Creamy Coconut Shrimp is a quick and scrumptious 30-minute ONE PAN meal -- with sweet satuéed shrimp, soft gnocchi, fresh spinach and the best coconut cream sauce ever.
I've been perfecting this quick and easy Creamy Coconut Shrimp recipe for a while, and I'm so excited to share it with you. It's become one of my favorite go-to seafood dinners.
The fresh and rich flavors are deeply developed in just 30 minutes, yet it tastes like it took hours. And while it's a great everyday dinner, it's also a fantastic and impressive meal for casual entertaining.
I use coconut milk instead of heavy cream and there are a handful of delicious ways you can change it up for variety.
- extra virgin olive oil
- shrimp - For this recipe I like to use approximately 26/30 count, meaning there are about 26 to 30 shrimp per pound. It's almost always best to buy frozen shrimp. And purchasing wild-caught is best in terms of sustainability.
- onion - Try to choose onions that are firm, heavy for their size and without bruises.
- garlic - Look for firm heads of garlic without any soft spots or green shoots, which are an indication it's old and likely bitter. (Pro tip: if there are green shoots in your garlic cloves, slice them in half, lengthwise, and remove the green root with the tip of a knife. The rest of the clove should still be good.)
- dried basil
- vegetable stock - Preferably low-sodium.
- lemon zest - For garnish (optional).
- lemon juice - I always use Meyer lemons over regular lemons when given the option. Meyer lemons are a touch less tart and a touch sweeter. And with a thinner skin and fewer seeds, they are incredibly juicy.
- gnocchi - An Italian delight, gnocchi are chewy dumpling-like small mounds of cooked dough, typically made of a combination of wheat flour, mashed potato, egg, and salt. You can buy frozen, fresh or dry ready-made gnocchi in most grocery stores. I use frozen in this recipe.
- coconut milk - Preferably whole-fat.
- fresh spinach - Choose crisp dark green spinach leaves.
- fresh basil - Look for perky bunches of basil without bruising.
- black pepper - Preferably freshly ground.
(See recipe card below for quantities.)
Substitutions and Variations
- Dried basil - Dried oregano or thyme are both good substitutes.
- Vegetable stock. If you're okay with a slightly stronger seafood flavor, you can substitute the vegetable stock with seafood stock or you can make homemade shrimp stock.
- Gnocchi. Creamy coconut shrimp is also delicious with pasta or rice. If you choose to use either one, they should be cooked first. (You'll want to have about 3 cups cooked rice or pasta.)
- Coconut milk. You can substitute whole-fat coconut milk with reduced-fat coconut milk, heavy cream or half and half. Though still very delicious, reduced-fat coconut milk and half and half will both produce a lighter version of the recipe -- both in calories and texture. (I prefer the thicker creamier texture with the full fat products, but as I said, both are delicious.)
- Fresh spinach - Bok choy is a good substitute for the spinach.
- Fresh basil. If you don't want to use basil, you can use fresh thyme or oregano. Reduce the measurement to 2 tablespoons and finely chop it. Then add an additional ¼ cup or so of the spinach.
- Gluten-free version. Gluten-free gnocchi are available at Whole Foods, other health food markets, and sometimes in larger mainstream grocery stores. There is a cauliflower version that's gluten-free, and one that's closer to the traditional potato gnocchi, which is the one I use.
- Other seafood options. Sea scallops are a fantastic alternative and the cooking process is the same as it is for the shrimp. Salmon and cod, cut into bite-sized pieces, also work well using the same cooking process, only the sautéing times will vary, depending on the thickness and variety of the fish.
- Non-seafood alternatives. Creamy Coconut Chicken and Creamy Coconut Tofu are both excellent! Cut the chicken or tofu into bite-sized pieces before satuéeing them, and again, cooking times will vary.
- It's important that your pan be very hot before you add the shrimp, and as soon as you see the bottoms turn pink, quickly flip them over. Cooking the shrimp should only take about 2 minutes!
- Do not crowd the pan when sautéing the shrimp. You will likely need to do it in two batches.
- When you return the shrimp to the pan, do so at the last minute, so they don't cook any further.
- I like to use a generous amount of lemon juice in the coconut cream sauce. If you'd like the flavor to be more subtle, use 2 to 3 tablespoons instead of the full ¼ cup.
- Generally, I prefer to cook my own shrimp. However to make the recipe quicker yet, it's okay to use cooked frozen shrimp. Thaw it before adding it to the sauce.
- The gnocchi gets cooked right into the coconut cream sauce as it's being made. The cooking times might vary slightly, depending on whether you use fresh, frozen or dry gnocchi-- in most cases it'll just take a few minutes, but read the package instructions to be aware of what the manufacturer says.
How to Make It
- If the shrimp are not already peeled and deveined, here's an easy step-by-step guide to follow.
- Place a large (approx. 12-inch, preferably cast iron) pan over high-medium heat and lightly coat it with olive oil. While the pan is heating, place the shrimp on a baking sheet or large plate and season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Once the pan is hot, add the shrimp, with at least an inch between them. You should hear a sizzling sound, and if you don't, your pan is not hot enough. Wait until it's very hot and listen for the sizzle! Sauté just until cooked through, about 1 to 1½ minutes per side. As soon as the shrimp are done, use a large spoon to scoop them out of the pan and onto a plate. Set aside.
- If the bottom of the pan is dry, drizzle in a little more olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the dried basil and stir to blend.
- Pour in the vegetable stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the gnocchi and turn the heat down. Simmer just until the gnocchi are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Pour in the coconut milk and stir to blend. At this point season to taste with salt and pepper. (Here's how.) Then add the spinach and basil leaves and stir again. Let the leaves wilt completely, about 3 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan and mix to be sure they're well coated with the sauce. If necessary, season again with salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with lemon zest and serve.
Serve with warm crusty bread to soak up any sauce left in your plate. (Believe me, you won't want to leave any behind.) A side salad is also lovely to serve with this dish, though it definitely can stand on its own.
More Must-Try Shrimp Recipes
- Green Chile Satuéed Shrimp
- Spicy Cilantro Shrimp
- Shrimp Burgers with Guacamole
- Shrimp Quinoa Bowl with Pineapple
Can you make it ahead?
Since this dish only takes 30 minutes to make, and the shrimp will be at its best right off the stove, I don't recommend making it ahead of time.
I hope you try this recipe with Gnocchi one night soon for dinner. I think you'll love it.
Creamy Coconut Shrimp Recipe
- extra virgin olive oil for the pan
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (approx. 26/30 count)
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 generous tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2½ cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup coconut milk (preferably full fat)
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 pound gnocchi (fresh or frozen and thawed)
- 4 cups packed spinach leaves, washed and dried
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare the shrimp and skillet/pan. If the shrimp are not already peeled and deveined, here's an easy step-by-step guide to follow. Place a large pan (approx. 12-inch, preferably cast iron) over high-medium heat and lightly coat it with olive oil. While the pan is heating, place the shrimp on a baking sheet or large plate and season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Sauté the shrimp. Once the pan is hot, add the shrimp, with at least an inch or so between them. You should hear a sizzling sound, and if you don't, your pan is not hot enough. Wait until it's very hot and listen for the sizzle! Sauté the shrimp just until cooked through, about 1 to 1½ minutes per side. (You will likely need to do this in two batches.) As soon as the shrimp are done, use a large spoon to scoop them out of the pan and onto a plate. Set aside and do not wash the pan!
- Start the sauce and cook gnocchi. If the bottom of the pan is dry, add more olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the dried basil and stir to blend. Pour in the vegetable stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the gnocchi and turn the heat down. Simmer just until the gnocchi are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Finish sauce and return the shrimp to the skillet/pan. Pour in the coconut milk and stir to blend. At this point season to taste with salt and pepper. (Here's how.) Then add the spinach and basil leaves and stir again. Let all of the leaves wilt completely, about 3 minutes. Then return the shrimp to the pan and mix to be sure they're well coated with the sauce. If necessary, season again with salt and pepper to taste.