Aviva’s Kitchen: Tilapia Basil Coconut Curry Tagine

Ingredients Print Recipe


pieces of fresh tilapia


can of coconut milk


red bell pepper, cut into medium sized chunks


pint of cherry tomatoes, halved


yellow onion, chopped


cup fresh basil leaves, chopped


of a fresh chili pepper, minced


cloves of garlic, chopped


1/8th  inch slices of fresh ginger


tsp curry powder


thin stalk of fresh lemon grass


tbs olive oil


tsp salt to taste

This dish is incredibly easy to make, beyond fantastically flavorful, and every ingredient is good for you – from the heart healthy fish to the antioxidant, immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering seasonings (and it is gluten free!).

I prepared this dish in a tagine, which is a North African earthenware cooking pot that has a funnel shaped lid that traps steam, cooking foods efficiently with minimal added liquid, while preserving nutrient value. My son and daughter-in-law gave mine to me last year as a winter holiday gift — it's a fabulous and fun way to cook and from my experience, fool-proof. I've found many recipes on line, but last night decided to make up one of my own.

The whole deal takes about 25 minutes to prep and cook, and it comes out looking as good as something from the Cooking Channel. If you don't have a tagine, it's worth the investment. But you can also bake this in a covered casserole dish or cook it on your stovetop in a skillet with a lid on top.

This curry turned out AMAZING and as you can see, it is vibrant and visually appetizing. Better than any fish dish I've ever had, if I say so myself!


  • 4 pieces of fresh tilapia
  • 1/2 can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into medium sized chunks
  • 1/3 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 of a fresh chili pepper, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3- 1/8th  inch slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 thin stalk of fresh lemon grass
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Salt to taste (about 1/8th tsp)


Saute your onions for about 1 minute, then add the red pepper, garlic ginger slices, and chili pepper. Stir for 1-2 minutes. Layer the fish over this and then on top of the place the basil and tomatoes. In a measuring cup, dissolve the curry powder and salt into the coconut milk and pour this over everything. Lay the lemon grass on top of it all and cover the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve hot. I accompanied the fish with steamed dellacotta squash cut into pretty rings and sauteed spinach with  garlic. It was an amazingly yum meal!

Serves 2-4 depending on portion size.

Do you have a favorite tagine recipe? Fish dish? Please feel free to post it below in the comments! And make sure to include your name, 'cause if I try it and it's fantastic, I might just want to post your recipe — with credit, of course!

Happy cooking!

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Lena DeGloma

Ooooh, Aviva - I can't wait to try this recipe - I love tagine recipes! Although the recipe below is not a fish or tagine recipe, the coconut curry aspect of it reminded me of one of my favorite recipes that I came up with last winter while craving something rich, warming and nutritious. Let me know what you think! Mung Bean & Sweet Potato Coconut Curry This is one of my favorite deeply nourishing and warming comfort foods. It can be served over quinoa or any other grain of your choice, with roti bread, or just eaten on its own as a stew. I made this recipe up one day last winter and have repeated it many times, but I never measure exact amounts of anything, so I am doing my best to estimate what I use and you can adjust as needed. Similarly, my homemade curry powder used in the recipe is always slightly different depending on my mood but here is my best estimate at something similar to what I usually make. I use all organic ingredients. 1.5-2 cups cooked mung beans* 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes and boiled or steamed until slightly soft but not falling apart 1 can coconut milk (full fat) 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 – 1.5 inch piece fresh ginger, minced ½ - 1 whole large bunch of cilantro (approx. 1 cup or more), stems removed and chopped 3-5 tablespoons of homemade curry powder (see below) 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil Salt to taste *I usually use dried mung beans that have been pre-sprouted so they cook more quickly (and have some additional health benefits from the sprouting) – but if you can’t find the sprouted kind the regular dried mung beans will do – they just take longer to cook Homemade Curry Powder: 1-2 tbsp whole coriander seeds 1-2 tbsp ground turmeric 1-2 tbsp whole brown mustard seeds 1-2 tbsp paprika ½ -1 tsp cayenne (depending on how hot you like it) ½ - 1 tsp ground ginger ½-1 tsp cinnamon ½ - 1 tsp whole cumin seeds ½ - 1 tsp whole black peppercorns ¼ - ½ tsp cardamom seeds (buy whole seeds or remove tiny black seeds from green pods or use ground cardamom) Put all whole seeds into a spice grinder (or clean coffee grinder) and grind until powdered. Add remaining spices to the grinder and grind for another few seconds to mix and bring out more flavor in the pre-ground spices. This will make more curry powder than you need for this recipe you can store the extra in a small jar. Note: you can use any powders in place of whole seeds if you can’t find them, but the whole seeds freshly ground to powder retain so much more flavor than powders that were ground a long time ago. Main Recipe: 1. Start by prepping and cooking the mung beans and sweet potatoes (as described in ingredients list above). 2. While mung beans and sweet potatoes are cooking prep your other ingredients and then add 1-2 tbsps of coconut oil or olive oil to a large pot (I prefer enameled cast iron for this purpose) and set to medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften (they should not brown), then add garlic and ginger and continue to stir and cook for a few more minutes. 3. Once the onions, garlic, and ginger are softened and aromatic (but not browned at all), you can add 3-5 tablespoons (depending on how strong you like the flavor of your curries) of the homemade curry powder (you will likely need to add a bit more oil at this point – the spices should be well coated with oil so as to make a nice paste – just enough oil to coat the curry powder without it looking dry or sticking to the pot). Simmer, stirring continuously, for 30-90 seconds or until the spices are sufficiently aromatic (do not let them stick or burn). 4. Add the can of coconut milk to the curry paste and stir. Once it is nice and hot add the mung beans and sweet potatoes and simmer covered on very low heat, stirring occasionally for anywhere from 5-20 minutes to get the flavors to mingle. Stir in the cilantro and salt within the last 5 minutes. Enjoy!

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    Thank you for posting your curry powder recipe, it looks great!

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    Ooh. This looks so delicious! Gonna have to try this!!! Thank you for sharing it. <3

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literally the best curry I've ever had. i made it for the guys tonight and we could not believe how delicious it was. light and fresh yet so rich and satisfying.extraordinary. Amazing!

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Oh my my! I tried the tilapia basil coconut curry tagine on Thursday. Needless to say how great it was. The next day on my way home from work I stopped at the market to purchase more tilapia and made a second batch. I live in Los Angeles and called to share with my Mom how great the recipe turned out and promised to fly to Washington DC and make a special meal for her. She is facing some health challenges and I want to do something to help her have a better quality of life. Graduate school is keeping me busy but this recipe is worth the investment of time to share with someone l love. By the way Quinoa was my side dish with mixed veggies and cranberries. This is now a dinner party dish...it is sooooooooooo good. Thanks for your inisghts...you are appreciated for creating such an amazing dish. Janel

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Lorraine Antosiewicz

Aren't you worried about eating tilapia?

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    Not on an occasional basis...