Salmon Fish Stew, Brazilian Style

In Bahia in Northern Brazil, there is a savory fish stew called “Moqueca” that they make with local fish. Fernanda Guimaraes Rosa, who writes the Brazilian food blog Chucrute com Salsicha, brought a Vancouver friend’s salmon version of Moqueca to party a while ago, and it was wonderful, my favorite dish of the day. The salmon is marinated first with lime juice, paprika, and cumin, and then simmered with onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers, in coconut milk. It was even better the next day.

Salmon Fish Stew, Brazilian Style Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

Marinade:

  • The cloves from 1/2 head of garlic, peeled, crushed, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon of coarse salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of dry cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper

Other:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of salmon, cut into 2-inch pieces (largish-bite sized pieces)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, and sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can thick coconut milk
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, 1-2 cups
  • Freshly cooked rice for serving

Method

1 Mix together the marinade ingredients. Let the salmon marinate in this paste for at least 2 hours. The longer, the better.

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2 In a large pan (large covered skillet or Dutch oven), coat the bottom of the pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add a layer of sliced onions, and then a layer of sliced bell peppers, and a layer of sliced tomatoes. Place the fish pieces, with the marinade, on top of everything, and start layering again - onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add about half of your fresh cilantro to the top. Pour coconut milk over the top. Drizzle generously with olive oil over the top (several tablespoons).

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3 Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are cooked through.

Serve with rice; garnish with remaining cilantro.

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44 Comments

  1. lydia

    Fantastic — I’ve had this recipe with other fish (in a Brazilian restaurant), but never with salmon. I’m so glad to know how to make it!

  2. Elise

    Hi Jerry – Not only is the salmon marinated in lime juice for several hours, it’s cooked for 30 minutes with the stew. In this recipe, the salmon gets well cooked. Normally when we make fish stew, we put the fish in only at the end for 5 minutes. This recipe is different, but it works in its own way. The salmon ends up being meatier, and more infused with the flavor of the marinade and the stew. I really did like it even better the next day when I reheated it. So go figure. It breaks the rules (at least the ones we follow) about cooking fish, but it tastes great.

  3. Anne Marie

    This recipe looks great, however, my husband is not a salmon fan either. What other fish would you suggest?

  4. Lydia Sugarman

    It’s been years since I’ve had moqueca and never had a recipe for it, until now. Love this dish. It was always made with some kind of meaty, mild white-fleshed fish.

    Rice prepared the Brasilian way is a must! It always starts out with sauteing the rice and finely chopped onion in a little oil for a couple of minutes and then, adding the water to finish cooking as usual. So good!

  5. Maggi

    I might have missed something when reading the recipe…

    Is the salmon sliced/diced? I am trying to make it out fro the photos. The recipe doesn’t specify otherwise, yet the photos doesn’t look like salmon fillets.

  6. Elise

    The salmon is cut into pieces, about 2 inches wide if a fillet, or an inch wide if a steak. The photo looks like a paste because we were working with fillet pieces and they were covered in marinade. Generally you want large, bite sized pieces. (Thanks for the questions, I updated the recipe.)

  7. Garrett

    Mmmm… I remember that dish at the gathering. That was mighty tasty fish. She had to reheat it in my kitchen and the whole apartment smelled like it the whole day.
    Lucky me!

  8. Flora

    We’re having guest over for dinner tomorrow. This recipe is so nice because one can prepare it a day ahead! The aroma from the stew is wonderful. I look forward to trying it tomorrow night!

    P.S. I love the tip on sauteing the white rice with onions and a little oil before adding the water. Sort of like the way spanish rice is prepared. Thanks!
    Flora

  9. Vicki

    Hi Elise -
    I made this yesterday for dinner tonight, and it was a hit with me and hubby! Kids (who could live off of $0.10 packaged ramen) didn’t care for it because of the visible onions and green peppers, but that’s fine, we have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Thanks for another great one!

  10. Adam Hertz

    I made this for Joan tonight. The seasoning was marvelous. I can’t wait to try it tomorrow. Thanks, Elise, for yet another winner.

    -A-

  11. Caroline

    We made this recipe tonight and it was wonderful…only added rinsed can of black beans to the rice and an additional red pepper to the one green bell pepper. Thank you for a true “keeper”!

  12. beatrix kiddo

    Salmon has a very complex flavor on it’s own, I lived in Brazil for a few years and there the Moqueca is made with a very meaty white flesh fish, which has a much more subdued flavor. I’ll give a try to the Salmon but make it with a white fish, you’ll love it.

  13. Gigi

    I tried this last night and it was terrific. I can’t wait for the leftovers tonight… Thanks !

  14. Cris

    Elise, this really is fantastic huh? I never had it with salmon though, Fer did such a great job substituting. Did you make your rice the Brazilian way? I sauté garlic in hot oil, then I add rice and stir-fry well, add salt, then water and boil. When the water level drops, I cover the pan and lower the heat. When the rice is cooked, I turn off the heat and let the rice rest for about 10 minutes… :-)

  15. Lynn

    Made this dish for dinner tonight and it was delicious. Hubby and one of 2 children loved it (other child is pickier, so we expect he won’t like things). I made it with “lite” coconut milk and red pepper instead of green and served it over brown rice. The flavors were so good together. I’ll definitely make it again.

  16. Meredith Kelly

    I made this last night for my husband and father. It couldn’t have been easier to make, and we were all very happy. At one point my (crazy) husband pounded his fists in his lap and said, “Now that’s good!” Thanks so much. We appreciate something a little different during what can be a very long lent.

  17. stuminator

    I made this recipe last night. It couldn’t have been simpler. I used a salmon filet from Costco, jarred minced garlic, and red bell pepper instead of green. I served it with basmati rice, and some white wine. A huge hit. I am going to make it again with prawns, and maybe add a little hot pepper.

  18. felicity

    We made this last night and it was a big hit! Yum!

  19. Sabina

    Elise, awesome flavor. I know the recipe called for fresh salmon but I decided I used 2 – 14.5 oz. canned salmon, 2 extra tbsp of lime juice to the marinade, then “tossed” the salmon in the mix and let it stand for the 2 hrs. I saved 1/2 cup of the salmon out with its marinade and mixed with 3 chopped boiled eggs for egg salad sandwiches. I have to say I was surprised at the flavor combo but it was *delicious*. I have been coming to your site now for a year and always recommend it to my friends. With this and a couple other food blogs I enjoy, I don’t need to keep a library of cook books on the shelf anymore LOL. Keep up the great work!!!! Thanks so much.

  20. Kristin

    Made this last night – awesome! And so easy :)

  21. adam

    Very nice! Would be even better with some jalapeno bits in the stew.

  22. Catrice dela Calzada

    I used mahi mahi instead of salmon and it came out pretty nice. Delicious dish and quite easy. Highly recommend it :)

  23. Monika

    Thank you for this delicious recipe!Highly recommended.

  24. Nando Cuca

    Hi Chaps, Love the recipe but you have overlooked one important ingredient – palm oil. Is this because of the health aspect? Pail Oil may be an evil saturated vegetable oil, but you only need a spoonful to give it its authentic taste.

  25. Mika

    I’m going to make this tomorrow night for dinner. It looks fabulous and so easy! My question is…..is there a substitution for tomatoes? I’m allergic. Thanks.

  26. Bob Raymond

    This is the best recipe I have ever tried. The flavor was superb. All of my guest were impressed and want me to make it again.

    Sincerly,

    Bob Raymond

  27. Cristina Róseo

    I´m a bit late. But I read this recipe just now and I must say, as I did moqueca recipe so many times, something about this great dish – these recipe is normally made with a white fish, such as sea bass. Mahi mahi or shrimps or a combination of these will do marvelously.
    The fish should be cut with the bones, in rounds steaks of 2,5 cm of width. Cooked over low heat, cover, just to a simmer will help to bring together the flavours. The palm oil that we call “azeite de dende”, only a tablespoon makes a lot of difference such as a fresh red hot chile pepper, cut into narrow arounds. My choice is to use red and yellow pepper instead of green pepper, the color came out great and the green pepper flavour is not so delicate. Someone asks if can skip the tomatos, yes it would came out fine only a little pale. The side dish for moqueca is the white rice recipe below
    Serves 4
    In a 2,5 l heavy pan, add 1 tbs canola e corn oil. Sautée in one medium chopped onion (one can use only garlic or a combination of garlic and onion) till traslucent, add 1 cup white rice. Stir to coat the grains with the oil, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups boiling water, season with one tsp salt. Mix to dissolve the salt. Cover, lower the heat to low and cook until all the water is absorved. Take of the lid, with a fork gently loosens the rice.Turn off the heat and let it rest for 15 minutos, lid on.

  28. Sarah

    Made this last night – was super! Very tasty and so easy. Had to simmer for longer than the 30 mins to reduce the sauce. Definitely recommend.

  29. anne

    This is a delicious recipe and so easy. The first time I made it, I did not have bell pepper so used asparagus of all things. Seems like you could use quite a few different vegetables for this. Then made it again with bell pepper and realized I preferred the one with asparagus. It also worked fine with white fish which was put in towards the end. Also added a teaspoon of sugar (sorry) so the kids would not complain that it was too spicy.

  30. Rox

    I tried this dish with canned salmon (I had canned salmon and didn’t know what to do with it), it was GREAT. It’s definitely a keeper. My daughter even loved it. I LOVE IT LOVE IT

  31. Ancaruci

    The recipe was great. I would like to try it with yellow instead of green pepper. And I agree with the comments about adding some jalapeño ( I did not read it before ….). But it worked fabulous, and just took me 30 min.

  32. Lajuana Palmer

    I am not a fan of Coconut Milk. Is there anything else I can use in it’s place? Chicken Broth or Chicken Stock?
    Thanks

    Not for this particular stew, sorry. Coconut milk is essential. If you are looking for a different type of fish stew, you might check out my dad’s fish stew recipe. I haven’t tried it with salmon, but it’s worth a shot. ~Elise

  33. Robbo the Yobbo

    I happen to looooove coconut milk, so I made this a couple of weeks ago and it was great! I had leftovers and decided to try freezing them in individual portions since I was leaving for vacation. When thawed and eaten a week later, the stew was just as good.

    FYI, I also used the frozen, vacuum sealed wild salmon one can get pretty regularly at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t think the dish suffered at all for using frozen salmon.

    This recipe is a definite keeper.

  34. SusannRomy

    Elise,
    I just discovered your blog two days ago and instantly fell in love! You created yourself a perfect little space here!
    As it was one of our two weekly fish days today, I tossed all our plans and used this recipe instead. Already when marinating the salmon I almost couldn’t wait for it to be dinner time (did it in the morning at 10). It just smelled heavenly. Preparing the dish was a piece of cake. Both my boyfriend, our guest Uno and I couldn’t get enough of this dish!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    So glad you liked it! This is one of my favorite recipes from the site; I wish more people would try it. ~Elise

  35. joan

    Quick question, Elise. I’d like to try this recipe. However – like your Dad – I’m not a fan of that strong fish aroma which comes from searing fish on top of the stove. Noting that this recipe is not seared – but made on top of the stove – do you get that same smell? One of the reviewers seemed to like the smell (I’m assuming because of the coconut milk)…even the next day. Help, please…I have such trouble getting that “fish” smell out for days after I cook on top of the stove….and I love fish! Perhaps you have a remedy for removing fish smell…given that seared fish is really excellent….like your glazed salmon recipe….which I now start by using the grill outside. OUTSTANDING. Thank you.

    Hello Joan, Given that there is no searing, and the salmon is cooked in a stew, what you will get is more akin to when you poach salmon. Very little fishy smell at all. It’s a fabulous stew, I hope you try it! ~Elise

  36. Stephanie

    I live in Brasil and have had and made many-a-moqueca, usually with shrimp, small crab or whitefish, or combinations thereof. I swear, in 6 six years I have never seen salmon moqueca here! My (Brasilian) husband adores salmon so I will give it a go. Thanks = )

  37. Gabriella

    This is too delicious! And way easy.

  38. Deirdre

    LOVE this recipe! Have made it with salmon, cod, and local halibut (live on the Olympic Peninsula in WA state). The marinade is the key. Have tried other Moqueca recipes but find this to be the most flavorful. Additionally, it is so very easy to prepare. We serve it over basmati rice. Thank you so much for your site.

  39. Alison

    You’re so brilliant, Elise. Your taste is impeccable. This was yet another winner. My husband had two *enormous* helpings and told me several times how good it was. I loved how easy and quick the prep work was. It took about 45 minutes to cook once I turned it down and put the lid on. I made it exactly as written and can’t wait to do it again. In fact, I want to try this technique with other fishes, seasonings, and vegetables. It was quite a revelation!

  40. irena

    I LOVE love love this dish, though I was a bit lazy, and didn’t feel like getting coconut milk, so I just used milk and coconut flakes. It still turned out superb. Love your recipes.
    I did the mango crab salad, baked brie and this, all of them are wonderful.
    thank you.

  41. Tim Janke

    Elise … fabulous recipe! One of my very favorites now. I replaced green peppers with poblanos (pasillas) and it was even better! I’ve used true arctic cod with good results. Next up: chicken thigh meat! Thanks so much.

  42. angela

    AMAZING! I was dubious of using salmon, but it was perfect! I should know better than to doubt you, every single one of your recipes is delicious.

  43. Jeanine

    Made it tonight–came out pretty well, although the double dose of olive oil seemed like it made it a tad oily. Next time I might go with the initial oil in the pan and then maybe just spray the top. Thanks for the recipe!

  44. Darren

    Tried this at the weekend, it was absolutly fantastic! Thanks for the recipe. :o)

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