Thai Fish Curry is one of the quickest dinner recipes you’ll make. It requires almost no prep but delivers amazing flavor. Flaky cod is gently cooked in a vibrant sauce with flavors of red chilies, lime leaves, and coconut. Creamy coconut milk perfectly balances the spice of the sauce, which tastes best when absorbed by a bowl full of jasmine rice. (Instant Pot and Stovetop Instructions included.)
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Authentic Choo Chee Thai fish curry is made by cooking the fish and pouring the choo chee coconut sauce over the fish to coat it. The fish is usually fried, but it can also be poached, baked, or steamed.
As usual, I wanted to get wonderful flavor with minimal work and that’s how this Thai fish curry recipe came about. This recipe is my take on making Thai fish curry in the Instant Pot. Stovetop instructions are also included below.
A good Thai curry requires quality ingredients. You can read more about my quest to find the right ingredients for Thai curries on my Instant Pot Thai Red Curry recipe blog post.
All my Instant Pot Thai recipes are super easy, but of all the Thai curry recipes that I make, this one takes the least time.
Thai curries taste best with Jasmine rice rather than long grain, basmati, or even brown rice. Fluffy jasmine rice soaks up the irresistible sauce to deliver perfect flavor in every bite!
Here are some other super easy Thai recipes you’re going to love!
– Instant Pot Thai Red Curry
– Instant Pot Thai Green Curry
– Instant Pot Thai Massaman Curry
– Instant Pot Thai Yellow Curry
– Instant Pot Thai Panang Curry
– Instant Pot Thai Grilled Chicken (Gai Yang)
– Instant Pot Thai Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Gai)
– Instant Pot Thai Peanut Noodles
– Instant Pot Jasmine Rice
Tips and Substitutions
I use a firm, fleshy white fish like cod, salmon or haddock. The fish pieces I use are usually an inch or more in thickness.
If you’re using a thinner or flakier fish fillet like tilapia, it’s possible you could overcook the fish in the Instant Pot, so reduce the cooking time. Be very careful when removing the fish not to let it break apart.
When I forget to thaw the fish, I cut the frozen cod into pieces and follow the same recipe without changing cooking time. If it needs to be cooked further, use the Saute function for a couple of minutes. Works great!
Maesri makes a choo chee curry paste that’s terrific. However, it’s not easy to find. It is available on amazon but is more expensive than red, green and the multi-pack curry pastes. If you’re unable to purchase choo chee curry paste, a good substitute is red curry paste.
Maesri and Mae Ploy are my two favorite Thai red curry paste brands. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a difference the brand makes. You can find them at Southeast Asian grocery stores or on amazon.
In my experience, getting the brand of Thai red curry paste available at regular grocery stores does not produce great flavor. I won’t name names, but it comes in a small glass jar.
If the curry is too spicy at the end, add some more coconut milk to balance out the spice.
Choo chee curry is supposed to have a heavier coconut flavor than other Thai recipes and it should also have some coconut oil glistening on the top, from the coconut oil separating from coconut milk. To achieve this, I add coconut oil to this recipe.
One way to add even more flavor is to add two tablespoons of toasted coconut paste. Toasting the coconut does take up to 15 minutes. This is an optional step and the curry tastes great even if you don’t have the toasted coconut.
- Toast two tablespoons of unsweetened coconut flakes in a small frying pan until a rich golden brown. Be sure not to burn the coconut.
- Place the toasted coconut in a mini blender bowl.
- Add just enough water to get the blender moving.
- If you find that the coconut mixture is too thick and isn’t moving, add one tablespoon of water at a time, stirring before trying again. If you add too much water, the coconut won’t blend properly.
- Grind the mixture to a very smooth paste. It should not be grainy.
- Stir this coconut mixture into the coconut milk before cooking the fish.
Lime leaves (also known as k-lime, makrut or kaffir lime leaves) add unique flavor to Thai curries.
You can find them at Asian grocery stores. I highly recommend using them. They keep very well in the freezer!
I like to either scrunch up the lime leaves and bruise them before adding them to the curry or chiffonade them by cutting them into very thin strips. This releases the oils from the leaves and adds a stronger flavor.
If you can’t find lime leaves, add an extra teaspoon or two of lime juice. Taste as you go.
In this curry, I like to chiffonade the lime leaves into long thin slivers. This involves slicing the leaves into long, very thin strips. They make for a pretty garnish too.
I really like the quality of Red Boat fish sauce which you can find at Asian grocery stores or on amazon. But it is more expensive than other fish sauce brands. Tiparos is another brand of fish sauce I’ve used – it’s more affordably priced.
There’s no substitute for fish sauce. It adds that depth of flavor, the umami, to dishes. I’ve had vegetarian readers recommend the Fysh brand of sauce. But I haven’t tried it. You may need to add a little extra.
Soy sauce is also a substitute for fish sauce, but there is a flavor difference.
Also note that Thai curries are generally eaten with rice. If you’re not planning on eating the curry with rice, you might need to adjust the salt by reducing the quantity of fish sauce.
I use full-fat coconut milk. I find some coconut milk brands don’t do well during pressure cooking, including some brands that are widely available at grocery stores. My two favorite brands are Aroy-D and Chaokoh. Some readers recommend Trader Joe’s brand coconut milk.
This recipe has less coconut milk than my usual curry recipes because choo chee curry is supposed to be a thick curry. However, you can change the recipe up by adding a whole can of coconut milk (about 2 cups). You will need to also increase the quantity of curry paste to three tablespoons if you want to keep the spice level of the original recipe.
Palm sugar is more authentic to a Thai curry than brown sugar is. However, I frequently use brown sugar without sacrificing taste.
Choo chee curry does not traditionally have Thai basil. If you love Thai basil and want to add some, feel free to do that. You’re the chef and you get to add what you like!
Low Pressure vs High Pressure
If your Instant Pot does not have the Low Pressure option, pressure cook on High Pressure for 1 minute.
If you’re new to the Instant Pot and aren’t familiar with how to use it, you might find it helpful to first read one of the following guides and then come back here to learn how to make this recipe.
- Instant Pot DUO Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot ULTRA Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO EVO PLUS Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO NOVA Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO GOURMET Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO CRISP Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot PRO Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot PRO CRISP Beginner’s Manual
Thai Fish Curry – Ingredients
- Coconut oil
- Fish sauce
- Lime leaves
- Coconut milk
- Curry paste
- Brown sugar
- Lime juice
How to Make Instant Pot Thai Fish Curry (Step by Step Instructions)
- Turn on Saute Mode
- Saute coconut milk and spices
- Stir in fish
- Pressure cook
- Do a quick release
- Stir in seasonings
How to Turn on Saute Mode
- Instant Pot DUO: Select the Saute function.
- Instant Pot ULTRA: Select the Saute function and press Start.
Saute Coconut Milk and Spices
- Stir together a half cup of coconut milk and the curry paste.
- Saute until the mixture is thick and bubbly, about 1 minute.
- Use a splatter screen if needed, to avoid splatters.
- Press Cancel and add in coconut oil. Stir for 30 seconds.
Stir in Fish
- Stir in the remaining coconut milk.
- Add in the fish, and carefully spoon the coconut milk sauce over the fish so the fish is covered with sauce.
Concerned about the fish breaking apart while stirring the sauce? Instead of stirring, remove the Instant Pot inner pot (using oven mitts) and gently swirl around the sauce to cover the fish. If it’s hard to get the coconut milk moving, add a bit more coconut milk or some water.
Instant Pot Duo Low Pressure 3 Minutes
- Close the lid and make sure steam release handle is in the Sealing position
- Press Manual (or Pressure Cook) and + or – until the display reads 3 (3 minutes).
- Press Pressure or Pressure Level until the Low Pressure light is on.
Instant Pot Ultra Low Pressure 3 minutes
- Close the lid.
- Select Pressure Cook mode and adjust the time to 3 minutes (00:03).
- Select Pressure and adjust the pressure level to Low.
- Press Start.
Pressure Cooking Process (Duo and Ultra)
- Instant Pot display will change to On.
- Once the Instant Pot is pressurized, the float valve will go up.
- The display will count down to 0; it will then switch to Keep Warm mode and display L0:00 or 00 00 and begin to count up the number of minutes since pressure cooking completed.
- The above images show High Pressure but your Instant Pot will indicate Low Pressure since you programmed the pressure level to low.
How to Quick Release Pressure (QR) on the DUO
- Move the steam release handle to Venting. Steam will come out of the steam release handle.
- When your Instant Pot is depressurized, the float valve will be in the down position.
- Press Cancel and open the Instant Pot.
How to Quick Release Pressure (QR) on the ULTRA
- Press down on the Steam Release Button until it locks into place, and steam begins to come out of the Steam Release Valve.
- When your Instant Pot is depressurized, the float valve will be in the down position.
- Press Cancel and open the Instant Pot.
[Find out more about the pressure release methods and how and when to use them. ]
Stir in Seasonings
- Add fish sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice. Either stir carefully or remove the inner pot from the base unit using oven mitts and swirl the curry around to mix up the ingredients. The fish may have a tendency to flake, so be very careful that it doesn’t break apart.
- Garnish with lime leaves.
- The residual heat of the Instant Pot should be sufficient to heat up the ingredients but if you wish, turn on Saute mode and heat all ingredients for about 30 seconds.
Stovetop Directions for Thai Fish Curry
To make this recipe on the stovetop, heat the curry paste, some of the coconut milk, and the coconut oil till bubbly, Add the fish and remaining ingredients except lime leaves. If the sauce is too thick add a couple more tablespoons of coconut milk or water. Cook until fish is tender. Adjust seasonings and add lime leaves and heat through. See the recipe card below for detailed instructions.
Thai Fish Curry | Instant Pot and Stovetop Instructions
- 3 Tbsp Thai Choo Chee (Chu Chee) Curry Paste preferably Maesri or Mae Ploy brand *
- 1 ½ cups coconut milk (about 3/4 can), preferably Aroy D or Chaokoh brand
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 ½ lbs. firm fish fillets (e.g. cod, haddock, mahi mahi, salmon) cut into 2-inch pieces
- 4 tsp fish sauce more to taste
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar (to taste)
- 2 tsp lime juice
- 4 lime leaves chiffonade cut (sliced into very thin slivers) **
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
- Select Saute mode and stir in choo chee curry paste and 1/2 cup of coconut milk until mixture is bubbly, about a minute or two.
- Press Cancel.
- Add coconut oil and stir for about 30 seconds.
- Stir in remaining coconut milk.
- Add fish pieces and stir gently, coating the fish with the sauce.
- Close the Instant Pot and pressure cook on Low Pressure for 3 minutes. ***
- Do a Quick Release of pressure (QR) and open the Instant Pot. [Read More: The Different Pressure Release Methods]
- Add in fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and lime leaves.
- Stir and allow the ingredients to heat in the residual heat or select Saute and heat through for about 30 seconds. (Be sure not to overcook the fish).
- Taste and adjust with more fish sauce, brown sugar or lime juice.
- Serve with Instant Pot Jasmine Rice.
- Heat curry paste, 1/2 cup of coconut milk, and coconut oil in a large heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat until boiling.
- Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture will be bubbly and fragrant. Use a splatter screen if desired.
- Add fish, fish sauce, palm sugar or brown sugar, lime juice, and remaining coconut milk. Swirl the pan to coat the fish with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add a couple more tablespoons of coconut milk or water.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes or until fish is cooked. (Do not stir the dish, since the fish is very fragile).
- Taste and adjust with more fish sauce, brown sugar, or lime juice. Carefully stir in lime leaves and heat through.
- Remove pan from heat to prevent the fish from overcooking.
- Serve with Jasmine rice.
- Use a splatter screen if necessary, in the first step, to guard against coconut milk splatters.
- Thai curries are generally eaten with rice. If you’re not planning on eating the curry with rice, you might need to adjust the salt by reducing the quantity of fish sauce.
- Choo chee curry is supposed to be thick. If you like more sauce, add more coconut milk. To maintain the same spice level, add more curry paste too.
- * If you can’t locate choo chee curry paste, substitute red curry paste (Maesri or Mae Ploy brands preferred).
- ** Lime leaves are also referred to as k-lime, makrut or kaffir lime leaves.
- *** If your Instant Pot does not have the low pressure option, pressure cook on High Pressure for 1 or 2 minutes, depending on the size of the fish pieces.
- See the blog post for more detailed recipe tips.
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I am not a certified nutritionist. I provide my best estimate of nutritional information merely as a courtesy to my readers. If you depend on nutritional information for dietary or health reasons, I suggest using your favorite online nutrition calculator to confirm the nutritional value of this recipe based on the actual ingredients that you use.
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really really good like all the thai recipes here. HOWEVER this dish is just screaming for some veggies. i will do it next time with a colorful mix of different colored bell peppers or green and yellow zuchinni. you can get away with less fish too, probably a pound would do.
Paint the Kitchen Red
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Yes, veggies would be a great addition – good suggestion!
Omg! Another incredible recipe. I added onion to the curry paste, zucchini when I added the fish, and spinach when I added the fish sauce. I served it over cauliflower rice and topped with lime, thai basil, and cilantro. So delicious…
Paint the Kitchen Red
Wow, Denise – that was quick. I’m super excited that you tried it out and loved it. I keep seeing comments from readers like you who use cauliflower rice and I’m determined to give that a try. Thank you for your informative and lovely comment.