Bacalhau or Portuguese cod fish took us by surprise in Portugal. The simplicity of the dish, the multiple variations and cooking preparation styles and the rich flavors made it land on our personal list of “top 100 authentic food experiences to have before I die.”
The Portuguese are obsessed with Bacalhau. This traditional food is one of Portugal’s most treasured dishes. It is eaten baked, barbecued, canned, with potatoes, with rice, and so many other ways.
There are a variety of Portuguese bacalhau dishes. You can have it baked, barbecued, canned, with potatoes, with rice, and more. There are over 365 ways of preparing bacalhau, and some say over 1,000 ways of serving it.
While in Portugal, we eagerly ate our way through many different Portuguese cod fish dishes. Even though we didn’t eat bacalhau prepared in 365 ways, we ate enough to feed our ravenous appetites.
Here are our top 5 authentic ways to eat bacalhau in Portugal.
Table of contents
- What is Balcahau Portugal?
- #1. Bacalhau a Bras – Salted Portuguese Codfish, Eggs & Potatoes
- #2. Bacalhau com Natas – Salted Portuguese Codfish with Cream
- #3. Pasteis de Bacalhau or Bolinhos de Bacalhau– Salted Cod Fish Cakes
- #4. Bacalhau Assado Na Brasa com Batata a Murro – Roasted Portuguese Codfish with Potatoes
- #5. Pataniscas de Bacalhau – Portuguese Salted Cod Fritters
- Where to Eat Pataniscas de Bacalhau in Lisbon
- In Summary
- Looking For More Portuguese Food Experiences?
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What is Balcahau Portugal?
Bacalhau is cod fish in English. It is one of Portugal’s most treasured dishes and you’ll find it everywhere you go. One thing to note is that Portuguese cod fish is typically dried and salted. You’ll not find it amongst the fresh fish, but stacked nearby in piles.
One of the things that surprised us the most was learning the origins of bacalhau. Surprisingly, bacalhau is not native to the coastline of Portugal.
Bacalhau is imported from Newfoundland or Norway. It has been an integral part of Portuguese cuisine since the 16th century, when Portuguese fishermen first brought it back from Newfoundland.
On your travels to Portugal, order bacalhau for either lunch or dinner. Sample the different preparation styles and find the one you like. Try it fried, baked or however it is served and savor the flavors of Portugal’s national dish.
#1. Bacalhau a Bras – Salted Portuguese Codfish, Eggs & Potatoes
Bacalhau a Bras is one of Portugal’s most popular dishes and one of our favorite Portuguese bacalhau dishes. What’s wonderful about this dish is its simplicity and delightful flavors.
The dish consists of a combination of bacalhau (cod) pieces mixed together with potatoes, eggs, onions, olives, chopped parsley and garlic.
The origin of the recipe is uncertain. 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.
We had Bacalhau à Brás several times at different restaurants and even learned how to make it at our Airbnb.
Our favorite Bacalhau a Bras dish was in Sintra at Incomum Restaurant. Chef Luis Santos of Incomum, puts a creative spin on the dish with the addition of delicious vegetables and with eggs that are lightly battered and fried.
So exquisite, you’ll gladly make the 45 minute trip to Sintra from Lisbon, just for chef Santo’s creative touch.
#2. Bacalhau com Natas – Salted Portuguese Codfish with Cream
A lot of Portuguese dishes are prepared with olive oil or simply grilled. However, this Portuguese cod fish dish is made with cream.
There are several variations of this salted Portuguese cod fish with cream dish. Though at the core, they all involve cooking Portuguese codfish with potatoes, onions and cream.
At the Time Out market in Lisbon, you eat popular Portuguese food made by the best chefs in town. This is the case at Cozinha da Felicidade.
Cozinha da Felicidade literally means “Kitchen of Happiness” and is named after the chef, Susana Felicidade. She prepares a tasty adaptation of the bacalhau com natas with sweet potato chips and olive dust.
Beautifully prepared, the bacalhau is divine. The codfish is really fresh and the flesh is tender and soft. The flavorful cream enhanced with the olive dust just melts in the mouth.
This is a must try if you are looking for an original way to eat bacalhau com nata in Portugal.
#3. Pasteis de Bacalhau or Bolinhos de Bacalhau– Salted Cod Fish Cakes
Pasteis de Bacalhau or codfish cakes are also called bolinhos de bacalhau in northern Portugal. This is one of the most popular ways to eat bacalhau in Portugal.
These delicious cod cakes or bolinhos de bacalhau, are made with mashed potatoes, codfish, eggs, parsley, and onion. Shaped with two spoons, they are deep fried before being served hot as an appetizer. You can also find them as a main dish served with rice, salad, and olives.
With their popularity, it is easy to find Pasteis de Bacalhau all over Portugal. You will find this delicious Portuguese bacalhau snack in cafes, restaurants, and pastelerias or Portuguese bakeries.
Although deemed a tourist trap bacalhau purists, Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau offers innovative versions of pasteis de bacalhau. This concept store has reinvented the way Portuguese bacalhau codfish cakes are made.
Where to Eat The Best Pasteis de Bacalhau or Bolinhos de Bacalhau
Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau combines the traditional codfish cake with the famous Serra da Estrela Portuguese cheese into one delicious Pastel de Bacalhau.
This version of Pastel de Bacalhau is about twice the size of a typical Pastel de Bacalhau and at €4 euros, it is also quadruple the price.
Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau has two locations. The first location opened in Lisbon and they now have a second location in Porto. We tried the location in Porto, where, for €9 euros, you get the Pastel de Bacalhau and a glass of white Porto wine.
We loved the combination of the bacalhau and Port wine. For us, it was the perfect combination. First, you bite into the codfish and taste the intense flavors of the melted Serra da Estrela cheese. And then take a delightful sip of Porto white wine for a perfect finish.
While more expensive than traditional pasteis de bacalhau, the experience at Casa Portuguesa is worth it.
Where to Eat Pasteis de Bacalhau in Lisbon
Address: R. Augusta 106, 1100-053 Lisbon
Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
Price: €4 euros or €9 with a glass of Madeira wine
Where to Eat The Best Pasteis de Bacalhau in Porto
Address: R. Campo dos Mártires da Pátria 108, 4050-36, Porto
Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Price: €4 euros or €9 euros with a glass of white Porto wine
#4. Bacalhau Assado Na Brasa com Batata a Murro – Roasted Portuguese Codfish with Potatoes
This modest Portuguese cod fish dish exceeds expectations. It is a simple bacalhau Portugal dish that consists of roasted codfish with potatoes.
The secret to this exquisite dish, is the use of high quality ingredients. The Portuguese cod fish needs to be of the finest quality. Equally important is the use of the best Portuguese olive oil available.
Typically, the Portuguese cod fish is seasoned with salt, garlic, onions, vinegar and generously sprinkled with quality Portuguese olive oil.
Along with the cod fish, the dish is accompanied with roasted potatoes for a classic traditional Portuguese bacalhau dish.
Where to Eat Bacalhau Assado Na Brasa com Batata a Murro in Lisbon
After eating this dish a number of times and noting the variations in quality, we found our favorite Lisbon restaurant.
Carvoaria Jacto Restaurant, a local Lisbon restaurant in the non touristy neighborhood of Penha de França offers this dish.
The portions of bacalhau assado brasa com batata a murro dish are massive. Go hungry or plan to share.
What makes this dish exceptional is the use of high quality products. The bacalhau is perfectly grilled.
When drizzled with olive oil and paired with tasty potatoes, you savor the true essence of traditional Portuguese food.
Address: Rua Maria Andrade 6 B, Lisboa
Hours: Open; Monday – Saturday, 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Price: €14.50 euros for the Bacalhau and you’ll also find amazing steaks and delicious Portuguese wines
#5. Pataniscas de Bacalhau – Portuguese Salted Cod Fritters
Pataniscas de Bacalhau are delicious cod fish fritters. This is another version of deep fried bacalhau in Portugal
The codfish fritters are made with eggs, flour, Portuguese codfish, eggs, parsley and onion and mixed together.
After being lightly deep fried they are served hot as an appetizer or as a main dish with rice.
We enjoyed pataniscas de bacalhau or salted Portuguese cod fish fritter at Flagrante Delitro.
The cod fish fritters were fresh and served in soupy rice. This made for a comforting Portuguese dish.
Where to Eat Pataniscas de Bacalhau in Lisbon
Flagrante Delitro is part of Casa de Fernando Pessoa. This cultural house is dedicated to the famous Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa.
The name Flagrante Delitro is inspired by a famous photo showing the poet drinking wine while working. He sent this photo to his beloved with the dedication “in flagrante delitro”. This is a play on words with the expression ‘caught in the act’ – “flagrante delito”.
Having cod fish fritters at Casa de Fernando Pessoa is a wonderful way to immerse yourself into Portuguese food culture.
Address: Casa Fernando Pessoa, R. Coelho da Rocha 18, Lisboa
Hours: Open; 10:00 am to 11:00 pm; Closed on Sunday’s.
Price: €7.50 euros
There are so many ways to enjoy bacalhau Portugal, depending on region, tradition, and household. As the Portuguese would say “there are more than 365 ways to cook bacalhau, one for every day of the year.”
With these 5 Portuguese bacalhau dishes, you’ll eat the best local Portuguese cod fish dishes. Even if codfish may not your favorite dish, you’ll certainly find a version to satisfy your curiosity and appetite.
If you want to try making Portuguese bacalhau dishes at home, get this Taste Portugal cookbook. Featuring 101 easy Portuguese dishes, learn how to taste Portugal, one bite at a time.
Get the Taste Portugal Cookbook
How about you? What is your favorite way to eat Portuguese cod fish? Tell us in the comments below.
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Claire is a culinary explorer, digital nomad and engineer brain behind Authentic Food Quest. Together with her partner, Rosemary, they created Authentic Food Quest to help people find the best local food on their travels. For over 5 years they have eaten their way through South America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America while sharing the best local food experiences on their website. Authentic Food Quest has been featured on top publications such as Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Honest Cooking. Claire and Rosemary are also authors of Authentic Food Quest Argentina and Authentic Food Quest Peru, available on Amazon.