Fish Stew in Coconut Milk

  • Active Time 5m
  • Total Time 30m

Serves 4

One of the prized dishes of Bahia, moqueca is a quickly made fish stew. I learned to make this version from chef Tania e Paixao, who prepares it in an earthenware pottery skillet that doubles as a serving dish. It is served with Arroz a Baiana, Farofa, and Molho de Pimenta.


  • 4 firm fish fillets such as halibut or grouper, about 5 ounces each, or 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 malagueta, bird or serrano chile, minced, or cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons dende oil
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 3 green onions, including tops, cut into long pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and slivered
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut in half


Cut each fish fillet into thirds. If using shrimp, peel and devein them.

In a shallow dish, combine the fish or shrimp, garlic, chile, and salt and toss to coat on all sides. Let stand 10 minutes.

In a skillet, heat the dende oil until almost smoking. Add the fish or shrimp and quickly brown on both sides. Pour the coconut milk over the fish. Reduce the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook about 5 minutes.

Uncover and top the fish with the green onions, bell pepper, tomato, red onion, and cilantro to taste. Add a little water if the pan seems too dry. Cover and continue to cook until the fish is cooked through and feels firm, about 10 minutes. Tania does not stir the dish. She simply cooks it over low heat long enough to steam all the flavors together.

Before serving, squeeze the lime halves over the top and add more freshly chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately.


Moqueca comes from the Tupinamba Indian word pokeka, which means a stew of fish seasoned with hot peppers. The African influence comes in with the addition of dende oil and coconut milk. Dende oil gives the dish a golden cast and distinctive Brazilian accent, but it can be made with olive or safflower oil instead.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Chronicle. All rights reserved.

RecID 1614

nutrition information per serving

427 calories; 28g total fat; 45mg cholesterol; 392mg sodium; 13g carbohydrates; 4g fiber; 33g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

Sign Up for Newsletters Here

Get recipes, private sale alerts and more goodies, oh joy!