Pastéis de Bacalhau ~ Salt Cod Fritters

These Portuguese salt cod fritters, called pastéis de bacalhau, are made with salt cod (it’s tasty, trust us!), potato, onion, and garlic and are fried for a traditional Portuguese treat.

Portuguese Salt Cod Fritters

Here is a great Portuguese favourite. Although their real origin is the north, cod cakes became so popular that they were adopted as a true “national specialty.” Cod cakes are ideal fare for snacks (hot or cold) and are featured at every Portuguese function, from the most sophisticated to the humblest. If there is anything really ingrained in the Portuguese palate, loved by everyone, this is it. Snobs may be somewhat derogatory about cod cakes, afraid of admitting that they too love this “poor-man’s dish,” but do not believe them. They probably eat them all the same, when nobody is looking. Cod cakes are sold at delicatessens, patisseries, roadside cafés, tavernas—everywhere in Portugal.–Edite Vieira

LC Something Fishy? Note

If you’re just not down with salted cod, or for some reason can’t find it, the author notes that these cod cakes are also quite nice made with fresh cod. Just saying….

Pastéis de Bacalhau | Salt Cod Fritters

  • Quick Glance
  • (10)
  • 1 H
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes 24 to 30 hors d'oeuvres
Print RecipeBuy the The Taste of Portugal cookbook

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Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer



Boil the potatoes (preferably in their skins, so the potatoes don’t absorb water). Peel the potatoes and mash or sieve them. Set aside.

Meantime, simmer the cod in enough boiling water to cover until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the cod, discard the skin and bones, and flake the fish as much as you can with your fingers or a fork to reduce it to threads. (The proper way of doing this is to place the flaked cod inside a clean cloth, fold it and squeeze and pound the contents of the cloth with your fists. In this way you will have mashed cod.)

Mix the cod with the mashed potatoes and add the eggs, 1 by 1, and then the onion and parsley. Taste and, if desired, season with salt. You may not need to add any, as the cod itself retains quite a lot of saltiness, in spite of being soaked and boiled. The mixture should be quite stiff, enabling a spoon to stand up in it. If you find it excessively dry, add one or two tablespoons of milk. Allow this to cool completely before deep frying.

With two tablespoons, shape the fishcakes like large eggs and place in the hot oil (370°F/190°C), turning them three or four times to get nicely browned all over. When cooked, lift them with a big fork or slotted spoon and place them on kitchen paper, to absorb excess fat. Go on molding and frying until you use up the mixture.

Print RecipeBuy the The Taste of Portugal cookbook

Want it? Click it.


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  1. 5 stars
    I have been craving these little goodies since my trip to Portugal. Finally made them yesterday. I followed the recipe to a T. Absolutely perfect! The recipe says it makes 24-30 appetizers. I used teaspoons, not a tablespoons to form them and ended up with only 18. Very delicious 18. Thank you!

  2. Another question.. you said that fresh cod can also be used. Do you cook the cod first?? How would I go about substituting?

  3. I am planning to make these for my nieces wedding, her husband to be is Portuguese. Can I make them ahead of time? How should I store them/reheat or serve room temp? Is there a popular sauce to serve with them?

    1. Kris, yes, you can make them ahead of time. Once they’re cool, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. To reheat them, warm them in a 325°F oven until hot. Traditionally, they’re not served with any sauce, but I have often served one of my milk mayonnaises.

  4. Just made the first batch in the air fryer…made them quite small and I think we cooked them for too long as they were a bit brown but tasted fine. Fried the onion and garlic first.

    I Will post a picture when we do the next batch – only did 4 the first time and they went before you could say boo!🙂

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