Making bacalao: Ensalada de Bacalao (Salted Cod Salad)

Ensalada de Bacalao (Salted Cod Salad)

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Ensalada de Bacalao | When I was a kid, my grandmother would make this salad, and it was one of the few things I would refuse to eat.  Great way to start off a food post huh? Of course, I don’t think anyone can successfully feed a child salted cod.  If you have, please let me know. 

It’s amazing how things change because now I can’t get enough of the stuff. Salted cod is a little hard to come by here in Texas but, when I do find it, it’s like finding gold.

It took some time for me develop an appreciation for ensalada de bacalao. When I first moved to Florida, my mother-in-law would make this, and everyone loved it, especially my husband.  I thought they were crazy because all I could remember was how much hated it as a kid.  

I was hesitant but I didn’t want to put of my new in-laws. After some reluctance, I decided that I would give the salad a try.  It was like discovering a new love.

What is Bacalao?

Bacalao is the Spanish term for dried and salted cod. The process of drying and salting cod started as a way to preserve the fish to transport to the market. The flavor and texture it gives the cod is a bonus. 

Historically, bacalao was solely made of Atlantic cod but due to overfishing it recently includes pollock, haddock, and blue whiting. Finding real cod bacalao is a real treat. However, it is ok to use other varieties of dried salted fish.

This salad has become one of my favorite easy make ahead meals. Served chilled or room temperature it’s the perfect recipe for the summer.  Although the main ingredient is salted cod, it is not overly salty, and it is not fishy. 

It is a great combo of mild saltiness from the fish and sweet from the combination of tomatoes, onions, and olive oil.

How to Prepare Bacalao for Ensalada de Bacalao

The most important part of this recipe is removing just the right amount of salt from the cod. If you don’t remove enough it’s inedible and if you remove too much it’s just bland.

Some recipes will call for the bacalao to be soaked in water in the refrigerator for up to three day. Changin the water at least 3 times a day. 

I don’t have the patience to wait three days or to babysit the salted cod and change the water three times a day.

A quicker way to remove the salt from bacalao is to soak the salted cod in cold water for 15 – 30 minutes.

Then place it in a pot, covered with water and bring it to a simmer. Changing the water and bringing to a simmer 3 – 4 times or until the cod is just the right amount of saltiness. 

What to Serve with Ensalada de Bacalao

Ensalada de bacalao is traditionally enjoyed alone or served over boiled yuca. It’s also great served over salad greens, white rice, or with crispy arepas de coco (coconut fry bread).  

If you are looking for more traditional Puerto Rican dishes try my favorite chicharron de pollo recipe or arroz con pollo.  And, no meal is complete without dessert!

One of my favorite Puerto Rican desserts is tembleque (coconut pudding). Need more Puerto Rican recipes? Check out my full collection of Puerto Rican recipes!

more seafood recipes
    • seafood pasta (pasta di frutti di mare)
    • herbed tilapia and vegetable foil packets
    • mofongo con sopa de mariscos (mashed plantain and seafood soup)
    • brazilian fish stew
    • old bay crab cakes


Prep Time
15 minutes

Cook Time
2 minutes

Inactive Time
3 hours 18 minutes

Total Time
3 hours 35 minutes


  • 1 lb of salted cod
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 large avocado or a whole small avocado, diced
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • 12 green olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar


  1. Soak salted cod in cool water for 15 — 30 minutes. Drain and transfer cod to a pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer on the stovetop. Change the water and bring it to a simmer 3 — 4 more times or until cod reaches desired saltiness. Drain, using a fork break up the cod and set aside.
  2. Saute onion in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft and translucent.
  3. In a large bowl combine cod with onions and remaining ingredients. Toss until well combined. If the salad is too dry to your liking add more olive oil.
  4. Serve with rice or boiled yucca root drizzled with olive oil.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

  • Bacalao Salted Cod, without Bone, approx. 1.5 lb

  • Zoe Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 Liter Tin (Pack Of 2)

  • Cuisinart 77-412 Chef’s Classic Stainless 4-Piece 12-Quart Pasta/Steamer Set

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving:
Calories: 441Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 208mgSodium: 5433mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 52g

Categories: Appetizers Tags: avocado, puerto rican


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Bacalao Guisado (Salt Cod Stew) Recipe

Bacalao Guisado is a traditional Puerto Rican stew of salt cod in a rich tomato broth with bright, vibrant herbs, potatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic. Serve it over a bed of white rice with a few slices of avocado. A favorite for Lent!


Marta Rivera

Marta Rivera

Marta has 25 years of experience in the food service industry and has been developing recipes for 3 years. She is the author of Taste & See Cooks: Recipes to Inspire, Equip and Enjoy.

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Updated March 09, 2022

Marta Rivera

My mother was very traditional when it came to the meals she cooked at home, so she never sent me to school with sandwiches for lunch. Whatever was for dinner the previous night became tomorrow’s lunch for us kids. The day I broke the seal on my Tupperware container, and the aromatic smell of cod fish, onions, and tomatoes wafted through the air, I became the talk of the lunchroom. Not good talk, either.

They labeled me a “jibara” (a hick or country girl). The fact that I’d never even visited Puerto Rico at that point was irrelevant to my classmates. I was mortified. I swore I’d only bring PB&Js to lunch in the future. But as an adult, this dish has become important to me, because it serves as the link to my Puerto Rican culture.

What Is Bacalao Guisado?

Bacalao Guisado, or salted cod stew, is a rich, tomato-based stew flavored with onions, peppers, and garlic, then bulked up with potatoes. The only salt in this dish comes from rehydrated, flaked codfish. The whole lot is spooned over rice and served on its own, or with a side of sliced avocado.

Salted Cod Stew is one of Puerto Rico’s most popular foods and often served during Lent.

Marta Rivera

What Is Salted Cod?

Cod is a round fish with firm, white flesh that flakes easily. To make salted cod, the fillets are coated in salt and left to dry, thus preserving the meat for storage and later use.

Salted cod was most likely brought to the Puerto Rico by European sailors who docked at the island’s port during the early 15th or 16th century.

Though this island nation is dependent on the sea’s bounty, cod is a cold water fish, which means all of it is imported. The mix of cultures that traded and intermingled with the native Tainos brought their own flavors to the island, and this dish is one of the delicious representations of that marriage.

Where Can You Find Salted Cod?

Salted cod seems to be common in most of the larger grocers these days. Look for it in the refrigerated section of your supermarket’s fish section. Because it’s not a fresh fish, it’s usually found in bags or boxes near the canned crab meat.

If you live in a city with a high immigrant population, you may be able to find sides of heavily salted, darn-near-desiccated cod laying on shelves or hanging in the marketplace. This type of cod will require a longer amount of soaking to remove that high amount of salt from it to prepare it for cooking.

Marta Rivera

How to Prepare Salted Cod

Salted cod must be soaked and rehydrated to remove most of the salt in which it’s been preserved prior to using in your recipes. When cooked as is, its sodium content will make your dishes inedible.

  • Traditional Soak Method: Soak cod in cold water for at least 8 hours and change the water after 4 hours.
  • Fast Soak Method: Rinse the exterior layer of salt off before soaking the salted cod in cold water for 45 minutes. Once it’s softened a bit, feel through the meat and remove any remaining bones. Place the cod in a pan, cover with more cold water, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Drain the saltwater and rinse the fillets a final time. Now the cod can be flaked and used in recipes.

I prefer the fast soak method—one hour versus eight hours.

If you’re on a low-sodium diet, the flaked fish can be simmered once again and drained a second time to remove virtually all of the salt.

Can You Make Bacalao Guisado With Fresh or Unsalted Cod?

Bacalao Guisado is traditionally made with salted cod, but fresh cod can be used. It’s the salted cod itself that seasons the stew. To replicate that salinity, you only need to add a teaspoon of kosher salt to the recipe along with the oregano and black pepper.

Marta Rivera

What Is Recao?

One of the most popular ways to season Puerto Rican dishes is with a sofrito that begins with an herb paste called recao. Recao, sometimes called Mexican coriander, is both the name of the herb and the paste. The paste is made by blending recao leaves, which taste verdant and almost garlicky, with onions, garlic, and sweet peppers. You can make it yourself or buy it at the store.

If you can’t find recao paste your local grocery store, and you can’t find the actual herb to make the paste yourself, it’s best just to make a basic sofrito by combining the onions, garlic, and sweet peppers and skipping the racao.

Ways to Adapt This Recipe

Most white fish can be used in this recipe. Haddock, pollack, hake, mahi mahi, catfish, and (my personal favorite) orange roughy are good substitutes for the cod used in this recipe. If using any of these other types of fish, add a teaspoon of salt to the dish to compensate for the salted cod.

You can also switch up the ingredients. If you’re looking for another version of Salt Cod Stew you might want to check out this Portuguese version made with eggs, olives and loads of olive oil.

What to Serve With Bacalao Guisado

Rice is the most common accompaniment to this dish. In some rural parts of Puerto Rico, and among my older family members, a cornmeal mush called funche often accompanies Bacalao Guisado. Funche is just really thick cornmeal polenta. A few slices of avocado or a green salad would also go well with this dish.

Marta Rivera

Can You Make Bacalao Ahead of Time?

The beauty of this dish is that it grows more flavorful as it sits. You can prepare the Bacalao Guisado the evening before you plan to serve it. Reheat it in a covered dish on the stovetop over medium heat until it’s warmed through. This comes in handy if you’re planning to use the old school, longer soaking time.

Can You Freeze Bacalao?

If you’re a freezer meal lover like I am, you’ll be happy to know that Bacalao Guisado is freezer-friendly. Add the stew to freezer-safe containers and cover the fish in the liquid to protect it from freezer burn.

More Incredible Puerto Rican Recipes

  • Salmorejo (Stewed Crab and Tomatoes with Rice)
  • Air Fryer Tostones
  • Arroz con Tocino (Rice with Salt Pork)
  • Pastelón (Plantain Lasagna)
  • Asopao de Camarones y Gandules (Rice stew with Shrimp and Pigeon Peas)

Prep Time
60 mins

Cook Time
25 mins

Total Time
85 mins

4 servings

If you can’t find recao paste at your local grocery store, and you can’t find the actual herb to make the paste yourself, it’s best just to make a basic sofrito by combining the onions, garlic, and sweet peppers and skipping the racao.

  • 1 pound salted codfish (salt cod)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 1/4 cup (1/2 large) yellow onion, thinly sliced

  • 3/4 cup (1 small) green bell pepper, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons recao herb base (homemade or store-bought)

  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

  • 1 large bay leaf

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 cups (about 3 small) Yukon gold potatoes, quartered then cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

To serve:

  • 4 cups cooked white rice

  • 1 avocado

  1. Soak the cod fish:

    SHORT SOAK METHOD: Rinse the salt cod, then soak it for 45 minutes in cold water on the countertop. Rinse the fillets again, and add them to a pan.

    Cover with 3-4 inches of fresh cold water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once small bubbles begin to kiss the surface of the hot water, start a timer.

    Simmer the fillets for 15 minutes to remove the excess salt. If the water boils, turn the heat down so as not to overcook the fish. The extracted salt will form clumps on the surface of the water. This is an indication to you that the salt is being removed. Once the 15 minutes is up, drain away this saltwater.

    Give the fillets another rinse in cold water to remove any remaining salt and stop the soaking process. Remove any pin bones that may remain while flaking the meat with forks or your hands. The fish is now ready to use.

    LONG SOAK METHOD: Rinse the cod fish fillets of their outer layer of salt and place them in a bowl. Cover the fish with 4 inches of cold water and leave it in the refrigerator to soak for 6-8 hours.

    Change the water after about 4 hours of soaking. Pick through the fillets for any remaining bones before flaking with a fork or your hands. The fish is now ready to use.

    Marta Rivera

    Marta Rivera

  2. Make the base:

    In a 4-quart Dutch oven or deep frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to ripple along the side of the pan, add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté the veggies for 3 minutes, or until the garlic turns a golden brown and the onions look glossy.

    Stir the recao, tomato sauce, and 1 cup water into pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the bay leaf, oregano, and black pepper to the sofrito, and let the sauce come to a simmer. Cook the sauce for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Marta Rivera

    Marta Rivera

  3. Finish the base:

    Add the potatoes to the base and reduce the heat to medium-low. The mixture should hardly bubble, but still steam. Cover the pot and allow the potatoes to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until a fork inserted into a potato meets a smidgen of resistance. You don’t want the potatoes to become too tender or they’ll turn to mush as the dish sits.

    Marta Rivera

  4. Stir in the flaked salt cod:

    Once the potatoes are almost tender, and the sauce has thickened to the consistency of gravy, gently fold in the flaked bacalao.

    Cover the pot after folding in the bacalao and allow it to heat through for 5 minutes. Because the fish is already cooked, you only need to warm it through. In this step, the bacalao (salt cod) is also seasoning the guisado (stew) with salt.

    Marta Rivera

  5. Serve over white rice:

    Spoon the finished Bacalao Guisado over warm rice and serve with slices of avocado. Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Bacalao — step by step recipe with photo

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Bacalao is a traditional dish in Portugal, there are a lot of cooking options, we suggest you cook the version with olives and potatoes. The dish is perfect for a festive table, your guests will probably do this before didn’t try. The recipe will be appreciated even by gourmets, the combination of fish, spicy olives and potatoes will not leave anyone indifferent. Be sure to try it! Enjoy your meal!

Author: Zoya Yakovenko, culinary editor

Nutritional value per 100 g. Calorie content calculated for raw foods.

Will be ready in

50 minutes

Time in the kitchen

20 minutes


We estimate the complexity of recipes so that you can calculate your time and effort.

Levels 1-2: very simple and simple dishes.

Level 3: preparation is clear, but experience is needed, it may not work the first time.

Levels 4 and 5 require special technique, skill and time.


Assess how spicy the dish will turn out, to which pepper or spices are added according to the recipe.

1 — food was peppered quite a bit.

2 — pepper is felt, but the dish does not have a sharp aftertaste.

3 — A slight «sharp» aftertaste appears.

4 — pepper is strongly felt, but the dish can still be eaten without drinking.

Number 5 is very spicy food, not everyone will eat it!



Common allergen

Here we draw your attention to whether the dish contains common and dangerous allergens. Before cooking, make sure that you do not have an individual intolerance to other products from the list of ingredients.

Cereals containing gluten, Fish

Make sure that you do not have an individual intolerance to other ingredients.

Products for the recipe


For dish

Potatoes 2 pcs. = 400 g
Bay leaf 4 pcs. = 1 g
Onion 0.5 pcs. = 40 g
Olive oil 5 tbsp. l. = 85 g
wheat flour 100 g
olives without a bone 100 g
Thuggage pepper Ground 10 g
Salt 10 g
cod fillet 300 g

Order products

Make it useful:

Replace ordinary salt with marine.

Step by step photo recipe


Wash and clean the cod. Pat dry with paper towel. Measure the required amount of flour, sift the flour. Wash potatoes. Take the required amount of onions.

Step 1

Cod cut into small pieces, salt, pepper and roll in flour.

Step 2

Finely chop the onion and fry in olive oil until golden brown. Add fish and cook for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Step 3

Peel the potatoes and cut into wedges.

Step 4

Pour water into a saucepan and add olive oil. Salt to taste, put the chopped potatoes. Boil for 5-10 minutes.

Step 5

Then put the cod and onion on top of the potatoes. Cook 15 minutes. Then add olives and bay leaf. And cook for another 5-7 minutes

Step 6

Pepper and salt as needed. Serve immediately after cooking


Serve with fresh vegetables and herbs.

Bacalao — the legendary cod recipe from the Basque Country

Today I’m going to share with you the recipe for a very popular dish from the Basque Country, Spain — Bacalao al Pil Pil. Peel-peel is the name of the technique by which an emulsion of olive oil and gelatin is obtained, which is secreted by fish when it is fried over low heat. The result is an amazing sauce, with which the finished cod is served on the table.

Just think about it! The fish is heated, it gives juice, which is mixed with olive oil … Well … This is collagen in its purest form! Well, not quite clean, but with olive oil. But one does not interfere with the other!

Olive oil is a must for this dish. Nothing will work without him.

For the sake of clarity, let’s say this. Bacalao is Spanish for cod. And this legendary recipe for delicious cod has a great story behind it. Now I will tell it to you.

Pil-Pil Cod (Bacalao Al Pil-Pil) is a must-try dish!

Bacalao al Pil-Pil is a cod recipe from the Basque Country. And the appearance of this recipe is more like a myth than a real story. But there is evidence that this Spanish dish was created during the Second Carlist War, also known as the Cabrera Rebellion or the Matiners Rebellion, a dynastic war in Spain from 1846 to 1849.

Just before the beginning of the siege of the city, one merchant from the city of Bilbao placed an order for the supply of fish and indicated that he needed 20 or 22 pieces of cod. And they brought him fish … Only there was her … 20,022 pieces!

Legend has it that the merchant was, of course, desperate to sell most of the fish he received in the cities of the Cantabrian region, but then the second siege of Bilbao began. And in fact, this mistake turned out to be a great success, since during the siege of the city there was a serious shortage of food. And fortunately, there was plenty of olive oil in the city. These two key factors helped alleviate the famine in Bilbao.

The unlucky merchant instantly became a very wealthy man and one of the most important businessmen in the city. Fish dishes were especially relevant during Lent, as people were only allowed to eat fish.

However, it should also be noted that there is another version that claims that the Bacalao al Pil Pil recipe was the result of the evolution of another dish called Bacalao a la Provenza or similar cod dishes.

In any case, despite the lack of exact information about its origin, what makes Bacalao Al Pil Pil such a popular and tasty dish? I think it’s all about the simplicity of the ingredients: cod, olive oil, garlic and chili. If you are lucky enough to visit Spain, you can find it in almost any restaurant on the coast. Try it for sure!

This seemingly simplest cod recipe is still a hot topic of debate. That, however, applies to most classic Spanish dishes. Chefs and ordinary citizens who cook cod at home do not stop arguing about the way cod is cooked in this dish.

Some argue that a piece of cod must first be put in the pan with the skin up for five minutes, and only then turn over and start the “peel-peel” process. Other culinary specialists are sure that the cod must be put in the pan with the skin down, and only then do “drank-drank”, turning the cod upside down.

Well, at least both cooking camps agree on one thing: cod in a pan is the best way to get gelatin from it for making sauce. I think you should try both options and decide for yourself how you should put the cod, skin up or down.

In my humble opinion, cod should still be cooked skin side up for the first few minutes and then turned over to begin the peel-and-peel process.

And today I have a cod fillet without a skin at all. And everything turned out great!

The recipe for delicious cod Bacalao Al Pil Pil may seem complicated, but it’s not. Although, of course, some skill is needed here. Do not put off preparing this dish for later, make it as soon as fresh cod falls into your hands. One way or another, in this dish it is quite difficult to spoil the fish so much that it would be impossible to eat it.

Here are some tips to make sure you get it right:

  • Use only olive oil. Any other oil or fat will not give the emulsifying effect we want.
  • Do not overheat the oil in the pan.
  • You can use fresh or salted cod.

Most chefs believe that this dish is best made from salted cod. It is placed in fresh water for 24-48 hours and changed every 8 hours. This removes excess salt from the fish. But you should not attach special importance to this. Fresh or salted — both varieties of cod are great.

The most important thing in this dish is to prepare a good emulsion sauce, which consists of olive oil and gelatin secreted by cod.

The quickest way to get a good and thick emulsion is as follows: when the cod in the pan is ready, transfer it to a plate, and let the mixture of oil and gelatin released from the fish cool.

Then take a sieve and use it to emulsify. This process can be described as the rapid rotation of the sieve across the bottom of the pan. Thus, this mass will be whipped. Below is a video of how I make an emulsion.


  • 300 gr cod
  • 70 ml olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Hot pepper
  • Salt

Bacalao al Pil-Pil cod recipe:

Pour olive oil over medium heat. It is very important — the oil should not burn! We heat it on a small fire!

Add garlic, chili and fry on a small !! fire for 10 minutes. We do not make a strong fire so that the oil does not burn!

We remove the garlic and pepper, they will no longer be useful to us, they have fulfilled their mission — they have flavored the oil.

Cut the cod fillet into three equal pieces.

Now put cod pieces lightly sprinkled with salt into this oil and fry over medium heat for 4 minutes on both sides. 2-3 minutes on one side, flip over and fry another 2-3 minutes on the other side. This is enough time for the fish to cook through.

Remember that you are not deep frying fish. If it sizzles too much, then the oil is too hot and our cod will not release gelatin, and the oil will start to burn, which will ruin the sauce altogether. This is the key point. We need the fish to start secreting gelatin.

When the cod is ready, take it out of the pan and put it on a plate.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow the oily mixture that remains in it to cool for 7-10 minutes.

And now we make an emulsion. For this we need a sieve. The main part of the emulsion preparation process is shown in the video below. The whole process of whipping the emulsion takes from 3 to 5 minutes.

Salt and freshly ground pepper can already be added to the finished emulsion.

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