Cod and Shrimp Stew with Quinoa

Yes. You saw that recipe title right. Cod and shrimp stew with quinoa. I, the last great holdout when it comes to anything remotely healthy, am trying to embrace good-for-me foods, and from my research, quinoa seems to be a gateway grain (well, actually, it’s a seed).

Perhaps this behavior is due to delusions or a bad case of light-headedness brought on by eating way fewer calories, but maybe next week I’ll even try farro, kamut, millet. Who knows? It’s all part of my plan to transform from Fatty Daddy to Phatty Daddy in 2015.

Understand that I’m not giving up all those marvelous things I love, namely anything slathered with duck fat. I’m just adding some other things that I’d always thought I hated. I guess I’m not that different from Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials. (All you millennials, check out the video below if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about.)

Anyways, I whipped up this cod and shrimp stew a few days ago when The One came home with a surplus of Pacific cod. We had a pretty awful soy-glazed cod the first night thanks to a Weight Watchers recipe I’d found online. (I know, I know, what was I thinking? Some of their recipes are pretty good.) As I said to The One, we can do better.

So I came up with this stew. Thing is, I knew that in order to feel full, I’d have to eat a whole damn pot, so I decided to take the plunge and try quinoa. For years I’ve trilled, “This queen knows that queen-noh-ah ain’t for him.” (I knew the proper way to pronounce “keen-wah,” this was just my little way of being blissfully ignorant and defiant.) Well, I’m eating my hat, along with my whole grains. And if I’m being totally honest with you, stooping to ancient grains just chaps my ass. I never, ever thought I’d do such things. They’re for hippies and people who work in co-ops and mothers who make their kids wear hazmat suits when eating dinner. But I have to say, that quinoa was—damn it—good. Really good. The quinoa soaked up the sweet, briny flavor of the broth, and it certainly didn’t feel as if I were eating bug larvae, which is what I’d assumed the texture would be like. (Then again, having never eaten bug larvae, I really have nothing to compare it to.) Who knows where my brave new world of eating will take me next?


Cod and Shrimp Stew with Quinoa

I buy a lot of Gulf shrimp shipped directly to me overnight. I do this because the shrimp have their heads on, and all the “heady” stuff makes all kinds of wonderful things taste even more wonderful-er. Like shrimp risotto. And this cod and shrimp stew. See, each time I cook with Gulf shrimp, I freeze the heads and shells in order to make or enrich stock at a later date. For this cod and shrimp stew recipe, I used 1 pound head-on Gulf shrimp. I decapitated them, removed the shells, and tossed them all in a pot of store-bought chicken stock for a few minutes before commencing with the recipe. What a difference! It tasted sweet and complex. You may not be able to get your hands on head-on shrimp, and that’s not a problem. But always try to bring home shrimp in their shell because when a recipe like this comes along, a few handfuls of shells added to the cooking liquid make all the difference in flavor. To enrich your stock, heat it over low heat, toss in the shells (and heads if you have them), and let simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine sieve. Carry on.–David Leite

This recipe comes to you by popular demand. See, David casually mentioned he made a cod and shrimp stew with quinoa recipe one night for supper on social media, and suddenly WHAM-O! Requests galore. As always, dear readers, your wish is our command.

A white bowl filled with cod and shrimp stew with quinoa.

Cod and Shrimp Stew with Quinoa

4.58 / 7 votes
This cod and shrimp stew with quinoa came from my desire to make something a little healthier but still incredibly tasty and satisfying. There isn't even any duck fat in it.
David Leite
Servings8 servings
Calories766 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut in half and sliced into half moons
  • 1 small (6 oz) fennel bulb, stalks and core removed, bulb thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • One (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, well crushed by hand, with their juices
  • 2 1/2 cups fish, seafood, shrimp, or chicken stock, enriched with the shrimp shells, if you have them
  • 1 tablespoon store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 8 ounces medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 8 ounces Pacific cod, cut into 1-inch (25-mm) cubes
  • 8 cups cooked quinoa (follow the package directions)
  • Kosher and freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the oil and then add the onion and fennel slices. Cook, stirring often, until soften but not browned, 7 to 10 minutes. If the pan threatens to dry out, drizzle in a little extra oil or, if you’re seeking to save those fat calories, do what I did and carefully add a few tablespoons of water, being mindful that it can cause the oil to spatter.
  • Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring a few times, for 1 minute.
  • Dump in the tomatoes and stock and then stir in the tomato paste. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and let it burble for 10 minutes.
  • Add the cod and shrimp, cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let the residual heat cook the fish through, about 5 to 8 minutes, maybe longer if you have ginormous shrimp or chunks of fish. Taste and season with salt, if needed, and black pepper.
  • Scoop 1 cup cooked quinoa into a shallow bowl and ladle 1 cup cod and shrimp stew on top, making sure everyone gets an appropriate share of seafood. [Editor’s Note: David asked that we include mention that 1 cup stew equals 3 Weight Watcher points, and 1 cup stew plus 1 cup quinoa equals 8 Weight Watcher points.]


Going To Town Variation

You can add or substitute all kinds of fish and seafood here. I like to add 8 ounces sea scallops to the mix. You can also add mussels and clams. To do so, add the scrubbed (and, if using mussels, debearded) shellfish to the pot as the liquid is coming to a boil. It will take time for the shells to open. Once they have, add the cod and shrimp and then pull the pot off the heat and let everything continue to “cook.” Remember, though, the more seafood you want to add, the more of the other ingredients, especially the canned tomatoes and stock, you need to add as well. Just keep things in proportion and you’ll be fine.


Serving: 1 servingCalories: 766 kcalCarbohydrates: 112 gProtein: 50 gFat: 13 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 0.004 gCholesterol: 177 mgSodium: 163 mgFiber: 12 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2015 David Leite. Photo © 2015 David Leite. All rights reserved.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. My Dear Mr. Leite,

    Quinoa is a staple of my diet and appears on my pop up menus frequently. I recently offered pulled pork over a quinoa pilaf topped with a good Wisconsin cheddar. I’ve made gratins with it. If I’m really trying to be healthy, I’ll dump it on some salad greens with some edemame and almonds and carrots and a lemon vinaigrette and toss the whole mess into infinity. I also do as you suggest by cooking up a big pot, mixing in some lemons and herbs and then plopping salmon filets on top and letting the fish steam right there. You can also “pop” it like corn and top salads or appetizers with the result. Love the stuff. My only quibble is that I’d like to see more of it farmed in the US.



    1. My Dear Kitchenbeard,

      You never cease to amaze me. You;re always three steps ahead of me on everything. I make bacon, you’ve already made it. I corn my own beef, you’ve already done it. I fall for quinoa, you’re already in the midst of a torrid affair. I think a tidy little rubout is in order. If I were you, I’d look both way before crossing the street. And stay away from any seedy seaside shanties. Competition’s a bitch.

      1. My dear Mr. Leite,

        You may chalk it up to being surrounded by the aforementioned hippies and vegans in San Francisco where quinoa may be purchased in bulk at groceries like Rainbow Market for the cheap. I’d never be considered a good dinner host in this town if I didn’t have at least 2 vegan options at my dinners and quinoa fits that bill as a complete protein.

        Now, as for shanties….

  2. You’d better be very, very careful – you’re going to end up the poster boy for Quinoa……. and, this one sounds very tasty. 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve always loved your recipes, and your writing. THIS post had me laughing out loud at my desk…thank you for your wonderful recipes and humour!