This vegetarian moqueca is made with hearts of palm and plantains instead of fish. Ready in under 45 minutes.
Continuing on with “Soup Season” month here on TNB, today I’m sharing this gorgeous, fragrant, creamy superstar soup that’s full of tropical flavors. Meet moqueca!
Pronounced “mo-KEH-kah”, this Brazilian seafood stew with African and Portuguese influences typically consists of shrimp and/or fish in a citrusy coconut broth. My vegetarian version is adapted to use the ingredients I usually keep on-hand. It has plantains and hearts of palm instead of fish and happens to be a weeknight-friendly, one-pot meal. Let’s jump in!
What’s In This Vegetarian Moqueca
Bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes, as well as fried sweet plantains and canned hearts of palm, make up the bulk of this stew. Everything gets flavored with garlic, chili flakes, and lemon juice.
The browned plantains round out the dish with a subtle, caramel-like sweetness, while the brininess and firm texture of hearts of palm imitates the vibe of seafood. Garnishing with lots of fresh herbs (parsley or cilantro) is key. You can serve the stew with a side of rice, if you’d like.
It’s worth mentioning that my stew is more “moqueca-inspired” than “authentic moqueca” since it doesn’t use dende oil – the red-hued, strong-flavored palm oil traditional to this dish and Brazilian cooking in general.
What Are Hearts of Palm
Heart of palm is a vegetable harvested from certain types of palm trees and is thus consumed in warmer parts of the world (like southeast Asia and South America). It has a firm texture and mild, briny flavor, and often appears in salads. It’s also used as a vegan fish substitute for things like “crab” cakes.
Here in the States, you can find it in the canned vegetable aisle of the supermarket. All you have to do is drain and rinse it (just like canned beans), and use as needed.
Choosing the Right Plantain
You can buy plantains in a wide range of colors – from green (unripe), to yellow (ripe-ish), to brown (super ripe and sweet). For moqueca, look for a yellow plantain with dark brown spots, which has just the right amount of sweetness with a firm texture. Alternatively, buy a green-ish one and leave it at room temp for a few days to ripen.
How to Make This Vegetarian Moqueca
Cook the Plantain: To start, cut your plantain into coins and pan-fry until they’re golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. (It’s important to cook these on a non-stick surface; if possible, use a non-stick saucepan large enough to cook the entire stew in – so as not to dirty up more than one pan. If you don’t have a large non-stick saucepan, fry the plantain in a non-stick skillet and make the stew in a separate pot.) Remove the browned plantains from the pan and set aside.
Make the Stew Base: Place sliced onions and bell peppers in the pan, and cook until they’re starting to brown in places, about 7 minutes. Then add diced tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes release their juice and are totally collapsed, about 3 minutes more.
Simmer the Stew: Next, add coconut milk and lemon juice, cover, and bring to a boil. Then add the cooked plantains back in, along with the sliced hearts of palm. Cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.
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- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Stew
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Brazilian
- Diet: Vegan
This vegetarian moqueca (Brazilian coconut milk stew) is made with hearts of palm and plantains instead of fish.
- About 2 tablespoons avocado, refined coconut, or organic canola oil
- 1 ripe plantain (yellow with some dark brown spots), cut into coins
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
- 2 plum tomatoes, finely diced
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- One 13-ounce can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
- One 14-ounce can hearts of palm, drained and rinsed, cut into coins
- Parsley or cilantro, for serving
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat (see note below). Add the plantains in a single layer and cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove plantains and set aside.
- Add more oil to the pan if needed, and add the onions and peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned in places, about 7 minutes.
- Then add the tomatoes, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon each chili flakes and salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the tomatoes collapse and release their juices, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and 2 tablespoons lemon juice to the pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, and add the hearts of palm and the cooked plantains. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- Turn the heat off, taste, and adjust the seasonings if needed. Garnish with herbs before serving.
It’s important to cook the plantains on a non-stick surface; if possible, use a non-stick saucepan large enough to cook the entire stew in – so as not to dirty up more than one pan. If you don’t have a large non-stick saucepan, fry the plantain in a non-stick skillet and make the stew in a separate pot.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 390
- Fat: 30 g
- Carbohydrates: 31.9 g
- Fiber: 7.1 g
- Protein: 6.5 g
Keywords: vegetarian, moqueca, stew, brazilian, plantain