Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Discover one of Spain’s most loved and traditional dishes made with salted codfish, olives, vegetables, and herbs.
This is a dish straight out of my childhood! Mom made it all the time and I could never get enough! It has wonderful flavors and it is so easy to make!
This is a Pesco-Vegetarian dish.
What is Bacalao a la Vizcaína?
"Bacalao a la Vizcaína" is a fish stew from the Basque Country in Northern Spain. It is one of those dishes that once you get a taste of it you want more. Very traditional and made with simple ingredients: salted codfish or codfish fillets, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes, stuffed green olives, herbs, and spices.
There is nothing pretentious about this dish. It is just a 100% comfort meal. You can find it all over the Iberian peninsula as well as in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Each country has a different version of the dish. In some countries it is a stew... in others it is a side dish. But two things are constant in the recipes: codfish and a tomato based sauce of some sort.
What is the flavor profile of Bacalao a la Vizcaína?
The main two ingredients of this dish are salted codfish and tomatoes. The sweet flavor of the tomatoes is balanced by the pickled olives and the saltiness of the codfish. The fresh herbs and vegetables enhance all those nuances associated with seafood. It is quite aromatic and it develops a deep flavor.
What is "Bacalao" or "Salted Codfish"?
"Bacalao" or "Salted codfish" is just codfish that has been dried in sea salt to preserve it. As the name implies it is quite salty and requires some preparation before it can be used. Nothing major, though. Just a few hours soaking the salted codfish in water to extract the salt from the fish and to make it more pliable.
Where can I find" Bacalao" or "Salted Codfish"?
You may wonder where you can find salted codfish. You can ask your fish monger, visit the refrigerated section at your local store, visit a latin grocery store, or order it online. Just look for "Bacalao" or "Salted Codfish". I found it here. Make sure you get fish that has been deboned and without the skin, although there are some people that like the skin. That is a personal preference.
Can I substitute the Bacalao or Salted Codfish for something else?
Yes. You can use Salted Pollock as a substitute. You will get the same results. You can also use cod fillets. If you decide to use the fillets then you'll need to adjust the salt in the recipe.
Can I use any type of potatoes and olives?
I recommend using potatoes that will boil well without becoming "mushy". I do either yellow Baby potatoes or golden potatoes. Just keep in mind that they will be peeled after being cooked so they have to retain their shape.
For the olives, the traditional recipe calls for Pimento Stuffed Manzanilla Olives. I have not used any other type of olives for this. But feel free to use whatever olives you have in hand.
Can I substitute the roasted red bell peppers?
Roasted red bell peppers can be substitute for any other kind of bell pepper of your choice. You could also use store bought roasted bell peppers. There is a large selection of this product at the grocery store.
How do I roast the peppers?
The recipe calls for roasted bell pepper. This is a very simple process. I normally roast the peppers over an open flame. Once they have been slightly scorched, I put them in a ziploc bag and let them sweat for five minutes. The skin will peel off without much effort if you do this. All left to do is to remove the core and seeds and slice into small strips. Once again, if you do not want to roast the pepper, you can get them at the store.
How long do I have to soak the Bacalao before I can use it?
It all depends on how much salt you want to extract from it. I recommend soaking the bacalao for at least 4 hours before using it (changing the water every hour). Some people soak the bacalao for up to 8 hours. I think 4 hours is enough time, but as I sated: it depends on how much salt you want to extract from it.
Is there a shortcut to make this dish?
Yes. You can speed up the process by using cod fillets. However, it is not traditional to do so. But if you are in a time crunch: go for it! Just adjust the salt levels as you cook it.
You can also keep the potatoes' skins on if you don't want to peel them.
Let's make it!
Prep time: 20 minutes to 4 hours depending on how you make it.
Cooking time: about 45 minutes
Serves up to 6 people
2 pounds of salted codfish or cod fillets
8 Roma tomatoes
3 red bell peppers (roasted, peeled, and cored)
1 medium white onion (chopped)
8 cloves of garlic (peeled)
1 1/2 pounds of Yellow Baby Dutch Potatoes
Fresh chopped parsley (about 1 cup)
2 springs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup on Spanish Manzanilla Stuffed Olives
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
1/4 cup of water
Step 1: If using Bacalao (Salted Codfish)
Soak the bacalao for up to 4 hours. Change the water every hour.
Remove from water and give it a good rinse with cold water. Pat dry and set aside.
Step 2: Prep the Potatoes
Wash the potatoes throughly to remove all dirt from them.
Once cleaned, put them in a large pot with cold water and a pinch of salt.
Cook them over medium high heat until they are tender to the touch (about 15 to 20 minutes).
Immediately remove from hot water and shock them in a cold water bath. Let them rest in the cold water for 10 minutes.
Once cold, you can peel them. Set aside.
Step 3: Roast the Red Bell Peppers
Roast the peppers over an open flame.
Once they have been slightly scorched, put them in a zip loc bag and let them sweat for five minutes. The skin will peel off without much effort if you do this. All left to do is to remove the core and seeds and slice into small strips.
Step 4: Bacalao a la Vizcaína
In a large pot over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons of olive oil.
Cook the whole garlic cloves in the oil until they become soft. Remove from pot.
Add the onions to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes.
Wash the tomatoes.
Using a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes, garlic, and 1/3 of the bell peppers. Use 1/4 cup of water to create a smooth puree.
Pour the tomato puree into the pot with the onions. Stir well.
Cut the codfish into small pieces. Add to the pot.
Add the bay leave, thyme, remaining red bell peppers, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and half of the parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and let it cook 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes and olives. Simmer covered for another 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, serve, top with the remaining chopped parsley.
Printable PDF Recipe below: