick and creamy sauce.
- Full-fat coconut milk or cream: If you are following a Whole30, Keto, or Paleo diet make this with full-fat coconut milk or coconut milk. It will add about 130 calories per serving. This also makes the richest, creamiest sauce.
- Adjust the spices: Adjust the amount of garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes to suit your tastes. Usually, I punch up the red pepper flakes since we like things really spicy. You can also leave them out completely if spice isn't your thing.
- Change up the herbs: If you don't like the taste of basil or don't have any on hand, you could substitute fresh cilantro or mint in place of the basil.
- Add vegetables: This dish comes out great with extra vegetables. Add zucchini, green beans, thinly sliced cabbage, or bell peppers along with the tomatoes. Or stir in spinach while the shrimp cooks.
Pro Tips for Buying Shrimp
Whenever I share a shrimp recipe, there are always lots of questions about buying and defrosting shrimp.
- Frozen shrimp: If you remember, just pop it in the fridge the night before so it's defrosted by dinner time. If you need to quickly defrost them, it's easy. Just place the shrimp in a colander and run cold water over the shrimp for about five minutes, tossing them a few times. It isn't recommended to cook shrimp from frozen since the outside overcooks while the inside stays raw.
- Save money: Almost all grocery store shrimp is previously frozen and has just been defrosted at the store. Save money by buying the bags of frozen shrimp, which tend to be $1-2 cheaper than the shrimp at the fish counter. Stock up on frozen shrimp when its on sale.
- Save time: Buy the raw shrimp that has been shelled and deveined to save time. It may cost about $1 extra per pound but will save you tons of time cleaning and deveining the shrimp.
- Size: When choosing the size of the shrimp, I generally recommend large shrimp, either 26/30 or 31/35. These numbers tell you how many shrimp per pound. For example, if the shrimp says 26/30, there should be between 26-30 shrimp per pound.
Can I make this with chicken?
If shrimp isn't your favorite protein, you can swap in chicken breast instead. Just chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add it in place of the shrimp.
Depending on the size of the chicken, it could take anywhere from 8-10 minutes to cook. Lean pork tenderloin or fish would work as well.
Storage and Leftovers
This dish keeps well and the sauce actually tastes even better after a night in the fridge.
- Refrigerator: Store the shrimp once it has fully cooled in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Reheat gently in a skillet or in the microwave.
- Freezer: This dish freezes well. Let it cool first and then store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let naturally defrost in the fridge overnight.
- Reheating: Shrimp can become rubbery when reheated in the microwave so reheat this in a skillet if possible. If a microwave is the only option, reheat it at lower power so it doesn't overcook.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about making this creamy shrimp dish.
There are three kinds of canned coconut milk available in most supermarkets - coconut cream, coconut milk, and lite coconut milk. Coconut cream has the highest fat content and is the creamiest. It is usually solid in the can. Full-fat coconut milk usually has a solid part and a liquid part in the can and is very creamy. Lite coconut milk is usually all liquid and has the least amount of fat and creaminess.
In order to make the sauce thick and creamy, coconut milk is the best option. It also adds coconut flavor to the dish. If you want to make it without coconut milk, the best option would be heavy cream or Greek yogurt.
Creamy Coconut Shrimp with Tomatoes
- Get in your Inbox
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/2 cup onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 2 tbsp. basil, chopped
- 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
- 2 cups tomatoes, chopped
- 1 1/3 cup canned lite coconut milk (full fat for Paleo/Whole30/Low Carb)
- 2 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Like this Recipe? Try our Meal Plans!
- Weekly Meal Plans
- Easy Shopping List
- Healthy, Low Carb, & Vegetarian
- Nutritional Information
Switch to prevent your screen from going dark.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
Get delicious, healthy recipes delivered each week right to your inbox.
Snap a picture and show us what you made on Instagram or Facebook.
Tag us using @SlenderKitchen or #slenderkitchen.