Codfish Cakes (Bolinhos de Bacalhau)

AdoneFriday’s in my house growing up were always grocery shopping day.  That being said, having a full-time working mother, also meant that it was “take-out” day.  We would usually toggle between three things, pizza from Atlas Pizza, Chinese from China Royal or fish and chips from Flint Fish Market.  Sometimes if we were lucky we could tack a little on to that fish and chips order, like shrimp cakes or codfish cakes.

Codfish is a staple in the Portuguese diet.  And although fresh caught Cod is delicious, what most portuguese people think of when they think of codfish is dry salt cod, bacalhau.  This is not fish that has been left to sit with salt on it for a day or two.  We are talking about a drying and salting process that changes the entire consistency of the fish to something amazing and if you know how to work with it, you can create some incredible dishes.

Codfish cakes can be served warm or room temperature.  For breakfast, lunch, dinner or brunch.  They are great for parties and picnics.  They can be a main course or a side dish.

Here I will take you through the process of rehydrating and cooking with this particular Portuguese mainstay.


This is bacalhau (dry salt cod). For this recipe we are using deboned codfish bits… Normally the best thing to use is a nice thick piece and if I were making almost anything else, that’s what I would get. But, this is actually less expensive and less work, so for something I will mush up anyway, bits are the way to go.


The first step is to rinse out the fish, get all that initial salt off. Rinse until the water runs relatively clear.

washed cod

Once you have some clear water, you will want to boil this. Then drain. Then boil again. Then drain again. You are not only rehyrating with this process, but removing the majority of the salt. After the second boiling, taste for salt. You still want it salty, but not crazy. Sometimes I go as far as to boil a third time.

cooked fish

This is what your boiled fish will look like.

cod in cloth

Place on a flour sack towel. (or any clean kitchen towel)


Wrap and twist the end. Wring out all the water. For Cod Fish Cakes we want only moister we add coming to the party.


Once all the water has been removed and the fish is still in the cloth, mush with your hands.

mushed cod

The fish will look very mashed now, which is what you want… you should now go through with your fingers and check for any random bones. Set this aside.


Boil potatoes whole with skins on to preserve the starch.

cooked potatoes

Peel boiled potatoes.

mash potatoes

Start mashing potatoes with a masher then finish with a fork in order to get potatoes really fine. You don’t want big chucks. If you have a ricer, this would be the perfect use. (Do not add anything to the potatoes) Set aside to cool.

dice onions

Finely dice onions. The easiest way I find to do this is to cut onion in half and in half again. Then slice several small slices throughout and turn and slice the other way, like so.

onions in pan

Place onions in a small skillet with a drop of olive oil and gently saute. When onions start to develop color, remove and set aside to cool.


Mince parsley finely.

add to potatoes

Add onions and parsley to potato. Mash together.

mix in cod

Add fish to mash. Mash together. At this point taste for salt. If it does not have a light salty taste, add a pinch of kosher salt.

add egg

Add in one egg and combine.

scoop mixture

Your mixture should hold together at this point.

oil spoons

Put a dab of olive oil on two soup spoons.


Mold with two spoons. It should for a tri-sided croquette.


Line up on parchment until ready to fry. (At this point they can be covered and refrigerated for 24 hours or flash frozen and stored for a couple of months until ready to fry)


Heat canola oil in a large skillet on med/high heat. Place croquettes in oil with lots of room around them. Do not crowd pan. Turn the burner down to medium heat.


Because the croquettes are three-sided, it is easy to turn them as they cook. You want to take your time with this.


The whole process of frying should take 10-15 mins. Be sure each side is golden brown without burning. If they cook too quickly, the inside will not properly cook through.


Drain on paper towels. Normally with fried food, I would tell you to salt at this point, but these are naturally salty, so no need.


Transfer to a serving dish. They can be served warm or room temperature.



Recipe for Cod Fish Cakes:

(serves 4-6)

3/4 lb. dry salt cod, prepared (hydrated and mashed)

3 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed

2 tsp. minced parsley

1/2 medium onion, finely minced, sautéed

1 egg

kosher salt to taste

1 c. canola oil


Combine mashed potato (cooled), minced and sautéed onion (cooled), parsley.  Add in mashed fish. Mash together.  Add in egg, combine.

Spoon out one soup spoon of mixture.  With another soup spoon, form into tri-sided croquettes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat.  Place croquettes in heated oil to fry.  Turn down heat to medium.  Fry over 10-15 minutes turning periodically until golden brown.  Drain on paper towel.


*note – this recipe is gluten-free



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