Portuguese Salt Cod with Garlic-Pepper Sauce

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.

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

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. Originally published May 10, 2000.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.

Portuguese Fried Salt Cod with Garlic-Pepper Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 20 M
  • Serves 4
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  • For the Garlic-Pepper Sauce (can be easily doubled)


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.

Print RecipeBuy the Saveur Cooks Authentic American cookbook

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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.

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