Saltfish Souse and Bakes

Flaky salt cod meets crunchy chopped vegetables and fluffy pan-fried biscuits in this beloved breakfast dish from Grenada.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    1 hour 20 minutes


By Lelani Lewis

Published on February 29, 2024

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In this recipe adapted from her cookbook Code Noir: Afro-Caribbean Stories and Recipes, writer and activist Lelani Lewis offers a taste from her father’s homeland of Grenada, where saltfish souse, a shredded salt cod salad, is often paired with crisp-yet-fluffy fried biscuits called bakes. Lewis’ version, which also features creamy slices of avocado sandwiched between the bakes, was often served at family brunches during her childhood in South London. While assembling these souse and bakes, the complex history of the Caribbean comes into full view, as does the resilience of Grenadians who have turned the foods of their oppression such as saltfish into profoundly beautiful, delicious dishes.

Madame Jeannette is the Surinamese name for a long, fruity yet spicy chile common throughout the Caribbean, where it is also known as Trinadadian pimento chile or Grenada seasoning chile. If you cannot find them in your local Caribbean grocery store, use the more widely available Scotch bonnet chile for a similar effect. 

Adapted from Code Noir: Afro-Caribbean Stories and Recipes (Tra Publishing, February 20, 2024) by Lelani Lewis. Food photography copyright © Remko Kraaijeveld 2023. 


For the bakes:

  • 2¼ cups self-rising flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. fine salt
  • ¾ tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups vegetable oil

For the souse:

  • 5 oz. boneless, skinless dried salt cod
  • 1 Tbsp. virgin (unrefined) coconut oil, melted
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 mini or Persian cucumber, finely chopped
  • ½ medium green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ medium red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ small Madame Jeanette or Scotch bonnet chile (see headnote), finely chopped
  • ½ medium white onion, finely chopped
  • Fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ripe medium avocado, sliced


Step 1

Make the bakes: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using your fingers, work in the butter until the mixture has a crumbly consistency. Add ⅔ cup of cold water and, using your hands, stir the dough until it forms a coherent ball, about 5 minutes.

Step 2

On a lightly floured surface, turn the dough out and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Roll out the dough to a slab about 1 inch thick. Using a floured drinking glass (about 3 inches in diameter), cut out 5 rounds from the dough. Transfer to a plate, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Step 3

Make the souse: To a large pot, add the cod and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 20 minutes, skimming the foam. Using a fine-mesh sieve, drain, then rinse under cold running water. Cut off a small piece of cod and taste it. If the cod is still too salty, fill the pot with fresh water, add the cod, and boil for 5 minutes more. Drain and rinse again, then set aside to cool. Using your fingers, tear the cod into small pieces and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the coconut oil, scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, chile, and onion, then season to taste with salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Step 4

To a deep medium skillet fitted with a deep-fry thermometer, add the oil and turn the heat to medium-high. Using your hand, gently flatten the rounds of dough. When the temperature reads 350°F, fry the rounds, turning once, until golden brown, about 6 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bakes to a paper towel-lined plate.

Step 5

To serve, slice the bakes in half horizontally and fill them with the cod mixture and avocado.

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