Portuguese Christmas Eve Cod

For Christmas Eve supper, make plenty of this favorite easy-to-make dish.–Edite Vieira

Portuguese Christmas Eve Cod Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 pounds salt cod, cut into 6 or 8 fillets
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, boiled in their skins and peeled while still hot
  • 1 large head cabbage, cut into 8 pieces, blanched until just tender
  • 12 hard-boiled eggs, sliced in half
  • For the sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, per person
  • 1 clove garlic, per person, minced
  • 1 teaspoon wine vinegar, per person (or less to taste)


  • 1. Rinse the cod under cold running water to remove any surface salt. Place the fish pieces in a large nonreactive pot, cover with water and refrigerate (covered) for 24 hours, changing the water several times.
  • 2. Pour off the water, and refill with enough boiling water to cover the fish by several inches. Cover the pan with a heavy dishtowel and leave the cod to soak in the hot water for 30 minutes. (If the fish isn’t cooked fully, simmer gently until finished.) Drain the cod, and remove any bits of skin or bone.
  • 3. To make the sauce, bring the oil and garlic to a boil in a small saucepan, remove from the heat, add the vinegar, beat well and serve in a sauceboat.


  • All these items must be cooked at the last minute, just before serving, so as to be brought to the table at their best. They are served on big platters, separately.
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  1. Landed here after searching for potato recipes. Of course I HAD to read this traditional meal and if anyone out there (especially non-portuguese or portuguese descent) attempts to try this, something we always do which really adds a nice taste to this dish is mince the garlic real small, add it to each person’s plate, then add the olive oil and about a teaspoon of sweet paprika. We mixed it all well prior to adding the cod, potatoes, egg, cabbage, etc.

    1. Sofia, thanks for the suggestion. I’ve never had it that way, but I certainly know what I’m going to do the next time I make this!

  2. My best friend since 7th grade (we are now 53 and still best friends) is from Brazil. Her father from Lisbon, Portugal, her Mother from Sao Paulo. I have fond memories of having Christmas Eve dinner at their home many, many times. They served this dish and it was delicious!!! I cannot seem to get it to taste exactly like theirs. My friend tells me the secret is in the salted cod. Her father put garlic on the plate as well. Yummy!!

    1. Hello, Lisa. It’s amazing what power food has to poke our memories, isn’t it?

      I, too, have had this dish many times on Christmas Eve. It’s simply and lovely.

      About not being able to get the same taste, my guess is, like most cooks, her mother had her own way with the dish and put in something of her own. In my family, there are some dishes all my aunts and my mother make, and we can tell exactly who cooked which version because of the taste or texture. Is your friend’s mom still alive?

  3. For the sauce, just use extra-virgin olive oil and white wine vinager. If you like, you can add some thin slices garlic. But don’t heat the sauce. Just pour directly from the bottle!

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