10 absolutely savory recipes for salt cod
What to do with salt cod? Here is how to desalt and prep it before cooking. Also check our favorite recipes for salt cod!
Are you looking for recipes for salt cod?
Then you are on the right track here!
In Spain, Italy and Portugal you can still find salt cod on the dinner table very regularly.
Here in Belgium this salted and dried fish used to be a lot more popular decades ago, and it was also a cheap fish to buy.
Nowadays you hardly see it at the fishmonger’s or on a restaurant menu anymore.
Which is really too bad if you love this salty delicacy as much as we do.
What is another name for salt cod?
Salt cod or salted cod, both are correct.
The French call it morue, the Italians baccala, the Spanish bacalao and the Portuguese bacalhau.
You can also find it under the name of saltfish.
The fish and process stay the same: it is dried and salted Atlantic cod.
Here in Belgium we often call it stokvis in Flemish.
Other names you might frequently hear or see besides stokvis are stockfish and stoccofisso, however they are actually not correct.
Stokvis is technically unsalted fish (especially cod) that is dried by cold air and wind.
There is not really a special name for real salt cod in Flemish, other than just salt cod. In Dutch the name klipvis or bakkeljauw is used.
Why is fish salted and dried?
The drying and salting of fresh ingredients is the world’s oldest method of preserving food.
It allows food to be kept for many years if it is stored perfectly in a dry place.
Salted and/or dried food also comes in handy if you are planning long trips or oversea voyages. Think of the trading ships that were at sea for months.
Salted fish and meat would always be stored in their pantries.
Once the fresh food ran out, the dried and salted stuff would be cooked – causing scurvy, caused by a serious vitamin C deficiency due to not eating (enough) fruits and vegetables.
What can you do with salted cod?
We do have a couple of recipes for salt cod!
The great thing about salt cod is that it is super simple to cook and so versatile. You can add it to all sorts of dishes: salads, stews, soups and chowders, or make delicious salt cod fritters!
We also love it in Thai curries, or in fish and pot pies.
If you grocery store sells salt cod, it will usually be sitting in their seafood section, or it can be frozen as well so check the frozen fish department too.
Can you eat salted cod without cooking? Can you cook salt cod without soaking it?
No, it is too dry and too tough.
And just too salty and not at all pleasant to eat. Dry salt cod is not easy to eat out of hand, just like you enjoy some dried whiting as a snack with a glass of wine or beer.
Before salt cod can be eaten, it has to be rehydrated and desalinated.
Soaking is the most important step in preparing salt cod. Most recipes say to soak for 24 hours. However, this is risky and may leave the fish too salty. About 48 hours is a better bet.
By soaking the salt cod in cold water for 1 to 3 days, and regularly changing the salted water by fresh water about 2 to 3 times a day. This will remove most of the salt.
Just don’t soak it for too long, avoid removing all the salt from the fish because that is where it gets its great flavor.
How to soak salt cod?
So how exactly do you do that?
Place the salt cod in a deep glass or ceramic baking dish and add fresh cold tap water until the fish is completely submerged. You might have to put a smaller plate or cup on top of it to weigh it down in the beginning if it floats to the top.
Let the fish soak for at least 24 hours and replace the salty soaking water with fresh water 2 to 3 times. Repeat this for another 24 hours if necessary.
In the end strain the soaked fish and wrap it in a clean kitchen towel for another 2 to 3 hours to extract excess water. Then remove any fish bones if you want.
If you want the fish to stay in one piece during cooking, leave the skin on or it will fall apart. If you are making fritters or a pie, remove the skin.
Soaking salt cod, for how long?
How long the salt cod needs to be soaked, depends on how thick the chunk of salt cod is.
Practice and experience are king, you will know after a few times how you like your salt cod: a little less or more salty, and how long you should soak the fish to get to that point.
Some fishmongers sell salt cod that has already been soaked beforehand. Great, because that way you can prepare the fish the same day.
What does salt cod taste like?
It tastes like fish of course.
But stronger and more savory because of the salt.
You will surely taste the salt but if the salt cod has been properly soaked, it will not be too salty.
The texture will also be different, the fibers are tougher and solid but not chewy. Don’t expect it to be creamy, soft and flaky like freshly cooked cod.
Cooked salt cod definitely has a meaty texture.
You either love it or hate it!
Is salt cod healthy?
Yes, it is!
Salt cod is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and is high in protein and low in fat.
How do you store salted cod?
Salt cod will keep almost forever refrigerated or at room temperature.
One thing you should do is wrap it in several plastic bags or clingfilm to stop the smell.
As long as salt cod is kept dry, it should not go bad.
Can you freeze salt cod?
Yes, freezing it won’t affect the longevity of the product but because of it high salt content, it is unnecessary.
10 savory recipes for salt cod
Are you ready for some salt cod inspiration?
We lived in Spain for about 7 years and during that time we have seen, cooked and eaten a lot of salt cod dishes.
So here are a couple of our easy recipes for salt cod!
Brandade de morue
This is probably the most famous salt cod dish.
Brandade is a mediterranean whipped salt cod potato mash. The salt cod is often poached in milk with floury potatoes and then roughly mashed and seasoned.
You can serve it in many different ways.
Serve it warm as a main course (a very popular Paris bistro staple), spread it cold on bread as an appetizer or lunch, or grill it in the oven with some cheese on top.
You can also fry this salt cod puree into little croquettes and make salt cod fritters: a delicious snack.
Bacalhau a bras
Have you ever been to Portugal?
Then you have probably seen or even tasted this salt cod classic on the menu.
Bacalhau a bras is an easy one-pot meal of scrambled eggs, pan fried potatoes, onions, black olives and salt cod.
There are different variations on it. Sometimes pieces of dried chorizo and green pepper are also added.
We love it, check our recipe here!
You might also like this Portuguese salt cod soup called porrusalda, salt cod with leeks.
Grandma’s salt cod with onions and mustard
Did your grandparents cook with salt cod?
My grandmother used to poach the soaked salt cod in a little milk. A dash of cream, potato starch and a spoonful of grain mustard were then added to the milk, and boiled some more to make it a little thicker.
She would always serve the cooked salt cod with mustard cream sauce with boiled floury potatoes and caramelised onions.
Oh man, what a treat!
In Spain you will also find countless dishes with salt cod.
One of our favorites is a salt cod, tomato and onion stew by the name of bacalao a la vizcaina.
Here as well you can come across other variations of this dish where potatoes, red peppers, olives and capers are added to the sauce.
Another Spanish salt cod dish that we love is bacalao al pil pil with garlic and olive oil!
Or how about a Basque salt cod and bread soup, zurrukutuna!
How about you?
Have you ever tasted salt cod before?
Perhaps you have a couple of recipes for salt cod that you want us to try out?
Let us know in the comments below!