Bolos de bacalhau (Portuguese salt cod fritters)

Okay I admit I went all out on this one and splurged. The main ingredient “bacalhau” is a dried codfish that is a must in Portuguese cuisine. I wanted to experiment after coming back from my trip in Lisbon, so I found it on Amazon for $25. A week later, salt cured fish with ice packs were delivered to my door.

I realize most of you will not do this to make this recipe. I haven’t tried it with fresh cod fish, but I assume it will work. You would have to cook the fish the night before and let it dry a bit in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe. But, the flavor will not be exactly the same. The salt cured fish that has sustained Portuguese people for centuries is unique in taste, almost like a fish “jerky” taste that can’t really be replicated with fresh fish. But, we don’t live in the 1300s anymore and there’s not really a reason to cure fish this way anymore. The Portuguese (and Italian and Spanish) are so used to the flavor, that they continuously buy this bacalao, so much that it needs to be fished in the Nordic waters due to overfishing on the Atlantic coast.

All in all, this is a good, unique recipe. If you have the chance to try it, I encourage you to. I also heard that Jamaican cuisine also uses a dried salt cod, but people have said it’s different. I’m pretty sure they use jerk seasoning and stew it somehow for their version.

This recipe is easy once you have the bacalhau rinsed and prepared. You cannot rush the soaking part because it is very salty. You have to change the water 3-4 times in a 12-hour period to rid the salt of the fish. It might still be salty for you if you’re not used to lots of salt. I find that adding potatoes to it like the Portuguese do tames the salt in just the right way and makes the dish not too salty.

You’ll find almost 365 recipes for cod fish, a recipe for each day of the year in Portuguese family cookbooks, and I think many of them include potatoes. This one is no different, and maybe one of the most popular ones. They are fried cod and potato balls that are often served as appetizers at celebrations and gatherings. You’ll find them served room temperture much of the time. There’s not much to them but both kids and adults love them so they grace the table at most Portuguese events.

Hope you enjoy this little piece of Portugal in your home. 


Bolos de bacalhau

Adapted from Leite Culinaria
Makes 24-30 fritters


  • 10 oz. salted cod (specialty market or online)
  • 14 oz. russet potato, unpeeled (about 1 ½)
  • 3 green onions, chopped small
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoon milk (if needed)
  • About 4 cups Vegetable or canola oil for frying


  1. Rinse cod and soak overnight. Change water at least 3 times. Then, place the fish in a pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl to cool. ( I like to do this the day before)
  2. Boil the potatoes in their skins for 30 minutes, or until soft. Then, peel and mash.
  3. Using a fork, or a towel, break the cod up. You need to really smush the cod hard to break up the fibers. You want small fibers, not chunks. Mix the cod with the potatoes, onions, and parsley. Then add the eggs 1 by 1. If it’s too moist, don’t add all the eggs. The batter should be thick enough that your spoon should stand up in it. Add a little milk if it looks too stiff.
  4. The tricky part. Forming the “bolos” or football shaped croquettes. Using two spoons, form these oblong shapes. If it’s too hard, use a spoon to scoop out a tablespoon and then roll into a ball. Set aside until ready to fry.
  5. In a medium pot of fryer, heat oil to 370 F/190 C. Test with a little piece to see if it’s ready. If it sizzles right away, it’s ready. Place the “bolos” in the oil very gently. Do not drop or the oil will splash and burn you. Just lay the bolos in the oil holding your hand quite close to the oil. Don’t put more than 10 at one time. Fry them for a couple minutes, turning them until fully golden brown. When done, use a slotted spoon to fish out and onto a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve hot or room temperature.

Fried bolos

Baked version
picturesque Lisbon

More Portuguese recipes:

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