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Sri Lankan Crab Curry

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I think you’re going to love this Sri Lankan crab curry

I recently learned this Sri Lankan crab curry recipe when my wife and I stayed at Cinnamon Hikka Tranz hotel on the west coast of Sri Lanka.

We enjoyed quite a few crab curries while travelling around Sri Lanka and staying at Cinnamon. On this occasion, the crab curry was prepared and demoed by chef Pasan Attanayake and it was out of this world delicious!

Sri Lankan crab curry

Delicious and so easy to cook. Give this Sri Lankan crab curry a try.

Which crab?

Chef Pasan used fresh mud crabs that were caught right off the coast the day he cooked them for us. If you are planning on travelling to Sri Lanka, you’ve got to try a mud crab curry! Better yet, try one at Cinnamon! You won’t be disappointed.

You can use any crab though. I can purchase frozen mud crabs near where I live but prefer to use fresh brown crab as they are local to me. For authenticity, however I used frozen mud crabs this time around. 

Working ahead…

This crab curry relies mainly on the quality and freshness of the ingredients used. 

It really is easy to throw together. That said, a few things take some time to prepare and you can do this a few days in advance if more convenient.

One thing that is popular in Sri Lankan crab curry and other seafood curries is the use of an unroasted curry powder. This is a simple blend of whole spices that are ground raw rather than toasting them first. This can be done ahead of time. You could even upscale the curry powder recipe as the powder will keep for a good few weeks.

You might also like to toast the rice and coconut mixture which adds a delicious flavour to the crab curry. Again, this can be done a couple of days ahead of cooking too. 


Step by step instructions and pictures

  • The measured ingredients set out.

Gather all of your ingredients together before getting started. It’s easier that way.

Step 1.

Finely grinding the ground spices.


Finely  grind the ingredients for the curry powder and set aside.


Step 2.

Toasting the raw rice and coconut.



Toast the rice and grated coconut. Although Basmati rice can be used for this, I recommend using matta rice which is much more authentic and will get you a richer and earthier flavour.


Step 3.

The finished dry fried rice and coconut.




Toast the rice and grated coconut until lightly browned. Actually, some of the rice and coconut will blacken some. The flavour is awesome!


Step 4

The finished dry fried rice and coconu.

The finished dry fried rice and coconut. Blend this with enough of the coconut milk to make a smooth paste and set aside. The finished paste is photographed below.

Step 5.

Roasted rice and coconut blended with coconut milk.

After blending the roasted rice and coconut with the coconut milk it will turn a light grey. It will probably also thicken some as it sits which is fine. Set aside.

Step 6.

Infusing the curry leaves and cinnamon into the coconut oil

Heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. When visibly hot, add the curry leaves and cinnamon stick to infuse in the oil for about 30 seconds.

Step 7.

Adding the onion, ginger and garlic.

Add the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies.

Step 8.

Adding the curry powder, chilli powder and fried coconut/rice

Add the chilli powder and curry powder and stir well to combine.


Step 9

Adding the crab to the pan.

Add the crab to the pot.

Step 10

Bringing the crabs in the sauce to a boil.

Pour in  the remaining coconut milk and bring to a simmer.

Step 11

Adding the coconut and black pepper.

Add the prepared rice and coconut mixture and stir it in. Continue simmering for about 5 minutes to thicken.


Step 11

The completed crab curry served up.

Serve up your meal!


In the meantime, watch this video from the day…

Yield: 6

Sri Lankan Crab Curry

Sri Lankan crab curry
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • Mud Crabs cleaned and cut in half
  • 2 tbsp raw matta rice
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) desiccated coconut or freshly grated coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp unroasted curry powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder or a bit more to taste
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 fresh red or green chillies
  • 8 curry leaves
  • 2 pandan leaves
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds


  1. Finely grind all of the curry powder spices and set aside.
  2. Heat a large sauce pan or clay pot over medium heat. When hot, add the rice and grated coconut and dry fry until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and pound to a fine powder. Set aside
  3. Add about 2 tbsp coconut oil to a large pan or clay pot. You will need a large enough pot to be able to stir the crabs. Heat the oil over a medium heat.
  4. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onions have softened.
  5. Now add the curry powder, chilli powder, and coconut/rice mix. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the spices become fragrant.
  6. Add the tamarind paste, sugar, chilli peppers, curry leaves and pandan plus ¾ of the coconut milk. Then season with ¼ tsp salt, more can be added later to taste. Bring to a boil.
  7. Place the crabs in the sauce and gently stir to coat the crabs in the sauce
    Bring this back to a boil on medium-high heat then lower the heat to medium . Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the crabs are just cooked through.
  8. Make sure to turn the crabs half way through to ensure they are well coated in the sauce.
  9. Add extra coconut milk if you prefer it creamier or up to ½ cup water to dilute it if you like.
  10. Serve warm with steamed rice or bread.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 680Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 39gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 410mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 11gSugar: 34gProtein: 12g

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For the record, my wife and I were paying guests at Cinnamon Hotels. We did receive a few free perks such as cooking demos but I was under no obligation to write anything about Cinnamon. We highly recommend Cinnamon Hotels to anyone thinking about travelling around Sri Lanka.

Cinnamon Hotel

Each of the Cinnamon hotels we stayed at were amazing!i


Thursday 14th of April 2022

Dan, Do you know if they use refined (tasteless) or unrefined (tastes like coconut) coconut oil in their cooking? Thanks

Dan Toombs

Thursday 14th of April 2022

I don't know the exact answer but the chefs I watched used virgin coconut oil. Thanks Dan

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