Salt Codfish and Leek Soup Recipe

Salt Codfish and Leek Soup

Purrusalda means leek broth in Euskera, the Basque language. It’s a traditional vegetable soup recipe with carrots, potatoes, garlic, onions, and leeks. It is traditionally eaten during lent all over Spain.

The addition of salt cod is common albeit purists argue that such a soup should not be called Porrusalda. Fresh codfish can be used in place of salt cod.  In my opinion a rather mute argument – the dish is heartier and more fun with salt cod, redolent with garlic.

Yield: 4 servings

Time:  40 minutes plus 24-48 hrs desalting in advance


  • 11 oz (300 g) salt cod, cut into medium-size pieces
  • 3 Tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into ribbons
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 large potatoes, diced coarsely
  • 2 large carrots, cut into dices
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 4 cups (1 L) salt cod cooking water
  • 4 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper

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.


Put the desalted cod in a saucepan with fresh cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Drain the cod and save about 4 cups (1 L) of the cooking water. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, leeks, and garlic and cook for about 15 minutes or until de leeks are soft. Add diced potatoes, carrots, bay leaf, paprika and the saved salt cod cooking water. Let it simmer over low heat until potatoes and carrots are almost tender. Add the cod and simmer it for 5-8 minutes longer. When ready taste for salt and pepper. 

Drizzle with extra olive oil and sprinkle with parsley on top and serve warm.

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