Tapado – Central American Seafood Stew


A Central American Seafood Stew

Tapado, a Central American seafood stew

This is one of those rustic dishes that first arose because of an abundance of product. Tapado was created due to an abundance of seafood, coconut, and plantains in the coastal towns of Central America. Like a lot of dishes originally created because of availability or affordability, it is now considered a delicacy. This would be considered a rather decadent stew in a lot of places. But in coastal towns in Guatemala and Honduras, where the ingredients are freshest and most abundant, it is a common and very affordable dish.

Fish fillets pan fried in olive oil for Tapado

The local varieties of tapado are usually made with whole freshly caught seafood like crab, lobster, shrimp, and fish. The dish normally requires quite a bit of work to eat, like cracking open crabs and digging out fish bones. Something very foreign to a lot of Americans. Our recipe uses shelled shrimp and fish fillets to avoid this but it is definitely a “Americanized” version. Typically, the shrimp and fish would be served whole, with heads, shells, and skin on.

Ingredients for tapado

The Basics of Tapado

The base for the broth of tapado is coconut milk. Coconuts are abundant here in Central America, so the coconut milk is traditionally made from fresh coconuts, instead of using the canned or boxed varieties. This process is not necessarily very difficult, but does require some equipment that we didn’t have access to. The coconut milk broth adds a sweet, creaminess to the stew and helps thicken it. This is usually accompanied by chicken stock or bullion and some fresh herbs. Combined with the seafood and plantains, it creates a really remarkable broth.

tomato, onion, bell pepper, garlic, oregano and basil cooking in olive oil for tapado

The mixture of seafood and coconut milk is accompanied by fresh herbs and vegetables, like the ever abundant plantain. Tapado usually starts with onion, tomato and sweet peppers as a base. The addition of plantain sets this apart as tropical and adds sweetness and starchiness to the stew. It’s a rich, filling, comforting stew and we’re sure you’ll enjoy it!

shrimp and plantain added to the pot for tapado

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Tapado - Central American Seafood Stew
A recipe for tapado, a traditional Central American seafood stew made with coconut milk and plantains.
Tapado, A Central American Seafood Stew by Chefing Around. In a blue bowl
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Tapado, A Central American Seafood Stew by Chefing Around. In a blue bowl
  1. Dice the onion, bell pepper, and tomato. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat in a large pot and add diced vegetables. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and slice green plantains and sweet potato.
  2. Mince garlic and herbs and add to pot. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue prepping plantains and potato, if necessary.
  3. Add sliced plantains and sweet potato, and shrimp to pot along with coconut milk and chicken stock. Turn heat up to medium and cook for 45 minutes or until all seafood is fully cooked and plantains/sweet potato are tender.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Season fish fillet with salt and pepper and fry it in the pan until done. Then set aside.
  5. Chop fish and add to stew right before serving or in the bowl.
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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Plantains are one of my favorite new ingredients to use, your stew looks delicious!

    1. Thank you! Plantains are very common here in Costa Rica but we never really worked with them before. The stew was soo delicious. It was even better the next day!

  2. Hi, I’ve nominated you for the Blog Recognition Award!
    Please refer to my post http://www.mymommabearlife.com/nominated-for-a-blogger-recognition-award/

    1. Thank you! We will check that out!

  3. Miz Helen says:

    I would love to try your awesome recipe! Hope you have a great week and thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday.
    Miz Helen

  4. Absolutely love this dish! I had tapado once in a place that served mostly Salvadorian cuisine and absolutely loved it! Thank you for sharing your recipe, now we can try to make it at home.

    1. Let us know how it goes! It was an exciting venture creating our recipe at home.

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