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Bacalao, salted dried codfish, is the defining ingredient in traditional Puerto Rican fish stew, but salt cod requires overnight soaking and several rinses in cool water before it can be used, so we opt for fresh fish in this quick version. Serve with crusty rolls to soak up the juices.

EatingWell Magazine, September/October 2007; updated August 2022


Credit: Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Phoebe Hauser

Recipe Summary

45 mins

What Is Bacalao?

Bacalao is the Spanish name for salted, dried codfish. Salted dried codfish is used in many cuisines ranging from the Caribbean up through northern Europe. The salt, coupled with the drying process, helps to preserve the fish and extend its shelf life. Bacalao is often featured in stews like this Puerto Rican fish stew. Here, we swap in fresh cod for two reasons. First, it helps cut down on prep time as bacalao requires overnight soaking to release some of the salt. Second, using fresh cod helps reduce the overall amount of sodium in the dish.

Additional reporting by Hilary Meyer


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

  • Add fish, tomatoes and their juices, chile pepper, cilantro, olives, capers, oregano and salt; stir to combine. Add up to 1/2 cup water if the mixture seems dry. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with avocado (if using).


Opt for firmer hook-and-line-caught haddock or U.S.-farmed tilapia. Cod also works, but will be more flaky. For more information about sustainable seafood visit Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch at seafoodwatch.org.

Nutrition Facts

1 cup
189 calories; protein 20.2g; carbohydrates 8.5g; dietary fiber 2.4g; sugars 3.8g; fat 8.3g; saturated fat 1.2g; cholesterol 61.2mg; vitamin a iu 704.1IU; vitamin c 43.6mg; folate 31.3mcg; calcium 66.9mg; iron 1.2mg; magnesium 42.5mg; potassium 616.5mg; sodium 758.3mg; thiamin 0.6mg.

1 vegetable, 3 lean meat