Bacalao is one of the most important ingredients in Basque cooking. In this recipe the cod is gently fried and then briefly simmered in the capsicum and tomato sauce. Serve as a part of a shared meal.






Skill level

Average: 2.8 (50 votes)


  • 1 large piece of bacalao (dried salt cod)(see Note)
  • plain flour
  • olive oil, for frying


  • 4 capsicums, red or green
  • olive oil
  • 4 large onions, diced
  • 2 x 400 g cans peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • salt
  • sugar
  • chilli or smoked Spanish paprika (optional)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soaking time: 24 hours

Cut the fish into pieces, about 6 x 8cm.

Place in a large bowl and cover with water. Rinse off the excess salt and change the water. Repeat this a couple of times then leave the fish covered with water and refrigerated for at least 24 hours, changing the water every two or three hours as the salt dissolves. After about a day, the water should run clear and the fish will be plump and sweet for the sauce.

To make the sauce (see Note). Preheat oven to 180ºC. Place capsicums on a baking tray and roast until soft and the skin softens. Remove the skin and seeds and cut the flesh into long, fine strips.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and fry the onions until soft. Add the capsicums and tomatoes and simmer with a little salt and sugar for about 30 minutes. Add chilli or paprika if desired.

Dry the pieces of bacalao and roll each piece in a little plain flour. Pan fry lightly in a little olive oil and drain.

Add the bacalao to a baking dish or large pan, cover with the tomato and capsicum sauce and bake for about 15 minutes. Alternatively, place on a medium flame and simmer until the sauce has reduced slightly (about 10 minutes).


You can buy bacalao at Spanish, Portuguese or Italian delis. (It’s known as bacalhau in Portuguese and baccala in Italian).
This sauce is similar to the Biscay or viscayana style but without using paprika.