Croatian Bakalar Recipe (Salted Cod)

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Bakalar, as it’s known in Croatian, is a salted cod delicacy and is the must-eat traditional dish in our family for Christmas Eve and at Easter.

Eaten across Croatia and in many parts of South America and Europe, this salted cod recipe can be adapted to suit your taste. Add more garlic if you like, or change the ratio of bakalar to potatoes that suit your family. Just remember that you’ll need to start preparing the bakalar at least three days before you want to eat this dish – so set a little reminder in your calendar now, so you do not forget.

Atlantic Cod is a fish species from the Northern Atlantic and is high in essential fatty acids. It’s very popular around the world as it has a mild flavor and dense flakey white flesh.

Salted cod has been produced for over 500 years, since the time of the European discoveries of the New World. Before refrigeration, there was a need to preserve the cod, which led people to drying and salting techniques to preserve the cod. This is how the Bakalar recipe was born, and generations later, we are still eating it.

Photo: Gonzalo Cuellar

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Where To Buy Salted Cod Fish?

Where you live determines where you can buy dried salted cod. In Europe, you can get it at most supermarkets, like Interspar. It is less readily available in the US, though you can get it from European specialty stores.

 

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Did You Know?

Dried cod and the dishes made from it are known by many different names, many of them derived from the root bacal. They are bacalhau (Portuguese), bacalao (Spanish), bakaiļao (Basque), bacallà (Catalan), μπακαλιάρος, bakaliáros (Greek),baccalà (Italian), bakalar (Croatian), bakkeljauw (Dutch), “makayabu” (Central and East Africa). Other names includeráktoguolli/goikeguolli (Sami), tørfisk/klippfisk/clipfish (Scandinavian), stokvis/klipvis (Dutch), saltfiskur (Icelandic), morue(French), saltfish (Caribbean), toe rag (UK), bakaljaw (Maltese), “labardan” (Russian).

There are so many variations of salted cod recipes from all around the world. This is our Croatian Bakalar recipe from our part of Croatia. Try it out, and let us know if you like it.

A person is pouring rice into a pan while preparing a salted cod recipe.

Croatian Bakalar Recipe (Salted Cod)

This Croatian salted cod recipe is a delicacy and traditional dish in our family. We eat codfish for Christmas Eve and again at Easter. Happy holidays.

Ingredients

  • 1 dried salt cod
  • 12 medium washed and peeled whole potatoes (serves 4-6 guests, add more potatoes for more guests)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 5 tablespoons parsley, chopped (or more if you like)
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Place the bakalar in a large bucket or tub with cold water. Change the water daily and soak for at least three days
  2. After soaking the bakalar in water for three days, take the bakalar and beat it with a mallet till it softens. The idea is to soften it before you boil it. So give it a good red-hot bash
  3. Once beaten, slice in half or into thirds and place into a saucepan and cover with cold water (or you can fold it in half and tie it up)
  4. Allow to boil, cook until tender. This varies from two and a half to three hours
  5. Once the bakalar is tender, add the potatoes and boil until they are soft but not falling apart
  6. Drain the pot, and separate the bakalar from the potatoes into two bowls
  7. Take the bakalar and remove all the bones and as much of the skin as possible. Note: have a bowl of warm water handy, this process gets very sticky and I find rinsing my fingers in warm water helps
  8. Once cleaned, break the bakalar into small bite-sized pieces and combine it with the potatoes
  9. With a wooden spoon, mix the bakalar and potatoes until it's the consistency that suits you. Our family likes to mix it until the potatoes are like mash potatoes. Other families we know use a blender while others like the potatoes much more whole
  10. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, and fresh garlic and stir in adding in small amounts of olive oil as you go
  11. Mix, plate and enjoy with a glass of Croatian wine
Have you eaten salted cod before? Do you have a suggestion for my salted cod recipe? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Comments (25)

  1. I love your Croatian recipes – but this is one I don’t think I’d try myself. I don’t have the patience to soak anything for three days!

    1. Ahhh yes, well I’ll be honest….. I stole this recipe from my Mother-in-law. I too cant be bothered waiting or doing the bashing :P

  2. This does sound like a special dish, with all that time to prepare! I remember hearing of bacalao when I was in South America but never got a chance to try it.

    1. It’s so much work, that is why I have never yet dont it myself. I love it when my family does it though.

  3. I’ve tried this dish a few times when spending Christmas in Dubrovnik with husband’s family. I think it’s an aquired taste. My husband woud flip if I surprised him with this dish, (so nice of you to share the unique recipe) sadly I don’t think I’d ever find salted cod around here in Indiana!

    1. Jen, look at any international/Italian grocery store. You’ll find it for sure. In Chicagoland area, I have seen it at Angelo Caputo’s stores. Usually by the meat/deli department. I’m sure other stores have it as well. Hth

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