International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Vatapá Recipe (Brazilian seafood stew with coconut milk)

(Brazilian seafood stew with coconut milk)

Average: 3.8 (19 votes)

Vatapá is one of the classic dishes of Brazilian cuisine. It hails from Bahia state on the northeast coast where many of the dishes have African origins. A thick version is often served as a filling for acarajé patties.

4 to 6 servings


  • Onion, chopped -- 2
  • Dried shrimp (see notes) -- 1/2 cup
  • Garlic, chopped -- 2 to 3 cloves
  • Malagueta or jalapeño chile peppers, chopped -- 1 to 3
  • Oil -- 3 tablespoons
  • Stock or water -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Natural peanut or cashew butter -- 1/2 cup
  • Breadcrumbs -- 1 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Shrimp, peeled and deveined -- 1 pound
  • Coconut milk -- 2 cups
  • Dendê, or red palm oil (optional) -- 1/4 cup


  1. Place the onion, dried shrimp, garlic and chilies in a food processor or blender and puree well. Add a little water if necessary.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion-shrimp mixture and sauté until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the stock or water and whisk in the peanut or cashew butter until smooth. Then stir in the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-8 minutes to meld the flavors.
  4. Stir in the shrimp and coconut milk and simmer another 5-6 minutes, or until shrimp is almost cooked through.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in the dendê oil and serve over rice or alongside acarajé bean fritters.

Vatapá Notes and Variations

  • Vatapá de Galinha (Chicken vatapa): Substitute 1 1/2 pounds of cooked, shredded chicken for the shrimp.
  • Vatapá de Peixe (Fish vatapa): Substitute 1 1/2 pounds of firm white-fleshed fish, cut into chunks, for the shrimp.
  • If you can't find dried shrimp, you can puree about 1 cup of fresh raw shrimp in a blender and substitute it for the dried.
  • A truly authentic dish would use dendê, or red palm oil, which gives the dish a bright yellow-orange tint. If you can't find red palm oil, try adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric to the onion-shrimp paste instead.
  • Some recipes call for the addition of 1 tablespoon of fresh, minced ginger. Others for 1 to 2 cups of chopped tomatoes.
  • The breadcrumbs act as a thickener for the vatapá. Some recipes use cornmeal instead. Others thicken it like a gravy with flour.

You Might Also Like


Moqueca Recipe (Brazilian fish and coconut milk stew)

(Brazilian fish and coconut milk stew)


Cioppino Recipe (American fish and seafood stew)

(American fish and seafood stew)