Shrimp Varuval / Prawns In South Indian Masala

SHRIMP VARUVAL / PRAWNS STIR FRIED IN COCONUT AND SPICES ~ Shrimp (prawns) cooked in spicy South Indian masala

Shrimps – hmm, they scare me. They are just too complicated for me to comprehend with all those “moving” parts – sorry if I offended anyone. But my husband (who I’ll simply call ‘D’ going forward), seems to have taken a liking to it. So a few months ago, I decided to give it a try and cook it for him. Thankfully, cleaning was not that big a deal, as I was able to find de-veined, shelled, shrimps that were just ready to cook (yay!). Over time, I have brought myself to be able to shell the defined ones and it is a bit more economical that way.

The very first recipe I tried with prawns / shrimp was this one. I called up my sister, who I knew was also not a fan of the crustacean, to see if she has any tips to offer. Not only did she have more than one to offer, she had warmed up to these little guys – all thanks to my grandmom’s awesome recipe which I am going to share with you all here. The recipe brings back memories of Sunday mornings at our grandmom’s place, with the aroma of freshly ground spices filling up the entire house. With no further delay, lets get started with this must-try shrimp varuval.

PS: Trust me, if you eat shrimp – you do not want to pass up on this one.

Source: Grandmom’s (via Big sis)

Serves: 6

Cooking Time: 15 minutes prep + 30 to 40 minutes cooking


  1. Shrimps – 2lbs  deveined & shelled (I prefer the medium size, but you could use any variety)
  2. For Masala Paste:
    1. Onions – 2 large, chopped
    2. Tomatoes – 2 large, chopped
    3. Garlic – 1 tbsp, minced or chopped
    4. Dry red chilies – 5 or to taste
    5. Coriander seeds – 3 handfuls
    6. Turmeric powder – 1 tbsp
    7. Cumin seeds (jeera) – 1 tbsp
    8. Fennel seeds (saunf) – 1/2 tbsp
    9. Peppercorns – 15-20
    10. Cinnamon sticks – 2, 1″ pcs
    11. Cloves – 3
    12. Coconut – 1/3 cup, shredded/grated/chopped
    13. Salt to taste
    14. Red chili powder – optional, if needed
  3. For tempering:
    1. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
    2. Cinnamon sticks – 2, 1″ pcs
    3. Cloves – 3
    4. Bay leaves – 2
    5. Curry leaves – few
  4. Cooking oil – 3 tbsp or as needed
  5. Coriander leaves – a few stems for garnishing, chopped


  1. Clean the shrimp, mix together with some salt and turmeric and set aside.
  2. Make the ground masala paste: Cook all ingredients listed under “For masala paste” and grind together to make a thick – coarse paste
    • Heat 1 or 2 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed pan
    • Add the cinnamon, cloves and cook for 30 seconds
    • Add cumin, fennel, red chilies and allow to cook for 30-60 seconds.
    • Add the chopped onions and some salt to get the onions to sweat out the moisture quickly and cook until browning begins.
    • Add the coriander seeds, peppercorns & garlic and saute for a couple of minutes to let it cook.
    • Add the tomatoes & saute for a couple of minutes.
    • Add coconut and cook for a few more minutes.
    • Turn off the heat and let it cool down a little bit.
    • In a blender, add the cooked ingredients and make into a nice paste adding a little bit water if required.
  3. Add some oil (1 tbsp) to a pan, add the mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf & curry leaves and cook for a few seconds until mustard sputters.
  4. Add the ground masala paste and cook with lid on until you start seeing oil on the sides of the pan.
  5. Meanwhile, rinse the marinating shrimps to take off the turmeric and salt in them.
  6. Add the clean shrimps, which have a yellow-ish color from the marination, to the masala paste.
  7. Cook with lid on for 10-15 minutes. Add more salt and / or chili powder if needed at this stage.
  8. Take the lid off and continue to stir the mixture to prevent burning at the bottom until the masala loses moisture and gets to be a thick coating around the well cooked shrimps. Note: This can take up to 30 minutes to reach desired thickness and consistency. Add more salt and / or chilli powder if needed.
  9. Garnish with chopped coriander, serve with rice & wait for the praises!

Step by step recipe preparation pictures:


  1. You could substitute the coriander seeds and dry chilies with coriander powder and red chili powder.
  2. You could skip adding the onions and tomatoes to the ground-masala paste and instead add them as-is with the masala paste before adding the shrimps if you prefer.
  3. You can stop the sauteing process whenever it reaches the thickness and consistency you desire. I prefer to saute for long until the gravy is completely thick and all moisture has evaporated so the shrimps are coated in the spicy masala all the way.

5 Responses to “Shrimp Varuval / Prawns In South Indian Masala”
  1. Preeti says:

    Aish..This looks delicious..this is making me sooo hungry. Will definetly try this one..

    • hi Preethi,
      ha ha 🙂 it is lip smacking indeed.. you’ll just need to wait until all the gravy completely dries up and forms that dark brown coating around the shrimp pieces..
      I’m going to make a shrimp curry today.. will post that one soon too!
      – Aish

  2. PoppyBhavan says:

    Hmmm,One Of her Many Cheerers.Welcome to Many More Visits.

  3. PoppyBhavan says:

    Hmmm,Hubby’s Delight,Very Very Nice

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  1. […] to be D’s #1 and most requested dish at home. But now there’s stiff competition from this guy, but trust me – he still cannot decide between the two. Well, they are pretty much tied […]

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