Bacalao Al Pil Pil

Salted Cod with Garlic & Chili Infused Sauce

Bacalao al Pil Pil, served on a white plate with a small pattern of mojo sauce on the plate.

Bacalao al Pil Pil is certainly one of the joyous discoveries when visiting Spain. This authentic main meal dish is served all over, but you’ll most commonly find it served in the northern regions of Spain.

It’s a fantastic tapas or main meal dish that’s easy to prepare at home with only a few ingredients needed. You’ll need to allow some extra time to allow them to marinade properly, so prepare this dish a few days in advance.

Serving:

Tapas for 4 people

Ready in:

30 minutes

Skill level:

Easy

Serve with:

Good on its own!

About This Recipe

Native to the Basque region, Bacalao al Pil Pil can be found all over Spain served either as a pintxos, or as a main meal. It’s especially common in the foodie capital of San Sebastian and also in the capital, Madrid, where it’s served on a fresh slice of bread.

 The beauty of this dish is the simplicity of ingredients and combination of flavors and texture when made right, with the cod cooked in oil and then used to make the rich creamy sauce that is then poured over the top.

Want to discover more food from the Basque Country?

The Basque Country

Straddling part of the border between France and Spain, the Basque Country (País Vasco) has an incredibly diverse landscape that extends far beyond the renowned foodie capitals of larger cities such as San Sebastian and Bilbao. While the region is small, it has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world per capita.

What is Bacalao?

Bacalao is the Spanish term for dried and salted codfish. In Spain, it is common to see bacalao sold in markets where it has been salted and dried after cleaning. The dried fish requires rehydration before it can be consumed or cooked with.

In fishmongers across Spain, you’ll also find fresh versions of ‘Bacalao’ that go by the same name. This is simply fresh codfish that can be used the same as any other fresh fish.

Alternative fish options to Bacalao (salted cod)

While salted bacalao is used to make this traditional Spanish dish, any fresh fillets of white fish can be substituted. We have made this dish using hake and haddock and both turned out great! 

If you have some time, use salted bacalao and rehydrate the fish in fresh water over 24-36 hours. If you’re looking for a quick and easy mid-week meal, then you can use fresh cod fillets and make this dish in under 30 minutes!

This dish is great when served on a bed of mashed potato, some fresh bread, or with rice. Pair it with a nice fresh white wine or a cloudy cider and you’re good to go! 

Ingredients

Method (step-by-step)

  • 1 large fillet of salted bacalao (or a substitute white fish) approx. 800g/ 1.7 lb
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 1 cup of olive oil (approx 240 ml/8 fl oz.)
  • 1 small dried hot chili 
  • Salt (optional)
  • A tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley (optional – to garnish)

Method (step-by-step)

1. First, rehydrate the fish fillet by placing the salted bacalao fillet into cold fresh water and put it in the fridge for 24-36 hours. You’ll need to change the water every 8 hours to remove the excess salt. (Note: If you are using a fresh fish fillet, you can skip this step!)  

2. Cut the bacalao fillets into 2-inch wide portions. 

3. Heat all the olive oil on medium heat in a large, wide-rimmed frying pan. If the oil is too hot, it will spit or smoke, so be careful to apply only medium heat.

4. Add the garlic and chili and saute for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic becomes golden brown. Once golden, remove the garlic and chili. 

5. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow a few moments for the oil to cool down. Once cooled, and add the fillets of bacalao (they should just sizzle on the edges if cooked at the right temperature). 

6. After 3-4 minutes, use a wide spatula to turn the fish, cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. The fish will release some of its juices and will be white in color once cooked. 

7. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside the fish on a plate with some paper towel underneath to soak up any excess oil. 

8. Return the pan with the oil and fish juices to low heat (the lowest setting is fine as it only needs to be warm, not hot). Add the garlic and chili and swirl the pan to make the emulsion. Keep swirling the pan for around 5-7 minutes or until the oil starts to whiten and the sauce thickens. Once the sauce is ready, it will be a pale white color, this should take no more than 10 minutes. 

9. Once ready to plate up, gently add a cooked fillet of bacalao to a plate, then spoon the thick sauce over the fish. Optionally, add a little chopped parsley on top or garnish with a sliver of the chili and serve!

Nutrition & Diet

Using salted bacalao will have a higher salt content for this dish, so be sure to rehydrate your fish, changing the fresh water every 8 hours to remove any excess salt.

Use extra virgin olive oil too, as it’s the healthiest of all oils and features in the Mediterranean diet.

  • Protein 100% 100%
  • Carbs 1% 1%
  • total fat 63% 63%
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Bacalao al Pil Pil served on a white plate with a small pattern of mojo sauce on the plate

Bacalao al Pil Pil - Salted cod with chili, garlic, and parsley sauce

Byron
Native to the Basque region, Bacalao al Pil Pil can be found all over Spain served either as a pintxos, or as a main meal. It's especially common in the foodie capital of San Sebastian and also in the capital, Madrid, where it's served on a fresh slice of bread.
 The beauty of this dish is the simplicity of ingredients and combination of flavors and texture when made right, with the cod cooked in oil and then used to make the rich creamy sauce that is then poured over the top.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Rehydrate Fish (optional) 1 d
Total Time 1 d 40 mins
Course Appetizer, dinner, seafood, Side Dish, starter, tapas
Cuisine Mediterranean, Seafood, spanish
Servings 8 tapas
Calories 325 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 large 30 cm/ 12 inch frying pan

Ingredients

  • 1 large fillet of salted bacalao or a substitute white fish approx. 800g/ 1.7 lb
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 cup of olive oil approx 240 ml/8 fl oz.
  • 1 small dried hot chili

Instructions
 

  • First, rehydrate the fish fillet by placing the salted bacalao fillet into cold fresh water and put it in the fridge for 24-36 hours. You'll need to change the water every 8 hours to remove the excess salt. (Note: If you are using a fresh fish fillet, you can skip this step!)
  • Cut the bacalao fillets into 2-inch wide portions.
  • Heat all the olive oil on medium heat in a large, wide-rimmed frying pan. If the oil is too hot, it will spit or smoke, so be careful to apply only medium heat.
  • Add the garlic and chili and saute for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic becomes golden brown. Once golden, remove the garlic and chili.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow a few moments for the oil to cool down. Once cooled, and add the fillets of bacalao (they should just sizzle on the edges if cooked at the right temperature).
  • After 3-4 minutes, use a wide spatula to turn the fish, cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. The fish will release some of its juices and will be white in color once cooked.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and set aside the fish on a plate with some paper towel underneath to soak up any excess oil.

Notes

This recipe can be easily made into a main meal serving 4 people with no additional ingredients required. 

Nutrition

Calories: 325kcal
Keyword bacalao, cod, mediterranean, salt cod, seafood, spain, Spanish cuisine, tapas