Salt Cod Salad – Ensalada de Bacalao

ensalada de bacalao serenata puerto rico


Ah… back to reality.  The Easter holiday came and went quickly, but we got some much needed R&R.   DH and I usually make a weekend getaway to Humacao, a town in the Eastern coast of Puerto Rico from Thursday until Sunday.  Each day of our mini vacation is punctuated by food, starting on Thursday with Asian food from a nearby restaurant that makes some of the best egg rolls I’ve had.  On Good Friday, we have bacalao (salt cod or salt fish) salad with boiled root vegetables and avocado, and on Saturday a pre-assembled casserole (usually a lasagna) makes its way into the oven.   Since we have to clean out the fridge on Sunday, we have a ‘best of the weekend’ lunch before heading back out to the greater San Juan area.  I also usually take a batch of sweets and DHs beloved mezcla for sandwiches to take to the beach.  The menu has become predictable, but many of these foods are favorites that we don’t seem to tire of.  Funny how before I met my husband, I had never had bacalao salad before… now I can’t get enough of it!

Bacalao salad, also known as serenata or gazpacho in some towns in Puerto Rico, consists of de-salted dried white fish that is combined with at minimum onions, tomatoes, green olives, cilantro, olive oil and white vinegar.  Many cooks also include hard boiled eggs or potatoes to make for a more filling meal.  It is traditionally served with root vegetables such as yautias, malanga, and boiled green bananas or can also be eaten with bread as if it were a tuna/salmon salad sandwich.  Salt cod or saltfish became popular all through the Caribbean hundreds of years ago.  It was originally part of the rations for sailors and slaves, as most had to go without fresh meat or fish.  Up until a few years ago, it was considered to be one of the most affordable food items, but now even substitutes like dry salted pollock are running at close to $5.00 a pound.  It’s still pretty ubiquitous as a weekly item in many cafeterias and fondas, especially during Lent Fridays.



GF 360° Basic Ensalada de Bacalao
Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 pound packaged salt cod
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • A couple of tablespoons of chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup sliced pimento stuffed green olives
    (we omitted – DH not crazy about them)
  • Olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste

Hold the fish over running water to remove the excess salt from its surface.  Soak it for at least two hours in a non-reactive bowl.  Drain the salted water from the fish and add fresh, soaking again for at least one more hour.  You can try a very small piece to make sure the fish is not to salty for your taste.

Boil the salt cod/fish for fifteen minutes.  While the fish boils, slice the onions and chop the tomatoes.   After the fifteen minutes have elapsed, place the bacalao in a non-reactive bowl and shred with two forks, watching out for any bones.  Stir in the rest of the salad components and dress with the oil and vinegar.  Cover the salad bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the flavors to meld.

In addition to the traditional sides of boiled root vegetables (including potatoes) and avocado, the salad can be served over greens with extra oil and vinegar.


Adios, playa! Hello, month-end close… ay!

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Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

7 Responses to “Salt Cod Salad – Ensalada de Bacalao”

    April 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    Oh my, that meal looks amazing!! And that beach….oh…I wish!

  2. yummychunklet
    April 26, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    This looks fresh and delicious. I love any fish with cilantro!

  3. Peggy
    April 27, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Sounds like a lovely mini-vacation was had! This bacalao looks absolutely incredible!

  4. Yuri
    April 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    My mom loves ensalada de bacalao 🙂

  5. Anamaris
    May 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    This is the 2nd time I see this dish EVER, and I’m OLD. I’m totally intrigued by it, and since its time for lighter fare, this may have to make it onto the playlist.

  6. Maria Aponte
    March 24, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Wow, that looks good! Y con las viandas, mejor! Saludos!

    • March 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      It’s so healthy I don’t even feel guilty going for seconds! Gracias por darte la vuelta 😉

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