Shrimp Mozambique is one of those fascinating recipes that exist only in small regional pockets of the United States. Though the name suggests it’s an African dish, it’s actually Portuguese so you’ll often hear it referred to as Portuguese Shrimp Mozambique.
In particular, you’ll find it in the Portuguese communities on the southern coast of New England (such as Fall River and New Bedford, Massachusetts) but its roots are, in fact, in Africa.
Shrimp Mozambique is a delicious buttery, garlicky, spicy, stew-like dish made with onions, garlic, a little beer or wine, and, of course, shrimp. As you can imagine, the dish gets its name from Mozambique, Portugal’s former African colony.
The defining ingredient is an African chile pepper known as a piri piri pepper (sometimes spelled peri peri). Over time Portuguese colonists cultivated and adapted piri piri peppers into their own cuisine.
Like all traditional dishes, there are many different versions of Portuguese Shrimp Mozambique. Some use fresh, whole piri piri peppers and some use a piri piri hot sauce. However, piri piri peppers, be they fresh or in hot sauce form, are hard to find outside specialty Portuguese markets in America. Most recipes use other types of peppers or hot sauce.
Many versions also include a dried spice mix made of annatto, coriander, cumin, and oregano (more on that below).
Though the name may sound exotic, the dish is actually very simple to make. Once you have all the ingredients it shouldn’t take more than a half-hour!
That’s everything you’ll need. Going clockwise from the upper left we got shrimp, olive oil, butter, white wine, clam juice, hot sauce, an onion, garlic, parsley, and lemon. In the middle is a spice mix known as Sazon seasoning. Here are the exact amounts for a serving size of about 3 people.
Two of those ingredients, the Sazon seasoning, and the clam juice, need a little more explanation.
It’s a popular spice mix used in Latin, Spanish, and Portuguese cuisine that is typically made of annatto, coriander, cumin, oregano, pepper, and salt. Perhaps the most popular version is Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote (Sazon with Coriander and Annatto).
Everybody online seems to love this seasoning blend. I ordered some but was disappointed when I saw the ingredients which are full of artificial flavors and colorings. If you want convenience, you can find it here.
But you can easily make your own. I’ve included a simple homemade Sazon seasoning in the recipe below. The only spice you may not easily find is ground annatto which gives the dish a deep red color. Any mild paprika is a suitable substitute.
That would be clam juice! I love the briny kick it gives the dish though it’s not a traditional ingredient. Leave it out if you desire a more authentic Shrimp Mozambique recipe.
That said, in my opinion, a little clam juice makes it more like a stew and less like a sauce. It also gives it a slightly more pronounced seafood flavor.
Piri piri hot sauce is hard to find outside specialty Portuguese markets though you may be able to find it via online sellers. Click here to find some options on Amazon. But really, any type of hot sauce you like is perfectly fine as a substitute. Common brands like Tabasco or Frank’s Hot Sauce work just fine.
That would be any wild-caught US shrimp. It’s a much more sustainable and environmentally responsible choice than farmed shrimp from overseas. My post, 4 Reasons to Stop Eating Farmed Shrimp explains this in more detail.
It depends on your heat tolerance. If you’re using a piri piri hot sauce, know that piri piri is a moderately spicy hot pepper. For those with a high tolerance, it’s probably fine. For others, it can be light-your-mouth-on-fire spicy. But again, you can alter the heat level by choosing any type of hot sauce you want. Frank’s hot sauce would be a good choice if you want a mild but not overpowering kick.
Yup, I created a short video to show you just how easy it is to make this recipe! Alternatively, check out the steps and pics below the video.
In a saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions soften.
Saute the garlic for about 1 minute.
Mix it in well and saute for about 1 more minute, stirring frequently.
Bring it to a boil, and simmer until the liquid reduces by about one-third.
Stir it in. Taste. Add more hot sauce, to taste.
Simmer until they turn pink and are cooked through for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Ladle the stew into bowls and season with salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and/or lemon juice, to taste.
Portuguese Shrimp Mozambique is commonly served over rice, french fries, or pasta. It can also be served as is without any starch. In that case, some crusty bread is great for dipping into the stew.
This recipe for Shrimp Mozambique is featured in my new cookbook, New England Soups from the Sea! Approximately 15 to 20% of the 80 recipes are Portuguese. Why? Because there is a strong Portuguese identity in many communities in New England, especially the southern coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
From Rhode Island to Maine—Get 80 locally inspired recipes that honor the traditions of America’s northeast.
Many have roots dating back as far as the early 1800s when New England whaling ships sailed across the Atlantic and brought back Portuguese men looking for new opportunities.
These communities have adapted their native cuisine to native New England foods, especially the seafood, and nowhere does that fusion shine better than in the seafood stews. This is, in my highly biased opinion, the ultimate way to experience Portuguese cuisine in New England.
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.