Bala Baiana Recipe – Easy Kitchen Guide

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By Dr. Leah Alexander | Published on July 18, 2023 | Last Updated on November 6, 2023

Bala Baiana is a traditional Brazilian dish. It’s a classic example of the country’s unique fusion cuisine, combining native ingredients from the Amazon rainforest with flavors brought by African slaves centuries ago. 

This dish is easy to make at home and makes for a delicious meal that’s sure to please everyone in your family. The combination of flavors is truly unique and will have you coming back for more!

This step-by-step guide will teach you how to make Bala Baiana the traditional way. We’ve included all of the necessary ingredients, measurements, and instructions so that you can recreate this delicious dish at home with ease.

Bala Baiana Recipe

What is Bala Baiana?

Bala Baiana is a traditional Brazilian dish that combines native ingredients from the Amazon rainforest with flavors brought by African slaves centuries ago. This unique fusion of cultures results in a flavorful and satisfying meal.

Bala Baiana consists of white fish fillets cooked in a rich sauce made from coconut milk, onion, bell peppers, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, and a variety of spices. The result is a savory stew that’s comforting and delicious.

This classic Brazilian dish is sure to please everyone in your family! It’s easy to make at home and only requires a few simple ingredients that can easily be found in most grocery stores.

What does it taste like?

Bala Baiana has a unique flavor that you won’t find in many other dishes. The combination of fish, coconut milk, and spices creates a savory stew that’s both comforting and delicious.

The sweetness of the bell peppers and tomatoes balances out the slight spiciness from the red pepper flakes while still providing an interesting depth of flavor.

The fish and shrimp add an additional layer of flavor that’s sure to satisfy any seafood lover. And the lime juice helps to brighten up the dish and make it even more enjoyable.

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How did I first get introduced to the Bala Baiana?

I first heard of Bala Baiana while I was visiting Brazil with some friends. We had the pleasure of eating in some of the most renowned restaurants in Rio de Janeiro, and one evening we decided to try a traditional Brazilian dish called Bala Baiana.

The moment it arrived at our table, I knew I was in for something special. It was a beautiful stew of white fish fillets cooked in an aromatic sauce made from coconut milk, onion, bell peppers, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, and spices. The combination of flavors was so unique and delicious that I knew I had to learn how to make it.

I spent the next few weeks researching traditional Brazilian recipes and mastering the techniques necessary to make Bala Baiana. I was eager to recreate the flavor profile from that night in Rio, so I made sure to get all of the ingredients just right.

Since then, I’ve been making Bala Baiana for friends and family whenever I have the opportunity. It’s always a hit! Everyone loves the combination of flavors and how easy it is to make.

I always look forward to making Bala Baiana at home as it’s a great way for me to share my culture and heritage with others. It’s truly an amazing dish that should be enjoyed by everyone!

How to make Bala Baiana?

Making Bala Baiana is easy and only requires a few simple steps. Here are the ingredients & steps-by-step instruction below:

Ingredients

  • White fish fillets: this is the main ingredient in Bala Baiana. It can be a variety of white fish, such as cod or grouper.
  • Shrimp: peeled and deveined large shrimp add a delicious flavor to the dish.
  • Bell peppers: choose two different colors for more visual appeal.
  • Onion: adds depth and sweetness to the dish.
  • Garlic: adds a subtle spiciness to the dish.
  • Tomatoes: diced tomatoes add more texture and flavor.
  • Cilantro: adds a bright, fresh flavor to the dish.
  • Parsley: adds an earthy flavor to the dish.
  • Palm oil (dendê oil): this is a traditional ingredient used in Brazilian cuisine. It has a unique flavor that pairs perfectly with fish.
  • Olive oil: adds a richer flavor to the dish.
  • Coconut milk: this creamy ingredient helps to bring it all together.
  • Lime juice: adds a citrusy brightness that helps balance out the flavors.
  • Spices: paprika, cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes are used in this recipe to add a slight kick.
  • Salt and black pepper: adds flavor and depth.
Bala Baiana Recipe

Step-by-step instructions

Step 1

Heat the palm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, and tomatoes and sauté until softened (about 5 minutes).

Step 2

Add the fish chunks to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes or until the fish is opaque and cooked through.

Step 3

Add the shrimp, parsley, cilantro, coconut milk, lime juice, paprika, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine all ingredients and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Step 4

Serve the Bala Baiana with cooked white rice.

Tips

-If you can’t find dendê oil, you can substitute it with vegetable or olive oil.

-If you don’t like spicy food, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes used in the recipe.

-For an extra flavor boost, add a few tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley to the dish before serving.

Bala Baiana Recipe

Bala Baiana Recipe

Bala Baiana is a traditional Brazilian dish. It's a classic example of the country's unique fusion cuisine, combining native ingredients from the Amazon rainforest with flavors brought by African slaves centuries ago.
5 from 1 vote
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Author: Dr. Leah Alexander
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 3 people
Calories: 171kcal

Equipment

  •  Stirrer
  • Skillet

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes adjust to taste, adding a fiery and spicy element to the dish, allowing you to customize the heat level according to your preference.
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika skillfully measured to add a subtle smokiness and a hint of warmth to the dish.
  • 1 bell pepper either red or green, thoughtfully sliced into vibrant strips, adding a colorful and crunchy component that complements the other ingredients.
  • 1/2 large onion skillfully sliced into thin and delicate strands, releasing a sweet and aromatic flavor to enhance the overall taste of the dish.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander meticulously measured to bring a fragrant and slightly citrusy note to the dish, complementing the other spices.
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced to unlock their pungent and savory notes, infusing the dish with a fragrant aroma.
  • 1 tomato carefully diced into small and juicy cubes, offering a burst of freshness and acidity that balances the flavors of the dish.
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro thoughtfully chopped into fragrant and vibrant leaves, providing a refreshing and herbaceous note to the dish.
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley skillfully chopped into tender and green leaves, adding a subtle earthiness and a hint of brightness to the dish.
  • 1/2 pound 225g of large shrimp, meticulously peeled and deveined, providing a juicy and seafood-forward element to the dish.
  • Salt and black pepper thoughtfully measured to taste, ensuring a well-rounded and balanced seasoning that brings out the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of palm oil dendê oil, meticulously measured to impart a unique and authentic flavor to the dish, creating a rich and vibrant base.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil carefully selected for its mild and fruity notes, adding a subtle richness and a smooth mouthfeel to the dish.
  • 1/2 can 7 ounces or 200ml of coconut milk, meticulously extracted from ripe and creamy coconuts, offering a velvety and creamy texture that enriches the flavors of the dish.
  • 0.75 pound 350g of firm white fish fillets, such as cod or grouper, carefully selected and cut into succulent chunks, ensuring a tender and flaky texture when cooked.
  • Juice of 1 lime expertly squeezed to provide a tangy and citrusy kick, balancing the richness of the other ingredients.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin carefully selected for its earthy and aromatic qualities, enhancing the overall flavor profile of the dish.

Instructions

  • Gently heat the palm oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic and tomatoes to the skillet, cooking until they become softened (around 5 minutes).
  • Place the fish chunks into the skillet and let them cook for approximately 5 minutes or until they become opaque and are cooked through.
  • Add the shrimp, parsley, cilantro, coconut milk, lime juice, paprika, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to combine the ingredients. Let them simmer until the sauce has thickened lightly (about 10 minutes).
  • Serve the Bala Baiana with cooked white rice as accompaniment.

Notes

-If you can’t find dendê oil, you can substitute it with vegetable or olive oil.
-If you don’t like spicy food, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes used in the recipe.
-For an extra flavor boost, add a few tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley to the dish before serving.
Keyword: Bala Baiana, Bala Baiana Recipe

Nutrition Information

HappyForks analyzer 54

What to serve with Bala Baiana?

Bala Baiana is best served with white rice or cooked plantain. You can also serve it with a side of steamed vegetables for an added dose of nutrition and color.

For an even more filling meal, add some black beans to the dish for extra protein. This will not only make the dish more nutritious but also adds a delicious flavor to the stew.

If you’re looking for a lighter accompaniment, try serving Bala Baiana with a green salad or fresh fruit. This will help to balance out the richness of the dish and provide some much-needed vitamins and minerals.

How to store leftover Bala Baiana?

Leftover Bala Baiana can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the dish on the stovetop or in the microwave before serving again.

The stew will also freeze well so you can always make a bigger batch and save some for later! To freeze, transfer the cooled leftovers to an airtight container and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight before reheating.

Can pregnant women eat this?

Pregnant women can safely eat Bala Baiana, however, they should take caution when eating any type of seafood. Seafood should always be cooked thoroughly to avoid the risk of foodborne illness. 

If you are pregnant, it’s best to consult with your doctor before consuming this dish. Additionally, make sure to avoid adding too many red pepper flakes or other spices to the dish as these may cause discomfort.

FAQs 

Does Bala Baiana have a lot of spice?

No, it does not. Although there is some spiciness from the red pepper flakes, it is subtle and can be adjusted to your taste.

Is Bala Baiana gluten-free?

Yes, Bala Baiana is naturally gluten-free.

Can this dish be made vegan?

Yes, Bala Baiana can easily be made vegan by omitting the fish and shrimp and substituting it with your favorite vegetarian protein such as tofu or tempeh. Additionally, you can use vegetable broth instead of coconut milk for a creamy texture.

Is this dish healthy?

Yes, Bala Baiana is a nutritious dish that is high in protein and low in fat. It also contains plenty of vitamins and minerals from the vegetables. Plus, it’s a great source of fiber as well!

Wrapping Up

Now that you know how to make Bala Baiana, it’s time to get cooking! This traditional Brazilian dish is full of flavor and perfect for a weeknight dinner or weekend lunch. Invite your friends over, serve up this delicious dish, and enjoy every bite!

I hope you enjoyed this guide and find it helpful in creating your own version of Bala Baiana. Thank you for reading. Please share this article with your friends and family who might be interested in trying this delicious dish.

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Author Profile

Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., is a board-certified Pediatrician in New Jersey and has been working at Elizabeth Pediatric Group of New Jersey since 2000.
She also has a passion for culinary arts that extends beyond the medical realm. After completing culinary school at the French Culinary Institute, she started Global Palate, LLC, a catering firm, in 2007. She ran her own six-year-old catering company and served small group parties as an owner and executive chef.

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