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Finished fish stew in bowl
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4.63 from 8 votes

East African Fish Stew

Use any firm fish here, and whatever shrimp or crab you have available. I like making a fish stock from the heads and bones of the fish I am using, but you can skip that and use chicken stock instead, or even water. Use coconut water for the water in the stew if you can get it, otherwise just skip it. Serve this fish stew with rice. 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
To Make Broth45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Soup
Cuisine: East African
Keyword: coconut, crab, fish, stews
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 364kcal
Author: Hank Shaw



  • 2 to 4 pounds fish heads and bones, gills and guts removed
  • 2 quarts coconut water or just plain water
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A 1-inch piece of ginger, chopped


  • 2 tablespoons red palm oil, peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 to 2 habanero chiles, minced (optional)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 pound fish, skinless and boneless, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 to 1 pound peeled shrimp or crabmeat
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro


  • In a large, heavy pot like a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions until soft, but not browned.
  • Add the tomato sauce, curry powder and potatoes and stir well. Pour in about 6 cups of the broth you just made, or chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and taste for salt. Simmer gently until the potatoes are almost tender, about 20 minutes. 
  • Add the sweet peppers, the chiles, the diced tomato and the coconut milk. Stir well and simmer gently for 10 minutes. 
  • Add the fish and shrimp and simmer until the shrimp are nice and pink, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the cilantro, cook another minute, then serve. 


Calories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 726mg | Potassium: 1661mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 4951IU | Vitamin C: 80mg | Calcium: 151mg | Iron: 4mg