EZ Coconut Curry


As y’all can probably tell from my devotion to cumin, I love earthy, warm, spicy-sweet piles of food. I found a recipe for coconut curry at Simply Recipes and adapted it for my glamorous and glitzy dino-chow lifestyle. And now I’m sharing it with you, ’cause I like you.

Full disclosure: I totally cheat in the kitchen. I usually have cooked chicken, ground beef, and pork chops ready-to-go in the fridge, then I make sauces and salsas and coconut milk- or tahini-based yummy things and pour them over the top. I am a master assembler of tasty piles of food. I made the recipe below by cooking the curry sauce separately, then stir-frying it into already-cooked ground beef. I poured that mixture on top of already-steamed green beans re-heated in the microwave. EZ-peasy. But you can also follow the instructions below if you haven’t already hoarded protein sources and veggies in your fridge like a paleo-squirrel.

Beautiful Basil Sprigs for Coconut Curry | meljoulwan.com

EZ Coconut Curry with Basil

Serves 2-4

Spice blend:
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1 pound protein: ground beef, cubed beef/lamb/chicken, shrimp

  • your favorite cooking fat

  • 1 medium onion, diced

  • 5 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

  • 1 cup canned coconut milk

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn


Combine spices in a small bowl and set aside.


Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add cooking fat and allow it to melt. Sauté protein until it’s nicely browned and cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper while it cooks.


Remove the protein from the pan and throw in the onion, garlic, and jalapeños. Stir fry until tender and the onions are translucent. Don’t burn the garlic!


Add the protein back into the pan and toss in the spices. Stir fry until fragrant; about 30 seconds.


Add the coconut milk and simmer until the meat is cooked through and the sauce thickens a bit. Toss in the basil leaves, stir, and serve.

Tasty Ideas

Serve over...

Steam-Sautéed Veggies: green beans, chopped spinach, chopped kale or collards.

This is also really nice with sliced fresh tomatoes and sliced cucumbers on the side. Bonus points if you squeeze lime or lemon juice over them and top with chopped fresh cilantro.

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  • Team CS says:

    SOunds great! I'm going to try this tonight.

    One word.


  • Jessica says:

    What an awesome idea! I'm totally going to become a Paleo squirrel!! =)

  • Melicious says:

    I think some day I will write an Ode to Cumin. Or a cumin haiku. Or both!

  • Melicious says:

    And maybe we need to draw a paleo squirrel!

  • nadia says:

    sounds yummy! an easy sub for the spices (coriander,cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardomom, pepper) is the Indian spice Garam Masala, which contains all those ingredients in roughly the same ratio. but the fresh ground spices are sooo yummy…..

  • MelissaG says:

    Hey girl,looks awesome. I'm going to give it a try over the weekend.

  • Barbara says:

    Can you make a curry dish without *gasp* coconut milk? Just checking:)

  • Melicious says:

    Barbara, yes, you can! If you're not opposed to dairy, you can use Greek yogurt instead of coconut milk. You can also use chicken broth instead of either, but it won't be creamy. Amounts are equal, so you can just follow the recipe and swap the liquid as you like.

    Hello, Melissa G! Nice to see you!

    Nadia, I learned at Penzeys that garam masala also tastes great mixed with traditional yellow curry powder — just do half currey powder, half garam masala. If you try it, let me know how it is!

  • Amber says:

    So we're talking the coconut milk in a can, right? (just asking because they sell it like SOY milk now too! (which is kinda awesome, really)

  • Melicious says:

    I use the kind in a can. If you look at this blog post you can see the EXACT kind if get at the grocery store:

  • Muslfetish says:

    Oh I can't wait to try this! Everything's better with coconut 🙂

  • Melicious says:

    You know, it really IS better with coconut. One of the things that was hard about saying goodbye to dairy was giving up Greek yogurt. I wasn't eating a lot of "creamy" stuff, but sometimes I just crave that mouth-feel.

    Now with coconut milk and the tahini dressing, my creamy jones is totally satisfied — AND I'm getting healthy fats at the same time.

    Don't you love the win-win with yummy food?!

  • Amber says:

    AHA! Whole foods actually sells it too, thankfully I've got one..err..two right around the corner from here. Yes, we're spoiled here in Boston 😉

  • Erin says:

    Yum – made this last night, thanks for the recipe! Also thanks for introducing me to Penzeys – that place is amazing.

    And congrats on your pull-up success! Very cool.

  • George says:

    I just made this for dinner. It was terrific! I can hardly wait for breakfast. 🙂

  • Denise says:

    paleo-squirrel… funny, love it.. thanks for the recipe.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hi, Denise! Thanks for stopping by… glad you like the recipe and the ridiculous squirrel reference.

  • mig says:

    damn it. i just made this for the first time, with very clean ground turkey and lots of julienned red pepper.

    i ate about half of it right out of the pan. PROBLEM! 🙂

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Mig! HA! That's awesome. Love that story.

  • ArjadieJai says:

    I just made this and it's so freakin delicious I can barely stand it. Things this good don't come out of my kitchen. Minus the cardamom though…I couldn't bring myself to pay that much for a spice.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    ArjadieJai, I'm so glad you like it! If your local grocery store has bulk spices, you can usually get just enough for a recipe like this for a few cents… I do that with spices I don't use frequently. But, as you discovered, it tastes pretty good without it, too.

  • faithskiJ says:

    You are hilarious! This blog is a mega jackpot!. First, great recipes all in one convenient place, I've pretty much made my whole food plan for the week from this one source. Second, the term "paleo squirrel." I think that could be a stand alone quality for me to keep reading.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    faithskiJ –> Awesome! I'm glad you like the recipes — and feel free to think of yourself as a paleo squirrel 🙂

  • Jax_BabyJeep says:

    Oh my freaking goodness!!!
    Made this tonight for the first time – and honestly – it doesn’t get much more fabulous than this <3 Thank you!

  • Mel says:

    Jax_BabyJeep –> Thank YOU. Nothing better than seeing the word fabulous floating around. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Tracie says:

    Just made this. Funny story, came home and found the recipe and wanted to make this so badly that I went to the store for the coconut milk. After much discssion it turned out they were out of coconut milk. So it’s 7:00 and I’m starving so I picked up Chipotle on the way home.

    THEN, went BACK out to a different store because I still so badly wanted to make this recipe that I made it AFTER dinner. Just finished. It is completely delicious. I agree with the previous poster that half can be eaten right out of the pan. We are actually going to have it for dinner with the Curry Fried Frice tomorrow, but it’s staring at me from the counter and is hard to resist!

    Question…we love spicy food, but for some reason the jalapenos scared me in this one. I doubled the recipe except for the jalapenos. It tastes great with full flavor but certainly isn’t spicy. Am I safe to put the full amount of jalapenos in and not make it too spicy? I used to be able to correct with sugar if my curries ended up too spicy, but obviously that is out of the question. I removed the seeds and ribs, so maybe that cooled them down a bit.

    LOVE your recipes!! Next up, Meatsa Pizza after my Penzey’s arrives!

    • Mel says:

      I love your dedication. AWESOME!

      The only way to know about the jalapenos is to try them… sorry! No scientific answer here. Our jalapenos in Texas are really hot, but I’ve had them in other parts of the country and thought they were mild. The only way to know for sure is to experiment.

      And yes, removing the seeds and ribs makes them less hot.

      Have fun with the Meatza Pie! I’m re-testing the recipe this weekend and we’re shooting it for the cookbook. So fun!

  • Luke R. says:

    I feel completely comfortable with stating that this recipe was wicked awesome… and I’m not even from Boston.

  • VSkribble says:

    Yey! Made this tonight with a curry in mind but not really knowing where to start… I kinda improvised a bit & Sauteed garlic, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and zucchini, then added shrimp, threw in the spices & coconut milk, and HOT DAMN was it good! Was even hesitant to let my dog lick the bowl cause i wanted to myself 🙂

    Only disappointment was that Mark Wahleberg never got around to talking to a squirrel. Whats that all about?

  • Heidi says:


    Made this for din-din tonight, in about a blink of an eye by the way. Anyhoo… Not only did EVERYONE eat like it, their plates were licked clean. And these are the kids and hubs who get about as exotic as bread and butter, if ya know what mean. Too bad nothing is left over for my meals tomorrow but that is an inconvenience I am happy to live with if it means they are slamming their dino chow in just about as fast as I can make it.

    Awesome way to start the week! Thx

  • ann erard says:

    I like your style! Had the chicken curry last night at a friends and wanted more! More recipes and more curry!

  • Jenna S. says:

    wow, this recipe was amazing! I even left out the chili powder and jalapenos to make it knightshade free and it was still awesome! It’s definitely going to be my new go-to meal.

  • Lara says:

    This was wonderful! All of the spices were perfect. It made me excited to try more of your recipes. Thank you!!

  • Mel says:

    HOORAY! I’m glad you guys like this recipe and are finding ways to make it your own. Hope you’re having fun in the kitchen and eating with gusto!

  • paleonewbie says:


    Do you use canned coconut milk or the one that is found inthe refirgerated aisle??

    • Mel says:

      Good question! You always want to use canned because the stuff in the cartons usually has other junk added to it. For canned, if you can get it without guar gum that’s best, but if not, guar gum is OK.

  • Colleen says:

    Can you cook this in a crock-pot?

  • Malena says:

    This looks delish! Question, what kind of vinegar should I use?

  • Malena says:

    I just made this for dinner tonight. I used ground turkey and served it over your Pineapple Fried F’rice. I’m sooo happy to report it was delicious! Even my my two very picky little boys liked it and that’s amazing!!! Thank you for the yummy recipes!

  • Susan says:

    Love this one! It is one of our go-to favorites now. Thanks so much for sharing it! I just got Well Fed for the Kindle Fire – it’s fabulous!

    • Mel says:

      Thank YOU! We’ve been selling a bunch of Kindle copies, but we haven’t gotten any feedback yet. So glad to know you like it!

  • Nicole says:

    Well Fed got ordered the day I made Moroccan Meatballs and Fouscous! FAB!!!! Hadn’t heard of Paleo, until I read from your blog that was linked somehow on a recipe of the day on Crossfit (also doing research on getting all the equipment to do Crossfit, as we don’t have any affiliates anywhere near us!)
    Well Fed was supposed to arrive today, but I couldn’t wait for dinner, made this recipe and OH MY! FREAKTASTIC!!!! LOVE IT!

  • Danielle says:

    I made this and it was amazing and super easy. I just want to bathe in the coconut milk curry!

  • Vanessa Carey says:

    This was so very good! The richness of the spices and the heat of the chili. Served it with green beans and pepper. A beautiful golden colour as well. I did add more coconut milk as I like my curries quite saucy. Will definitely be making this again!

  • knitizen says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE your book! it’s the first one that made it click for me and has recipes that are delicious, easy to make and fit into my chaotic life. And my family suddenly think I’m an amazing cook! Specific to this recipe, it is my go-to for a quick and easy meal. Today I threw it over almond biscuits and had a fabulous variation on “biscuits and gravy”. Forgot that the butter in the biscuits make it un-Paleo so next time will try ghee, but really, thank you. My digestion thanks you as much as my tastebuds do!

    • Mel says:

      I’m really glad to know Well Fed and my recipes are helping make paleo a little more manageable. That sounds like a kickass dinner. YAY! Hope you continue to have fun playing with the recipes.

  • Konnie says:

    I made this for dinner tonight with mashed cauliflower and sweet plantains. It was a HUGE hit, almost too huge. We weren’t very good with portion control. 😉

  • Kirsten says:

    I made one of the indian “hot plates” that you had in Well Fed, I used a teaspoon of curry powder, and a teaspoon of garam masala. it was fantastic! I love the idea of the hot plates, I’m totally going to start making them more often

  • Mari says:

    I made this earlier this week with chicken and added lots of veggies: broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms… YUM!!!


  • Renee says:

    I’ve made this 3 or 4 times in the past 2 months as a fish curry and our family loves it! It’s so easy and adaptable. I was so surprised that my kids actually liked fish curry!? Keeping this in the rotation. I usually make it with carrots and I add canned diced tomatoes at the end. I tried your cauliflower “rice” the other day and I might try serving this curry over the “rice” in the future.

  • Angela L says:

    I made this tonight with green beans, and it was so good!

  • Sefanit Mekonnen says:

    I made this today along with the Cauliflower f’rice – it was SO good! Thanks for the recipe!!

  • Heidi says:

    I just have to say this is fantastic. Really great. It’s going on our favorites list, and I am pretty sure I will be up 5 lbs in the morning….NOT!!!! Thank you!

  • trishdish says:

    Hey Mel, aspiring Paleo squirrel here. Can you freeze just the awesome sauce and proteins separately so some day in the future you can choose your own adventure that way?

    • Mel says:

      Protein on its own doesn’t freeze/defrost very well — except for meatballs. They seem to hold up very well. But for this, I’d either recommend making it all just before eating — or make a batch and freeze in the sauce… keeping in mind that it won’t taste as good after defrosting. Coconut milk only does so-so in the defrost process.

  • FG says:

    I have both your cookbooks and man oh, you are amazingly talented. I just love the combinations you come up with. And it’s always fun seeing what tasty creation comes from seemingly weirdo ingredients.
    You are a true rock and roll cookin’ chick! Thanks for sharing yourself with us.

    And now for my not so fancy question…
    What would be a good substitute for store bought chili powder?
    They contain garlic, whih doesn’t work for me. I’m apparently broken. Do you have a chili powder recipe or ratios that I could use to whoop up a batch?

    Not a vamp.

    • Mel says:

      You’re so nice… thank you! I’m really glad you’re enjoying my recipes.

      Homemade chili powder. Hmmm… I’ve never made it myself. Which, now that I think about it, seems kind of weird. This one from Alton Brown looks like a good starting place — just omit the garlic powder. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/abs-chili-powder-recipe.html

      This one from TheKitch.com looks good, too.

      2 tablespoons ground chilis – ancho is best, but paprika can do in a pinch

      1 tablespoon ground cumin

      1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

      1/2 teaspoon cayenne

      Optional extras: 2 teaspoons coriander, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder

      Combine spices in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake until evenly mixed, and store in a dark cupboard.

  • Catherine says:

    Delicious!!! I was a little worried, but I have loved every recipe of yours that I tried, so I gave it a go. Definitely the best curry I have ever made, and possibly the best I’ve ever eaten 🙂

    I needed to quadruple it for the entire family, and I served it with the oven-roasted cauliflower. It was a universal hit 🙂

  • Alison Jackson says:

    Wonderful recipe! Have made it twice now, delish!! Thankyou so much 🙂

  • Tina says:

    You crack me up, Melissa! “I am a master of tasty piles of food.” I aspire to become the same. Thank you for your wonderful blog.

  • Nancy B says:

    Just finished my first Whole30 and you and your recipes (like this one) are probably the biggest reason I was able to do it! I made this for breakfast this morning (!) using leftover fried trout caught locally and given to us by a friend. I added some little salad shrimp to up the protein, then combined it all with zucchini noodles. One of my best early mornings of the last month! Thanks so much for a great website! Love your Well Fed 2 book, thinking I’ll have to get the first one, too!

  • Jen says:

    Well Fed 1 and 2 were 2 of the first 3 paleo books I bought. Such lifesavers. This coconut curry recipe is turning out to be one of my all time faves. I have made it over a dozen times in the past year and usually make a double batch so I can have lots of leftovers during the week. Thanks!!