This recipe for Portuguese fried salt cod with garlic-pepper sauce can be traced back to the Azorean Islands by way of the Portuguese-American community in Fall River and New Bedford, Massachusetts. It’s traditionally set out on the table along with lightly sauteed potatoes and ice-cold Vinho Verde, perhaps Portugal’s most well-known white wine.Renee Schettler Rossi

How To Buy Salt Cod and Pimenta Moída Note

The editors at Saveur were kind enough to impart a few words to the wise in terms of purchasing ingredients for this Portuguese classic. Here’s what they had to say:

Buy salt cod cut from the largest pieces possible and look for a supple texture, not a firm, pressed one; it should be white to grayish white in color, not yellow. Boxed salt cod is acceptable, but unboxed is better. Most Hispanic grocers and fish markets carry salt cod.

Pimenta Moída is a Portuguese fermented ground red pepper paste and is available at Portuguese markets and some Hispanic grocers. My favorite is Portugalia Market in Fall River, MA, which has mail order.

Plate of fried salt cod in a garlic-pepper sauce, on top are pepper flakes and sliced garlic cloves

Portuguese Salt Cod with Garlic-Pepper Sauce

5 from 1 vote
This Portuguese fried salt cod is served with a garlic and red pepper sauce made with pimenta moida. It’s a traditional Portuguese dish, a specialty of the Azores. One taste and you’ll understand why it’s a classic.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories508 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 1 pound salt cod, soaked for 24 hours
  • 1 to 2 cups flour
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

For the Garlic-Pepper Sauce (can be easily doubled)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon pimenta moída, or more to taste


  • In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, parsley, garlic, cayenne, and pimenta moída and mix thoroughly. Set aside to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Put the flour in a shallow bowl. Drain the cod, pat it dry, and then dredge it in the flour, shaking off any excess.
  • Pour the vegetable oil into a large skillet to a depth of about 1 1/2 inches and heat it over medium-high heat. Fry the cod, turning once, until golden brown, about 9 minutes. Remove the fish from pan, drain it on paper towels, and then transfer it to a large platter. Serve warm with garlic-pepper sauce drizzled over the top.
Saveur Cooks authentic American Cookbook

Adapted From

Saveur Cooks Authentic American

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 508 kcalCarbohydrates: 24 gProtein: 75 gFat: 10 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gCholesterol: 172 mgSodium: 7974 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 0.1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 1998 Saveur Magazine. Photo © 1998 Erik Rank. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I grew up with this dish, but I must say, this recipe is the very best I have ever made or tried. I served it over oven-baked fries and the taste was absolutely fantastic. The cod was beautifully crisp and the sauce added just the right amount of spice and moisture. This is a recipe I will make again and again.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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