Bacala: A Delicious and Versatile Ingredient
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Bacala: A Delicious and Versatile Ingredient

Bacala, also known as baccalà, bacalhau, or salted cod, is a type of dried and salted codfish that has been a staple in many cuisines around the world for centuries. The process of salting and drying the codfish was originally developed as a way to preserve the fish for long periods of time, allowing it to be transported and stored without spoiling. This method of preservation has made bacala a popular ingredient in many traditional dishes, particularly in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines.

Bacala has a unique flavor and texture that sets it apart from fresh cod. The salting and drying process gives the fish a firm, chewy texture and a rich, savory flavor that is both salty and slightly sweet. This makes bacala a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes, from soups and stews to salads and appetizers. Whether it’s served as a main course or used as a flavorful addition to other dishes, bacala adds a depth of flavor that is hard to replicate with any other ingredient.

Key Takeaways

  • Bacala is a type of salted and dried cod fish that is popular in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines.
  • The history of Bacala dates back to ancient times, when it was used as a staple food for sailors and explorers due to its long shelf life.
  • Bacala is used in a variety of cuisines, including Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Caribbean, each with their own unique preparation methods and flavor profiles.
  • To prepare Bacala, it must be soaked in water for several days to rehydrate and remove excess salt, then it can be used in a variety of dishes such as stews, soups, and pasta.
  • Bacala is a good source of lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy addition to a balanced diet.

The History of Bacala

The history of bacala dates back to ancient times, when the process of salting and drying fish was developed as a way to preserve the catch for long sea voyages. This allowed fishermen to transport their catch to distant markets without fear of spoilage, making salted cod a valuable commodity in many coastal regions. The practice of salting and drying fish was particularly prevalent in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, where fresh fish was not always readily available.

In the 15th century, Portuguese explorers began to trade salted cod with the Basque fishermen, who had been preserving cod in this manner for centuries. This trade eventually spread throughout Europe and the Americas, leading to the widespread popularity of bacala in many different cuisines. Today, bacala is a beloved ingredient in traditional dishes from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Brazil, and many other countries with strong maritime traditions.

Bacala in Different Cuisines

Bacala is a versatile ingredient that is used in a wide variety of cuisines around the world. In Portugal, bacalhau is a national dish that is prepared in countless ways, from simple salted cod with potatoes to elaborate casseroles and stews. In Spain, bacalao is a popular ingredient in dishes like bacalao al pil-pil, a rich and creamy cod stew made with olive oil, garlic, and chili peppers. In Italy, baccalà is often used in dishes like baccalà alla vicentina, a creamy cod stew flavored with onions, anchovies, and milk.

In Latin American cuisines, bacala has also become an integral part of many traditional dishes. In Brazil, for example, bacalhau is often used in dishes like bacalhau à Brás, a flavorful cod and potato casserole that is seasoned with olives, onions, and eggs. In the Caribbean, salted cod is used in dishes like ackee and saltfish, a popular Jamaican breakfast dish made with salted codfish and ackee fruit. Whether it’s used in European or Latin American cuisines, bacala adds a unique flavor and texture to any dish it’s used in.

How to Prepare Bacala

Ingredients Quantity
Bacala (salted cod) 1 lb
Water 3 cups
Flour 1 cup
Olive oil 1/2 cup
Garlic 3 cloves
Parsley 1/4 cup
Black pepper To taste

Preparing bacala requires some advance planning, as the salted cod needs to be soaked in water for at least 24 hours before it can be used in recipes. This soaking process helps to rehydrate the fish and remove some of the excess salt, resulting in a milder flavor and more tender texture. To prepare bacala, start by rinsing the salted cod under cold water to remove any surface salt. Then, place the fish in a large bowl or container and cover it with cold water. Change the water every 4-6 hours to help remove the salt from the fish.

After soaking the bacala for at least 24 hours, it can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Some popular ways to prepare bacala include boiling or poaching it until it’s tender, then using it in soups, stews, or casseroles. Bacala can also be flaked and used in salads or appetizers, or fried and served as a crispy snack. No matter how it’s prepared, bacala adds a rich and savory flavor to any dish it’s used in.

Health Benefits of Bacala

Bacala is not only delicious but also offers several health benefits. Codfish is an excellent source of high-quality protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. It also contains important nutrients like vitamin B12, which is necessary for maintaining healthy nerve function and forming red blood cells. Additionally, codfish is low in fat and calories, making it a healthy choice for those looking to maintain a balanced diet.

The salting and drying process used to preserve bacala also helps to concentrate its nutrients, making it an excellent source of essential minerals like potassium and magnesium. These minerals are important for maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart function. Bacala is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of heart disease. When prepared in a healthy manner, such as by poaching or grilling instead of frying, bacala can be a nutritious addition to any diet.

Where to Find Bacala

Bacala can be found in many specialty grocery stores or markets that cater to Mediterranean or Latin American cuisines. Look for dried salted codfish in the seafood section or ask the store staff for assistance if you’re having trouble finding it. Some stores may carry pre-soaked or rehydrated bacala that can be used right away in recipes, while others may only carry the dried salted variety that requires soaking at home.

If you’re unable to find bacala locally, there are also many online retailers that specialize in Mediterranean or Latin American ingredients and may offer dried salted codfish for purchase. When buying bacala online, be sure to check the shipping policies and estimated delivery times to ensure that the fish will arrive fresh and ready to use in your recipes.

Delicious Bacala Recipes to Try

1. Bacalhau à Brás (Portuguese Salted Cod with Potatoes)
This classic Portuguese dish features flaked bacala sautéed with onions and garlic, then mixed with thinly sliced potatoes and scrambled eggs. The dish is seasoned with parsley and black olives for added flavor.

2. Baccalà Mantecato (Italian Creamed Salt Cod)
This creamy Italian dish features whipped salted cod mixed with olive oil, garlic, and parsley until it reaches a light and fluffy consistency. It’s typically served as a spread on crostini or crusty bread.

3. Bacalao al Pil-Pil (Spanish Salt Cod Stew)
This rich and flavorful Spanish stew features salted cod cooked with olive oil, garlic, and chili peppers until it forms a creamy emulsion. The dish is typically served with crusty bread for dipping.

4. Bacalao Dorado (Puerto Rican Salt Cod Casserole)
This Puerto Rican dish features shredded salted cod mixed with onions, peppers, and potatoes, then baked until golden brown and crispy on top. It’s a hearty and satisfying dish that’s perfect for sharing with friends and family.

5. Bacalao con Papas (Cuban Salt Cod with Potatoes)
This Cuban dish features salted cod cooked with onions, peppers, and tomatoes until tender, then mixed with diced potatoes for a flavorful one-pot meal.

No matter which recipe you choose to try, bacala is sure to add a unique and delicious flavor to your cooking repertoire. Whether you’re preparing a traditional dish from Portugal or putting your own spin on a classic recipe, bacala is a versatile ingredient that’s perfect for adding depth of flavor to any meal.

If you’re interested in learning more about bacala, you should check out this article on This website offers a variety of recipes and cooking tips, including a detailed guide on how to prepare and cook bacala. You’ll find helpful information on selecting the best salted cod, as well as different methods for rehydrating and cooking it. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, this article is a great resource for anyone looking to explore the world of bacala.


What is bacalao?

Bacalao, also known as bacala or bacalhau, is a type of salted and dried codfish that is commonly used in Mediterranean and Portuguese cuisine.

How is bacalao prepared?

Bacalao is typically prepared by soaking the salted fish in water for a period of time to rehydrate it and remove excess salt. It is then used in a variety of dishes such as stews, soups, and salads.

Where is bacalao commonly used?

Bacalao is commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, particularly in countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. It is also popular in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine.

What are the nutritional benefits of bacalao?

Bacalao is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also low in fat and calories, making it a healthy choice for incorporating into a balanced diet.

Are there any health concerns associated with consuming bacalao?

Consuming bacalao in moderation is generally considered safe. However, due to the high salt content used in the preservation process, individuals with high blood pressure or heart conditions should consume it in moderation.

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