Caldeirada is a fish soup/stew very popular in Portugal, which has several recipes (mainly suggesting different kind of fish). It is cooked in a large(r) pot and these recipes have all in common to start covering the pot with a layer of sliced onion rings. Then you add layers of other vegetables and the last layers would be the fish. You are not supposed to stir while cooking.

Why is the first layer always onions? Is this just a question of adding sufficient onion flavor to the dish or is there another reason?

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some recipe's excerpts and respective links (all in Portuguese)

  • I just checked three different online Caldeirada recipes, as well as one in a Portuguese cookbook, and NONE of them start with a thick layer of onion rings. So you're looking at one specific recipe ... not recipes for the dish in general. Please link or quote the recipe you're following, thanks!
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 4, 2023 at 17:38
  • @FuzzyChef I can do so, but they are all in Portuguese, shall I post the links and then translate the essential? And it is not a thick layer of onion rings, it is a layer of thick cut onion rings
    – Vickel
    Jan 4, 2023 at 17:42
  • Nah, just link in Portuguese. Folks can use Google Translate if they want.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 4, 2023 at 17:43
  • 1
    Interesting! None of the English-language recipes I can find use the kind of "passive layering" in those Portuguese recipes.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 4, 2023 at 18:14

1 Answer 1


Tradition counts for a lot in many cuisines, so the answer may be 'because that's the way it's always been' in Portuguese cuisine. However, I would put the onion at the bottom because it takes the longest to cook. By putting the onions at the bottom they will get the earliest and therefore longest exposure to heat. Although you don't include the recipe, I would suspect that the layering starts with the longest to cook ingredients at the bottom and the shortest at the top, with the fish requiring the least cooking.

  • Since many caldeirada recipes start with chopped or diced onions, often mixed with garlic and/or peppers, this is def. the answer. It's just the standard technique of adding the strong aeromatics first.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 4, 2023 at 17:45

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