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Caldeirada de Peixe (Portuguese Fish Stew)

Seafood Recipes

Caldeirade de Peixe, Portuguese Fish Stew

Caldeirada de Peixe, a traditional Portuguese fish stew, is an iconic Portuguese dish. It’s a classic fisherman’s stew, made with the catch of the day, fresh vegetables, and classic Portuguese spices. Like any great native seafood stew, recipes (and opinions) vary from region to region, town to town, family to family. Made with fresh ingredients and homemade fish stock, you can’t go wrong, no matter the variation.

This recipe is part of a 6-month collaborative program called the Massachusetts Seafood AmBASSadors and is sponsored by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the Woods Hole Sea Grant Education Research Center. Funding is provided by the proud commercial fishermen of Massachusetts from permit fees at no additional cost to the fishermen via DMF’s Seafood Marketing Grant program. It’s also in conjunction with Eating with the Ecosystem, a New England-based non-profit working to expand awareness of and access to local New England seafood.

Because the real purpose of this Portuguese fish stew, including recent recipe posts for bluefish recipes, black sea bass recipes, smoked mackerel recipes, and grilled striped bass, is to showcase the undervalued, abundant, and sustainable fish here on the east coast.

Best Fish for Caldeirada de Peixe

fish for portuguese fish stew
Whole black sea bass (top) and monkfish (bottom)

In Portugal, Caldeirada de Peixe includes local fish species such as monkfish, skate, ray, conger, John Dory, sea bream, and sea bass. Here on the northeast coast of New England, Portuguese communities have adapted native New England fish into the dish such as haddock, mackerel, and swordfish. Basically, use whatever fish is local to you. If you live in New England, seek out the undervalued and sustainable species like porgy, black sea bass, monkfish, tautog, and bluefish.

If possible, use at least a few different species. Multiple species means more textures and flavors. I like pairing a mild whitefish and a full-flavored oily fish, like swordfish and mackerel. Some traditional recipes recommend at least 4 to 5 different species. Also, if possible, try to use some whole fish, cut into pieces. Whole fish adds a lot more flavor than just fillets.

For this recipe, I chose 2 pounds of monkfish and 2 whole black sea bass (pictured above). Monkfish is a great choice because the fillet is very dense and firm so it holds together nicely in the stew. I had my fishmonger slice the black sea bass into large pieces. I saved the heads and the tails for the fish stock.

caldeirada de peixe

Another benefit is that whole fish is a lot cheaper than fillets. I got the whole black sea bass for just $7.99 per pound. In fillet form, they were being sold for $25.99 per pound!

Smaller fish in the 1-pound range, like porgy, black sea bass, and mackerel are great choices. If you can’t (or don’t want) to include whole fish pieces, the next best cuts of fish would be bone-in steaks, followed by loins, and then fillets. Try to avoid flaky white fish as it can easily flake and fall apart when cooked.

Also, try to avoid overfished and farmed species from overseas such as Atlantic salmon, cod, and tilapia.

Finally, many Caldeirade de Peixe recipes also include shellfish like clams and mussels as well as octopus, shrimp, and squid. Shellfish will especially add some nice additional flavors.

I’m going to stick with a more straightforward Caldeirada de Peixe and only use fish. I’m also going to include perhaps the most underrated but most important ingredient of all.

Fish broth.

Best Fish Broth for a Portuguese Fish Stew

fish broth
Photography by Lynne Graves from New England Soups from the Sea

Hands down, the best fish broth/fish stock is one that you make yourself. It will add beautiful fragrant background flavors to your Caldeirada de Peixe, or any fish stew/soup, for that matter. Made properly, a homemade fish broth does not taste fishy. On the contrary, it has a subtly fresh taste and aroma. My fish broth post includes a simple recipe for making homemade fish broth.

The next best choice is Aneto Fish Broth, an outstanding store-bought product. Aneto is the only store-bought product that does not use chemical flavorings and/or doesn’t taste flat and overly fishy tasting. For that reason, I really can’t recommend anything else. See my review of all the store-bought seafood stock and broth products and why Aneto is the best one by a nautical mile.

Ingredients Needed

caldeirada de peixe ingredients

  • 4 pounds fish of your choice
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Dry white wine
  • Fish broth
  • Bay leaves
  • Paprika
  • Chili powder or chili flakes or 1 small hot pepper or hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro or fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

A note about the use of hot and spicy chilies. You can use chili powder, chili flakes, a fresh hot pepper, or hot sauce. I’ve read that fresh chiles in Portugal are not widely consumed, with perhaps the exception of the piri piri pepper (also spelled peri-peri), which is more commonly used in hot sauce form. My experience with Portuguese cuisine here in New England confirms this. Many dishes are mildly spicy and not extremely hot like in other areas of the world.

caldeirada de peixe, a portuguese fish stew

It’s hard to find fresh piri piri peppers or even piri piri hot sauce in conventional supermarkets here in the US. If you have access to a specialty Portuguese or Latin food store, you may find a brand or two. You can make the stew as spicy or not spicy as you’d like. Just know that a true Portuguese fish stew will have some heat but it is not typically fiery hot.

Layering the Ingredients

Another unique feature of Caldeirada de Peixe is layering the ingredients in the pot and then simmering until everything is cooked through.

How many layers you build in the pot depends on your serving size. One layer is perfectly fine for a smaller serving. Larger servings typically have two layers and you could even do more for a very large serving though you’d need a good-sized stockpot for that. I’m going to make my Portuguese fish stew by building two layers. One little thing I do differently than many recipes is that I simmer the first layer of onions, garlic, and peppers in olive oil. This helps bring out some nice flavors in the stew.

Here’s a short video demonstrating how it all comes together…

How to Make Caldeirada de Peixe

More Seafood Stew Recipes to Try

Caldeirada de Peixe Full Recipe

caldeirada de peixe

Caldeirada de Peixe (Portuguese Fish Stew)

Caldeirada de Peixe is a very rustic and traditional Portuguese fish stew made with local fish, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, peppers, wine, olive oil, and classic Portuguese spices. The ingredients are layered in a pot and everything is simmered for 20-30 minutes. The results never fail!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Portuguese
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Craig Fear

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSPs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced into circles or roughly chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into rings or roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into rings or roughly chopped
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes (4-5 medium-sized), sliced into circles or roughly chopped
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds potatoes (4-5 medium-sized), peeled, sliced into circles or roughly chopped
  • 4 pounds fish, any local and sustainable species of your choice, roughly cut this recipe includes 2 pounds of whole black sea bass and 2 pounds of monkfish fillets
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fish broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBSPs paprika, sweet or smoked I prefer smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • generous pinch chili powder, chili flakes, or piri piri sauce to taste
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro or fresh parsley, chopped for garnishing individual bowls

Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot, heat 2 TBSPs olive oil over medium heat. Add half the onions, half the garlic, and half the green and red peppers. Saute for 5 minutes until softened and fragrant.

  2. Add half the tomatoes in a layer on top of the vegetables.

  3. Add half the potatoes in a layer on top of the tomatoes.

  4. Add a generous pinch of salt.

  5. Add half the fish in a layer on top of the tomatoes.

  6. Repeat the layering starting with the remaining onions, then the garlic, then the peppers, then the potatoes, then the tomatoes, the salt, and finally the remaining fish pieces.

  7. Add the wine, fish broth, and olive oil.

  8. Add the 2 bay leaves, the paprika, and the chili powder, flakes or hot sauce.

  9. Cover, raise the heat to high and just before it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a gently simmer and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. It's done when the potates are cooked through.

  10. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley. Salt and pepper, to taste.

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Caldeirada de Peixe (Portuguese Fish Stew)
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About the Author

Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.

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