Portuguese Bacalhau

Years back, I spent a few great days in Lisbon and fell in love with the Portuguese bacalhau; a hearty dish of salted cod, potatoes and onions. I Fell in love with the simplicity of it. That and the fact that the local grocery store around the corner carried it as a grab-and-go item in their deli case.

Just prior to arriving in Portugal, I was in northeastern Spain, where I first tried the Basque version of it. I loved it, for the record. A couple days later, in a grocery store in Lisbon, the name caught my eye and I made an impulse buy. I sure am glad I did.

Inasmuch as I enjoyed sampling much of the local fare of Portugal’s gorgeous capital city (the fried octopus and the custard tarts are still among my best memories of that trip), this became my staple breakfast.

Granted, Portuguese bacalhau isn’t really your typical traditional breakfast dish. Yet, when dabbed with a hot peri-peri sauce and chased down with a strong espresso, it gets the day started perfectly in my world.

When I returned home, I realized I had never made it from scratch. So I began to research on how to make Portuguese bacalhau. There are about as many ways to make it as there are ways to make borscht. I decided for the first time to go the traditional route here. Like lots of the recipes I reconnoiter on the web, I get a feel for an easier way to do it after following the rules. I like how this turned out, but I already have ideas on how to do it differently next time. Possibly even like a Spanish paella; braised together in one pan. I’ll definitely document it and share my results with you when I do.

In the meantime, I had a good time making this one and I’m sure you will as well.


Portuguese Bacalhau

Portuguese bacalhau

Portuguese salt cod roasted with potatoes and olives
Prep Time 1 d 1 hr
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 1 d 1 hr 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean, portuguese


  • Sauce pot, frying pan, casserole pan


  • 1 lb salted cod soaked in cold water for 24 hours
  • 1 lb potatoes white or yellow flesh
  • 1 whole onion julienned
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 whole chili peppers chopped
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 10-20 olives pitted or not; its your choice
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parsley chopped


The day before….

  • Soak the salted cod in cold water overnight in the fridge.

On the day…..

  • Sepaprate the cod from its soaking water; put the water in a pot and bring it to a boil.
  • While waiting for the cod water to boil, mince the garlic and chilies.
  • Once the water is boiling, place the cod in it and let it boil for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the cod from the water and let it cool for a couple moments; let the water come back up to a boil.
  • Cut the potatoes into quarters and place them in the boiling cod water. Boil until soft enough that a paring knife blade can pass through them with little resistance.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, use a bit of the olive oil to grease a casserole dish; set it aside.
  • Now use half of the remaining oil to saute the garlic, chilies, pepper and thyme. Add the lemon juice and remove from the heat.
  • By now, the cod should be cool enough to handle. Tear it up into bite-sized chunks and set it in a small mixing bowl. Add the garlic/chili/lemon and mix it thouroughly. Let stand aside for a bit…maybe right next to that casserole dish you greased up a few minutes ago.
  • Julienne the onion.
    That pan you used to fry the garlic in? Don't wash it.
    Heat up the rest of the oil in it and saute the onion until it starts to caramelize.
    Set that aside for a bit; right next to the cod is a good place.
  • Once the potatoes are done, strain off and discard the water.
    Cool the potatoes just enough to slice them into 1/4" thick slices.

It all comes together….

  • Once the potatoes are cut, lay half of them in the bottom of the casserole pan, followed by half the fish.
    Then the rest of the potatoes, followed by half the fish.
    Top it off with the onions and olives.
  • Place it in the oven at 400F (375F if you have a convection oven) for about 25 minutes.
  • Remove it from the oven, dress with the parsley and finish it off with a bit more lemon and serve.



As the dish calls for using heavily salted fish and the water it soaks in, you likely won’t need to add any salt at all to this recipe.
As the procedure here has several things happening at once, this is because what little knife work is required can be done while waiting for water to boil or other ingredients to cool down. Time efficiency can mean the difference between having this recipe take an hour or three to prepare.
Keyword dairy free, fish, gluten free

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