Bacalao Guisado Salt Cod Stew
Bacalao Guisado Salt Cod Stew

Bacalao Guisado is a traditional Puerto Rican stew made with salted cod in a rich tomato broth with bright, vibrant herbs, potatoes, onions, peppers and garlic. Serve it on a bed of white rice with a few slices of avocado. A favorite for Lent!

My mother was very traditional when it came to the meals she cooked at home, so she never sent me to school with sandwiches for lunch. What was for dinner the night before became lunch for us children tomorrow. The day I broke the seal on my Tupperware container and the fragrant smell of cod, onion, and tomato wafted through the air, I became the talk of the canteen. Not a good conversation either.

They referred to me as “jibara (a hillbilly or country girl). The fact that I had never visited Puerto Rico at the time was irrelevant to my classmates. I was offended. I vowed to only bring PB&Js for lunch in the future. But as an adult, this dish has become important to me because it serves as a link to my Puerto Rican culture.

Bacalao Guisado, or salted cod stew is a rich tomato-based stew seasoned with onions, peppers and garlic, then stuffed with potatoes. The only salt in this dish comes from rehydrated flaked cod. It’s scooped over rice and served alone or with a side of sliced ​​avocado.

Salted cod stew is one of Puerto Rico’s most popular dishes and is often served during Lent.

What is Salted Cod?

Cod is a round fish with firm, white flesh that flakes easily. To make salted cod, the fillets are coated in salt and allowed to dry, preserving the meat for storage and later use.

Salted cod was most likely brought to Puerto Rico by European sailors who docked in the island’s harbor in the early 15th or 16th century.

Although this island nation depends on the bounty of the sea, cod is a cold-water fish, meaning it’s imported entirely. The mix of cultures that traded and mingled with the native Tainos brought their own flavors to the island and this dish is one of the delicious representations of that marriage.

Where can you find salted cod?

Salted cod seems to be a common thing in most larger grocery stores these days. Look for it in the refrigerated section of your supermarket’s fish section. Since it is not fresh fish, it is usually found in bags or boxes alongside the canned crab meat.

If you live in a city with a lot of immigrants, you might find pieces of heavily salted, almost dried cod sitting on shelves or hanging in the market. This type of cod needs to be soaked longer to remove this large amount of salt from it in order to prepare it for cooking.

How to cook salted cod

Salted cod needs to be soaked and rehydrated to remove most of the salt in which it was preserved before using it in your recipes. When cooked like this, its sodium content makes your dishes inedible.

  • Traditional soaking method: Soak cod in cold water for at least 8 hours, changing the water after 4 hours.
  • Quick soak method: Rinse off the outer layer of salt before soaking the stockfish in cold water for 45 minutes. Once it has softened a bit, feel through the flesh and remove any remaining bones. Place the cod in a pan, cover with more cold water and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Drain off the salt water and rinse the fillets one last time. Now the cod can be flaked and used in recipes.

I prefer the quick soak method—an hour versus eight hours.

If you are on a low-sodium diet, The fish flakes can be re-cooked and drained a second time to remove virtually all of the salt.

Can you make bacalao guisado with fresh or unsalted cod?

Bacalao Guisado is traditionally made with salted cod, but fresh cod can also be used. It’s the salted cod itself that flavors the stew. To reproduce this level of salt, all you have to do is add a teaspoon of kosher salt to the recipe along with oregano and black pepper.

What is Recao?

One of the most popular ways to flavor Puerto Rican dishes is in a sofrito, which starts with a herb paste called recao. Recao, sometimes called Mexican cilantro, is both the name of the herb and the paste. The paste is made by mixing recao leaves, which are green and taste almost like garlic, with onions, garlic, and peppers. You can make it yourself or buy it at the store.

If you can’t find recao paste at your local grocery store, and you can’t find the actual herb to make the paste yourself, it’s best to just make a simple sofrito by combining onions, garlic, and peppers and skipping the racao.

Ways to customize this recipe

Most whitefish can be used in this recipe. Haddock, pollock, hake, mahi mahi, catfish, and (my personal favorite) orange roughy are good substitutes for the cod used in this recipe. If using any of these other types of fish, add a teaspoon of salt to the dish to balance the salted cod.

You can also change the ingredients. If you’re looking for a different take on salt cod stew, check out this Portuguese version with eggs, olives, and lots of olive oil.

What to serve with Bacalao Guisado

Rice is the most common accompaniment to this dish. In some rural areas of Puerto Rico and among my older family members, a cornmeal porridge was called funche often accompanies Bacalao Guisado. funche is only Yes, really thick polenta made from cornmeal. Serve with a few slices of avocado or a green salad.

Can you make bacalao ahead of time?

The beauty of this dish is that it gets spicier as it sits. You can prepare the bacalao guisado the night before serving. In a covered bowl, heat on the stovetop over medium-high until warmed through. This comes in handy if you plan on going old school with longer soaking times.

Can you freeze bacalao?

If you’re a frozen food lover like me, you’ll be glad to know that Bacalao Guisado is freezer-friendly. Place the stew in freezer-safe containers and cover the fish with the liquid to protect from freezer burn.

More incredible Puerto Rican recipes

  • Salmorejo (braised crab and tomato with rice)
  • Tostones air fryer
  • Arroz con Tocino (rice with salted pork)
  • Pastelón (Plantain Lasagna)
  • Asopao de Camarones y Gandules (rice stew with shrimp and pigeon peas)

Bacalao Guisado (cod stew)

preparation time
60 minutes

cooking time
25 minutes

total time
85 minutes

4 servings

If you can’t find recao paste at your local grocery store and you can’t find the actual herb to make the paste yourself, your best bet is to simply make a simple sofrito by combining onions, garlic, and peppers and skipping the racao .


  • 1 lb salted cod (salt cod)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 1/4 cup (1/2 big) yellow onionthinly sliced

  • 3/4 cup (1 small) green paprikachopped

  • 3 cloves garlicchopped

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon recao herbal base (homemade or bought)

  • 1 8thounce can Tomato sauce

  • 1 big Bay leaf

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 cups (approx 3 small) Yukon golden potatoesquartered and then sliced ​​into 1/4-inch thick slices


  • 4 cups cooked white rice

  • 1 avocado


  1. Soak cod:

    SHORT SOAK: Rinse the stockfish, then soak it in cold water on the countertop for 45 minutes. Rinse the fillets again and put them in a pan.

    Cover with 3-4 inches of fresh cold water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. As soon as small bubbles start kissing the surface of the hot water, start a timer.

    Simmer the fillets for 15 minutes to remove excess salt. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to avoid overcooking the fish. The extracted salt forms lumps on the water surface. This is an indication to you that the salt is being removed. Once the 15 minutes is up, drain this salt water.

    Rinse the fillets again with cold water to remove any salt residue and stop the soaking process. Remove any remaining stick bones while shredding the meat with forks or your hands. The fish is now ready to use.

    METHOD FOR LONG SOAKING: Rinse the outer layer of salt from the cod fillets and place in a bowl. Cover the fish with 4 inches of cold water and let it soak in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.

    Change the water after soaking for about 4 hours. Check the fillets for any remaining bones before loosening them with a fork or your hands. The fish is now ready to use.

  2. Make the base:

    In a 4-quart Dutch Oven or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to ripple down the side of the pan, add the onion, peppers, and garlic. Sauté the vegetables for 3 minutes or until the garlic turns golden brown and the onions look shiny.

    Stir the Recao, tomato sauce, and 1 cup water into the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the bay leaf, oregano and black pepper to the sofrito and let the sauce simmer. Cook the sauce for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Finishing the base:

    Add the potatoes to the bottom and reduce the heat to medium-low. The mixture should hardly bubble, but should still be steaming. Cover the pot and let the potatoes cook for 10-15 minutes, or until a fork stuck into a potato meets slight resistance. You don’t want the potatoes to be to tender or they turn to mush when the dish is set.

  4. Stir in cod flakes:

    Once the potatoes are almost tender and the sauce has reached the consistency of gravy, gently fold in the bacalao flakes.

    After tossing in the bacalaos, cover the pot and let it heat for 5 minutes. Since the fish is already cooked, all you have to do is warm it through. In this step, the bacalao (salted cod) also seasons the guisado (stew) with salt.

  5. Serve on white rice:

    Spoon the finished Bacalao Guisado over warm rice and serve with avocado slices. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

nutritional information (per serving)
858 calories
22g Fat
83g carbohydrates
82g protein
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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!