How to Make Bacalhau a Bras Portuguese Favorite Dish

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Bacalhau a Bras is one of Portugal’s most popular dishes. Simple and delightful, Bacalhau a bras is a tasty Portuguese traditional dish that is easy to make. It is packed with flavor and the ultimate comfort food.

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First, What is Bacalhau or Portuguese Cod Fish?

Dried Cod Fish or Bacalhau in Portugal by Authenticfoodquest
Bacalhau or dried cod fish in a gourmet store in Lisbon

Bacalhau is dried salted codfish in English. It is a staple in Portuguese cooking and surprisingly, not native to Portugal. 

Bacalhau is imported from Newfoundland or Norway. In the 16th century, Portuguese fishermen brought it back from Newfoundland and has since been integral to Portuguese cooking.

In Portugal, bacalhau usually refers to the cod fish that is dried and salted. While fresh cod fish, or bacalhau fresco exists, most recipes call for dried and salted cod fish.

To cook with bacalhau cod fish it must be prepared in advance. The fish soaked in freshwater and changed frequently for at least 24 hours to reduce the levels of salt.

You can have bacalhau delivered to you by Amazon and be sure to follow the de-salting instructions.

Authentic Food Quest Tip: For more about the history of cod fish, make sure to check out the fascinating James Beard award winning book; Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

Discovering Bacalhau in Portugal

Rosemary and Claire in Lisbon Portugal by Authentic Food Quest
Rosemary and Claire in Lisbon, Portugal

While exploring the local food in Portugal, we could not miss bacalhau, Portugal’s national obsession. Bacalhau or Portuguese cod fish is available on every Portuguese restaurant’s menu.

The Portuguese are so obsessed with cod fish, that there are over 365 ways of preparing bacalhau – one for each day of the year.

Everywhere we went, we tried different preparation styles of bacalhau. From grilled, baked, canned, and fried the options were endless.

After eating several bacalhau dishes, our favorite one was Bacalhau à brás, or stir fried cod fish and eggs.

We learned how to make it in Portugal and we’re excited for you to make it at home.

RELATED: 10 Most Popular Portuguese Dishes You Want to Enjoy

Bacalhau a Bras – Stir Fried Cod Fish & Eggs

Bacalhau a Bras from Incomum in Sintra Portugal by Authentic Food Quest
Bacalhau a Bras revisited by Incomum Restaurant in Sintra, Portugal

Bacalhau à Brás is one of Portugal’s most popular dishes with origins in Lisbon. It is said to have originated in the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon, by a tavern owner named Braz. 

Due to the spelling of the name, the dish is also sometimes referred to as Bacalhau à Braz.

Bacalhau à Brás recipe is a simple cod fish recipe that you can easily make. It consists of shredded cod, fried string potatoes, and onions, all scrambled up with eggs. 

Black olives and chopped parsley top off the dish at the end.

RELATED: 5 Authentic Ways You Want to Eat Bacalhau in Portugal

How To Make Bacalhau a Bras at Home

Dried Cod Fish Bacalhau in Porto Supermarket by AuthenticFoodQuest
Salted cod fish or bacalhau at the supermarket in Porto

While in Porto, Portugal, staying with locals through Airbnb, we started talking about local Portuguese food specialties.

Seeing our deep interest, Fátima, the housekeeper, taught us how to make bacalhau à brás, also her favorite Portuguese dish. 

With a list of ingredients in hand from Fatima’s bacalhau a bras recipe, we were off to the grocery store.

RELATED: The Best Things To Do in Porto For Food Lovers

Bacalhau a Bras Recipe – Shopping List

Ingredients for Bacalhau a la bras recipe by AuthenticFoodQuest.jpg
Ingredients for quick and easy bacalhau a bras
  • Bacalhau 
    Dry salted cod fish is the foundation of this Portuguese dish. Order bacalhau salted codfish from Amazon and follow the de-salting instructions.
    Instead of salted codfish which needs to be desalted, you can substitute with ready to cook codfish pieces.
Bacalhau Cod Fish in the Pan for Bacalhau a bras Recipe by AuthenticFoodQuest
Cod fish, tomatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil before cooking
  • Potatoes
    You can use russet potatoes, peeled and then cut into matchstick-size strips and then cooked. Alternatively, for ease and convenience you can also use already cooked matchstick (shoestring) potatoes.
FatimaMaking_BacalhauaBrasRecipe by AuthenticFoodQuest.jpg
Fatima layering the pan with tomatoes and onions

Bacalhau a Bras Preparation

You can have bacalhau a bras by itself or add a side salad to make it a complete meal.  When we made it with Fátima, we enjoyed it with oven baked frozen french fries.

  1. Follow the instructions and soak salted bacalhau in water for 24 – 48 hours depending on size. Be sure to change water constantly during this time
  2. Cover the bottom of a wide saucepan with sliced tomatoes, garlic and onions. 
  3. Cook until golden and then add cut up pieces of cod fish and drizzle with good quality Portuguese olive oil.
  4. On medium heat, let everything cook for about 20 minutes
  5. Once everything has cooked, add in already cooked shoestring potatoes and stir for a few minutes
  6. Add in lightly beaten eggs with salt and pepper to taste
  7. Stir everything together keeping the eggs soft and creamy
  8. Add a few olives, grated cheese (optional) and garnish with parsley
  9. Drizzle a little more of Portuguese olive oil before serving (optional)
  10. Transfer to a plate and serve hot

Bacalhau a Bras Cooking Tips

Side Fries Dish_ ready to cook for Bacalhau a bras by AuthenticFoodQuest.jpg
Everything ready to start cooking
Stirring Bacalhau a Bras by Authentic Food Quest
Mixing everything together

We learned that it is important to turn off the heat before the eggs solidify. This is to avoid the eggs fully cooking and becoming like an omelette.

Fatima Cooking Bacalhau a Bras by Authentic Food Quest
Adding the shoestring potatoes to the pan

One other tip we learned is to only mix in about half of the shoestring potatoes first. Then save the rest for near the end. This ensures a lovely crunchy texture in the final dish, avoiding the possibility of it becoming mushy.

Preparing Fries with Bacalhau a Bras Recipe by AuthenticFoodQuest.jpg
Claire preparing frozen french fries
Pan with Homemade Bacalhau a Bras by AuthenticFoodQuest
Homemade bacalhau a bras

This delightful meal is simple and easy to prepare. Enjoy it as the Portuguese do with a glass of Portuguese white wine.

Claire and Rosemary in Porto enjoying Eating Bacalhau a Bras by AuthenticFoodQuest
Claire and Rosemary enjoying the fruits of their labor
Stirring Bacalhau a Bras by Authentic Food Quest

Bacalhau a Bras

Yield: 4 - 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Bacalhau a bras is a tasty Portuguese traditional dish that is easy to make. It is packed with flavor and the ultimate comfort food.

Ingredients

  • 400 g salted cod fish
  • 500g shoestring potato sticks
  • Or russet potatoes, 4, peeled and cut julienne
  • 1 large onion, cut in thin circles
  • 3 tomatoes, cut in thin slices
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50 grams of cheese (cow milk, optional)
  • 1 cup of Portuguese olive oil
  • 10 -15 pitted black olives
  • Salt, pepper, parsley to taste

Instructions

  1. Prepare bacalhau or cod fish and cut it up into pieces 
  2. In a deep pan heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and cook onions, tomatoes and garlic until golden.
  3. Add pieces of salt cod, and over medium heat cook everything for about 20 minutes
  4. Add the shoestring potatoes and stir while adding the lightly beaten eggs with salt and pepper. 
  5. Stir for about 3 minutes, turning off the heat before the eggs solidify and become an omelette
  6. Add a few olives and grated cheese (optional) and drizzle a little bit of olive oil
  7. Transfer to a plate and serve hot with black olives and parsley

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1200Total Fat: 74gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 55gCholesterol: 250mgSodium: 5515mgCarbohydrates: 73gFiber: 6gSugar: 3gProtein: 65g

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32 comments

  1. My family loves to travel and our adventure will never complete without trying the local cuisine. Im asian any dried or salted fish is something i grow up with I bet I would love this dish.

    Reply
    • You’ll be surprised at the availability of Portuguese codfish. Look for it at international supermarkets. Worst case scenario, use fresh codfish instead. Do let us know what you think once you make it. Cheers.

      Reply
  2. This looks like a really yummy dish to make. Looking forward to making this dish for my family. It looks really savory.

    Reply
  3. I’ve never tried this before! It looks pretty tasty. I can bet my husband and kids would eat it. I don’t like seafood, sadly.

    Reply

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