Brazilian Salmon Stew (Moqueca)

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Salmon stew based on Brazilian style moqueca fish stew. Salmon marinated in garlic, lime juice, paprika and cumin, the cooked with onions, bell peppers, tomato, cilantro, and coconut milk.

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!

Brazilian Salmon Stew (Moqueca) Recipe

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Marinating time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 6-8



  • 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


  • 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 regular (not light) coconut milk
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, 1-2 cups


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 111 Comments / Reviews

  • Dana

    What can you use instead of coconut milk? I absolutely hate coconut, but everything else about this stew sounds amazing. What else could I use??

  • Joe

    Lush! This is fabulous. It reminded me of Thai Tom Yum. I was tempted to add a bit of Tom Yum paste for seasoning but wanted to try the recipe as written first. We were not disappointed. It’s a winner and will be a regular go to fish stew recipe.


  • Stephanie Crunkhorn

    I’ve made this 3 times this past summer and it’s quite straight forward to make. Prep time takes about 20 mins. I add scallops in addition to the salmon and have also added Alaskan King Crab leg meat. My husband loves it and it and I make enough for 2 meals by adding more Salmon etc. It re-heats well.

  • Anna

    Hi Reggie, 3 tbsp.Before anything, heat up 3 tsp of palm oil, saute shrimp/fish, set aside, add onions, tomatoes, peppers, cover and let it cook for 10 minutes, add cilantro coconut milk shrimp/fish and cook for five more minutes,medium low heat, you will see and taste the difference when using palm oil, the fragrance, the color and the flavor is like something you have never taste before, it is Brazil on a dish.

  • Gene

    I made this last week to take on a guys fishing weekend. I thought it was fantastic, and it stored so easily in a lock and lock for reheating lakeside in a camp stove. While folks ate hobo packs and rehydrated food, I got voted “best eats” of the trip. We have a freezer full of salmon now, so this was a great way to use it!

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