This Indian spiced shrimp with fragrant tomato sauce and spices is so enticing, the aroma might just compel folks to make their way to the kitchen before dinner. Keep them close at hand and task them with setting the table—the succulent shrimp and seductive sauce come together in minutes, so you’ll be dishing it up faster than you think.–Jenny Howard

A blue-speckled bowl filled with Indian spiced shrimp, garnished with cilantro and served with flatbread.

Indian Spiced Shrimp

5 from 1 vote
This easy curry, Kadhai Jhinga, has a spicy kick. The sauce is prepared first to allow all the flavours to develop and intermingle, then the prawns are added for the last few minutes.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories260 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


  • 1/4 cup olive oil or mild vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large (10 1/2 oz) onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 green chile, stemmed, seeded (if desired), and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed, or 2 teaspoons garlic purée
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 7 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 1/4 pounds peeled raw tiger prawns (jumbo shrimp), tail-on and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves*
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Warm flat bread, such as naan, for serving (optional)


  • In a large, heavy skillet or wok over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the fennel seeds and ginger and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  • Add the onion and green chile and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is lightly but thoroughly browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Carefully pour 2 tablespoons hot water into the skillet—the liquid may spatter—and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the prawns, salt, and fenugreek and cook for 1 minute. Stir in 3/4 cup hot water, increase the heat slightly, and cook, still stirring, until the prawns are pink and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Stir in the garam masala and cilantro. Remove from the heat. If desired, serve with warm flat bread.


*What can I substitute for fenugreek leaves?

Dried fenugreek leaves can be pretty hard to come by unless you have an Indian market near you. However, you do have some options here. Celery leaves are an excellent option, especially Chinese celery because of the bitterness.  Alfalfa and watercress leaves are good, too. Maple syrup also makes an acceptable sub—fenugreek and maple syrup share a chemical compound that gives them a similar aroma. Tester Jennifer Combs used a 50-50 mixture of maple syrup and curry powder and found it worked perfectly. 
The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

Adapted From

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 260 kcalCarbohydrates: 10 gProtein: 21 gFat: 16 gSaturated Fat: 11 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 179 mgSodium: 1202 mgPotassium: 374 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 3 gVitamin A: 418 IUVitamin C: 10 mgCalcium: 129 mgIron: 2 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2017 Mridula Baljekar. Photo © 2017 Jon Whitaker. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

My children are transitioning from childhood to adolescence and are only just emerging out of the food phase where they pick out onions, peppers, or anything they identify as errant in a dish. It was with some hesitation that I served this Indian spiced shrimp for dinner last night. I needn’t have worried. They gave it two thumbs up. My daughter even had me scrape all of the sauce left in the bottom of the pan onto her plate so that she could dip the rest of her naan into it. I will definitely add this recipe to my permanent rotation.

While it’s great for a family dinner, it would also be wonderful served to guests. A complexity of flavors is elicited as a result of stir-frying the fennel seed, onion, green chile, and spices with oil. Knowing my audience, I scraped the pith and seeds from the chile pepper that I used. Next time, I might use some of it to add an increased spiciness to the dish.

This amount of shrimp served 4 people, giving each one between 6 and 7 shrimp. I’ll definitely increase the amount I use to 1 3/4 pounds to allow people to request seconds.

While the recipe calls for leaving the tails on the shrimp, my family found this to be unduly messy. Next time, I’ll completely shell the shrimp. All of the ingredients in the recipe were easy to find with the exception of the fenugreek leaves. I was pressed for time and unable to go to a second market. As a result of researching alternatives online, I substituted 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder for the fenugreek.

“This serves one,” declared my companion half-jokingly—he wasn’t referring to the amount of food—that’s how much this Indian spiced shrimp was enjoyed. Not only was the sauce absolutely scrumptious, but it also had the perfect “clingy” consistency for coating the succulent shrimp. Once I started frying the aromatics the smell was so enticing that I couldn’t wait to finish cooking and start eating!

The recipe does call for quite a few ingredients, but the process is simple and straightforward, it’ll make a nice weeknight dinner option. Do take the time to sauté the onion until lightly browned (mine took full 10 minutes) as it gives the sauce a lovely round flavor.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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