Moqueca or Seafood Stew is a Brazilian recipe with a base of palm oil, coconut milk, onions, peppers, tomatoes and combined with fish and shrimp or other seafood. The dish is traditionally garnished with fresh chopped cilantro on top, while crusty bread provides the best accompaniment.
It can be traced back to 300 years ago when it was first invented due to the fact that the Portuguese brought coconuts to the country, and slaves from Africa introduced palm oil to Brazilian cuisine. There are numerous versions of moqueca, such as moqueca Capixaba, or moqueca Baiana, from the Bahia state in the northeast of the country.
Moqueca ~ Brazilian Seafood Stew
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- 1 lb tilapia fillets thawed and pat dry
- 1 lb extra large shrimp deveined, shell and tail-off
- 3 tsp salt
- black pepper to taste
- ½ tsp cumin
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 large white or yellow onion chopped
- 1 med red bell pepper de-seeded and sliced (reserve a couple of slices)
- 1 med green bell pepper de-seeded and sliced (reserve a couple of slices)
- 1 med yellow bell pepper de-seeded and sliced (reserve a couple of slices)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 large large tomatoes sliced (reserve a couple of slices)
- 2 cups coconut cream or a thick coconut milk
- ½ cup vegetable or fish broth
- 1 tbsp red palm oil or olive oil
- 1 tsp malagueta pepper or Thai clili peper or a few drops of hot sauce
- 1½ lime juiced
- 2 tbsp cilantro or parsley chopped
- Season both the fish fillets and the shrimp with 2 tsp salt, pepper to taste, and cumin.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet or a no-stick saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté the onion and bell pepper for about 3 minutes. Then, sauté the garlic and tomatoes for about 2 minutes.
- Transfer cooked veggies to a blender and add coconut milk, broth, and 1 tsp salt. Blend until smooth. Set aside! Using the same pan, add 1 more tablespoon of oil if needed, and cook fish fillets for about 2-3 minutes.
- Flip fish. Pour blended mixture over the fish fillets and stir in palm oil and the malagueta pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the shrimp and the reserved slices of bell peppers and tomatoes and let cook over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice and then the cilantro. Serve warm with white rice and farofa. Enjoy!
Traditional moqueca is recognized as moqueca capixaba and is native to the state of Espírito Santo. It is a combination of Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine. It is considered a softer and lighter version of moqueca. Lighter oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil, are used instead of palm oil (as in the Bahian version). Urucum pigment is added, and it is always cooked in a traditional clay pan. Moqueca capixaba can be made with fish, shrimp, crabs, sea crab or lobsters. The full meal set includes banana da terra (plantain) stew as a side dish as well as pirão and white rice – each one in its own clay pan. The dish is usually seasoned with onion, tomatoes, coriander, and chives. It is usually accompanied by pirão, which is the paste made with cassava root flour (“farinha de mandioca”) and the gravy from the stew.
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