In Portuguese culinary tradition, Salted Cod Soup, or Sopa de Bacalhau, holds a revered place as a comforting and nourishing dish. This recipe reflects the centuries-old practice of preserving cod through salting, a technique that originated from the need to preserve fish for long sea voyages. Salted Cod Soup is celebrated for its robust flavors and wholesome ingredients. By combining salted cod with hearty vegetables this soup offers a taste of Portugal’s rich maritime heritage.

The following is enough for four portions.


  • 500g salted and dried cod (bacalhau)
  • 1l fish stock
  • 100ml parsley, chopped
  • 15 baby potatoes, washed, skin on and pierced with fork
  • 1 large potato, washed, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 large carrots, cleaned and cut into 1cm rings
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 chili, sliced (keep the seeds in to increase spiciness)
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Hydrate the Salted Cod: Place the cod in a bowl of fresh, cold water in the fridge for 48 hours. Replace the water with fresh, cold water every 12 hours.

Fry Onions and Garlic: Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Fry for a couple of minutes until the garlic starts to turn brown.

Boil the Cod: Add the fish stock to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the cod and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook the fish until it easily flakes off the bone. Remove the fish and let it cool down.

Continue with the Stock: Remove the meat and return the bones with the skin to the pot. Flake the fish and set it aside. Continue to cook the stock, covered, on low heat for another 90 minutes. Strain the stock, discard the skin and bones, and return the liquid to the pot.

Prepare Potatoes and Carrots: Add the baby potatoes and half of the carrots to the pot and cook until just soft. Remove the carrots and potatoes and set aside.

Thicken the Stock: Boil the chunks of the large potato, the parsley, and the remaining carrots in the stock until soft. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Blend the contents of the pot until smooth using a stick blender. Add the fish back into the pot and keep the heat on low. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Finish Potatoes and Carrots: In a large separate pan, heat some olive oil. Add the potatoes and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and fry until golden brown.

Dishing Up: Serve the fried potatoes and carrots in bowls, pour the stock with the fish over them so that the vegetables are still visible, and garnish with chopped parsley. Enjoy with freshly baked bread.

Sopa de Bacalhau

History of Bacalhau

Bacalhau, or salted cod, holds a significant place in Portuguese culinary history, dating back several centuries. The tradition of salting and drying codfish originated as a means of preservation, allowing Portuguese sailors to embark on lengthy sea voyages without the fear of spoilage.

Historically, Portuguese fishermen ventured far into the North Atlantic in search of cod-rich waters, particularly off the coast of Newfoundland. This abundant catch was then preserved through salting and drying methods, transforming the fish into a staple food source that could be stored for long periods.

As Portugal expanded its maritime empire during the Age of Discovery, bacalhau became an essential element of the Portuguese diet and culture. It provided sustenance for sailors during their voyages and became ingrained in traditional Portuguese cuisine upon their return.

Today, bacalhau remains a cornerstone of Portuguese gastronomy, with countless recipes and preparations showcasing its versatility. From classic dishes like Bacalhau à Brás and Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá to regional specialties found throughout Portugal, this salted cod continues to hold a cherished place in the hearts and palates of the Portuguese people. Its enduring popularity speaks to its rich history and enduring legacy in Portuguese culinary traditions.

Tanya at bacalhau stand

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