Brazilian-Style Fish Stew (Moqueca)


It is May, which for most of us means warmer temperatures, more sun, and the beckoning call of the barbeque. But for those days when it’s raining, excessively windy or otherwise dreary outside, a soup or stew is in order. And there are days you just need something creamy and warm to comfort your belly. When I decided to make this stew last night, comforting food was just what I needed. I’d had a bad day, where something I ate this past weekend was wreaking havoc on my system. I needed comfort, but I needed it to be relatively easy on the tummy, and more substantial than a broth – because I was also starving! This stew was a miracle worker – it soothed some of the aches and pains, and it warmed and filled my belly. It was comfort in a whole new way.

Of course, you don’t have to be in need of healing to decide on a stew such as this. It’s ready in under an hour, is made with fresh ingredients, is gluten-free and dairy-free, and pretty darn healthy – what’s not to love? What was also amazing, in my opinion, was that it reheats beautifully. I enjoyed leftovers for lunch today, and the fish remained moist and flavorful. I can only imagine it would be a definite family-pleaser, and different from the usual weeknight routine.

I opted for tilapia in this recipe – not that tilapia is an authentic choice, it’s just inexpensive and sustainable, and it’s what I had on hand. Most recipes I’ve seen call for an oilier fish, which would be lovely. I could also imagine shrimp would make an excellent substitute. I also didn’t have dende (palm) oil on hand, so I simply omitted it, using olive oil instead. (Definitely going to keep my eye out for it though!) Vegan? I haven’t tried this recipe “veganized”, but I would imagine that substituting vegetable broth for the chicken stock and clam juice, and adding a diced potato (not Idaho, I would go for something more like a red-skinned potato or a Yukon Gold) and/or adding extra veggies might work well here. (I could have totally subsisted on the tomato-ey, fragrant coconut milk broth alone – just saying!)


Brazilian-Style Fish Stew, adapted from Leite’s Culinaria and Cooking Light

1 ½ lbs tilapia, cut into 2-inch chunks

¼ c lime juice

5 T olive oil

6 cloves garlic, minced and divided

1 inch piece of ginger, minced and divided

3 scallions, sliced

4 T cilantro, chopped and divided

½ t salt

¼ t pepper

1 yellow bell pepper, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1 bay leaf

1 bottle clam juice

1 c low-sodium or homemade chicken stock

1 c coconut milk

2 T tomato paste

2 tomatoes, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the tilapia, lime juice, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, half the garlic, half the ginger, the scallions, and half the cilantro in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute. Add the bay leaf, clam juice, chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the coconut milk and tomato paste and return to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add tilapia chunks and cook for 3 minutes or until cooked through. Add the diced tomatoes at the last minute, just long enough to heat through. Serve with jasmine rice, garnished with remaining cilantro.

Serves 4.


  1. says

    I love the diversity of the meals here, Alta. I’m always finding something new and something I want to eat, too. Sorry you were under the weather, but glad this soup worked its magic. :-) It’s still cold and damp here, although it’s supposed to be 85 tomorrow then back to 70 the next day. Crazy weather. I have a fire in the woodstove going and would love a bowl of this moqueca right now.


  2. says

    Hi TEAH…this is real comfort food and healthy too. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I normally steam the fish with savoury chilli and fermented bean paste. But I will try this out for sure. Real comfort food :)

  3. says

    I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a few days now, and every time I start to comment I get pulled away. It has been calling to me, and I think tonight is the perfect night for it. It’s cool and rainy here, and I’m definitely in the mood for fish. Thanks for another great recipe, Alta!

  4. Michael says

    This is a good one. Just made it just ate it. The two-year-old, the seven-year-old, and the other forty-one year old (wife) all loved it. Shrimp would be great too, as would a little spice. Will certainly make it again. Thanks!

  5. Roma says

    I quadrupled this recipe and served it for a holiday meal. The flavors were wonderful; the stew was a real hit! Even the young children gobbled it up. We used tilapia, cod, salmon and shrimp and added peas and small pieces of diced potato. Recommend you use the full fat coconut milk for best flavor. Leftovers were terrific. We’ll be serving this again.


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