Fish Stews can be so boring…but not a BRAZILIAN Fish Stew!! With a fragrant tomato coconut sauce with a fresh hit of lime, this is such a different exotic way to serve up fish that is off the charts delicious – yet simple to make.
Brazilian Fish Stew
When I think of Brazilian food, I immediately have visions of grilled meat. Specifically, Churrasco. Steaks with Chimichurri sauce. Serious quantities of grilled meat on giant skewers with the waiters walking from table to table, slicing the meat straight from the skewer onto my plate.
Because of the strong association of Brazilian food with Churrasco (and also because I don’t have a giant grill with a rotisserie) I thought sharing this traditional Brazilian fish stew would be nice for something a bit different!
The sauce of Brazilian Fish Stew is essentially a coconut curry sauce. Lightly spiced with a hit of lime, great depth of flavour!
What Brazilian Fish Stew tastes like
It tastes like a mild version of Thai Red Curry – and requires a whole lot less ingredients to make! The flavour of the sauce isn’t as kapow in-your-face, it is slightly more refreshing and not quite as rich.
While the flavour isn’t as intense, it doesn’t mean that it’s not as tasty! You will be amazing at the flavour you get from the relatively short list of ingredients. The key to this recipe is searing the fish first, and letting the sauce simmer down.
What you need
Here’s what you need to make Brazilian Fish Stew. See? I promised they were all “normal” ingredients!!!
Virtually any fish fillets will work here, though I’d avoid lean fish such as swordfish and tuna. I’ve used snapper below. Other popular fish that will work well here include: tilapia, basa, barramundi, salmon, trout, mullet, ling, bream, John dory or Silver dory.
I remember the first time I saw this Brazilian Fish Stew recipe, I was a bit dubious that the sauce would have sufficient flavour with so few ingredients for the sauce. It gets a helping hand by searing the fish in the pan first. The golden bits left in the pan (it’s called fond) after searing the fish adds a good hit of savoury flavour into the sauce.
How to make Brazilian Fish Stew
And here’s how to make it. It takes around 1 hour all up including a brief marinating time for the fish, and simmering time to reduce the sauce.
What to serve with Fish Stew
Serve this over rice or mashed potato so you have something to soak up that glorious sauce. If you want to up the ante, try it with this Lime Rice – and a crusty hunk of bread to mop your plate clean wouldn’t go astray either (try this quick no-yeast Irish Bread).
For a side salad, this Cucumber Salad with Herb & Garlic Dressing would go really well. The fresh, juicy, crunchy cucumber goes really well with this creamy coconut sauce. Otherwise, serve it alongside a leafy green salad with a vinaigrette (rather than creamy dressing) such as French Dressing, Italian or Balsamic Dressing.
Enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca Baiana)
A traditional Brazilian dish of fish and bell peppers (capsicum) in a delicately flavoured coconut base broth. The broth is quite refreshing and not too rich, unlike many strong flavoured, rich coconut based curries. I made this just using fish but it is also made as a seafood stew with prawns and calamari. Traditionally this is cooked with palm oil which is not easy to source so I made this with olive oil.
- 1 lb / 500g firm white fish fillet (, no skin, cut into 1″/2.5cm cubes (Note 1))
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves (, minced)
- 1 small onion (, finely diced (brown, yellow or white))
- 1 large red bell pepper / capsicum (, halved and sliced)
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar ((any))
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper ((optional))
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 14 oz / 400ml coconut milk ((I used low fat))
- 14 oz / 400ml canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup fish broth ((or chicken broth or water))
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 3 tbsp roughly chopped fresh cilantro / coriander
- Combine the fish, lime juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the fish and cook until just cooked through and light golden brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Reduce the stove to medium high and heat 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil in the same skillet. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 1 1/2 minutes or until the onion is starting to become translucent.
- Add the bell peppers and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining Broth ingredients. Bring to simmer, then turn down to medium. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until it thickens. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Return the fish to the broth to reheat – about 2 minutes.
- Stir through lime juice.
- Garnish with cilantro/coriander and serve with rice.
1. This is best made with firm white fish fillets because they hold their shape better. Firm white fish fillets include: Ling, Blue-eye Trevalla, Coral Trout, Emperors and Mahi Mahi, Halibut, Sword fish, Cod, Bass and Catfish.
However, I have made this with gem fish (like tilapia) and it works great, you just need to be slightly more careful when searing the cubes of fish so they don’t fall apart. Use an egg flip to turn them carefully!
2. As with every traditional dish in this world, there are many variations of Brazilian Fish Stew! My recipe is a mish mash of various recipes that stays true to the traditional recipe but slightly tweaked to work for my palette. The main difference is that I like sauce so mine is saucier than most! The recipes I referenced include:
a) Feast Magazine – Fish soup (moqueca baiana)
b) Brazilian Foodie – Moqueca Baiana
c) Saveur – Brazilian Fish Stew
d) Simply Recipes – Moqueca – Brazilian Fish Stew
3. Update: A suggestion from a reader (from Brazil!) is to use coconut oil instead of olive oil. She said that this is a closer substitute to palm oil. She also suggested stirring in 1 or 2 tbsp of coconut oil at the end for extra flavour!
4. Nutrition per serving assuming 3 servings.
Originally published September 2015. Updated with new photos, brand new video and of course, a Life of Dozer section added!!
Let’s eat more fish!
Life of Dozer
The one place in the new house he’s not allowed – the SPA. Can you imagine how much of his hair would come out with jets blasting on him?? Major filter clogging!!!