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Ensalada De Bacalao (Salt Cod Salad)

by Chef Aaron Sanchez


Cod served with onions, scallions, cilantro, avocado, and tomatoes in a lime juice and garlic dressing

Makes 4 to 6 servings



  1. Soak the bacalao in cold water for 24 hours, changing the water three times to remove the majority of the salt. Drain and rinse under cold water and put it in a large pot.
  2. Add the milk and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 45 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. When cool enough to handle, shred the fish into a bowl; take care to get out all the little bones. Add the onion, scallions, cilantro, avocado, and tomatoes.
  4. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the dressing to the salad, toss, and serve.

Chef Aaron Sanchez notes: Different cultures use different types of fish depending on what's available, and cod is often the most popular and expensive, particularly if it's boneless. Local markets may sell dried haddock or pollack, which make modest substitutes. Cod is sold in pieces, while haddock and pollack are generally sold whole.

This dish originated in Puerto Rico — its version of a seafood appetizer or light lunch, in the same vein as ceviche or shrimp cocktail. I am a fan of preparing and serving bacalao cold as opposed to cooking it and serving hot; the flavor is fresh and vibrant. I like to cook bacalao in milk because I believe it pulls out any additional salt that has remained after soaking the fish.

Bacalao (Dried Salt Cod)
Cod that has been preserved in salt, which removes the moisture, and makes the fish firm and chewy. Bacalao is very popular in Brazil, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, although the cod itself generally comes from Norway. Dried and salted cod has been consumed for over 500 years. In the 15th century, on the Spanish coast, cod began to be salted and dried on rocks to preserve it. In the times of colonial expansion, the long voyages required food-preservation techniques. The drying-and-salting method, besides guaranteeing perfect conservation, maintained all the cod's nutrients and flavor. Bacalao must be soaked for at least a day in several changes of water before using.

This segment appears in show #2903.

Recipe reprinted from La Comida del Barrio: Latin-American Cooking in the U.S.A., Clarkson Potter, 2003.
© 2003 Aaron Sanchez

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Published August 31, 2007