Brazilian moqueca de peixe or fish stew with coconut milk: firm white fish, prawns, and bell peppers. All served over fragrant rice.
This moqueca de peixe is one of my favorite recipes! I’ve cooked like a million times and we never grow tired of it! Incredibly flavorful, comforting and delicious!
Table of contents
What is moqueca de peixe baiana?
Moqueca de peixe is one of the most popular Brazilian dishes, particularly popular in the northwest region of Bahia, where according to Lonely Planet “Africa meets South America”. This Brazilian fish recipe has African origins, many components of the dish reminding of the African roots of many inhabitants of Bahia.
During the 16th and 19th century many African people were forcibly brought to Brazil, most of them in the region of Bahia. The over 4 million slaves influenced strongly not only the Brazilian cuisine, but the entire Brazilian culture.
Some of the elements belonging to this moqueca baiana, which definitely have an African origin are the traditional use of red palm oil and coconut milk. Many versions of this Brazilian stew are also made with okra, which has African origins as well and all moquecas are served with rice – the so-called Brazilian rice.
According to Wikipedia rice was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese and their African slaves and “recent scholarship suggests that enslaved Africans played an active role in the establishment of rice in the New World and that African rice was an important crop from an early period.”
How to make the Brazilian fish stew?
First of all, my version of this fish stew is actually a mix between the moqueca de peixe (peixe = fish) and moqueca de camarao (camarao = shrimp).
It was not a conscious thing to make a Brazilian shrimp stew recipe at any time, it just happened one time when making the fish stew for the probably 6th or 7th time. I just happened to have some frozen tiger prawns and not enough fish. So, I added the prawns to the fish stew and that made the whole affair even more delicious than it already was.
Ever since, I have always been adding prawns to the fish stew.
- Using fresh fish and prawns would be the ideal way of cooking this dish. However, if I was only to make this stew when I am able to buy fresh cod and shrimps around here then I would not be making this very often at all.
- Traditionally, you would make this recipe with cod. I do it often and it is absolutely wonderful.
- However, if I cannot find any cod or if the kids would rather eat salmon then I make the stew with salmon instead.
- I have even used pieces of pollack combined with salmon and prawns and they were delicious as well.
- Just keep in mind when using pollack that pollack is not a firm sort of fish and will only need to spend minutes in the hot stew before it is cooked. Don’t overcook it or it would become rubbery.
- I always undercook the fish in this recipe, it will continue cooking after you turn off the heat and it will be perfectly cooked by the time you serve it.
- If using prawns or shrimps also add them to the stew during the last minutes of the cooking time.
- For today’s recipe, I used cod slices from a whole (rather small) cod, which I cut into pieces without making fillets, so the spine of the fish was still present. If you are using fish with bones, do warn the people at the table that there are still bones in the fish.
- However, most of the time I would use cod or salmon fillets, without any bones. But I could not resist buying fresh whole cod, that is why I used this kind of pieces this time.
- Traditionally, you would use red palm oil. I would if I could find it. But I cannot unless I order it online, it is pretty expensive and it comes in large bottles, which I would not be able to use before it expired.
- So, I used coconut oil instead, I think it suits the coconut milk in the stew perfectly. If you wish, you could use olive oil as well.
The base of the stew
- The liquids I use to make the moqueca are coconut milk and fish stock. I always use this recipe to make fish stock. If I make a batch of the stock, it is usually enough for cooking this dish 2 or 3 times.
- If you don’t want to make your own fish stock, buy some good quality fish stock instead or use a light vegetable broth. However, I do recommend a fish stock.
- A traditional moqueca recipe is maybe not quite as soupy as my version. I did make it less soupy at the beginning, but after making it soupier once, we decided that we like it even better this way.
- We always serve the fish stew with Brazilian rice and we love having lots of this flavorful broth to soak the rice.
- Oh, I just hope many of you will cook this dish, it is just too good to miss.
- I always make Brazilian rice to serve with the stew. It is very easy to make and particularly delicious.
- So good, you will end up using this recipe not only for serving with this stew, but also to serve it with other dishes as well.
More fish soups
Moqueca de Peixe Recipe
- 1 medium onion
- 1 medium red bell pepper
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil Note 1
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 chili more or less depending on how hot it is
- 500 g/ 1 lbs cod fillets Note 2
- 500 ml/ 17 oz/ 2 cups fish stock Note 3
- 1 can coconut milk 400 g/ 14.1 oz
- 250 g/ 8.8 oz tiger prawns peeled and deveined
- fine sea salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice more to taste (Note 4)
- a few sprigs fresh coriander
- Brazilian rice:
- 1 small onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 350 g/ 12.3 oz/ 1 ½ cups long grain white rice Note 5
- 700 ml/ 23.6 fl.oz/ 3 cups hot water or hot vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt only ½ teaspoon if using vegetable broth
- some black ground pepper
Moqueca de peixe:
- Chop the onion finely. Cut the peppers into small cubes or small stripes. Heat the coconut oil in a wider pot. Saute the onion and the bell peppers for about 8 to 10 minutes or until soft. Add the finely minced garlic cloves, sweet paprika powder, cayenne pepper and finely chopped chili. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant.
- While the vegetables are cooking cut the cod into larger chunks, if necessary. If you bought already filleted cod, just cut it into larger pieces, about 4-5cm/ 1 ½ -2 inches. Season the pieces with salt and pepper. Arrange the fish on top of the vegetables. Add the fish stock and the coconut milk. Cover, bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
- I always undercook the fish slightly. It will still have a couple of minutes cooking time together with the prawns that are added at the end of the cooking time and they will continue cooking while you bring the pot to the dish.
- Add the peeled and deveined prawns and continue simmering for 2 or 3 minutes until the prawns turn white.
- Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, and a little lime or lemon juice. Start with a tablespoon, stir, and add more to taste. While the stew cooks, prepare the rice.
- Chop the onion and the garlic cloves very finely. Heat the oil in a small pot and saute the onion and the garlic until soft. Add the rice and stir to coat. Continue stirring the rice in the pot for about 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add the water or vegetable stock and some salt. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer, well covered, for about 18-20 minutes or until tender. Regard the packet’s instructions concerning the cooking time of the rice, depending on the sort and brand of rice you are using, cooking times might differ slightly.
- Fluff the rice with a fork. Place some rice into a deeper plate, add the fish stew on top and sprinkle with chopped coriander. Serve immediately.
- You can use red palm oil (traditionally used) or olive oil instead.
- I have often made the stew with salmon fillets instead of cod. Or salmon/cod combined with pollack fillets. Pollack is not a firm sort of fish. Only add it to the stew during the last 3 or 4 minutes of the cooking time.
- You can use homemade fish stock or a good brand of fish stock. If you cannot find fish stock, use a light vegetable broth.
- Lime is perfect, but if I don’t have it I use lemon juice.
- Basmati rice, for instance.