Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Brazilian Fish Stew – Almost Moqueca

In case I wasn’t completely clear the multiple times I mentioned it in the videothis is just my take, my twist, my interpretation of a Brazilian fish stew. Or, as people who will ignore the previous sentence call it, “moqueca.”

The most glaring omission from the classic ingredient list would be red palm oil, which apparently gives this dish it signature flavor. Since I don’t think I ever had it, it’s hard for me to say, but what I can tell you, is that this was incredibly delicious even without the mysterious oil.

Like most of the world’s great fish stews, this is usually made with several types of seafood, but this is what I’m calling the weeknight version. Using a whitefish, along with scallops, shrimp, clams, etc., is lovely, but then you do have to worry about timing, so that everything finishes at the same time.

By using one fish, this really is quite a simple recipe, and the little bit of slicing and mincing involved is well worth the gorgeous, and very tasty results. I really do hope you give this gorgeous Brazilian fish stew a try soon. Enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
1 can (14-oz) coconut milk (not low fat!)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 1/2 cup sliced assorted sweet and/or hot peppers
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 1/2 pounds sea bass, or other firm white fish, cut into chunks
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
serve with rice


TimD said...

I've been making this for years after dating a Brazilian girl a while back. It's definitely not the same without dende oil. Even regular red palm oil from elsewhere is somehow not quite the same but still works. Highly recommend using some sort of (responsibility produced) red palm oil. It's a whoever different dish with olive oil

Patrick said...

Chef this looks amazing. Can't wait to try. Oh and I baked your hamburger buns this weekend and they turned out great. Thanks!!!!

beemo said...

Just the words "fish stew" send me into dreamland, there's something magical about the phrase, perhaps because I'm a prairie dweller. This recipe looks like heroin on a plate.

arwiv said...

"You are the JRR Tolkien of making sure your guests aren't chokin". I love all those lines that you do but this was one of the all-time best.

Roli said...

Hi Chef John,
I have a question that doesn't pertain to this video, though this and all other videos you post are amazing, but was wondering if you could help me out. I love cooking but the pans I have are hand me downs and with the exception of a few good ones, like a seasoned cast iron pan that was my grandmothers'; which is amazing, I feel like it's time to upgrade. Is there a set that you can recommend? I'm looking at a stainless steel cuisinart set but would like your opinion.

Thank you in advance

Hugo Sanchez said...

Would this taste good with chicken?

alex mentes said...

As always, the red palm oil or dende oil can be found on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dende-Oil-Azeite-Talisca-GLUTEN-FREE/dp/B006B9VUN0

Thickethouse.wordpress said...


samuel said...

Chef, although controversial, you should try to find some palm oil, or as we call it here "dendê". It has a very powerful flavor and combined with the coconut milk it is essencially what makes the moqueca.
Truth is dendê and coconut milk are typical ingredients of the moqueca from Bahia, which I do believe is the best brazilian moqueca. But we have another kind, the moqueca capixaba (wich means from Espírito Santo), that doesn't use either of these ingredients. It's a fish stew with just a tomato/vegetable base.
And I also wanted to share a very commom vegetarian substitute for the fish in both recipes that is slowly becoming a hit in Brazil: plantains. Please give this a try also! http://glo.bo/2kPg0au
Best wishes!

dOc said...

Well chef, as a brazilian I congratulate you for this twist on Moqueca. And to be frank, I would not call it a twist since in many places in Brazil if you ask for a moqueca you will get something very similar to the dish you prepared. It has a lot of variations but all the main ingredients were used by you. The palm tree oil is not a unanimity. So, again, congratulations on your moqueca. And you should try it sometime with farofa (made on butter) instead of rice. It is the perfect combination.

Iqbal Raza said...

this is a amazing dish
Buy 4 Big Shawarmas Sandwich With Saj Bread

joeribelgium said...

Hi Chef, i made this for myself, it was amazing, but my grandmother is allergic to fish, can this recipe work with chicken instead?

Kind regard

joeribelgium said...

Hi Chef
i am gonna make this for myself but, my grandmother is allergic to fish, and i was wondering of this recipe would work with chicken instead?

Kind Regards

Steve O. said...

I made this last night and it was faaaantastic!
Chef John, you are the Ulysses of great recipes. Cheers!

beemo said...


When I tasted it after I thought it was finished, I was a touch disappointed, but then I realized I'd forgotten to squeeze in the bit of lemon juice. That turned 'okay' into SUPERB.

akaase said...

At 6:40: "Would this dish worth with chicken? UnoFISHally, yes. But oFISHally, it's made with fish!" Ha ha ha ha!

laruru said...

Can I use catfish replacing the sea bass or white fish used in this recipe? I'm a bit concern with the muddy-ish smell.

Joseph Hammond said...


Made this with cod and shrimp.


Dee said...

Chef John!

You are the TRUTH!!! I haven't tried this recipe yet, but I couldn't find a general email address for you. Since I found it, I've been making your turkey chili recipe which I love. I just tried your pan-roasted chicken breast, and I'm speechless! They were exactly like you said they would be. You've inspired me to cook on a regular basis. I'm planning to make the Greek Lemon Chicken for Sunday dinner.

Thank you so much for sharing your love of great cooking with us!!!

Barb said...

Hello Chef John this looks delish I am going to try it however I do have a food wish can you try Jamician beef patties or Jamician peas and rice i know it has coconut milk mine never comes out right
Thanks and love your recipies

Unknown said...

This looks absolutely fantastic. One quick note: your allrecipes version is missing the cilantro from the ingredients list, though the recipe mentions adding it at the end. I had to come here to find out how much. Thanks!

Lee Buckley said...

All great comment! Chef, you did mention in the poaching process that different seafood requires different timing! Where would one find the timing required for say sea bass vs. scallops vs. shrimp, etc.? You know, but many others don't!

S/V Blondie-Dog said...

Greetings Chef! I'll has ya' done knows dat' this here Brazilian fish stew has me still salivating for even more! It be that darned good! In any event I now be a coconut milk convert. I now knows to cook it up long enough for all dem' particles on the surface blend in wit' da' rest of da' sauce. Yippers! I do luv's me that succulent, silky, supple, perky coconut flavor. It kinda' reminds me of the enticing scent of coconut tanning oil. Thanks! You're da' best!

Leti said...

I made this last night and everything came together just as shown in the video with the exception that adding the fish does actually release some water into the sauce for a higher volume; a welcomed change. I thought the sauce was amazing, though a bit more spiciness would have been ideal. I tried using frozen fish fillets (no breading or seasoning, just plain, sustainably caught fish). I defrosted them over a few days in the fridge, rinsed them with water and patted them dry before adding them to the stew. While the stew tasted amazing, I could not get over the soggy texture of my fish. Next time I make this, it will be a same day-shop affair, with freshly cut fish. Frozen just didn't work.

jessica said...

Great post..thanks for sharing...Want to try delicious food, must visit Thyme Bistro - where you can eat and drink...

Peter Daniels said...

Looks really good/great, but will now have to watch the video, make decipherable notes on the method, type and print it, because if someone else (she who must be obeyed) wants to make it then it certainly requires a printed method to go with the available recipe.
Will look into other recipes as your presentation was A1 and I think must follow good and easy recipes. Thanks .. Peter

beemo said...

This evening I made this for the second time, for my visiting sister who actually lived in Brazil for a couple of years, long ago. She loved it and it brought all kinds of memories and associations to her mind; she even mentioned 'red palm oil.'

We used some nice 'n' cheap tilapia fillets -- no sense using expensive fish in this kind of favela food is there

If I manage to find some actual red palm oil, and notice anything extra-miraculous thereby next time I make this, I'll let you know. But it's hard to imagine anything better.

Michael Poulin said...

Dear Chef this was easy and wonderful. My family is not big for fish, loved it. I think this will be perfect for no meat Fridays during lent. I'm goin to try it with shrimp. Thank you very much.

Apetalk1971 said...

For those of us who live in San Francisco, I noticed yesterday that Rainbow Grocery has red palm oil.

Chef John doesn't use it in his recipe, so this may just be trivial comment.

Mike Bauer said...

Chef John,

Made this dish this evening, very good!

Thanks for your advice.

Lucky Puppy Snip said...

This was amazing. My boyfriend loved it. He said it made him feel like he was on an island. I couldn't find the sea bass, so I used tilapia instead and it was great.

Kristian Moore said...

Hi Chef John -

I made this and it was wonderful!! Do I increase the amount of liquid by simply adding more coconut milk?

Mike Bauer said...

Chef John,

Made this for the second time tonight ... practice makes better! Family loved it, wife said, "why do we even bother going out when we eat like this at home?"

Used fresh cod that I intended to grill outside but the weather isnt cooperating this evening. I fortunately had everything I needed. Served over homemade cilantro lime rice.

Thanks again!

Martin said...

I used this as the base, but subbed chicken for the fish. Great flavor, Moqueca-style ! In essence, Chef John has helped me elevate my cooking without fear.

yuriyuri chanchan said...
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Alfred said...

Hi Chef, could i just leave the bones in?