Bacalhau à Brás (Salted Cod, Eggs, and Potatoes)

18 Mar

Bacalhau à Brás is a Portuguese dish using salted cod (bacalhau), eggs, and potatoes. The Portuguese were one of the first European cultures to fish for cod, making huge harvests and preserving the fish off the coast of Newfoundland shortly after Columbus discovered the New World. Since then, this salted cod has been an integral part of Portuguese culture, and it’s often said that you can cook a new recipe using bacalhau every day of the year (some say there are over 1,000 recipes that include this fish). Advances in fishing technology in the mid 20th century had collapsed the Northwest Atlantic cod market by the 1990s – cod takes a long time to mature, and overfishing had run rampant. Today, bacalhau is most often made using cod harvested from Arctic waters under more strict quotas.

Bacalhau is made by salting and drying the fish in the sun; while it was originally a method of preservation (salted cod keeps a long time even without refrigeration), its unique, strong flavor is unmistakable and delicious, and its popularity endures today. The only downside to eating bacalhau is that it requires a bit of foresight, since it needs to be soaked overnight to reconstitute the fish.

Bacalhau à Brás is one of the most famous Portuguese dishes, and is considered the ultimate comfort meal in Portugal. The dish uses many of the quintessential ingredients found in Portuguese cooking – bacalhau, eggs, potatoes, and black olives.

Sautéing the fish to soften

Bacalhau à Brás (Salt Cod, Eggs, and Potatoes)

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 20 mins plus soaking overnight
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

6oz bacalhau (salted cod), soaked overnight (see notes below)
2 med white potatoes (white sweet potatoes okay), peeled
1/4 cup lard or duck fat (coconut oil okay)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 pinch saffron (about 5 threads)
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 eggs, lightly beaten
small handful fresh parsley, chopped
3oz black olives (10-15 total)

1. Rinse the salt cod gently under cold water to remove any surface salt. Soak in cold water overnight (12-18 hours) in the fridge, changing the water twice (I started soaking a couple hours before bedtime, changed the water when I went to bed, and changed it again right when I woke up). When you’re ready to cook, drain the fish, gently rinse again under cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Shred the fish into bite-sized strips. At this point, the fish is ready for all sorts of dishes – sometimes I’ll soak extra so that I can simply sauté it in butter and enjoy it as-is.

2. Using a cheese grater or the grater attachment of a food processor, grate the potatoes into shreds. Soak in cold water for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels.

3. Warm the lard or duck fat in a large skillet on med/high heat until shimmering. Add half of the potatoes and pan-fry, stirring often so as to keep the potatoes from sticking together; remove with a slotted spoon when they turn golden brown, about 5 minutes, and set aside to cool on paper towels. Repeat this process with the other half of the potatoes. Reduce heat to medium, discard all but 1 tbsp of the cooking fat.

4. Add the chopped onion and saffron to the skillet and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fish and pepper; gently stir to combine. Allow to sauté until the fish is softened, 3-5 minutes.

5. Add half of the fried potatoes, stirring to combine, then pour the beaten eggs over everything. Scramble the eggs until cooked, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and the other half of the potatoes; add the black olives, then serve.

34 Responses to “Bacalhau à Brás (Salted Cod, Eggs, and Potatoes)”

  1. Andy March 18, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    I suppose the salt cod could ship well, do you have a source for the fish you would recommend? I dig comfort food, and if this is the dish the Portuguese turn to for comfort, I need to try it!

    • Russ Crandall March 18, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

      Andy, I buy mine locally at Wegman’s, they sell it in traditional small wooden boxes. I think buying it online if you can’t find it locally would be fine. I heard two arguments about bacalhau, one being that quality matters, while someone else saying, “salt cod is salt cod.”

  2. Arthur in the Garden! March 18, 2014 at 10:02 am #


  3. Ouida Lampert March 18, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    I am a fish-eating-wannabe-but-unschooled (er, it was not something that we had much, unless you count the fish-fry that we always had after my grandfather visited the local pond), so I have to ask: WHERE do I look for the cod? Grocery store? Fish-monger? Specialty market? Please help.


    • Amanda March 18, 2014 at 11:50 am #

      Ouida, a fish monger will usually have salted dried cod, aka baccalo. I used to be a fish monger. So go to the fish section of the grocery store OR if you have a stand alone fish store near you they can certainly help you.

      • Ouida Lampert March 18, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

        Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Russ Crandall March 18, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

      Ouida, to echo Amanda, most quality markets will carry it, and fish mongers almost always have it.

  4. Amanda March 18, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    OMG. This is SOOOO good. This is right up my alley. I’m going to do this next week. YUM! I love that you incorporate dishes from around the world. I don’t think I’ll allow myself the duck fat, so I’ll have to go oil shopping. But saffron?! Gold.

  5. chalsangaso March 18, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    It’s always nice to see new meals that are healthy. I’d never heard of this before, but certainly want to try it. Can Bacalhau be made with other fish besides cod? Thanks for the great post, and check out some of our stuff at:

    • Russ Crandall March 18, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      Other salted white fish (pollack, haddock) would work, but are harder to find. Using salted fish is key to this recipe, since it is very firm and can hold up to shredding and sautéing easily. Plus, it’s the key to this dish’s flavor!

  6. More Than Just Curry March 18, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    I come from India, where the Portuguese influence is seen in the cuisine of Goa as a result of Portuguese colonization. The Pork Vindaloo which is a signature dish from the region is also said to have had Portuguese origins. Would you know if any part of your cuisine was influenced as a result of the Portugal’s occupation in Goa? Also, how how common is rice in your cuisine?

    • Russ Crandall March 18, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      I knew that Vindaloo was of Portuguese influence (originally from “Carne de vinha d’alhos” – “meat with vinegar and garlic”), but I didn’t realize (until today) how much the Portuguese had influenced Goan cuisine! Very cool! I found a Wikipedia article with several examples: I’m not Portuguese so I’m not sure how much Goan cuisine has influenced Portugal, but I imagine there are several dishes that are the result of this time period. Thanks for bringing this to light for me!

  7. FarmToFace March 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    This looks amazing! Baculau is also found in Spain! I went on a trip recently and went to their tuna museum, bought home so many goodies!

  8. rachelledempsey March 18, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    This sounds so interesting and different! I would love to try it sometime!

  9. Coconut Contentment March 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    I love when you post Brazilian or Portuguese dishes!

  10. Fawn @ Cowen Park Kitchen March 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    I’ve got some homemade saltcod in my freezer and have been trying to decide what to do with it…thanks for posting this!

    • Russ Crandall March 18, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

      Fawn, awesome, homemade salt cod! I’d love to hear how you made it.

      • Fawn @ Cowen Park Kitchen March 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

        Thanks! It’s really easy, actually–I still need to get around to posting about it on my own blog. Soon! I really enjoy just how much cheaper it is than buying salt cod from elsewhere in the world.

  11. camila March 18, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    And you’ve done again!! You already cooked picanha, pao de queijo and now bacalhau!!! Love when cook brazilian & portuguese!
    Bacalhau reminds me so much of Brasil and my family. My great grandmother used to cook it, my grandma and my mum! It’s one of my family Christmas traditions.
    It’s not that easy to find bacalhau in Australia but I heard of few places that sell it. I will definitely give your recipe a go!
    Thanks for another great post!

  12. AgileWriter March 19, 2014 at 2:11 am #

    yummy and healthy…

  13. Heidy L. McCallum March 19, 2014 at 5:28 am #

    Wow that looks absolutely gorgeous ! a definite MUST try on my list

  14. jburgeson512 March 19, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Snap! Looks amazing

  15. Jen March 19, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    I *love* salt cod. Yum!

  16. girlexpat March 19, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    My apologies for missing so many of your posts, my father-in-law passed away this week, but it makes me very happy, and ear to ear smiles seeing such a beautiful dish! I love cod, it’s quit universal, eggs, potatoes, right up my alley!

    • Russ Crandall March 20, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      Sorry to hear about your Father-in-Law. Welcome back!

  17. tubekitchen March 22, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    Reblogged this on Video Ricette di Cucina e Arte Bianca.

  18. catiaborrego April 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    I’m portuguese and this is a very GOOD Bacalhau à Brás!! Now you should try to replicate another portuguese classic: Pasteis de Belém :))

    • Russ Crandall April 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      Thanks Catia! Pasteis de Belém would be quite a feat without wheat flour, but I’m up for the challenge!


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