Brazilian Fish Stew | Moqueca

Brazilian Fish Stew

This fish stew, called moqueca in Portuguese, couldn’t be more Brazilian, although it has an international appeal that is hard to resist. Moqueca is originally from the state of Bahia, and there are many versions: fish, shrimp, or crab are the most popular. Use this recipe as a guideline and experiment with different types of fish, such as wild striped bass, halibut, and tilapia. Just a little bit of coconut milk makes this colorful fish stew rich, but only in looks and spirit—one spoonful will reveal how unbelievably light it is. Moqueca is commonly served with farofa, a side dish made from cooked manioc flour, but feel free to use white rice.–Leticia Moreinos Schwartz

LC Something Fishy Note

Though this recipe calls for fish stock, if you’re pinched for time–or choose not to stink up your kitchen by simmering fish bones–you can certainly rely on frozen fish stock, found in small containers in the freezer section of most seafood counters.

Brazilian Fish Stew

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 40 M
  • 4 H
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 2 reviews
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In a bowl, mix together half of the scallion, half of the onion, half of the ginger, and half of the garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of the dendê oil, all of the olive oil, and half of 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 all of the air from the plastic bag and seal it. Place the bag in a shallow bowl, making sure the chunks of fish 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°F (175°C).
Place the remaining 3 tablespoons of the dendê oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the remaining scallion and onion along with the green and yellow bell peppers, and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add the remaining ginger and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring to combine, for another minute or until it’s hot. Add the 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 or so and simmer the sauce, nice and gently, while you prepare the fish.
In the meantime, place the fish and its marinade in a gratin or casserole dish. Pour the lemon juice on top and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake until the fish is almost but not quite cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
Carefully transfer each chunk of fish to the pan with the gently simmering sauce. Add any juices in the dish from the fish and marinade. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook just until the fish is soft and tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
Uncover the pan, add the hearts of palm and tomatoes, and just let them get hot, which will take only a minute or two.
Taste the moqueca, season it with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the remaining fresh cilantro.
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  1. I’ve made this several times now. Great recipe. Made it for Christmas Eve one year and served it with forbidden rice – it was delicious and stunning looking. Folks loved it!! Thank you!!!

  2. I have just purchased a pot that looks like the one in the photo (in NYC, Bryant Park) and need to season it. Any thoughts on seasoning? Also can the pot be used on the stove top (gas)? Jim

    1. David, thanks for looping me in with Jim. Jim, hope you like the clay pot and the recipe! Yes, you can absolutely cook on the top of the stove. Before using, I usually fill the pot with tap water and bring it to a simmer for about 20 minutes on very low heat. It’s the way I found to “preheat” the pot. Every time I cook with them, I do this extra step. Then, after I clean and dry the pot, I brush it with oil. Hope this helps! Happy cooking!

  3. Does dende oil need to be stored in the fridge or is it ok to be stored in the pantry at room temp? This recipe looks great, I’m cooking it tonight!

  4. Moqueca also couldn’t be more African. Its origin is Africa and then Brazil (Bahia) along with things like Vatapa.

  5. I’m wondering whether I can use extra-virgin olive oil that has been heated and colored with annatto (achiote) seeds and then strained instead of the dendê oil. This will give the oil the requisite color without the almost pure cholesterol content of dendê oil. I’ve spent time in Bahia where everything and everyone smells like dendê, cilantro and coconut, but I was never able to develop a taste for dendê oil. I watched them harvesting mountains of the seed clusters, but the only thing I see was mountains of cholesterol.
    Muito obrigado!

    1. Hi Stu, go for it. You are not the first one who didn’t develop a taste for dende. There are even Brazilians from other parts of the country who are not crazy for dende, but in Bahia, it’s gold. Let us know how your experiment with the coloration of olive oil comes out. I am sure it’s absolutely fine. Another idea is to flavor your olive oil with paprika. Just a tough.
      But don’t abstain from making this delicious moqueca because of dende! Happy Cooking!

  6. are there other varieties of fish that i can use in place of sea bass. the sea bass makes it sound so special occasion and i do not want to restrict myself to that :)

    1. Hi Global Girl! Of course! This is a very flexible dish and you can use a variety of fish; grouper, halibut, wild stripped bass, red snapper, even tilapia, even shrimp, even crab. You name it. Go for it! Happy cooking!

  7. Hello Leticia:

    Thank you so much for responding to my plea for help. Yes indeed, my pot is exactly the same as the one you used in the Moqueca recipe. Our daughter lives in New York and I will ask her to check out Broadway Panhandler. I’ll keep you posted.


    Margot Calder

  8. WHERE CAN I PURCHASE A BRAZILIAN COOKING POT IN THE USA? We just returned from Brazil bringing a Brazilian Cooking pot from Vittoria, a (used) gift. Despite taking scrupulous care in transit, there appears to be a long crack running from the lip of the pot, down the side and across the base a little. I do not seem to be able to find any way to fix the crack and I am DEVASTATED. Can anyone tell me where I can track down a replacement?

    Thank you,

    Margot Calder

    1. Margot, if you are referring to a clay pot, like the one used in the photo for this Moqueca recipe, I also used to bring my pots from Brazil, and like yours, many broke. The other day, I was browsing Broadway Panhandler in NYC and saw a beautiful collection of dark clay pots, just like the ones from Epirito Santo. Now I will not be schlepping huge pans back and forth between Brazil and US. Try that place and let me know if you have any luck. If not , please feel free to get in touch. Best, Leticia

  9. Hi guys! Yes, with just a few exceptions ( like Caipirinha, for example) lemon and lime are interchangeable.

    The purpose of baking or roasting the fish before stewing is to avoid the fish becoming pasty or flaky. I wrote the recipe this way because the fish will hold a better shape. If you want to save time or dishes, you can skip this step and add the raw fish directly to the sauce. It will still taste delicious. Just be sure to braise for only a few minutes. Me? I always bake first (or sear, depending on what fish I am using) when making moqueca. Hope this helps. Let me know how it comes out and if you have any other questions. Happy Brazilian cooking!

    1. I just wanted to say thank you for this recipe. My family loves it & this has actually encouraged me to be more adventurous with my cooking. The taste is amazing!

  10. Loved the hearts of palm—thought they added a lot. I used scrod, because I was trying to save money on the fish, but it just kind of dissolved in the stew – next time I’ll use the sea bass. ; ) What is the purpose of baking the fish before putting it in the stew? Is that a step that could be skipped? Also, are lemon and lime interchangeable? Lovely recipe—thank you for sharing it…

  11. I love this recipe for Brazilian fish, stew but I hate the taste of cilanto. What can I substitute? Thank you in advance.

  12. I love moqueca! Thanks for the recipe. I bought a moqueca pot (similar to the one in the photo) in Brazil. Not sure how to adapt the recipe to using the pot, though. If anyone out there knows, would appreciate it!

      1. Thank you! I wasn’t sure if the clay pot was okay for stovetop cooking. Hope to try the recipe soon. Looks like a great cookbook!

  13. I have four little bottles of dende oil in my fridge which I brought back from my trip to Brazil last year, and they are an absolute must for moqueca. I love this dish to bits…!

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