Brazilian Salmon Stew (Moqueca)

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

One of the dishes Northern Brazil is known for is their “Moqueca“, a delicious savory fish stew made with a local white fish, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and coconut milk.

Several years ago a Brazilian friend of mine introduced to me a salmon version of this stew she had improvised, given that the typical Brazilian fish used for moqueca isn’t found around here.

It was so good I begged Fernanda for the recipe, which she translated into English for me. (By the way, you can’t get local salmon in Brazil, so this is really not an authentic moqueca, but a Northern California interpretation.)

What is surprising about the recipe’s method is that you simmer the stew for a good 30 minutes at least. For those of us who love fish and seafood we know that fish and long cooking times do not go well together. The exception is this stew. It requires simmering the stew well past the point of of cooking the salmon, but it works!

Salmon Moqueca

The result is a rich, coconut creamy, deeply flavored stew.

The salmon is marinated first with lime juice, paprika, and cumin, and then simmered with onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers, in coconut milk. The stew is even better the next day, after the flavors have had more time to meld. Enjoy!

Recipe updated from the archive, first published 2007.

Brazilian Salmon Stew (Moqueca) Recipe

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  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Marinating time: 2 hours
  • 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 ground 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 green 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

Method

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

2 Layer ingredients in a large pot: 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.

3 Top with cilantro, coconut milk, olive oil: 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).

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

Garnish with remaining cilantro.

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Showing 4 of 80 Comments

  • Janet

    This was excellent. I substituted red bell pepper for the green and added some shiitakes. It was tasty and beautiful (made in a paella pan). Next time, just for a change of pace, we thought it would be good with Thai basil instead of cilantro (especially for those who might not like cilantro). A little sea salt or herb salt (or spicy salt) on top was key to bringing out the flavor.

  • Rosie Conner

    Wanted to try something different and came across this recipe on your emails. Suuuper easy as usual and good food. Thanks!!!

  • Popi

    Omg!! Sooo savory! Sooo good!!

  • Dawn

    What a fantastic recipe. I made this last night with a few minor changes. I couldn’t find enough thick pieces of salmon, so I used half salmon and half cod. We find the texture of pepper skins rather tough, so I roasted and peeled them first, using Anaheim peppers. I also need to eat low FODMAP for severe IBS, so I used chopped green onions in place of the regular onion, and a tablespoon of garlic oil instead of the garlic cloves. It was really delicious. A little sprinkle of Trader Joe’s Chili Lime seasoning on top was fabulous too! Thanks Elise.

  • Sarah

    Oh, this sounds so fantastic! Except I have a huge problem where my husband absolutely cannot stand cilantro. Is there another herb or even a combination of herbs that you can recommend that would still make a super tasty dish? Maybe basil?
    Thank you!

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