Portuguese Salt Cod

This recipe comes to me by way of the Foods of the World series, and it is in the American cooking: New England cookbook.

It is perfect timing for me. I began showcasing the regional cuisines of the U.S. in January, and I still have plenty of salt cod leftover from when I excitedly came upon it at Whole Foods a while back, see salt cod.

This recipe is one that I see typically when I come across a salt cod recipe, one that is either Portuguese, Italian, or Spanish. It’s a lighter Mediterranean dish of salt cod in tomatoes and onions, sometimes with capers as well.


I will type up the exact recipe as it is in the New England recipe booklet:

Salt Cod Portuguese Style
To serve 4

1 pound salt cod
6 large firm ripe tomatoes, or substitute 4 cups chopped, drained canned plum tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions, plus 1 small onion, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8″-thick slices
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely cut fresh basil leaves, or substitute 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried basil
1 medium bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground hot red pepper (cayenne)
1 teaspoon salt

Starting a day ahead, place the cod in a glass, enameled or stainless-steel pan or bowl. Cover it with cold water and soak for at least 12 hours, changing the water 3 or 4 times.


Drain the cod, rinse under cold running water, place it in a saucepan and add enough fresh water to cover the fish by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. (Taste the water. If it seems excessively salty, drain, cover the cod with fresh water, and bring to a boil again.)

Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for about 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when prodded gently with a fork. Drain the cod thoroughly. Remove and discard any skin and bones and flake the fish into 1-inch pieces with a table fork.


Meanwhile, drop the fresh tomatoes into a pan of boiling water and remove them after 15 seconds. Run cold water over them and peel them with a small, sharp knife. Cut out the stems, then slice the tomatoes in half crosswise, and squeeze the halves gently to removed the seeds and juice. Chop the tomatoes coarsely. (Canned tomatoes need only be thoroughly drained and chopped.)

In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet, warm the olive oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it. Add the chopped onions, celery, and garlic, and, stirring frequently, cook for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft but not brown.

Stir in the tomatoes, onion slices, parsley, basil, bay leaf, red pepper, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer tightly covered for 30 minutes. Add the cod, mix well, and simmer until the fish is heated through. Taste for seasoning and serve at once from a heated bowl or deep platter. Portuguese salt cod is traditionally accompanied by small boiled potatoes.


Verdict: I was very happy with this recipe exactly as it is. However, I later added some capers to top things off!

By Published On: February 1st, 201312 Comments on Portuguese Salt Cod

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. myhomefoodthatsamore February 1, 2013 at 10:06 AM - Reply

    I love baccalà .. .this looks yummy!

    • chef mimi February 1, 2013 at 11:13 AM - Reply

      It was….. I ate it all, because my husband only eats fish where it’s freshly caught.

  2. johnnysenough hepburn February 1, 2013 at 3:57 PM - Reply

    You know, iI really must try and find salt cod as I haven’t had any in years! Really love the stuff, and this recipe sounds especially good.

    • johnnysenough hepburn February 1, 2013 at 3:58 PM - Reply

      Woops, forgot to delete the lower case i.

      • chef mimi February 2, 2013 at 9:49 AM

        It’s fun! I was just in Scotland and the fish there is amazing.

  3. yummychunklet February 1, 2013 at 9:04 PM - Reply

    Fantastic food styling!

  4. fionaward February 2, 2013 at 11:18 AM - Reply

    I’m going to Lisbon at the end of this month, can’t wait to go having read this!

    • chef mimi February 2, 2013 at 11:25 AM - Reply

      Lucky!!! I bet you can find this just about anywhere…

  5. annashortcakes February 2, 2013 at 3:40 PM - Reply
  6. camparigirl February 4, 2013 at 3:29 PM - Reply

    I made a French version of this recently (Breton I think), with cream and it was unbelievably delicious

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