The wild cod is cooked in a rich broth to create this bright and fragrant 20-minutes easy Brazilian fish stew also known as Moqueca. This fish stew recipe is naturally gluten-free and low-carb, made with few and fresh ingredients.

The complex flavors of this Stewed Fish stew pairs well with a simple rice recipe , mashed potatoes or a side of green salad. But most importantly be sure to serve with some crusty bread to absorb that delicious sauce!

fish stew (moqueca) with cod in a broth of tomato sauce, garnished with fresh cilantro, served in a cast iron skillet

Fresh wild cod is the star of this one-pan Brazilian fish stew. The white fish is simmered in a hearty tomato and coconut broth with fresh bell peppers and coconut milk or sour cream for a welcoming tang. With its symphony of textures and flavors, moqueca is sure to please a crowd or work as a delicious go-to on busy weeknights.

This moqueca de peixe is a hearty fish dish that is super simple to make. You will love the vibrant colors and fragrant broth to warm up on a cold night, but you can also enjoy in the summertime with a splash of fresh lemon juice.

What is moqueca?

Moqueca is a flavorful Brazilian seafood stew. The recipe begins with an easy and savory tomato broth, flavored with a handful of aromatics like onion, garlic, lime, and coriander. Afterward, seafood and some vegetables are cooked in the broth, transforming the one-pot recipe into a hearty and rich seafood stew.

I love making my moqueca with white fish, like cod, but halibut, catfish, or tilapia can also be used. I’ve even made a few versions with shrimp (moqueca de camarão) and salmon! If you’re looking to go all out, add fresh crab or even lobster into your stew.

The traditional Brazilian recipe is heavily influenced by Portuguese flavors and usually served with starchy sides like plantain, pirão (a paste made with cassava root), and rice.

fish stew recipe ingredients; two large wild cod filets, green, orange and red bell peppers, grape tomatoes, fresh cilantro and olive oil, on a wood board

Moqueca vs. cioppino

It can be easy to mistake moqueca for cioppino and vice versa. It’s true that these two stews have similar ingredients and textures; however, both have distinct flavor profiles. Moqueca has many traditional South American and Portuguese flavors while Cioppino features Italian flavors. 

Like moqueca, cioppino is made with a variety of seafood, like crab, clams, scallops, squid, mussels, or fish. The broth is made from red wine and tomatoes with very few other vegetables or spices included.

Jamaican Fish Stew

This is another variation that is similar to Brazilian fish stew. I have had the opportunity to try several Jamaican fish stew recipe and while they may very on spices or the choice of fish itself, the broth is similarly made with tomatoes, onions, peppers and coconut milk.

Jamaicans sometimes call this fish stew “Run Down” because the fish is typically cooked until the fish falls apart in the bowl. 

Moroccan Fish Stew

Another favorite stewed fish option is the Moroccan Fish Stew that are sometimes made with lentils or chickpeas, and warm spices like cinnamon and coriander. The Moroccan Fish stew tend to use less or no tomatoes in the sauce, however the delicious broth very much calls for some crusty bread to soak up the goodness.

cooking fish stew. Cod being added to the tomato sauce. Fresh ingredients around the cast iron. Wooden spatula

How to make easy fish stew

Heat the oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan and saute the onion and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. 

To your onion and garlic mixture, add the diced tomatoes, coconut milk, sour cream, and tomato paste. Give everything a good stir and allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes.

Next, add the sliced bell pepper and cod chunks to the stew. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes before covering your pan and leaving the fish to simmer. If your fish hasn’t been fully immersed in the broth, be sure to flip the pieces ¾ of the way through the cooking time. 

When done simmering, ladle your stew into shallow bowls, garnish with fresh cilantro, serve, and enjoy!

Tips and substitutions

  • Easily substitute the coconut milk by using extra sour cream, cow’s milk, or your favorite dairy-free milk.
  • Make your fish stew dairy-free by omitting the sour cream or by using a dairy-free sour cream.
  • For a lighter, protein-rich alternative, use plain Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.
  • The wild cod in this dish can be easily swapped out. Try using shrimp, haddock, catfish, or salmon instead!

Make this dish spicier or milder by adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes. For a super-spicy broth, try using a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes. For a milder dish, omit the red pepper flakes.

fish stew (moqueca) with cod in a broth of tomato sauce, garnished with fresh cilantro, served in a cast iron skillet

Tips and substitutions

  • Easily substitute the coconut milk by using extra sour cream, cow’s milk, or your favorite dairy-free milk.
  • Make your fish stew dairy-free by omitting the sour cream or by using a dairy-free sour cream.
  • For a lighter, protein-rich alternative, use plain Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.
  • The wild cod in this dish can be easily swapped out. Try using shrimp, haddock, catfish, or salmon instead!
  • Make this dish spicier or milder by adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes. For a super-spicy broth, try using a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes. For a milder dish, omit the red pepper flakes.

What goes well with moqueca?

Showcase the bright and bold Brazilian flavors in this fish stew by serving it with a side of cilantro lime brown rice and Brazilian pinto beans. These traditional sides feature rich, smoky, citrusy, and tangy flavors that will perfectly complement the flavor profile of your stew. 

Serve your hearty seafood stew cioppino style by pairing it with some toasted bread. I really like using a slice of my Irish Soda bread or my Instant Pot no knead artisan bread to soak up any remaining broth from the bottom of my bowl.

Looking for more comforting seafood recipes?

fish stew or stewed fish in a skillet
4.94 from 33 votes

Easy 20-Minutes Fish Stew

by Silvia
Easy 20-Minutes Fish Stew cooked in a delicious, rich and fragrant broth. This Brazilian inspired fish stew (moqueca) is paired with rice and topped with fresh cilantro!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes
Total: 23 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lb wild cod
  • 15 oz can diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 whole red, green and yellow bell pepper, sliced in rounds
  • 1 pinch sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro

Instructions 

  • Heat oil in a large skillet or cast iron. Add onion and garlic, cook until fragrant (3 minutes). Add diced tomatoes, stir. Proceed to add in coconut milk, sour cream (if using) and tomato paste. Give sauce a stir and allow it to cook for about 3 minutes.
  • Add sliced pepper and cod chunks. Season wtih salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover and allow fish to simmer for 10-12 minutes. About 3/4 of the way carefully turn the cod, if the fish hasn't been fully immerse in the broth.
  • When done, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Keyword: Fish Stew
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Brazilian
Like this? Leave a comment below!
A cast iron skillet with fish stew, peppers and tomatoes on a rich tomato broth topped with cilantro.

Hi! I’m Silvia.

My goal is to make cooking simple and enjoyable.

Garden in the Kitchen is full of easy and balanced recipes for busy families. Classics get a healthier twist with additions of veggies or alternative ingredients.

I hope my recipes will inspire you to cook more home meals and above all have fun in the kitchen!

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101 Comments

  1. This is delicious! I had some cod that I bought for a different recipe that I had tried and did not like. I obviously didn’t want my cod to go to waste so searched for a cod stew recipe and have this a try. Very easy to make and I had all ingredients on hand except the coconut milk. I made a few small changes only to my own taste preference. I used a small amount of coconut milk (don’t like the strong flavor) but also used chicken broth. I added a few more spices..tumeric, paprika, cumin and lots of extra garlic. I am pleasantly surprised how delicious this is. Definitely recommend.

    1. That’s wonderful to hear, thanks for trying my cod stew Monica and for taking the time to share your feedback! xoxo