Tapado {Instant Pot or Stove Top}

Tropical flavors abound in this easy and healthyish Tapado recipe! This Guatemalan seafood soup with coconut milk is replete with fresh fish and shrimp, plantains, and sweet potatoes… all in a savory and delicious coconut broth! Make it on your stove top, or speed up the process using your Instant Pot.

Tapado (seafood and coconut soup) with plantains and sweet potatoes in a terra cotta bowl with a rust colored napkin.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Recipe Inspiration

In these waning, gloomy days of winter (near the Gulf coast), I find myself craving tropical flavors. It’s not cold, but the ocean fog rarely seems to lift. Tapado on the patio, palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze, and a glass of wine is good therapy…

As I frequently mention, the availability of seafood in McAllen is amazing, but nothing beats our Gulf shrimp! This gorgeous soup/stew combines shrimp with (sustainable) barramundi (or other firm, white fish), and a variety of vegetables including plantains.

I tend to avoid dairy in my creamy soups, and in this case, coconut milk is perfect with the tropical vibe of the soup. Tapado is naturally gluten and dairy free!

I keep Lite Coconut Milk in my well-stocked pantry, and it’s usually my preference. If fat and calories do not concern you (😯), you can use the full-fat variety. At 35 minutes, it’s weeknight appropriate, but speaking from experience, it will wow your guests at a small dinner party…

🦐 What is Tapado?

While much of Guatemalan food celebrates the country’s Mayan heritage (maize, beans, tortillas), tapado is a dish that originated with its coastal Garifuna people. While most Garifuna are of mixed ancestry, their roots are in Afro-Caribbean culture.

Today, their global population is close to 300,000, and you will find many of them in the US and Canada. In Central America, you will find them in the coastal communities of Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and Nicaragua. Tapado can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make it. For this recipe, I specify a firm white fish like barramundi or cod, and shrimp. Why? Accessibility. Even landlocked cooks in the US interior typically have access to good quality fish and shellfish (albeit frozen). There is nothing wrong with frozen seafood folks! 

I love plantains (and don’t use them often enough). They are a traditional ingredient in the soup. My version (may not be authentic?) also uses sweet potatoes. If you hate sweet potatoes, substitute white potatoes, purple yams, butternut squash. Nothing is “etched in stone” in the kitchen. 😉

sofrito – onion, garlic, bell pepper, and olive or coconut oil – provides the foundation for the soup. In my tapado research, I don’t think I came across a single version that did not include it. It’s kind of “a thing” in Latin and Caribbean cooking.

This Guatemalan tapado soup recipe is actually pretty healthy and balanced… no guilt allowed!

🥥 Is Coconut Milk “Healthy?”

I have made many different types of seafood soups, stews, and chowders including my Irish Scallop Bisque, my Healthy Corn and Shrimp Chowder, and my Seafood Stew with Saffron-infused Broth (needs new photos!). The defining (and amazing) flavor in a tapado, though, is the coconut milk. Wait! Coconut milk as a base hardly qualifies as “healthy,” right? As I mention in the introductory paragraph, this is “healthyish.” I do reserve the right to occasionally throw caution to the wind. 

I did lighten it up a bit by using lite coconut milk in place of the full fat coconut milk. Some recipes called for coconut “cream” and while I know how tasty that stuff is, I just can’t put it in my soup. Typically, the recipes used a full-fat coconut milk with varying amounts of broth or stock.

My hunch was to use only lite coconut milk (omitting the added broth), but I didn’t want a “one note” broth. It was then that I remembered a new ingredient I had picked up to try recently – a reduced sodium seafood broth concentrate. There are many brands available in both markets and online. The flavor is excellent (it doesn’t taste like a salty bouillon cube!). I whisked a tablespoon of the seafood broth concentrate with the lite coconut milk and the ground annato (achiote).

A close up single bowl of Guatemalan-inspired tapado de mariscos on a wood backdrop.

🍲 Instant Pot or Stove Top?

Instant Pots are definitely trending. I am not one to use my own Instant Pot for everything I make. (I do know plenty of people that do, and as long as it gets you cooking, it’s all good!).  I do have a couple of dishes that are one-pot (cook and eat) like Instant Pot Adzuki Bean Soup with Miso, Winter Squash, and Kale and Instant Pot Argentinian Beef Stew (Carbonada Criolla). 

More often than not, though, I use my Instant Pot (or stove top pressure cooker) to expedite some portion of a dish as in Instant Pot Cannelini Beans with Penne, Baby Kale, and Slow Roasted Tomatoes or to make beans or broth/stock. In contemplating how to present this dish, I had to really evaluate the benefits (if any) of using the IP/pressure cooker:

#1 There is only one instance that I have used a pressure cooker on fish – Instant Pot Salmon and Rice With Lemon Caper Chimichurri. It’s a really tasty and healthy salmon recipe, and the salmon cooks on a rack, together with the rice. The rice comes out tender rather than mushy, and the salmon is nicely cooked.

#2 I knew there was no way to get “hard” vegetables tender without overcooking the shrimp and fish.

#3 The sauté feature on the Instant Pot makes it a multi-method cooker.

Thus, I landed on using the Instant Pot for the sofrito, vegetables, and broth under pressure, and finishing the soup on the sauté setting… in a mere 5 minutes! If you don’t have a pressure cooker, this is still a relatively quick and easy dish to cook stove top.

The plantains take the longest time to cook. Green plantains (which I prefer for this recipe) take longer than plantains that are more ripe. Cutting the sweet potatoes in chunks, and the plantains in 1/4″ slices should get them done in about the same amount of time on the stove… 25-30 minutes.  

Either way, you’ll have this ready in under 45 minutes, and it’s dinner party worthy! I wrote the recipe for 2, but it’s easy to scale…

📋 Ingredients

All ingredients prepped for the tapado on a wood cutting board.
  • fish – Choose firm, mild-flavored white fish. I keep barramundi fillets in my freezer, and they’re perfect. Cod, halibut, flounder, snapper are all great options!
  • shrimp – I live near the Gulf of Mexico, and our Gulf brown shrimp are amazing. Farm-raised are fine if you know the source is a good one. I use large shrimp, typically 26/30 count.
  • plantains – Slightly under-ripe or even green plantains work best for this recipe. Ripe plantains are likely to disintegrate as they cook.
  • sweet potatoes
  • red bell pepper
  • onion or shallots
  • tiny tomatoes
  • ground annatto – Annatto (aka achiote) is the red-orange food coloring/seasoning made from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), which grows in tropical regions in South and Central America. I keep both the ground annatto and achiote paste in my pantry. It has a sweet, peppery flavor.
  • coconut milk – I specify lite coconut milk. You can certainly substitute full fat coconut milk. NOTE: Do not use the dairy free coconut milk you find in the Dairy section of your market. You want canned coconut milk found in the Asian foods section.
  • stock concentrate or bouillon – As I mentioned earlier, you want the flavor of the stock or broth, but you don’t want to dilute the flavor of the coconut milk. I love this Better than Bouillon Fish Base. Chicken flavored would be fine as well.
  • oregano – Fresh oregano is awesome in this recipe. It grows really well in McAllen, so I always have it. Substitute dried oregano leaves (Mediterranean style).
Cooking Steps: 1. Saute the onion, garlic, ginger, and sweet bell pepper in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. 2. Add the vegetables and fresh oregano (or dried), and saute 2-3 minutes. 3. Pour the whisked coconut milk, annato or achiote, and bouillon into the pot. Cook on high pressure 4 minutes. 4. Do a quick pressure release, season, add the fish/shellfish, and simmer about 5 minutes. Garnish and serve!

Instant Pot Instructions

  1. Make the sofrito – Start with a simple sofrito of onion, garlic, and sweet bell pepper (red, orange, yellow). My addition of fresh ginger pays homage to the Caribbean roots of the Garifuna people. I prefer refined coconut oil (smoke point is higher than unrefined coconut oil or olive oil).
  2. Add the veggies – Next, add the sweet potato chunks, sliced plantain, and tiny tomatoes. (You may substitute chopped tomatoes, but it takes more time 🙂 ). Give this mixture a minute or two to sauté while you whisk the lite (or regular) coconut milk with the ground annato (achiote) and broth concentrate.
  3. Add the liquids – Pour the whisked coconut milk, annatto, and broth concentrate into the pot. Cook on high pressure 4 minutes.
  4. Finish the tapado – Do a quick pressure release, season, add the fish/shellfish, and simmer about 5 minutes. Garnish and serve!

We love to garnish our food! On the night I took photos, I garnished with chopped fresh cilantro and unsweetened and toasted coconut. This is by all accounts, a delightful dish. Just ask my husband, who endured eating it a few times in a few days. 😉

💭 Tips

Key to making a one-pot dish like this one work in the Instant Pot is to choose vegetables that require similar cooking times (like the plantains and sweet potatoes). Potatoes, butternut squash, and yucca should be similar. If you want to try a summer squash (quick cooking), you can add it with the fish and cut fairly thin slices or small dice.

I can’t find chicken or seafood broth concentrate. What else can I use?

Most markets now carry some type of broth concentrate other than salty bouillon cubes. Amazon has Better Than Bouillon in fish and chicken, and either work well! I have used the Kitchen Accomplice brand in chicken. A fish base is my choice, but I don’t hesitate using chicken. If you have to resort to bouillon in a pinch, be sure to taste before seasoning!

What other vegetables can I use?

We love the combination of plantains and sweet potato, but regular potatoes and bananas are not uncommon. Go for a firm, green banana rather than a ripe one. Yucca root and yams would be good options. I love the little purple fingerling potatoes in this stew. While it would not be authentic, I think butternut squash would be a good addition.

What fish and seafood do you recommend?

You want a firm white fish that won’t fall apart in the stew. I almost always have barramundi fillets (a sustainable choice) in my freezer, and I currently have sheepshead that my husband and I caught back in late January. Snapper, cod, halibut are good options. Shrimp is so widely available, but know your source. If it’s not wild caught or “responsibly farm-raised,” you may be disappointed. I cannot think of a seafood option that wouldn’t be delicious – clams, mussels, crab, oysters.

What can I do with leftovers?

I am not a fan of fish/seafood left over. I recommend making just what you need for the meal at hand.

🌡️ Useful Stuff

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊

Better Than Bouillon Fish Broth
Coconut Milk
Ground Annatto Powder

Healthy, fresh, quick soup recipes are a favorite at Andersen casa. We love this Mexican seafood soup, this moqueca recipe, and this corn and shrimp chowder. Don’t wait for a chilly day to enjoy a homemade soup recipe!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.
A wood background with a bowl of gluten free tapado (seafood soup) and a rust napkin.

Tapado

This Guatemalan-inspired coconut and seafood soup features healthy fish and shrimp with plantains and sweet potatoes. Make it in your Instant Pot or on the stove. It's quick either way!
4.92 from 12 votes

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Soups and Stews
Cuisine Latin
Servings 2 servings
Calories 450 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon refined coconut oil
  • ½ cup red onion - sweet onion, or shallot, chopped
  • 1 sweet bell pepper - chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger - minced (about 1" ginger root)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic - minced (about 3 cloves)
  • 1 green plantain - peeled and cut in 1/4″ slices
  • 1 medium sweet potato - peeled and cut in chunks
  • 1 cup tiny tomatoes - no chopping!
  • 1 can lite coconut milk - see notes below
  • 1 tablespoon chicken or fish broth concentrate - see notes below
  • 1 teaspoon ground annatto (achiote)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves - or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 8 ounces firm white fish fillet +/-
  • 8 ounces shrimp - peeled and deveined
  • cilantro for garnish
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Instructions

Instant Pot:

  • Add coconut oil, onion, garlic, ginger, and sweet bell pepper to pot. Saute 3-4 minutes until onion is soft.
  • Add plantains, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
  • Whisk together the coconut milk, ground annato (achiote), and chicken broth concentrate. Add coconut milk mixture and oregano to the pot. Bring up to a boil
  • Set to 4 minutes on high pressure. When time is up, do a quick pressure release.

Stove Top:

  • Add coconut oil, onion, garlic, ginger, and sweet bell pepper to pot. Saute 3-4 minutes until onion is soft.
  • Add plantains, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
  • Whisk together the coconut milk, ground annato (achiote), and chicken broth concentrate. Add coconut milk mixture and oregano to the pot. Bring up to a boil
  • Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover. Cook until vegetables are barely tender (25-30 minutes).

To Finish Both Methods:

  • Bring stew to a gentle boil. Add shrimp and fish. Press them down into the broth.
  • Simmer (gently) until shrimp and fish are opaque – about 5 minutes.
  • Garnish as desired, and enjoy!

Notes

As I mentioned in the post, I tried different combinations to maximize flavor while keeping the dish “healthyish.” I found the combination of lite coconut milk with a broth concentrate yielded the most flavorful results while keeping calories in check. You may prefer to use full-fat coconut milk with broth or stock. I wrote this recipe for 2 servings, and I wanted about 1 cup of broth in the soup per serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 450kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 10g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com
Tapado soup with a spoon in the bowl scooping it up.
The original 2019 photo… it’s a little out of focus but still delicious!

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11 Comments

  1. First time I made anything like this and it turned out great! Thanks for the lovely recipe Tamara. I also like the way it was for 2 instead of 6 -8 people. It still made a lot but because my fish was so fresh, it held for another meal the next day.

  2. Used this for my Global Table Adventure #68 – Guatemala! Thanks for the recipe!
    I added a little hot sauce & some extra broth – very tasty stew!

  3. This was fantastic; I really enjoyed all the tropical flavors. Coconut with seafood is a great flavor combination. I look forward to having this again!

    1. Thanks MJ! When we lived in NM, I rarely used them, but they’re kind of a mainstay for us in south Texas. I love the texture and flavor they bring to this stew!