Portuguese Salt Codfish and Shrimps Stew Recipe

Portuguese Salt Codfish and Shrimps Stew

Ensopado de Bacalhau e Camarão is a beloved recipe in Portugal. There are many variations for this comforting, soul warming food for gray winter days. Above all simple to make and very tasty.

Salt cod aficionados appreciate the delicate “saline flavor” of bacalhau which cannot be replicated using fresh cod. That’s the reason it is often called “prosciutto of the sea”.

Servings: 4

Time: 45 minutes plus 24-48 hrs desalting in advance


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb (450 g) salted cod fish codfish, desalted
  • 8 large shrimps, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 large red, orange or green pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 lb (450 g) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups (140 g) kale leaves, roughly chopped or more to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped for garnish

Bacalhau is a fish, traditionally codfish, that is cured by dry-salting it. It’s a very old and sustainable method to preserve fish. Mostly associated with the Portuguese cuisine it also has its place in Spain (bacalao), Southern France (morue salée) and Italy (baccalà and stoccafisso).

Desalting bacalhau is absolutely necessary. How long you soak depends on the thickness of the cut and how dry it is. In my opinion it is best to soak it for at least 24 hours, may be 48 hours, changing the water 2 – 3 times a day. Supermarkets in Portugal often sell “bacalhau demolhado”, the already-soaked and desalted bacalhau. However its best to do a testrun first. Cook a small piece of cod in barely simmering water for 10 minutes and then let it cool. It should be mildly saline. Keep in mind that pan frying or roasting bacalhau, might cause residual salt to concentrate and render a saltier taste to the finished dish.


Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the previously desalted salt cod fish and reduce it to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. Remove fish with a slotted spoon, place it on a plate. Save the cooking water.

Bring the cooking water to a boil again and add the potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Remove potatoes from water and set aside. Save the cooking water.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes or until onions and peppers are beginning to get soft. Add the paprika and continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes while stirring to mix all well. Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to cook until tomatoes begin to fall apart, about 10 minutes. Add the cod fish, potatoes, kale and enough fish cooking water to cover. Cook until potatoes are soft. Add the shrimps and cook for 2-3 minutes or until shrimps just turn pink. Check for salt and pepper. If stew seems too thick, add more cooking water to obtain a soupier consistency. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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