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Crushed garlic in a jar (Recipe: moqueca a baiana, Brazilian fish stew)

First published in November 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. I learned the original recipe for this Brazilian fish stew from Botucatu Restaurant in Boston, which closed a couple of years ago.


Another scandalous confession: I always have crushed garlic in a jar in my fridge.


I can hear the screams. "What is she doing with that stuff in her pantry???"

Well, right up front, let me say that garlic in a jar is never ever better than fresh minced garlic. Never. Ever.

So why do I always have a jar on hand?

Garlic paste in a jar.

The upside: Living out in the country, and needing to think and plan ahead for grocery shopping as the nearest store is a many-miles-away drive, I'm often caught without fresh garlic, or with garlic that's starting to green. Better than no garlic at all, garlic in a jar pinch-hits for fresh in many dishes, especially those which are long-cooked. And there's no denying the convenience.

The downside: Many brands are processed with nasty preservatives that give an off-taste to the garlic. I like Trader Joe's ($1.79 for 9 ounces, the equivalent, according to the jar label, of 51 teaspoons or 100-150 garlic cloves), because it's just garlic and citric acid -- no salt, no oil, no preservatives. However, unless used almost immediately after opening, any garlic in a jar can turn rancid after a couple of weeds in the refrigerator.

Of course, all it takes are a few batches of our house special jambalaya or chicken on skewers to use up that much garlic. So go ahead, open a jar, cook up a storm. And do what I do -- hide the jar of garlic in the back of the fridge.


Moqueca a baiana (Brazilian fish stew)

From the pantry, you'll need: olive oil, crushed garlic, kosher salt, fresh black pepper, onion, coconut milk.

A Brazilian fish stew that cooks in 10 minutes. Add a tiny bit of hot red pepper flakes or hot sauce for a spicier version. This recipe is adapted from one given to me by Botucatu Restaurant in Boston, many years ago. Serves 2; can be doubled.


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
4 tsp scallions, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, cut into eighths
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
12 oz white fish (haddock, swordfish, cod, etc.)


In a frying pan, heat the oil. Add garlic, salt, pepper, green pepper, onion, scallions and tomatoes, and sauté for 1 minute over high heat. Add coconut milk, and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add fish and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and continue to cook for not more than 10 minutes, until the fish is just cooked but not overdone. Serve with rice.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Leek, potato and salmon soup
Moqueca (a different version)
Thai tofu and winter squash stew
Vegan red curry tofu with spinach and mushrooms

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Sudado de pescado al coco (fish stew with coconut), from My Colombian Recipes
Coconut-lime turkey (or chicken) and rice soup, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Tom yum seafood soup with coconut milk, from Noob Cook
Salmon fish stew, Brazilian style, from Simply Recipes
Indian fish coconut curry, from Steamy Kitchen

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I was introduced to Indian ginger-garlic paste by a cookbook, Indian in 5 -- cut to the chase recipes from an Indian cook. I guess that's what we're doing, cut to the chase cooking. The Indian shops have huge bottles!
(A couple of weeds in the refrigerator? Are they green and fuzzy? Sometimes my 'weeds' are red...)

Oh my goodness Lydia, this sounds perfect for tonight! Thanks! (You made me smile at your hiding the jar in the back of the fridge :).)

I always have garlic in a jar too, as well as the bags of large garlic cloves. Not as good, but still pretty good. Love the sound of this fish stew, yum!

This looks awesome, I make something similar probably because my Dad used to live in Brazil!

uh oh - I confess I have this in my fridge too (I just used some last night) but I don't think I ever realized that I hold onto an open jar far too long. I often use it when having a "uniform" mince is important like in fresh salad dressing. My garlic mincing skills are slightly questionable. (and yes I own several garlic gadgets!) yikes I better resupply my fresh garlic and stop being so lazy!

I always have garlic in the jar and use it! Yes, fresh garlic is so much better, but I totally agree with your point on garlic in a jar being better than no garlic. BTW, when I've apologized to foodie friends when we've had to call upon this garlic when cooking together upon occasion, they all say, "Oh, I use it, too!" So there are lots of us in the "closet." Hehe. Although I admit mine is not hidden in my fridge. Usually it's just me cooking from my fridge. ;-)

This stew looks great, Lydia! I love that you used coconut milk, and I would love this stew with swordfish. :-)


Susan, I love that Indian cooking uses both garlic and ginger paste (and sometimes the two blended together). I took an Indian cooking class years ago, and that's the first thing the instructor taught us to keep in our pantries.

Cary, I have other things hidden in the back of the fridge, too. But I really do use crushed garlic in some dishes, and sometimes in combination with fresh garlic.

Kalyn, I also use the jars of peeled garlic cloves, mostly when I'm doing a lot of cooking in a short period of time. What a great time saver!

Gina, I'm in love with Brazilian food, and this is actually one of two moqueca recipes I have in The Perfect Pantry.

Carol, I find that once the jar is opened, the garlic is quite perishable, so give it a sniff every now and then.

Shirley, glad to know I'm not the only one using this! I live so far from a market that unless I am going out to get more than one thing, I'd never run out just for garlic. The jar is a great back-up. (And swordfish would be delicious. Actually, any local mild fish or shellfish would be great in this dish.)

I love this fish stew! Love garlic! :-D

Paz, same here! And you can always sneak a bit more garlic in...

I have been on a fish kick lately and I love it prepared in stews like this. I would love to have this for dinner tonight!

Jean, this is a great dish from a warm-weather country, so you know it's perfect for summer. Hope you try it!

Scandalous!! It looks great, though!

I must confess I always keep a small jar on hand. I use a lot of fresh garlic, also, but it doesn't always last as long as I would like for it to. Jarred garlic insures that I'll have when I need it. Your stew look delectable!

I gave up on the jarred garlic long ago because of the "funny" taste, but I'll have to try Trader Joe's brand. I do keep the bags of peeled garlic cloves on hand and love how easy they make prep time. I found a brand that individually packages 5 cloves together so the whole bag doesn't become exposed. Happily I just harvested my first ever crop of garlic from my garden this week. This dish looks knock your socks off yummy!

Riley, I really hesitated to admit it, but I'm glad to see so many others stash a jar of garlic in their fridges, too.

Jackie, the stew is great, and more garlic is even better!

Donna, I love the TJ's brand because there are no preservatives. However, because of that, it doesn't last quite as long after it's opened. This recipe works well with almost any type of white fish you find at the market.

The downside of fresh garlic is how often the heads are too old, dried out, bruised and sprouting -- though not all at once. One seems to preclude the others.

Moqueca (the shrimp kind) was the first meal I cooked for my husband when we started dating, so it's a very special recipe for me (us)... :-)

I make it often still, and it's one that he always requests if it takes me more than a couple of months to bring it to the table.

Now, do you know that a very nice variation includes plantains? I had it in Brazil last year for the first time and was surprised by how much I like it!

Susan, sometimes I use the two, fresh and from a jar, in combination.

Sally, what a lovely food memory! I, too, had the plantain version in Brazil, but I've never made it at home. I wish plantains were available in my local market.

I found this recipe on pinterest and made this dish for supper the other night. Was very easy and fast to make and the flavours were incredible. Will definitely be making again. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe ♡

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