How to Cook Bacalao

Bacalao is one of the typical types of fish found in Spanish gastronomy. Due to its versatility, bacalao is no longer only consumed on special dates such as Lent or Christmas; it is now possible to find it fresh from December to May.

Benefits of bacalao

Bacalao is a delicious and very easy to digest fish which can be prepared in an infinite number of recipes with varying degrees of difficulty. You can buy it fresh and have it cleaned or cut to your liking, or you can also buy it frozen.

This delicacy provides the body with large quantities of water and is very rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. It also has high levels of vitamins and minerals, the latter including selenium, phosphorus, calcium and potassium. Like all fish, bacalao is also very rich in protein.

How to desalinate bacalao

Before preparing bacalao in any recipe, it is best to desalinate it. If you have time, you can use a salted bacalao and carry out the whole process; you can also buy bacalao that has already been desalted, although it is more expensive.

The first thing to do is to cut up the loin, if it is very large. Next, place it in a sufficiently large container, as the fish must be covered with plenty of water.

This process takes about 48 hours, and the water should be changed every six hours. When it comes to the thinner parts of the fish, then the process takes 36 hours and the water should be changed every eight hours. During desalting, the fish should be kept in the refrigerator at a temperature of between 6 and 8ºC. It is not recommended to do it at room temperature, as the bacalao can ferment and acquire a very unpleasant smell.

Portuguese Bacalao Recipe

Portuguese bacalao is not a typical recipe in Spain, but it is one of the most widespread and is prepared in homes and restaurants across most of the country. Bacalao a la portuguesa, as its name suggests, is traditional in Portugal and is known there as bacalhau à Margarida de Praça. It is a baked stew with potatoes. To prepare Portuguese-style bacalao, it is very important to desalinate the fish beforehand and brown it lightly before putting it in the oven.


  • Four loins of bacalao (depending on the number of diners)
  • Four large oven potatoes
  • Three onions
  • A glass of white port wine (it can be replaced by cognac or brandy or any other white wine, but of good quality)
  • A teaspoon of sweet paprika
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Flour for breading
  • Salt


  • First of all, peel and cut the onion into julienne strips.
  • Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to a sufficiently large frying pan.
  • Place the onion in the pan when the oil starts to get hot. Be careful, the oil must not burn.
  • Sauté the onion until soft and translucent.
  • Remove from the heat and add the teaspoon of paprika.
  • Stir the paprika into the onion and return to the heat.
  • Add the wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate. This will take about two minutes.
  • Remove the onion from the pan, with its sauce, and set aside in a bowl.
  • Peel the potatoes into slices. Try to keep the slices the same thickness.
  • In the frying pan that you used for the onion, add plenty of oil and fry the potatoes, but do not allow them to cook completely, as they should finish cooking in the oven along with the fish.
  • While the potatoes are frying, flour the bacalao .
  • Remove the excess oil from the pan and place the bacalao in the pan. Simply fry for two minutes on each side.
  • Preheat the oven to 200ºC, while you cook the onion, potatoes and bacalao.
  • Place a base of potatoes, with a pinch of salt, in an ovenproof dish or tray. Place the bacalao on top of the potatoes and the onion with its sauce on top.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 170ºC, heat up and down.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Bacalao with Garlic


  • Four loins of bacalao, desalted and deboned
  • Six cloves of garlic
  • One teaspoon of vinegar or white wine
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil


  • Peel and slice the garlic.
  • Chop the bacalao.
  • In a frying pan, add a sufficient amount of oil and add the sliced garlic when the oil is hot. Add the bacalao, skin side down.
  • The heat should be on medium-low to allow the fish and garlic to confit.
  • Turn the bacalao and remove from the pan after a minute or two.
  • When the garlic is golden brown, add vinegar or white wine.
  • Serve the bacalao with the sauce made from the garlic and vinegar.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley.

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