The tradition of Bacalhau

Misadventures-with-Andi-Guest-PostWhen we think of traditional dishes from Portugal, no doubt we think of cod (bacalhau in Portuguese). Roasted, baked, boiled or fried, the Portuguese say they have 365 cod recipes, one for every day of the year.

The great Portuguese singer Amalia Rodrigues said it best: Cheira bem, Cheira a Lisboa (Smells good, smells of Lisbon), and that’s because the capital of Portugal smells of tradition, smells of sea but above all smells of food. I can’t confirm whether or not in Portugal there are as many recipes for cod as days in the year, but what I can say is that you can’t spend a few days in Lisbon without trying at least a couple.

Since I was a child I have eaten cod at home, with simple recipes my mother cooked and which I liked but not really loved. Cod was for me another fish. But my opinion changed when I arrived in Lisbon. There I had the chance to try the cod in ways I would have never imagined. Suddenly the cod became a stimulant and tasty dish. Every time I went to a restaurant I ordered a different recipe with great expectations.

Here are some of the best recipes of cod I had and which I strongly recommend you to try when in Portugal:

Bacalhau à Brás

Bacalhau à Brás is one of the most famous cod recipes from Portuguese and Macao cuisine (a former Portuguese colony).

The recipe consists on shredded cod, desalted the day before, and mixed with scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and very finely chopped onion. They are usually served with parsley and black olives. It’s very popular and you’ll find it in most Portuguese restaurants.

Bacalhau com Natas

bacalhau-as-natas1This delicious recipe consists in shredded cod, fried with onions and covered with a layer of potatoes and cream. Finally it’s put in the oven to broil. This dish is as greasy as delicious. No doubt, this is my favourite of all cod recipes. I couldn’t stop eating it!

Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

bacalhau_gomesdesaBacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a casserole of bacalhau, potatoes, eggs, olives, olive oil and onion. It is a speciality from the northern city of Porto, being today popular throughout Portugal, and is considered one of Portugal’s greatest bacalhau recipes.

Bacalhau à Minhota

Bacalhau à MinhotaThis is a typical dish of the region of Minho, in northern Portugal. It consists of pieces of cod prepared with paprika and fried in oil. After, in the same oil, you can fry thick slices of potatoes and finally some onion rings that are placed on the cod before serving it. The dish can be sprayed with oil and accompanied by turnip greens. Yummiiii…

Pastéis or “bolinhos” of Bacalhau

bolinhos-bacalhau1They aren’t really a plate but a starter. They are fried balls made of a homogeneous mass of flaked cod, potatoes and eggs. You can eat them as a starter or as a snack. They can also accompany a juicy feijoada stew or rice and black beans.

It would be very difficult to put here all the recipes for cod that exist but I have to say that apart from these ones you can also find others like rice with cod, cod cake, cod salad and even cod lasagne! With so many recipes it will be very difficult for you to have just one. You will have the chance to try them in many restaurants of the city, so if you have the opportunity to spend a few days in Lisbon enjoy, apart from the charm of the city, its extensive bacalhau tradition!

Thanks Marta!

About the author
Marta Mir has a degree in Journalism. But tired of listening to the stories of politicians in power she decided to flee to distant lands to, like the ancient troubadours, come back and tell her own stories. Now she has less money but is much happier.

How about you? Have you tried any of these dishes?

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About Andi Fisher

I'm a lifestyle blogger focused on travel and food. A marketing gal who gave up my job to travel around the United States in an RV with my hubby. I'm now settling into the Portland area where I'm looking for my next career adventure! I love to travel via my stomach. Eating, seeking out local artisans and features to share. I've got more than 26 years of experience in marketing focused on content, social media, and direct marketing and I've mentored many bloggers, old and new.


  1. Mmmmmm. Thanks for all the great bacalao recipes. We enjoy bacalao in the Caribbean too. Can’t wait to try your recipes. Yum!

    • @Ria, that is interesting, I did not know that – are the preparations similar, or completely different?

  2. We do saltish/bacalao with onions and tomatoes for breakfast we call buljol or we make saltfish fritters called accra kind of similar to your bolinhos but they are not so perfectly round. Check out -she has good authentic recipes and good info too.

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