Brazilian-Style Fish Stew Recipe (Moqueca)
This easy fish recipe is the perfect option for a delicious weeknight meal. This Brazilian-style fish stew (moqueca) takes just 45 minutes to prepare from start to finish, and is a deeply satisfying dish that won’t leave you feeling heavy.
Quick Weeknight Meal
I love this traditional Brazilian fish stew, because it takes common ingredients and transforms them into a cozy and delectable stew, suitable for a dinner party or weeknight meal with the family. Being a rustic stew, this recipe can really take any direction. Add ginger or garlic if you like. Toss in some curry powder or possibly lemongrass. I kept this recipe straightforward and simple, but feel free to use what you have on hand to change it up.
Red Palm Oil
While researching this recipe, I discovered that red palm oil is considered a necessity for the authenticity of this stew. Red palm oil is made from the red palm, a plant that grows in tropical regions. From Nutiva’s website: “Red palm oil is a nutrient-dense culinary oil, and has a mild carrot-like flavor. Its rich orange color reveals the presence of antioxidant vitamins A and E, in the forms of beta-carotene and rare tocotrienols and tocopherols of the vitamin E family.” There has been a lot of controversy in the last few years about the destruction of orangutan habitat to harvest red palm oil. Nutiva, the only brand I can recommend, is harvested in Ecuador, where there are not any orangutans living, and they partner with multiple organizations to ensure that no deforestation or de-habitation occurs. Besides ordering online, I have also found Nutiva red palm oil at Whole Foods and Sprouts.
Moqueca is traditionally served with plain steamed white rice, to allow the bright flavors of the stew to stand out.
Brazilian Style Fish Stew Recipe (Moqueca)
- 3 1/2-4 pounds firm white fish (sole, cod, halibut)
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 4 Tablespoons red palm oil*
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 pounds tomato, chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 large bunch cilantro chopped, stems too
- 2 14 oz. cans coconut milk
- Cut fish into 6-8" fillets. Combine fish fillets, garlic, lime juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper in a shallow bowl and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
- In a large soup pot, heat palm oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and pepper flakes, and cook until onion and pepper are softened, close to 10 minutes.
- Add tomato and cook for 5 minutes more. Add chopped cilantro stems.
- Add fish, along with marinade, and coconut milk. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 15 minutes, until fish flakes apart and is opaque.
- Add chopped cilantro leaves and taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Serve immediately, trying to serve full fillets in each bowl (it's okay if they break apart too).