Mozambican Spicy Prawns with Coconut Rice

Mozambican Spicy Prawn Recipe

This traditional dish from Mozambique, one of Portugal’s former colonies, is the most requested item at LaSalette Restaurant. To mimic the heat of piri-piri, fiery hot peppers from Angola (another former colony), Chef Azevedo seasons the prawns with his own hot spice blend, which he shares below, before grilling them.–David Leite

LC Don't Skimp On The Salt Note

It may be tempting, for those of you who watch your sodium intake, to cut back on the salt in this recipe, seeing as the spice blend boasts the well-rounded warmth of chili powder, cayenne, and allspice. Don’t do it. That is, don’t reduce the salt. It’s necessary to bring out the fullness of the flavors in the seasoning blend. Just sayin’….

Mozambican Spicy Prawn Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 1 H, 10 M
  • Serves 6


  • For the spice blend
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Pinch cayenne, or more to taste
  • Pinch granulated sugar
  • Pinch allspice
  • For the sauce
  • Shells from 2 pounds medium prawns (reserve the prawns for the rest of the recipe)
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • For the coconut rice, plantains, and prawns
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 2 plantains, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for the grill rack or grill pan
  • Reserved prawns (from above)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Roasted peanuts


  • Make the spice blend
  • 1. In a small bowl mix together the salt, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, sugar, and allspice. If not using immediately, store the blend in a small spice jar away from light and heat.
  • Make the sauce
  • 2. In a medium saucepan, combine the prawn shells, tomato juice, coconut milk, and peanut butter. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Season with some of the spice blend, adding it to your taste. Bring the mixture back to a boil and then pass it through a sieve. Discard the shells and other solids.
  • Make the coconut rice, plantains, and prawns
  • 3. In a large saucepan, bring the rice, coconut milk, and water to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Take an occasional peek to make sure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • 4. Season the plantains with salt and white pepper. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the plantains on both sides until brown and soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • 5. Season the prawns with some of the spice blend and sizzle them on an oiled grill or grill pan over medium-high heat, turning once, until cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes total, depending on the size.
  • 6. To serve, mound the coconut rice in the center of warm serving plates and ladle the sauce around the rice. Lean the prawns against the rice, place a plantain in between the prawns, and garnish with the peanuts and cilantro.
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  1. The rice was excellent and easily adaptable to my rice cooker, though some flaked unsweetened coconut would intensify the flavor and provide an interesting texture.

    The prawns were spectacular. It was pouring outside last weekend when I made this so I quickly seared them on a cast iron pan and they were perfect.

    The sauce, however, was strangely bland given all the spices (though the addition of prawn shells were a nice touch). My spices are very fresh so perhaps this is more a “personal taste” than an actual recipe critique. To add more heat I simmered a seeded Thai dragon chili and felt that this brought the dish closer to our desired heat level.

    1. Alena, I’m glad you enjoyed shrimp, but I’m dismayed at the sauce.

      But I want to tell you a little story that I’ve told many a student: In my first-ever cooking class, we made gazpacho. It really was a class in knife skills, as we chipped, sliced, diced, and minced. When it came time to sit down and taste our creation, all of us mmmm-ed our way through the first spoonfuls or two. Then the teacher, who had held back half the batch of soup, seasoned it heavily with salt and some pepper. I was shocked at how much she put in. Then we tasted the seasoned batch. POW! All the flavors of tomato, cucumber, onion, and spices were distinct and robust. Then we tasted the unseasoned soup. God, it was bland. That was an important lesson I learn, and if there is one thing I always tell our testers is: Season it well.

      This is a long way to say I suspect your sauce my not have been salted well enough. If all those spices were lurking in the dish and you had a hard time finding them, lack of salt is probably the culprit. It really does bring out the best in food.

      1. Hello David,

        Thanks for responding to my post and sharing your story! I laughed out loud when I read this because I realized that yes, I did cut back on the quantity of salt called for in this recipe. I’ll make it again soon and report back.

  2. This is quite a special dish for me who live in Asia. Your recipe gives me an idea on how to incorporate some Mozambican flavor into my Asian dish. Thanks for the recipe.

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