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Bacalhau, or codfish, took us by surprise in Portugal. The simplicity of the dish, the multiple variations and cooking styles, and the rich flavors made it land on our personal list of “top 100 authentic food experiences before I die.”
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 different ways, we ate enough to feed our ravenous appetites.
Here are our top 7 authentic ways to eat bacalhau the Portuguese way.
What Is Bacalhau Portuguese Cod Fish?
Bacalhau is dried and salted codfish and the Portuguese are obsessed with it! It is a staple food in Portuguese cooking and one of the country’s most treasured dishes. You’ll find it everywhere you go.
In Portugal, codfish is central in the cuisine. You’ll find it so revered that you’ll see dedicated shops selling this salted fish.
Portuguese cod fish, a white fish is typically dried and salted. You’ll not find it amongst the fresh fish, but stacked nearby in piles. It is often sold as a whole fish rather than cut up into smaller sizes.
If you are looking for fresh cod, you’ll want to ask for bacalhau fresco.
There are many favorite Portuguese cod recipes such as Bacalhau à Brás, Bacalhau com Natas, Pasteis de Bacalhau or Bolinhos de Bacalhau, and more.
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.
Where Does Bacalhau Come From?
One of the things that surprised us the most was learning the origins of bacalhau. Surprisingly, the cod fish 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.
It is also a popular dish in Spain, where it is called bacalao.
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 pieces to enjoy at home.
7 Traditional Portuguese Cod Dishes and Recipes
1. Bacalhau a Bras – Salted Portuguese Codfish, Eggs & Potatoes
Bacalhau à Brás is one of Portugal’s most popular dishes and one of our favorite Portuguese salt cod dishes. What’s wonderful about this dish is its simplicity and delightful flavors.
The dish consists of a combination of bacalhau 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 a Bras several times at different restaurants and even learned how to make it at our Airbnb.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST BACALHAU RECIPE: Bacalhau à Brás is a popular and simple salted cod fish dish to make at home. We fell in love with it in Portugal and even learned how to make it. Get the recipe here: How To Make Portuguese Bacalhau a Bras Recipe.
Where to Eat the Best Bacalhau à Brás in Portugal
Our favorite Bacalhau a Bras dish was in Sintra at Incomum Restaurant.
Chef Luis Santos at Incomum puts a creative spin on the dish with the addition of delicious vegetables and with eggs that are lightly battered and fried.
This dish is so exquisite, you’ll gladly make the 45 minute trip to Sintra from Lisbon just for chef Santo’s creative touch.
Address: R. Dr. Alfredo da Costa 22, Sintra
Hours: Open everyday from 12:00 pm to 12:00 am except Saturdays 4:30 pm to 12:00 am
Price: €18 (approx. $18.4)
Pro Tip: Book in advance as the restaurant can get busy.
2. Bacalhau Com Natas – Salted Portuguese Codfish with Cream
A lot of Portuguese dishes are prepared with Portuguese olive oil or simply grilled. However, bacalhau com natas is unique as it is made with cream.
There are several variations of this recipe, though they all involve shredded codfish that’s layered with potatoes, fried onions and cream and baked in the oven.
The ultimate comfort food, bacalhau com natas is often served casserole-style with a broiled, crispy topping of cheese.
Where To Eat The Best Bacalhau Com Natas in Lisbon, Portugal
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 Bacalhau com Natas with sweet potato chips and olive dust.
Beautifully prepared, the bacalhau is divine. The bacalhau salted cod 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 Lisbon.
Address: Time Out Market, Av. 24 de Julho 49, Lisbon
Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am to 12:00 am, Fridays and Saturdays until 1:00 am
Price: €15.85 (approx. $16.4)
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Bacalhau com natas is one of the tastiest Portuguese bacalhau dishes. It’s easy to make at home with shredded cod fish, potatoes, onions and cream. Get the simple recipe and taste the mouthwatering flavors Bacalhau Com Natas Recipe: How To Make Portuguese Baked Cod With Cream
3. Pasteis de Bacalhau or Bolinhos de Bacalhau- Salted Codfish 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 salt cod cakes are made with mashed potatoes, codfish, eggs, parsley and onion.
Shaped using 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 black olives.
With their popularity, it is easy to find pasteis de bacalhau all over Portugal. You will find this delicious snack in cafes, restaurants and pastelerias or Portuguese bakeries.
Where to Eat The Best Pasteis de Bacalhau or Bolinhos de Bacalhau
Although deemed a tourist trap by 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 cooked.
They combine 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.
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, we found the flavors to marry well to produce something quite unique.
Address: R. Augusta 106, 1100-053 Lisbon
Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am to 10:30 pm
Price: €5 (approx. $5.10) or €12.50 (approx. $12.80) with Serra cheese and a glass of Porto wine
Address: R. Campo dos Mártires da Pátria 108, 4050-36, Porto
Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
Price: €5 (approx. $5.10) or €12.50 (approx. $12.80) with Serra cheese and a glass of Porto wine
4. Bacalhau a Lagareiro – Cod Fish Lagareiro-Style
This simple, delicious codfish recipe is one of the most famous ways of preparing codfish in Portugal.
It combines baked salt cod and potatoes abundantly coated with Portuguese olive oil, onions, and garlic.
The à lagareiro cooking style refers to the heavy use of olive oil in the recipe. In fact, “à lagareiro” literally means olive oil presser.
This dish is said to have originated with mill workers who needed to test out the olive oil pressed from the early harvests in October.
When it turned out perfectly, it was a source of joy and relief knowing the olive oil was good.
As with most bacalhau recipes, bacalhau a lagareiro can be prepared in slightly different ways, but it mostly consists of roasting codfish fish in a bed of olive oil.
As it cooks, the oil emulsifies with the juices of the fish, resulting in a delicious sauce.
Onion, garlic and herbs are added to the recipe and some versions even call for the addition of black olives.
Once baked, the result is slightly crispy potatoes, with soft onions and fish cooked to perfection.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Bacalhau a Lagareiro is a classic and popular dish. It’s effortless to make and it simply combines codfish, potatoes, olive oil, onions, and garlic. Get the delicious Bacalhau a Lagareiro Recipe: How to Make Cod Fish Lagareiro-Style
Where to Eat The Best Bacalhau a Lagareiro in Lisbon
Grelha do Carmo is a cozy, “mom and pop” Lisbon restaurant. The menu features traditional Portuguese cuisine served alongside a selection of Portuguese wines and beer.
Fish dishes dominate the menu. You’ll find sardines, white fish and salt cod prepared in a number of ways.
One of the specialties is bacalhau a lagareiro. You’ll find generous servings of delicious bacalhau a lagareiro drizzled with fantastically fresh Portuguese olive oil sauce.
Grelha do Carmo offers a very local and authentic Portuguese experience off the beaten path.
Address: R. da Condessa 3A, Lisbon
Hours: Open Mon 12:00 pm –3:30 pm, Tue – Fri and Sun 12:00 pm –11:30 pm, Sat 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Price: €10.50 (approx. $10.70)
5. Bacalhau Assado Na Brasa Com Batata a Murro – Roasted Codfish With Potatoes
This modest codfish dish, consisting of roasted codfish with potatoes, exceeds expectations.
The secret to this exquisite entree 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 fish is seasoned with salt, garlic, onions, and vinegar, and generously sprinkled with quality olive oil.
The codfish is accompanied by roasted potatoes for a classic Portuguese dish.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Olive oil is an indispensable ingredient in Portuguese cuisine. It is considered the “Queen of Condiments”and has long occupied a prominent place in the Portuguese culinary culture. The Alentenjo Region of Portugal produces some of the country’s best olive oil. Herdade do Esporao is an award-winning olive oil from Alentejo. Savor it fresh aromas and complex notes when you order some from Amazon.
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 the delicious potatoes, you taste the true essence of traditional Portuguese cuisine.
Address: Rua Maria Andrade 6 B, Lisbon
Hours: Open; Monday – Saturday, 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Price: €15.90 (approx. $16.20) for the bacalhau dish and you’ll also find amazing steaks and delicious Portuguese wines
6. Pataniscas de Bacalhau – Salted Codfish Fritters
Pataniscas de Bacalhau are delicious codfish fritters. This is another version of deep fried bacalhau in Portugal.
The codfish fritters are made with eggs, flour, cod, eggs, parsley and onion. The ingredients are mixed together and deep fried before serving them hot as an appetizer or as a main dish with rice.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Portuguese pataniscas de bacalhau are moutwatering starter or main dish. They are easy to make and full of flavor. Simply mix codfish, eggs, flour, onion and parsley for irresistible bites. Get the recipe Pataniscas de Bacalhau – Easy to Make Portuguese Codfish Fritters
Where to Eat Pataniscas de Bacalhau in Lisbon
We enjoyed pataniscas de bacalhau at Flagrante Delitro. The salted cod fish fritters were served in a soupy rice arroz de feijao, made the Portuguese way.
These fritters were fresh, lightly fried and quite tasty. When served with the rice, it makes for a comforting Portuguese dish.
Flagrante Delitro is part of Casa de Fernando Pessoa. This cultural house is dedicated to the famous Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa.
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, Lisbon
Hours: Open Mon 10:00 am – 4:00 pm; Tue- Sat 10:00 am – 11:00 pm
Price: €8.50 (approx. $8.70)
7. Arroz de Bacalhau – Rice with Codfish
Another simple dish, arroz de bacalhau is made with salt cod, rice, onion, garlic, olive oil, and leeks.
It’s simmered in vegetable or fish stock and white wine and is typically garnished with cilantro and black olives.
Some variations add beans or vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, artichokes, or peas.
It is said that this traditional dish was originally created to make use of all parts of the fish. Some documented recipes even use the roasted or fried fish skin.
This dish is typically served as a main course or as a side with another white fish.
Where to Eat The Best Arroz de Bacalhau in Lisbon
Known as the “King of Cod,” Laurentina specializes in cod and they are passionate about it.
Since 1976, the restaurant’s focus has been on authentic and traditional Portuguese cuisine with an emphasis on salt cod.
The preparation of the cod is 100% artisanal including the drying and preservation process. The cuisine is organic and the salted cod fish used is of the highest quality.
A cozy family owned restaurant. You’ll love the relaxed atmosphere, tasteful decor and friendly service.
This is a fantastic restaurant to try out various codfish entrees, but their arroz de bacalhau is outstanding.
Address: Av. Conde Valbom 71A, Lisbon
Hours: Open Mon-Sat 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Price: €15.00 (approx. $15.30)
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 7 traditional Portuguese ways to cook bacalahu, you can enjoy the best bacalhau dishes.
If traveling to Portugal is not in your immediate future, you can still enjoy delicious slices of the Portuguese culinary culture.
Choose from any of the traditional Portuguese cod recipes highlighted and cook something new for family and friends.
As one of Portugal’s most treasured foods you too will quickly fall in love with bacalhau Portugal.,
Have you had Portuguese bacalhau or cod fish dishes before? Let us know in the comments below how it was cooked.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest