Homemade Salt Cod

Salt cod may not be a basic in your home, but in many European homes, it is.  It can be tossed into your morning eggs, or mixed with potatoes to make a delicious side dish;  can be stuffed into peppers, or fried into small coquettes as an appetizing starter.  It is a luxury here in the states, as it can be quite expensive, and traditionally it is only found on the tables during special holidays or important meals.

Bacalhau (Portuguese),  bacalao (Spanish), bakailao (Basque), bacalla (Catalan), and morue (French) are  just a few of the many names that salt cod goes by.  Whichever name you want to call it, salt cod is all made the same;  salt, cod, and time.  Traditionally it was left outside to dry in the sun.  Modern times have it made with the same ingredients, but the drying process is helped along with refrigeration or dryers.  The drying of food preserves it, and the drying of fish gave it an added shelf life of many years.  The method was cheap and could be done by the fisherman’s family, and the finished product was easy to transport to the neighboring village markets.

My heritage is Basque;  unfortunately, I don’t remember ever having salt cod on the table.  We ate many other things that some would consider “odd” such as tongue, brains, sweetbreads;  you get the picture.   I have a feeling salt cod was a bit of a luxury  for my family.  The first time I had salt cod was at a Basque restaurant in the city.  I loved it.  The salted cod was stuffed in roasted piquillo peppers, which finished with a drizzle of really good olive oil.  I adored it, so much that I contacted the restaurant for the recipe;  they never gave it to me.  It wasn’t until I started dating Lenny that I had it again, and this time it was at his family’s home during the Christmas holiday.  I could not get enough of it.  After coming back to San Francisco, I searched for it, but always had a hard time finding any, and when I did, it was very expensive or I did not like the quality.  I knew there had to be a way to make it.  Then I saw Matt’s post about how he made his own salt cod.  I was excited and could not wait to try it out on my own.

Don’t be intimidated, making salt cod at home is simple.  With a little salt and some planning you can have fresh salt cod on the table in a few days.  The hardest part was finding “true cod”.  I would check with my market, once a week, to see if true cod was in.  Never! I did not give up, and finally it arrived.  I had the fishmonger pick out two pounds of pure white, and fleshly cod for this curing project.  I did not want thin pieces nor did I want any skin on it.  I lined a glass baking dish with kosher salt, and then buried the cod in it;  covering the top, and sides until I could not see any fish.  Then I put it into the fridge and forgot about it. 48 hours later, I gently rinsed the salt off, and dried the salted cod with paper towels.  Then I  wrapped it in cheesecloth, put it back in the fridge, and forgot about it until it was firm, 7 – 10 days.  After the cod is dried, you can use it right away, or freeze it for another time.  The finished product cost me about $10 for a pound.  It was flaky and very flavorful.  I liked having control of the cut of fish, and that it did not have any dark meat, skin, or bones.  Just perfectly dried cod.

Salt cod is about to become a basic in our Portuguese~Basque home.

If you like this recipe, check these out:

Making Salt Cod

Salt of the Cod

Salting Cod







  1. History and Food make my day. Thanks so much for sharing that one! Sometimes simple recipes are the best and I hate it when food is over-prepared sometimes!

    I’ll have to summon some patience to let it soak before eating, but that shouldn’t be too hard! Thanks again!

  2. Kathy Nielsen says:

    Hi Denise, I have been interested in salt cold for many years now. This is exciting! How did you prepare it for dinner? How does Lenny’s family prepare it for dinner? I am very interested in making this, but need a little more information on how to present it. Thx, Kathy

  3. I love love love salt cod and used to make my own back in Singapore. I’d buy a pound or two of fish, debone it, then really bury it in salt and leave it in the fridge to cure for about a month or so. These days I get mine from whole foods which imports it from Canada.

  4. Interesting. I grew up eating salted cod (Spanish and Italian heritage) and I continue to use it. However, our custom is to buy it salted and then desalt it for the various dishes.

  5. wanda zuroff says:

    Look for cod in a little wooden box, that was the one Grandma U. would buy. She would fix it once in a while, I think it was expensive. My Mother didn’t fix cod very often. I did love it w/ scrambled eggs and potatoes.

  6. Wow, making your own! I am so impressed, and I will definitely be trying this. I an American but moved to Lisbon a couple years ago with my Portuguese husband, and salt cod is a huge part of our eating lives. I’ve been experimenting with it a lot, blogging the recipes/results, but I NEVER thought of doing my own cod from scratch! Now you have inspired me, I love the idea of controlling the thickness and cut of the fish. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Jonah says:

    My mother-in-law (french) made salt cod fairly often. She took me with her to the marche where she purchased it in its flat rocklike state and brought it home and soaked it overnight in milk. the next day it was rinsed and she baked it in a great tomatoe and pepper based sauce which was excellent. Of course there was no written recipe.

  8. O.k., not many people can make a piece of fish look this appetizing. Really beautiful shots, Denise (of the artichoke, too). Such a pleasure to follow your INSANE photo progress. xoxo!

  9. I’ve had salt cod brandade at a French restaurant and it was interesting – so salty, but tasty. I’d be interested in try a homemade version!

  10. Wow. You just instilled in me such an incredible NEED to make this dish. I had no idea I could have such a dormant salt cod craving. And yet…
    Thank you so much for the recipe. I am SO making this when there’s cod available at my local fishmonger’s! Thank you!

  11. Alexandra says:

    How long does this keep once salted? Supermarket bacalao/salted cod usually has a three year expiration date. Also wondering the temperature range required to store this? Can this go in the root cellar with the summer harvest? Thanks!

  12. Hello Alexandra,

    Sorry for the delay – just saw this comment. We have not kept it past a month, we always end up eating it. I do store it in the fridge, in the meat department. This book will be a huge help for you if you are interested in curing and salting. http://astore.amazon.com/chezdenietlau-20/detail/B002VM1WZM ~ Denise


  1. […] Homemade Salt Cod from Chez Us […]

  2. […] at the market, I stock up as it comes in handy for easy dinners.  Not only do I get a kick out of salting it for later use, but it is great in this recipe for roasted cod tacos.  Cod has a mild flavor which is not overly […]

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