The Washington Post

Coconut Rice With Salmon and Cilantro Sauce

Coconut Rice With Salmon and Cilantro Sauce 4.000

Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Dinner in Minutes Aug 25, 2020

The rice and sauce are the thing here. Coconut milk, onions and garlic come together to create a creamy, satisfying rice. For the sauce, cilantro and a spicy-sweet syrup are quickly whirred in a food processor. Together, they are sublime. The recipe calls for salmon, but tuna, shrimp, any firm white-fleshed fish or even beef or chicken would taste great with this rice and sauce. Or try it with fried tofu.

Make Ahead: The sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage Notes: Leftover salmon and rice can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • For the rice and salmon
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (about 4 ounces), finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 4 (3- to 4-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
  • For the sauce
  • Scant 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more as needed for serving
  • 1 large bunch (about 2 ounces) fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems, coarsely chopped
  • 4 lime wedges, for serving (optional)


Make the rice: In a large lidded skillet or pan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens and just starts to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the oil. Add the coconut milk, then half-fill the empty can with water and add it to the pan. Add the salt and sugar, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low so the mixture is at a simmer and cover the skillet.

Cook for 5 minutes, then uncover the pan. Carefully place the salmon fillets on top of the rice, re-cover the pot and cook until the rice is just tender, the salmon cooked, and the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes more. (If the rice is not tender, but the salmon is cooked, remove the fish, re-cover the pot and continue cooking for a few minutes more.)

Make the sauce: While the rice and salmon are cooking, in a small pan over high heat, combine the water, sugar, salt and crushed red pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer the sauce until slightly reduced and syrupy, about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Place the cilantro in a food processor and pulse to chop. Gradually, pour in the syrup and pulse the cilantro until very finely chopped, and the sauce is combined. Taste and adjust the seasonings; the sauce should be slightly sweet, with a hint of heat. Add more crushed red pepper, sugar or salt, as needed.

To serve, transfer the salmon off the rice to a plate. Gently stir the rice and divide it across 4 plates. Top with a salmon fillet and drizzle the sauce over. Sprinkle with additional crushed red pepper flakes, if desired, and serve with a wedge of lime, if using.

Alternative for the salmon: If you prefer a pan-seared salmon fillet, cook it separately from the rice. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles when it hits the surface. Add the fillets, skin side up, and cook until just lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the fillets over and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the salmon looks almost cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes; you can check using the tip of a sharp knife. You should see a slightly darker center. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillet.

With either fish preparation, if you prefer to serve the salmon without the skin, it is easier to remove it after cooking the fish.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “The Kitchen Shelf” by Rosie Reynolds and Eve O’Sullivan (Phaidon, 2016).

Tested by Ann Maloney.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at

Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 619

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 30g 46%

Saturated Fat: 20g 100%

Cholesterol: 47mg 16%

Sodium: 332mg 14%

Total Carbohydrates: 65g 22%

Dietary Fiber: 2g 8%

Sugar: 6g

Protein: 24g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

Most Read Lifestyle