Mexican Style Salted Cod / Bacalao Mexicano a la Vizcaína

Salted Cod Mexican Style1
Salted cod is another traditional dish that’s very popular during Christmas time. It’s funny, but I actually didn’t care much for this dish growing up. I have vague memories as a kid of the grown ups in the family praising this dish and how exquisite the combination of flavors tasted. Now that I’ve grown up and tried it myself, though, I can see that they were right: this really is an exquisite dish. The image of the cod simmering with the roasted tomatoes, garlic, onions, olives, parsley, and raisins just makes my mouth water. Yes, I know, I’ve used that expression before, but I just can’t help it when I come across a really great recipe like this one.

Vizcaina Style Salted Cod originated in Spain, and was later adapted by Mexican cooks by adding more ingredients. Not only is salted cod a common dish for Christmas Eve Dinner, but the leftovers are used to make sandwiches (tortas) using French rolls the next day. It’ll actually taste better, since the flavors have had time to fully blend together.
The sauce for this recipe is very similar to the one for the Red Snapper Veracruz Style, just with some extra ingredients, like a variety of pickled peppers known as “Gueros” (very similar to banana peppers). I couldn’t find that particular type of pepper, so I used Pepperoncini peppers instead. Depending on where you live, you can also use Hungarian banana peppers or pickled jalapeños.
If you’re going to try this recipe out, make sure to make enough to have some left over, it tastes better the next day!
  • 1 1/2 Salted Cod
  • 2 Lbs. Plum Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup pitted olives
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 Lb new potatoes, cooked and peeled*
  • 4 Red peppers, roasted and cut into strips
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped
  • 6 Pickled Guero peppers  (banana, pepperoncini or jalapeños peppers will work fine)**
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Living outside Mexico, it is not easy to find the “Guero Peppers”, but you can substitute them with a different pepper. These peppers are not too spicy, and if you use pickled jalapenos, make sure to add according to your personal taste.

  • **If you can’t find new potatoes, just cut large potatoes into large cubes.

  • You’ll have to start the day before, since the Salted Cod needs to be rinsed and soaked in water for at least 6-8 hours. You can buy the fish online HERE.

  • Some variations to the sauce include adding one or two Ancho peppers. Other variations include chopped almonds.
Salted Cod Mexican Bacalao 1. Rinse Salted Cod in water for at least 3 times until water comes out clean. As you can see on the top right picture, the water has a lot of salt floating in it. This was the first rinsing. After the 3rd rinse, the water is clear, as shown on the picture at the bottom left. Leave the fish to soak in this water for about 6-8 hours. It will be tender after the soaking time, as you can see on the bottom right picture.
Salted Cod Mexican Bacalao2
2. Rinse and drain the fish again and place in a large stock pot with clean cold water. Gently simmer over a medium-high heat for about 7 minutes until it is tender. Drain fish and set aside, reserving some of the cooking liquid in case your sauce get dry and you need more liquid.
3. While the fish is cooling, place tomatoes on a hot griddle to roast.
4. Roasting the tomatoes will take about 10 minutes. If the fish is already cool enough to handle, shred it finely.
Salted Cod Mexican Bacalao3 5. Place roasted tomatoes into a blender and process until you have a smooth sauce. Strain using a sieve and set aside.
6. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until transparent, about 4 minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the roasted tomato puree and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
Salted Cod Mexican Bacalao4 7. As soon as the tomato sauce starts simmering, add the shredded Salted Cod. Stir and cook until the tomato sauce start simmering again, and, one by one, start slowly adding the raisins, olives, and cappers. Allow the sauce to simmer and the flavors to blend.  Now, add the potatoes and keep simmering and stirring.
Bacalao18 8. Finally, add the roasted red pepper strips, freshly crumbled Mexican oregano, parsley, and pickled “Guero” peppers. Season with pepper and salt to taste. Remember that the fish was already salted, so be careful not to add salt before tasting the sauce. Keep simmering for about 10-15 more minutes or tomato sauce has reduced.
Salted Cod bacalao mexicano
Some people serve this meal with French bread rolls or with white rice. At home, we like to eat it with bread.
¡Buen provecho!


I hope you make it... If you do, please come back to let me know your experience.


  1. If I can not find cod can another fish be substituted?

    1. Hello CaptMike Tracy,
      I'm sure you can, during the summer I like to prepare thsi dish using canned tuna. Specially if I find a Mexican brand of caned tuna in oil.


  2. Hi Mely,
    I made my family's recipe a couple days ago with Bacalao I snuck in from Mexico. Where have you found salted cod in the US?
    Happy 2015!

    1. Hello JRC,
      Some Latin stores carry salted cod during the holidays, but there is a Portuguese Store in town that carries it year around. You can also buy it online in our Amazon Store, here is the link:

  3. Hello Mely,
    Thank you so much for this recipe. I am from Mexico as well and I was really missing this dish during the holidays. So, stumbled upon your site and the cooking began.

    My first try, I did not rinse the cod enough, so it came out way too salty :(

    But... I found out that Trader Joe's carries frozen chunks of cod at $3.99/lb so I tried the recipe again using this and it came out amazing! The salted part was only needed when there was no easy way of keeping food from spoiling, but with freezers everywhere now, this works great and is a lot cheaper.

    My family liked it a lot and with the cheap cod it has actually turned into a dish we cook regularly. (Also... if you pair it with the half-baked bread they sell at TJs you can make the tortas with bread right out of the oven, it is glorious.)

    1. Hello Miguel,

      So glad to know you enjoyed the recipe. We also make it with the Cod sold frozen at trader joe, and also use the same bread sometimes. With the same fish you can make Salpicón de pescado, use in tacos, serve with rice or empanadas.

      Happy cooking!


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