Fish Stew with Coconut Milk

  • Serves

    serves 6


This sultry dish is a specialty of Bahia. It's usually enriched with coconut milk and dende oil, two ingredients that are emblematic of that state's cooking. Since dende oil is so emphatically flavored, author Presilla likes to depart from local tradition and add a couple of tablespoons of dende oil toward the end of the cooking process, rather than earlier on.


  • 6 Tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 6 (6-oz.) skin-on boneless grouper filets
  • 3 medium yellow onions (2 chopped, 1 thinly sliced)
  • 1 (13.5-oz.) can coconut milk
  • 14 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored (2 finely chopped, 2 sliced)
  • 2 Tbsp. dende oil, optional
  • Toasted farinha de mandioca (yuca flour), optional


Step 1

Put 2 tbsp. of the cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and salt into a wide shallow dish and stir to combine. Transfer the grouper to dish and turn to coat all over with garlic mixture. Let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Step 2

Meanwhile, puree half of the chopped onions and the coconut milk in a blender and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add remaining chopped onions and salt and cook until translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and 2 tbsp. of the cilantro and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes. Add reserved coconut milk puree and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in dende oil.

Step 3

Nestle marinated grouper filets into sauce, skin side up; pour any remaining marinade over the top and add the remaining cilantro. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, spooning sauce over filets from time to time, until fish is just cooked through, 15-20 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, scatter the sliced onions and sliced tomatoes over the top. Serve, sprinkled with a bit of yuca flour, with rice and Bahian Salsa, if you like.

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