Salt Codfish Salad Recipe

Salt Codfish Salad

The ubiquitous Insalata di Baccalà from Italy, which exists in zillion versions. Salt cod combines well with potatoes, onions, olives, and above all high-quality extra virgin olive oil. When buying salt cod, look for the so-called “loins”. They are cuts from the thickest part of the fish. They will give you the best fish flakes for this salad.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes plus 24-48 hrs desalting in advance


  • 1 lb (450 g) salt codfish (bacalhau), desalted
  • 1 lb (450 g) small Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 3/4 lb (375 g) green beans, trimmed and cut in half, if too long
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced about 1 cup (140 g)
  • 1 cup (180 g) roasted red pepper slices, canned ones are fine
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, finely minced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a dash of red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) white vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped chives or scallions
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • black olives 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.


After desalting, bring enough water to a boil in a saucepan to cover salt codpieces. Let it come to a quick boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer salt cod for 10-15 minutes or until codfish starts to flake apart into slippery flakes when pierced with a fork. Do not cook too vigorously, it will toughen the flesh. You need fairly large flakes for the salad. Remove fish from the water and let it cool. Run your fingers over the fish flesh and check for small bones.

While the cod is simmering, cook the potatoes and green beans. Bring water to boil in a saucepan add salt and cook potato halves for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes and let them cool. At the same time, bring water to boil, in another saucepan. Add the salt and the green beans and cook them until crispy-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain beans and plunge them immediately into ice water to arrest the cooking and maintain color. Drain again, and set them on paper towels to drain.

Prepare the dressing. Whisk the olive oil with vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Place potatoes, red onions, roasted peppers, and black olives in a bowl. Add the flaked cod on top. Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss everything gently taking care not to break up the fish too much. Let it stand for at least 15 minutes or longer before serving. Potatoes should absorb the dressing. Add more dressing, if necessary. Sprinkle with chives and cilantro and serve.

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