Spicy Shrimp and Heart of Palm Moqueca Recipe

Spicy Shrimp and Heart of Palm Moqueca

Moqueca is a traditional salt water fish or prawn stew from Brazil. It’s strongly influenced by the African cuisine. The name moqueca comes from the term mukeka in Kimbundu, a widely spoken language in Angola. There are two recipes in Brazil , the Moqueca Baiana from Bahia state and the Moqueca Capixaba from Espirito Santo state. The first uses dendê oil, the latter annatto seed oil for flavor and color. Both are delicious!

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes



  • 1 lb (450 g) fresh large shrimps, peeled and deveined
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika or to taste
  • 1 small red chile pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 can of 14 oz (420 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 can of 14 oz (400 g) hearts of palm, drained, rinced and sliced to rounds
  • 1 cup (28 g) fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (64 g) scallions, thinly sliced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dendê oil or annatto oil

Annatto Oil:

  • 1/4 cup annatto (achiote) seeds
  • 1/2 cup canola oil


Annatto Oil:

The Moqueca de Camarão from Bahia uses dendê oil (azeite de dendê ) also known as red palm oil. It is cold pressed from the pulp of the fruits of the dendê palm (elaeis guineensis) grown in Africa, Asia, and Northern Brazil. One of the most basic ingredients in African and Northern Brazilian cuisines, it is used as a seasoning, imparting a slightly sweet flavor and bright orange color to dishes. Dendê oil can be found online or in Latin American specialty stores. If you use the even heavier African red palm oil you need to mix it 50/50 with a lighter oil, like Canola.

I prefer the lighter Moqueca from Espirito Santo which uses annatto (achiote) oil (see recipe below) to obtain the vibrant yellow/orange color.

Combine annato seeds and canola oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a brisk simmer and remove from the heat. Let it sit for about 30 minutes. Strain seeds before using. It can be made ahed and kept refrigerated for 3 months.


Toss shrimps with the lemon juice, 1/3 of the minced garlic, salt and, pepper. Set aside and marinate it for about 15-20 minutes.

In the meantime heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and lower the heat. Cook until softened about 8-10 minutes. Add the remaining garlic, red pepper, sweet paprika and the minced red chile. Stir and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and bring it to a brisk simmer. Add the cilantro, dendê oil or annatto oil and let it thicken a bit. Add the shrimps, palm hearts and cook for about 5 minutes longer or until shrimps are pink and palm hearts warm. Taste for seasonings. Sprinkle with lemon juice (optional) if you like.

Garnish with additional cilantro and scallion rings and serve with white or brown rice.

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