Curry Shrimp Étouffée

This rich and comforting Viet-Cajun shrimp étoufée is punctuated with aromatics like curry powder, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, and coconut milk.

Curry Shrimp Etouffee

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Josh Hoggle

Active Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
8 servings

Chef Nini Nguyen’s Vietnamese twist on classic Cajun shrimp étoufée is rich and comforting. Her version is packed with umami and layers of flavor that begin with a homemade shrimp stock and coconut oil-based roux. The roux turns into a thick and deeply flavorful gravy accented with lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, curry powder, and rich coconut milk. Serve this dish with a steaming pile of hot rice to soak up all that luscious gravy.

Starting with fresh shrimp instead of frozen shrimp is the first step to making this ultra-cozy dish. Then, use the shrimp shells to make a stock for the étoufée. Nguyen introduces Vietnamese flavors into the dish by using coconut oil as the base of the roux. The roux, a labor of love, stays true to the classic version and is cooked until it's a deep chocolate color. Don't be afraid to take the roux as dark as possible. It will result in a more intense overall flavor and rich gravy texture.

The Cajun aromatic base known as the Holy Trinity, which traditionally consists of onion, bell pepper, and celery, is infused with spices like garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and curry powder as well as lemongrass. The savory flavors are deepened with canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and fish sauce while Sriracha adds a little bit of sweet heat. Serve this étoufée with rice and garnish with lime wedges and cilantro.


  • 4 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined (shells reserved for stock)

  • 10 cups water

  • 1/2 cup refined coconut oil or (4 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 yellow onion, diced (2 1/2 cups)

  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (3/4 cup)

  • 3 large celery stalks, diced (1/2 cup)

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, minced (1/3 cup)

  • 5 tablespoons curry powder (such a Pyramid brand Madras curry powder) 

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 6 Makrut lime leaves

  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes

  • 1 cup well-shaken and stirred coconut milk

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce, to taste

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Sriracha chile sauce, to taste

  • 3 to 4 cups cooked long-grain white rice

  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

  • Chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Place shrimp shells and water in a large pot; bring to a boil over high. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, melt coconut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture turns a chocolate-brown color, 20 to 25 minutes.

  3. Stir onion, bell pepper, celery, and lemongrass into mixture in Dutch oven. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with curry powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika, stirring to combine. Stir in tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste begins to darken in color, about 1 minute.

  4. Pour shrimp stock through a strainer into a large measuring cup; add 2 cups strained shrimp stock to onion mixture in Dutch oven, and stir (stock will thicken immediately). Add remaining stock, 2 cups at a time, until all stock is added.

  5. Bring mixture in Dutch oven to a simmer over medium-high; add Makrut lime leaves, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Return mixture to a simmer over medium-high, stirring occasionally. Add fish sauce and Sriracha to taste.

  6. Add shrimp to mixture in Dutch oven, and cook about 3 minutes; turn off heat.

  7. Serve étouffée over rice, and squeeze with lime juice; garnish with cilantro.

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