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Easy recipe for Bacalhau com Natas, an emblematic Portuguese codfish dish. It’s one of the most popular and tastiest cod fish dishes. This creamy oven baked dish includes shredded codfish, potatoes, sauteed onions and cream for a delicious recipe everyone will love.
What is Bacalhau Com Natas?
Bacalhau Com Natas, or “salt cod with cream” or “simply cod with cream” is one of Portugal’s most popular dishes. Natas in the name refers to heavy cream or the cream sauce in the recipe.
Of all the cod fish dishes in Portugal, this is one of the most loved versions. There are several variations and recipes that differ from households to restaurants and regions in the country.
The two ingredients that are common to all recipes is the use of cod and cream.
This bacalhau com natas recipe is a mixture of cod cooked in milk with cream, bechamel sauce, potatoes, and fried onions.
All this is baked and covered with a crispy gratin cheese crust, making it a soft and unforgettable dish.
History of Bacalhau Com Natas Recipe
Portuguese baked cod with cream is one of the most popular ways of eating bacalhau in Portugal.
It’s a relatively recent recipe dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. There is evidence of a similar recipe created in 1930 by João Ribeiro, a chef at Hotel Aviz in Libson.
Part of the popularity of bacalhau com natas is due to the use of cream in savory cooking. It replaces the traditional use of Portuguese olive oil and butter.
The heavy cream along with a cod mixture layered with potatoes and then baked, makes a delicious recipe for those who may not like cod.
With no fish bones involved, bacalhau com natas is particularly popular with children and visitors to Portugal.
Discovering Bacalhau Com Natas in Portugal
While in Portugal, exploring the local food specialties, we ate our weight in bacalhau dishes prepared in a variety of ways.
In Lisbon, we first tried bacalhau com natas at Cozinha da Felicidade in the Time Out Market.
The restaurant is named after the chef, Susana Felicidade, and it means “Kitchen of Happiness.”
She makes a tasty delicious interpretation of bacalhau com natas cod dish using sweet potato chips and olive dust.
Beautifully prepared, the cod with cream is divine. The salted cod is incredibly fresh and the flesh, tender and soft.
The flavorful cream sauce is not to heavy and is enhanced just right with a sprinkle of olive dustings.
All the ingredients are perfectly combined for a bacalhau com natas cod dish that just melts in the mouth.
This Portuguese baked cod recipe brings this delightful traditional cod dish to your kitchen. Simply follow the instructions below for a taste of Portuguese history and culture at home.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: For delicious and sustainably sourced cod delivered to your home, we recommend Sizzlefish. With a keen focus on delivering pure natural fish, you’ll get wild caught North Atlantic codfish individually vacuum packed for this Portuguese cod fish fritters recipe.
Bacalhau Com Natas Recipe – How To Make Codfish with Cream at Home
This simple Portuguese cod fish recipe with cream uses just a few ingredients and is made in two steps.
The first step involves salted cod, the main ingredient. The cod must be desalted for at least 24 to 48 hours hours before preparing this bacalhau com natas recipe.
Alternatively, you can also use ready to cook cod fish pieces to save time.
The second step involves making a bechamel sauce. You’ll make a roux or mixture of butter and flour with a little milk and a bit of seasoning for taste.
The resulting mixture will add to the creamy and delicious flavors.
Bacalhau Com Natas Recipe Tips
Preparing the Cod
If you are using salted cod for this Portuguese bacalhau com natas recipe, you will need to desalt the cod in advance.
For this, you must soak the dried salted cod in water for about 24 to 48 hours.
During this time period, you want to change the cold water about every six hours. Be sure to leave the cod in the fridge the entire time in a vacuum sealed container with a lid.
Alternatively, you can use ready to cook cod pieces, which are delivered frozen, and must be thawed out first before cooking.
Once the cod is ready, cook it in milk ad cover the pan to prevent the milk from spilling all over. Cook on medium low heat for about 10 minutes and you may add a little black pepper for seasoning.
Once cooked, strain the milk and set it aside to be used again to make the bechamel sauce.
After it has cooled, shred the cod into flakes. If you are using desalted cod, be sure to remove all the skin and bones from the cod.
This bacalhau com natas recipe cannot contain any bones or cartilage remains.
Which Cream To Use?
The Portuguese version of the recipe uses two types of cream. The first is a traditional bechamel with a pinch of pepper and nutmeg.
The cream and grated mozzarella topping helps create a wonderful golden-brown topping that is deliciously cruncy and creamy at the same time.
Variations of Bacalhau Com Natas
This bacalhau de natas recipe is the traditional version that cooks code with cream, potatoes, onions and bechamel sauce. Bake everything in the oven for an irresistable bacalhau dish.
There are some variations to the dish to make it faster, simpler, easier and more healthy.
To make it faster: Traditionally, the potatoes in this bacalhau cod dish are peeled and chopped into small cubes and then fried. To gain time, one alternative is to use shoestring fries or straw potatoes.
To make it healthier: Instead of frying the potatoes, you can also steam the potatoes instead if concerned about the oil. However, be aware that this takes away from the texture and full flavors of the dish.
Milk instead of cream: If you don’t want to use heavy cream you can use milk instead. Just replace the amount of cream in the recipe with milk.
What Do You Serve With Bacalhau Com Natas?
This bacalhau com natas recipe is a complete dish by itself. We recommend accompanying it with a fresh green salad and bread.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPES: If you have left over cod fillets and want to try other Portuguese recipes, check our simple and delicious bacalhau recipes:
Bacalhau Com Natas Step by Step Instructions
Cook Cod in Milk
Cook fresh or previously desalted cod fish in a medium pan with milk. Cook on medium low heat for about 10 minutes.
Strain the cod and and set aside the now flavored milk with cod to use to make the bechamel sauce.
Cook Onion and Potatoes
Cut onion into thin slices and fry in olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook until soft and golden.
Once onions are cooked, add the cubed potatoes to the same pan. Cook together for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Mix and Bake Cod with Cream
Preheat oven to 300°F/ 150°C. Mix the potatoes and onions together with the cod, cream and white sauce.
Transfer everything to a baking dish and and top with grated cheese and any left over cream.
Let it bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Bacalhau Com Natas Recipe
- If you are using salted cod, start preparing the recipe two days in advance. Start by rinsing the cod with a little running water. Then, place it inside an airtight container, with a lid. Fill the container with enough water to cover the cod at least partially. Keep it inside the fridge. Every six hours, remove the cod from the fridge, drain the water, and top up again with more freshwater. This process removes the salt from the cod.
- If you are using ready to cook cod fish pieces, start by thawing them out if they are frozen.
- Place cod in medium sized sauce pan and add milk. Cook the cod in the milk over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes. Be very vigilant to prevent milk from boiling and spilling all over your stove top.
- After ten minutes, strain the cod and set aside the milk now flavored with cod. We’ll use this milk in the next step to make the bechamel sauce.
- Make the bechamel sauce
- To make the bechamel sauce, place the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until the butter melts.
- Immediately after the butter melts, add the flour, and stir until flour-butter clumps form
- Now, add the warm milk we had previously set aside. Gently stir with a hand mixer until the flour lumps disappear. Season with nutmeg, pepper, and salt to taste,
- Beat the mixture until you get a creamy consistency. Remove from heat and reserve.
- Cook onions, potatoes and cod
- Peel the onions and cut them into thin slices. And, peel and crush the garlic cloves.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes of about 1 inch/2cm. Clean and dry them completely.
- Place the cod on your kitchen work space, and cut it into medium pieces.
- Then, pour the olive oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it starts bubbling, add the onion and garlic, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
- In the same large skillet, add the dry cubed potatoes. Cook covered along with the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- In the separate pan with the creamy bechamel sauce, add in the cod pieces. Stir gently.
- Add the potatoes and the fried onion and garlic mixture. Stir, and remove from heat.
- Assemble the dish
- Mix cream and grated mozzarella cheese in a small bowl.
- In a large baking dish, place the mixture of potatoes, cream, and cod.
- Top with cream and grated mozzarellacheese.
- Place in a preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes at 300°F /150°C.
- Remove from the oven when the Bacalahau com natas looks golden on top.
- Garnish with fresh parsley before serving
More Local Food Experiences and Recipes
Curious by nature, Rosemary loves exploring new flavors and connecting with locals. She shares her insights and culinary finds from her travels to inspire people to connect local through food.