Masala Fry Fish Curry is a delicious and simple weeknight meal that hits just the spot. Prepared using a combination of fresh ingredients and easy-to-source simple spices, this fish curry has a cooking time of only 20-25 minutes.
After living in Karachi for 14 years and now on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 20, I'm a big seafood fan. This recipe is one of my favorite ways to cook white fish, and I usually use Tilapia when making it.
Not only is this the fish that converted my husband into a fish lover, but it's also one of the few varieties my pickiest eater loves. Add to this the fact that it cooks very quickly compared to other chunkier varieties of white fish, and you have a winner on your hands.
Sitting down with my family, I love fish curry best with plain basmati rice, but homemade naan is also a wonderful option. I add some sides if I make it to serve in a more formal setting. A few favorites are moong-masoor dal lentil curry, Hyderabadi bagara baingan, kachumber salad, and raita.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Quick & Easy Recipe - With a cooking time of just 30 minutes, this is a great recipe for those busy weekday nights.
- Healthy Recipe - Per Keith Pearson, Ph.D., RD in Healthline, "Tilapia is a pretty impressive source of protein. In 3.5 ounces (100 grams), it packs 26 grams of protein and only 128 calories,". You'll feel great about serving this to your family!
- Budget-friendly recipe - Tilapia is a budget-friendly seafood option for dinner.
- Not a fishy fish - This fish curry is usually a favorite since it's made with Tilapia. Due to its mild flavor, Tilapia appeals even to people who aren't big seafood fans.
- Fish - I love cooking with Tilapia because it has a mild flavor, is easy to source, and is affordable.
- Onions - I like to use yellow onions for all my curries, such as my Aloo Gosht and my Beef Kofta, since they taste mild, with my backup being red onions.
- Tomatoes - Roma tomatoes or any other plum variety is best for curries since they are juicy and are easy to mash and blend.
- Serrano Chilies - Add these whole, slit them in the middle, or cut them up, depending on how spicy you want your fish curry.
- Green Onions - A spring onion garnish adds a nice taste, texture, and finish to this curry.
- Cooking Oil - Any neutral cooking oil such as avocado, canola, sunflower, or vegetable will work for this masala fry fish recipe.
- Cumin Seeds - Tempered cumin seeds add a delicious earthy aroma and taste to the curry and ensure no fishy smell.
For the complete list of ingredients for this masala fry fish recipe, with measurements plus recipe instructions, please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Substitutions & variations
- Try making this a masala fry shrimp curry - I love using this recipe with shrimp. Use peeled and deveined large or medium shrimp for best results, and follow the recipe exactly as is.
- Make this a thin soupy curry - I like a dry masala for my fish, but many people like a thin gravy called a "salan." Add double the water and use an immersion blender to create a smooth puree so you don't have floating pieces of onions and tomatoes. Once the curry is ready, add the fish and cook for about 8 minutes.
- Add different spices - Whole spices like Ajwain, Mustard Seeds, and Fenugreek all pair beautifully with any seafood. Switch it up occasionally and add 1, 2, or all 3 to your fish curry spice blend.
- Substitute the Kashmiri Chilies - Paprika is a perfect substitute for Kashmiri Chilies in this or any other recipe.
Step 1 - Dice the onion and add it to the preheated cooking oil in a large shallow frying pan with a lid.
Step 2 - Add the ginger garlic paste once the onion is golden brown.
Step 3 - After about 30 seconds, add the diced tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes soften, and then add the cumin seeds (add the carom seeds at this point if you're using them).
Step 4 - After a 30-second saute, add ½ cup of water, cover your skillet, and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
Step 5 - After 10 minutes, uncover the skillet, add the masala fry dry spices (turmeric powder, red chili powder, Kashmiri chili powder, salt, coriander powder, and cumin powder), and turn the stove high.
Step 6 - Saute continuously at this point, mashing the tomatoes and onions as you fry the spicy masala.
Step 7 - Once you have a cohesive mixture and the oil separates and floats to the top, add the green chilies (serrano) and saute for 30 seconds. By this point, your masala fry for your fish curry is ready.
Step 8 - Add the remaining ½ cup of water, stir, add the Tilapia fish fillets in an even layer, and sprinkle with the curry leaves.
Step 9 - Cover and cook for 5 minutes, till the fish turns white.
Step 10 - Gently flip the fish pieces over, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Step 11 - For perfect results, use a Thermapen to check the internal temperature of the fish.
Step 12 - You're ready to eat your masala fry fish curry once your thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Don't overcook the fish - When cooking any seafood, remember not to overcook it as it will get dry and stringy. Stay under 10 minutes of cooking time and use a thermometer for best results.
- Keep your fish dry - Keeping your filets dry helps prevent it from smelling fishy. I like to pat my filets dry before I cook them.
- Add some lemon for the smell - Squeezing lemon juice on the fish neutralizes any fishy smell. Try it next time you cook seafood dishes.
- Soak the filets in milk - Per Epicurious, If you're finicky about the smell of fish or are using a fish with a strong smell, soak it in milk for 20 minutes before cooking your fish curry. This is a great way of eliminating any odor.
- Grate the ginger - I used to peel and crush my ginger in a mortar and pestle until I learned an amazing hack from Amanda at scarlatifamilykitchen.com.I freeze my ginger whole as soon as I buy it and then grate it frozen, without peeling it, using my Ginger Tool. It works like magic, and I'm done in seconds!
It's always a good idea to eat your fish curry fresh. So I try to calculate the servings per person and minimize leftovers. If I have any leftover fish curry, I don't store it for more than one day.
The best thing to do is remove the fish from your serving dish into a large bowl and cover it with foil to stay warm. Then turn the heat up and dry out the excess water. Once ready, pour this curry over the fish and serve.
Grouper and Mahi Mahi have a mild flavor similar to Tilapia and are good options for this fish curry recipe. The texture of both varieties is more firm, but they work well for masala fry fish curry. Red snapper, a mild, sweet, and flaky fish, tastes great in spicy fish masala.
Other curries you may like
I hope you decide to try this recipe! Please don't forget to leave a rating and comment below! If you take a picture, then tag me on Instagram! Thank You!
Masala Fry Fish Curry
The Fish Curry
- 2 lbs tilapia (see notes)
- ¼ cup neutral cooking oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 tsp garlic paste (see notes)
- 2 tsp ginger paste (see notes)
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp carom seeds(ajwain) (optional)
- 1 cup water
- 2 serrano chilies (see notes)
- 2 green onions
- 10 curry leaves
- ½ cup cilantro
The Masala Fry Spice Mix
- 1 tsp salt (see notes)
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder (see notes)
- ½ tsp Kashmiri chili powder (see notes)
- Dice the onion and add it to the preheated cooking oil in a large shallow frying pan with a lid (see notes).
- Once the onion is medium brown, add the garlic paste and grated ginger.
- After about 30 seconds, add the diced tomatoes and cook them until they soften, adding the cumin seeds (add the carom seeds if you're using them) at that point.
- Then add ½ cup of water, cover your pan, and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, uncover the pan, add the masala fry spice mix, and turn the stove on high. Saute continuously at this point, mashing the tomatoes and onions as you fry the masala (see notes).
- Once you have a cohesive mixture and the oil separates and floats to the top, add in the serrano chilies and saute for 30 seconds.
- Add the remaining ½ cup of water, stir, and add the Tilapia filets in an even layer, sprinkle with the curry leaves, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, till the fish turns white.
- Gently flip each filet over, cover, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
- For perfect results, use a Thermapen to check the internal temperature of the fish. The perfect reading is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.