Sri Lankan crayfish red curry is the missing flavor you need

Bored with crawfish boil? Crayfish in red curry is something you need to try out if you have not already. These little crustacean turns vibrant red when cooked and often make it to the grocery store shelves already cooked with seasoning in it. Make one delicious red spicy sauce Sri Lankan style and they would be ready to be divulged.

Sri Lankan red curry is my favorite pairing to go when cooking this devilishly delicious treat. Sourness and sweet sugars from tamarind, tomatoes and spicy heat from red hot chilies powder simmering in aromatic sauce with cloves, cardamom and sweet cumin is a sight to be behold.

image of crayfish red curry

Every single ingredient contributes to an important part of the final flavor of this dish. The right amounts of important ingredients, added at the right moment cooked in right temperature gives this crayfish dish a well-balanced sweet, tangy yet daringly spicy flavor.

I use Spanish paprika in here two ways, half roasted, and rest is added unroasted. Spanish paprika has good amount of heat and vibrant color I love. It is my favorite type of powdered chili pepper to make curries with. When dry roasting curry powders, with red paprika pepper, loses some of its color and in it but gains wonderful smoky aroma. I am adding tablespoon of paprika unroasted to gain some of that vibrant color back.

Preserved lime, tomato, and tamarind all three contribute to the tanginess of this curry, differently. Flavor that shines is going to be from the sharp tamarind paste. Tomatoes gives out its beautiful color and body of the sauce with some sweetness. Preserved limes that I use is my own creation of salt packed partially dehydrated lime slices, which sit in my refrigerator. Limes does not have much juice in it, so its main contribution is wonderful lemony aroma that complements the aroma and flavor from tamarind. All three ingredients help elevate the sauce and let our crayfish shine. If you do not have my style preserved lemons worry not! you can use teaspoon of lemon zest instead.

Another tip for success is cook this curry on medium to low heat. crayfish red curry has minimal amount of sauce cooking delicate ingredients. Having moderate to low cooking temperature helps developing flavors and preserving aromatics in the sauce. I always the method of slowly simmering spices, when it comes to tomato or tamarind-based sauces.

What is crayfish and why make a curry when its already cooked?

Whatever the way you serve crayfish it is a delight. So why a red curry ? to that my Sri Lankan heart says why not! I mean the color alone! I already feel the pull of that glimmering red peppery sauce to soak some steamed white rice in! I like to daringly spice things up in my Sri Lankan cooking. Cooking a packet of crayfish is closest and easiest way I can get to a Sri Lankan crab curry or lobster curry. Crayfish curry tastes the same and delicious. It is my own way to delicious hot Sri Lankan curry under 30 minutes.

Some snapshots I made during my cooking to tempt you even more to try this wonderful crayfish dish out.

crayfish red curry

Crayfish red curry

Spicy Sri Lankan crayfish curry
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Sri Lankan, Sri Lankan curry
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic finely diced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger finely diced
  • 1 medium  jalapeño pepper finely diced
  • 3 curry leaves
  • 1 slice preserved lemon sliced lemon packed in salt (refer notes)
  • 1 package crayfish Rinsed


  • 2 tbsp Spanish paprika
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 green cardamom pod
  • ½ tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds


  • Rinse the crayfish with cold water of all the seasoning it comes with and set aside
  • Toast 1 tablespoon of Spanish paprika, coriander, cumin together on high for few seconds until aromatic

Making red curry sauce

  • Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a shallow skillet on medium and add mustard seeds. As they start to crack add, diced onions, ginger, garlic and jalapeño pepper cook on medium until everything becomes soft, and onions are translucent
  • Add tomatoes and roasted curry powder, unroasted tablespoon of paprika powder, cayenne pepper, turmeric, lime, and tamarind paste. give everything a good mix
  • Add a cup of water. toss in cloves, and green cardamom, and bring everything to a simmer cook covered for about 10 minutes.
  • When the sauteing ingredients are cooked and sauce begins to thicken add crayfish and give it a taste for salt. adjust to your liking. simmer for couple of minutes.
  • Finish with sliced curry leaves.
  • Enjoy with rice and vegetables.
Keyword crawfish recipe, crayfish, crayfish curry, spicy crawfish,