Fish in Coconut Stew

Updated June 10, 2016

This is a popular Brazilian stew, rich with creamy coconut milk. An authentic ingredient is palm oil (dendê), which lends a distinctive flavor and color, but you can use more olive oil instead.

Prepare ahead: Prepare, cool, and refrigerate the stew up through step 1 up to 1 day ahead. When ready to serve, heat and add the fish. The salsa can be made up to 1 day ahead, but stir in the chopped parsley at the last minute.

Makes4 servings

Preparation Time15 min

Cooking Time35 min


Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

One Pot MealYes

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationLactose-free


Taste and TextureCreamy, Herby, Rich, Sharp

Type of DishFish Soup, Soup


  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1¾ lb (800g) firm white fish, such as cod and snapper, cut into large chunks or strips
  • 3 tbsp palm oil (optional)
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 ripe tomato, skinned, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp hot pepper sauce


  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until tender but not browned. Add the tomatoes and the peppers. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and released their juices. Stir in the coconut milk and tomato paste and return to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

  2. Meanwhile, make the salsa. Mix all the ingredients together and spoon into a serving bowl. Set aside to allow the flavors to blend.

  3. Add the fish to the coconut milk mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes, until the fish is opaque throughout. Do not overcook. Stir in the palm oil, if using.

  4. Transfer the stew to a heated serving dish and sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve hot, with the salsa passed on the side.


Farofa de Dendê: To make this traditional side dish, heat 2 tbsp dendê oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion and cook 5 minutes until tender. Add ½ cup manioc flour and 15 soaked drained, and finely chopped dried shrimp. Cook, stirring, until the flour is toasted, about 5 minutes.



I have not made this yet so I cannot rate it.

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I totally bastardized this recipe but it was pretty good - I toasted about 6 oz of fideos before adding coconut milk, along with steeping a stalk of lemongrass and other adaptions. It was a great inspiration!

In Brazil, this is called Moqueca. Like the gumbos of Louisiana, each region and within the regions, each household makes a different version. I would only add that you might want to use a coconut milk with no added sugar and beware that dende can stimulate the lower GI. I prefer to use olive oil. Also, using a bit of lime juice and creole seasoning on the fish prior to cooking gives it a little zest that is missing.


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