Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

My take on Brazilian fish stew or moqueca is a quick recipe if you skip the marinade step — either way it’s full of flavor and healthy too.


This certainly isn’t an authentic moqueca, but it’s good enough. Better than good enough, it’s delicious. This could be a 30 minute meal if not for the 3 hours of marination. I suppose you could skip that step if you don’t have time, maybe I will some day to see if I will love this stew any less.

The original recipe on Leite’s Culinaria calls for dendê oil – a reddish/orange Brazilian palm oil. You can probably find it in a Latin American market, but I didn’t bother looking. I used olive oil instead. I added hot pepper and sweet potato (instead of hearts of palm) and paprika to the mix, and used canned tomatoes instead of plum tomatoes. I thought sweet potato would work well with the rest of the flavors and I was right. I can’t even remember what hearts of palm taste like but I wasn’t going to spend nearly $4 for a can of them.

I ignored the instructions in the original recipe to bake the fish first in its marinade with lemon juice — why dirty another dish. Instead, I cooked the fish in the stew. I didn’t care if the fish broke apart while cooking. Watch your fish so you don’t overcook it to the point of mushiness.

If you like cod, but the looks of this moqueca recipe doesn’t rock your world, try this recipe instead – Baked Cod with Andouille and White Beans. I made it again on Thursday night and boy oh boy it is good.

Brazilian fish stew recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Brazilian fish stew | Grabbing the Gusto

Brazilian Fish Stew – Moqueca

You’ll need a small bowl, resealable plastic bag for marinating, shallow bowl, and a Dutch oven or large deep pan with a lid.

  • 1 scallion (white and green parts), chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-1/2” piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or dendê oil, if you can find it)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1-1/4 pounds of any meaty white fish, cut into 2” chunks (I used cod. You could also use swordfish, striped bass, halibut, tilapia, grouper, red snapper or shrimp.)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or dendê oil, if you can find it)
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly chopped orange, yellow or red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, boiled until just tender, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups fish stock (you can substitute clam juice, low-sodium chicken broth, or equal amounts of both – that’s what I did)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 can diced tomatoes

In a bowl, mix together half the scallion, half the onion, half the ginger, and half the garlic. Add 4 tablespoons of oil and half the cilantro. Place the chunks of fish in a resealable plastic bag and add the marinade, pressing the bag to evenly coat the fish. Remove the air from the bag and seal it. Place the bag in a shallow bowl, making sure the fish pieces are completely covered by the marinade, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Take the fish out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 350. Place the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the remaining scallion and onion along with the green and orange bell peppers, and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the hot pepper and the remaining ginger and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring to combine, for another minute. Add the sweet potatoes and fish stock and let it come to a full boil. Add the coconut milk and tomato paste and return to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce.

Add the fish, marinade and lemon juice to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook just until the fish is soft and tender, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your fish.

Uncover the pan, add the paprika and tomatoes, and let them heat for a minute or two. Taste the stew, if needed, season it with additional salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the remaining fresh cilantro. Serve it plain or over rice.

Original recipe: Brazilian Fish Stew, Leite’s Culinaria

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