Pastéis de Bacalhau (Cod Cakes)

Crispy, creamy, and brimming with flaked fish, these Portuguese fritters are primo finger food.

  • Serves


  • Prep

    1 day

  • Cook

    1 hour


By SAVEUR Editors

Published on March 4, 2024

Portugal is known for its dizzying array of salt cod dishes, but this pastéis de bacalhau recipe from Pica-Pau restaurant is Lisbon on a plate. When shopping for these crispy cod cakes, seek out pliable, white bacalhau fillets that aren’t stringy or yellowed, and note that desalting time will vary depending on thickness (extra-thick fillets can take up to three days to mellow out). The traditional way to shape pastéis de bacalhau is to use two spoons to make quenelles, but rolling the croquettes by hand is easier for those unfamiliar with the technique.

Featured in “The Top 13 Dishes to Try in Lisbon” by Kitty Greenwald.


  • 1 lb. dried salt cod
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Fine salt and freshly ground black pepper


Step 1

In a medium bowl, cover the cod with 2 quarts of water. Refrigerate for 24–36 hours, changing the water two or three times. 

Step 2

Drain the cod and transfer to a medium pot along with the garlic and bay leaf. Cover with 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium and simmer until the fish flakes easily, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl (discard the bay leaf and garlic; do not discard the water). When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the fish skin, pick out any bones, and use a fork to flake into small pieces. Set aside. 

Step 3

To the cooking water, add the potatoes and enough water to barely cover (if needed) and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium and simmer until soft when pierced with a fork, 10–14 minutes. 

Step 4

Meanwhile, to a large skillet set over medium heat, add the oil and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent (do not brown), about 9 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Step 5

Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley, egg, reserved cod and onions, and salt and black pepper to taste. Divide into 2-tablespoon portions, then use your hands to roll the portions into balls. Shape each ball into a 2-inch-long oval with tapered ends and transfer to a plate. 

Step 6

Wipe out the skillet and return it to the stove. Pour in oil to a depth of 2 inches and turn the heat to medium-high. When it’s hot and shimmering (about 375ºF), working in batches, fry the pastéis, turning occasionally, until puffed and golden brown, 3–4 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain briefly. Serve hot. 

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