Bacalao a la Vizcaina (Basque Style Stewed Salted Cod) | Curl up with a warm bowl of this bacalao a la vizcaina, a traditional Puerto Rican stewed cod with hearty potatoes, briny olives, and layers of flavor.
Most coastal cultures have their own version of fish stew. It’s a tasty way to fill bellies, stretch pantry ingredients, and make good use of local resources. The Italians have their cioppino, and Spanish-speaking countries? We each have our own own signature version of bacalao a la vizcaina.
Most of the aromatic broth in this dish cooks out, infusing its flavors in every bite. Bacalao a la vizcaina originates from the Basque region of Spain. Bacalao is a dried, salt cured fish (most of the time cod) that makes for a mouth-watering taste and texture. And, if you happen to be observing Lent this year, this Basque-style stewed salted cod is tradition where I’m from!
What fish is used in bacalao a la vizcaina?
If you haven’t heard of bacalao, you’re not alone. But if you’ve made my bacalao salad, you know it’s not as high-maintenance as some might think.
The dish originated from the Basque region of Spain. In Spanish, it means dried and salted cod, how the fisherman kept the goods fresh and tasty for the trip to market.
Now bacalao is sometimes made with another sturdy white fish like pollock, haddock, or blue whiting. But it’s still a treat to find the cod variety.
Where to find bacalao
This dried, salted delicacy can be found at many local fish markets or in the freezer section of Asian and Latin markets. If you live in an area without access to a market, you can also order bacalao online at Pike Place Fish Market.
Though cod is the most traditional variety, feel free to use a different kind of salt cured fish in your bacalao a la vizcaina if that’s all they have.
Do you have to soak bacalao?
Since it’s been preserved, you do have to soak the bacalao and remove some of the salt so it doesn’t taste like a mouthful of ocean water. But you don’t want to remove too much or else it will be too bland.
While some bacalao a la vizcaina recipes recommend soaking the fish for three days, nobody has time for that! I’ve found that the perfect balance involves a good rinse and then soaking it for 4 hours with 2 water changes.
Ingredients for bacalao a la vizcaina
- olive oil
- salted cod or pollock
- petite potatoes
- red onion or yellow onion
- pimentos (or red pepper)
- fresh oregano
- tomato sauce
- white wine
- bay leaf
How to make bacalao a la vizcaina
As mentioned above, rinse and then soak the bacalao in water for 4 hours, changing the water twice to remove some of that salt content. Then add the fish to a large pot and cover it with water.
Bring the pot to a bowl and reduce the fish to a simmer (medium heat or lower) with the lid askew. When 15 minutes have passed, drain the bacalao and flake the fish into delicious, tender pieces with a fork.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Layer half of the potatoes, cod, garlic, onion, pimentos, olives, capers, oregano, sauce, paprika, cumin, and 1/4 cup olive oil in the skillet. Then add a second layer with the other half of the ingredients.
When your layering is complete, pour the remaining olive oil, white wine, and water over the skillet. Give it a nice shake so the liquid distributes evenly over the ingredients. Tuck in a bay leaf for extra flavor.
Finally, bring it to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cover the pot. After 30 minutes, those potatoes will be nice and tender, and your kitchen will smell just as good as your bacalao a la vizcaina tastes.
Eat your seafood!
For the sake of your brain and skin health, make a goal to add more seafood into your life! On busy weeknights, you can whip up Seafood Pasta, this Easy Shrimp Harissa Skillet, these Herb Tilapia Foil Packets, or a Cedar Plank Salmon. The Mediterranean Dish even has an easy Seafood Paella recipe that looks divine!
But when you need a warm bowl of comfort from the sea, pour yourself a glass of white wine and curl up with a warm bowl of this bacalao a la vizcaina. In every bite, you get briny olives, hearty potatoes, and of course, that tender fish, all flavored by a luscious aromatics.
more seafood comfort
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 lb salted cod or pollock
- 1 lb petite potatoes sliced
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup pimentos
- 1/4 cup olives
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 6 oz tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 bay leaf
- Soak bacalao in water for 4 hours, changing the water twice.
- Add bacalao to a large pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Put the lid askew and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Drain the bacalao and using a fork flake the bacalao into bite-size pieces.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
- Layer half of the potatoes, cod, garlic, onion, pimentos, olives, capers, oregano, sauce, paprika, cumin, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Repeat layering with remaining ingredients.
- Pour remaining olive oil, white wine, and water. Shake the skillet to distribute and tuck in bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30 mins or until potatoes are tender.
- Serve alone or with white rice.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 594Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 5gSugar: 16gProtein: 32g