This easy recipe for Shrimp Stew is based on the traditional Brazilian dish of “moqueca de camarão”.
Coconut milk and puréed tomatoes creates the base for the sauce. Colorful peppers and vine tomatoes dress up the dish while cilantro adds brightness and good flavor.
You can spice up this Brazilian inspired shrimp stew by adding “pimenta malagueta” or your favorite hot peppers. Serve with rice!
Shrimp stew is undoubtedly one of the most delicious traditional Brazilian dishes, which also happens to rank on the top ten best Brazilian foods and if you are from Bahia that number is much higher.
That’s because Shrimp Stew or “moqueca de camarão” is originated in Bahia with some influences from the African cuisine such as the addition of coconut milk and dandê oil (palm oil).
These days I still cook a lot of Shrimp Stew, Fish Stew “moqueca de peixe “ and Salmon Stew, but I no longer use palm oil because I find that the quality of imported palm oil as well as the harvesting practices doesn’t justify the purchase.
However, if you ever get a chance to travel to the northern coast of Brazil, particularly Bahia DO try the traditional moqueca de camarão with palm oil because it is simply amazing!
what is “moqueca”
Moqueca is a Brazilian seafood stew. The stew can be made with shrimp, fish or both (no meat – a meat stew is called “cozido”).
Moqueca or fish stew is traditionally slow-cooked in a terra-cotta pot. The sauce and base for the fish is made using puréed tomatoes, coconut milk, shallots, garlic and dende oil.
The other elements to the moqueca are the colorful bell peppers, vine tomatoes, cilantro and “pimenta malagueta” which is heavily used in the state of Bahia.
how to make shrimp stew or moqueca de camarão
- start by heating the fragrant elements; shallots and garlic in oil. Traditionally we would use “oleo de dendê” or palm oil but you can use olive oil or coconut oil instead.
- create the base sauce by adding tomato sauce or marinara sauce and coconut milk.
- add the shrimp (or fish) and season with salt and pepper.
- top the seafood with colorful bell peppers, vine tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
- at this point you can spice up the dish if you like by adding a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or pimenta malagueta whole.
- let the seafood simmer until done. The delicate shrimp will cook in 10-12 minutes covered.
- when done add a handful of chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
As you can see this dish doesn’t require a lot of ingredients yet the flavors combined give this international dish a unique taste.
what is Brazilian oleo de dendê or palm oil
Oleo de Dendê is a bright orange strong flavored oil that is extracted from the red pulp surrounding the fruit of oil palms. This particular palm tree grows in Africa and Brazil.
In Bahia palm oil is considered essential for the proper color and flavor of many dishes such as acarajé, moquecas, vatapá and more.
While you may find palm oil at most store shelves these days, sadly these products are refined and deodorized, and therefore does no justice to the actual colors and flavors of a true virgin palm oil.
If you are lucky enough to live near a Brazilian store, they most certainly will carry a true version of the product. It comes in a small bottle and a little goes a long way 🙂
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Easy Shrimp Stew
- Cast Iron Skillet
- 1.5 lb large shrimp
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot/ onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can 14oz tomato sauce/ marinara sauce
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 whole bell pepper (or slices from different colors) sliced
- 1 bunch vine tomatoes, whole
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 tsp crush red pepper flakes
- fresh cilantro
- fresh lemon
- In a large skillet heat oil. Add shallots (you can sub for yellow onion) and garlic, saute until soft and fragrant.
- Add tomato sauce and coconut milk. Give the sauce a stir.
- Add in shrimp and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Top shrimp with bell pepper slices and snuggle in vine tomatoes in sauce. Add the crushed pepper flakes or any whole hot pepper that you like (this is the time you add pimenta malagueta if using!)
- Add a handful of fresh cilantro without chopping and cover. Let it simmer on medium low for 10-12 minutes. If needed give the shrimp a stir to make sure all is submerged in sauce and getting properly cooked.
- Top dish with more cilantro and give it a squeese of fresh lemon juice. Serve with rice.
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