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Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry

Mackerel curry  also known as salmon curry, canned fish curry is a budget friendly dish that can be cooked in less than 20 mins and is a great curry with all the right flavours. It is such a convinient and easy dish and canned mackerel is cheap to buy in Sri Lanka. Due to this reason we as Sri Lankans enjoy the canned mackerel curry atleast once a week. I dont know why we call it salmon curry in Sri Lanka when it is clearly not salmon, but if any of you know why, please comment below, it will be a good to know why 🙂

Sri Lankan Canned Mackeral Curry

Sri Lankan Mackerel Curry

As a child I ate this dish at least once a week, typically during the week because we eat fish during the week and weekend we eat a lot of meat and twice a week we are vegetarian. Not that we had any religious beliefs But in my household, my parents were very healthy and always had a healthy lifestyle. Being an island it was normal to eat fish during the week.

When I come home from an overseas trip. The first thing I crave is for a home-cooked Sri Lankan meal and mackerel tins are something that can be stored for a long time and it only requires 20 mins to cook, easy dish to prepare in a rush and to get a good Sri Lankan meal after a long flight.

Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry1
Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry

How to make Sri Lankan canned Salmon Curry

Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry
Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry

Every curry starts with the basic ingredients Onion, curry leaves, Chilli, Ginger, Garlic the essential aromatics that flavour any curry. Then we build up with the spices. For mackerel curry usually, when making any meat curry such as chicken or beef, there is more curry powder than chilli powder,

This is different this is more of a reddish colour gravy mainly because there is more chilli powder and curry powder and we add tomato to give it more acidity. Like any fish dish, you have to add acidity to balance the dish and that’s the same exact principle in this curry too. In this case, it is tomatoes. I also add goraka if you have any if not substitute with lime juice at the end.

What to serve with Sri Lankan canned Mackerel Curry

  • Rice 
  • String hoppers
  • Pittu
  • Roti 
  • Milk Rice

What Kind Of Curry Powder To Use For Sri Lankan Salmon Curry?

I will soon do a recipe on how to make roasted curry powder from scratch. But if you need to buy Sri Lankan curry powder in a foreign country then you will need to go to a Sri Lankan speciality store to buy them, as I don’t believe the normal supermarket sell; Sri Lankan curry powder”

Raw Curry Powder Or Roasted Curry Powder?

The difference is, if you use raw curry powder, you will need to roast it in the pan first. because adding raw curry powder to a curry directly will leave an unpleasant aftertaste and mouthfeel. To make it easier and time-saving use roasted curry powder.

What Kind Of Coconut Milk Is Used For Sri Lankan Beef Curry

I get this question often if coconut cream can be used. Generally, we never use coconut cream in Sri Lankan cooking, we only use coconut milk. I use the desiccated coconut powder that is found in Sri Lankan grocery stores, but you can buy tinned coconut milk in any retail store in Australia.

We also classify coconut milk as thin and thick coconut milk. That’s because when you traditionally make coconut milk at home with real coconuts the final squeezing of the coconut milk is not creamy as the first squeeze then we call it thin coconut milk. And usually at home, we would start with thin coconut milk and finish off with thick coconut milk. But here since I use powdered coconut milk, I start with water and finish with coconut milk.

What Type Of tinned Mackerel To Use?

Honestly, any tinned mackerel is good. Here in Melbourne, we get it even in the big retail shops and I use them as well. I also buy them from the Sri Lankan shops. There is a lot of flavour masking that happens in curries and you don’t have to buy any special mackerel to get the best flavour.

Can I use the brine water in the curry?

I have seen many people do this. I don’t, I discard all the brine water that comes in it.

At what point is the mackerel added to the curry

Unlike the meat curries, Mackerel needed to be added at the end because it is already cooked, it absorbs flavour very quickly and if it is cooked for too long, it will be mackerel mince rather than the large chunks.

I also don’t cut them into pieces, I add them into the curry whole and after 5 minutes it gets soft breaks into smaller pieces and comes to the perfect texture and consistency.

You can also check my other Sri Lankan recipes here

Step by step guide on how to make Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry

Sri Lankan Canned Mackeral Curry

Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry

Tinned mackerel cooked in Sri Lankan herbs and spices and coconut milk
4.5 from 2 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Calories: 182kcal

Servings: 2 people


  • 2 tbsp Oil Coconut, canola, olive
  • 1/2 Red Onion Big, Sliced
  • 2 Chilli sliced
  • 4 cloves Garlic sliced
  • 1 sprig Curry leaves
  • 1 Pandan leaf cut into 3
  • 1 Tomato cut into large chunks
  • 1 Goraka
  • 3 tsp Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Roasted curry powder
  • 300 ml Water
  • 200 ml Thick coconut milk
  • 1 tin Salmon (Mackerel)


  • Place oil in the pan add onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, pandan leaf, Chilli saute well until soft and cooked
  • Add chilli powder and roasted curry powder and cook for 1-2 mins
  • Add water, tomato, goraka and simmer on a lower flame for 8-10 mins
  • Once the tomatoes are soft and the gravy has got thicker add the coconut milk and simmer for 1 minute add salt and pepper to taste. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly
  • Finally, add the tinned drained mackerel into the gravy and cook for 5 mins until the mackerel has absorbed the gravy and the curry looks at a good consistency and thickness
  • Take it off the fire and enjoy



Calories: 182kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 66mg | Potassium: 413mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1869IU | Vitamin C: 97mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition Facts
Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry
Amount Per Serving
Calories 182 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g
Sodium 66mg3%
Potassium 413mg12%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 1869IU37%
Vitamin C 97mg118%
Calcium 48mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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4 thoughts on “Sri Lankan Canned Mackerel Curry”

  1. 4 stars
    Really nice recipe. I don’t have sri lankan curry powder but I do have a recipe for it now so will try the recipe again using it. Lovely mid week dish and so quick.

    Did you ever find out why your mackerel curry was called ,”salmon”? That made me smile!

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