salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'

A re-adaptation of a recipe for BOLHINOS DE BACALHAU from Portugal (and perhaps similar versions in Spain and probably Brazil too). I’ve been jumping from country to country in my latest recipe posts. PORTUGAL is geographically not a MEDITERRANEAN country, physically facing the rougher Atlantic Ocean on one side and bordering Spain on the other. Yet its heart, its soul and its ways are all typical of the Mediterranean way-of-life. 

*This is how I see things (and I’m no geographer).

I guess my obsession and/or devotion to Mediterranean food isn’t as much geographic as it is topographic. What I mean is that I draw inspiration from “coastal” approaches to cooking that seem spontaneous and natural, with either fresh and/or preserved foods and flavors, even though these coastal practices & flavors tend to travel more-and-more inland and are adopted by most continental folks.

I was cleaning out the fridge and doing an inventory before the beginning of my mid-May to mid-July work-marathon (which began 4 weeks ago). Half a bag of lovely but visually scary DRIED & SALTED COD was sitting there, all lonely and wrapped up and nowhere in particular to go … !

Being non-Portuguese (through blood ties but not through heart & soul), I may not eat as much seafood as they do and yet my appreciation and fondness for salt cod or “bacalhau is well-known. This is recipe number 6 using this precious ingredient.

Fish croquettes and/or fish cakes and/or fish balls and/or fritters (it’s all a question of shape & size) are no big deal but when done right, they can be light & heavenly (even though their main ingredients originates from the deeper oceans and deep inside the soil and not the soaring blue skies).

There’s a place nearby and down the street  that specializes in these “bolhinos de bacalhau” but last time they were different. Once again, it’s these little differences that attract my attention. 

They were airy & fluffy !

Not heavy, despite of all the potatoes and fish and frying. Normally people just add whole eggs into the mixture, as a binder. This version, at this restaurant, in my neighborhood, just down the street, actually separated the egg yolks from the egg whites and those egg whites were then whipped until frothy like meringues and then incorporated or folded in with the rest of the mixture. You actually had a few air pockets in the fish cakes when you took a bite ! What more can you ask for ?

Sure it takes time to soak the salt cod in water and if you’re being a purist and using the ultra-dry and salted pieces, first soaking then skinning and de-boning (it’s actually the part that takes the longest) and rubbing the fish flakes in a kitchen towel to actually shred the flesh. It will require some effort. It must be done with love. Be patient.

This is why you should make a lot. Just freeze the extras because they’re friendly in the freezer if you dredge them in breadcrumbs first so they don’t stick (even though they’re not made that way traditionally). A few extra additions are not traditional either but it all works perfectly together, the additions of celery, dill & chives, TRUST ME, they’re divine.

TCHAUL, ATÉ LOGO; that’s Portuguese for “BYE, SEE YOU LATER” . . . :)

salt cod fish croquettes - 'bolinhos de bacalhau'


40 fish balls (35 grams each)


  • 500 grams (4 cups) soaked, de-boned, skinned, flaked salt cod (from 750 grams dried salt cod)
  • 750 grams (4 cups) cooked & mashed potatoes
  • 125 grams (1 large) finely grated yellow onion (or use 3 large spring onions)
  • 12,5 grams (1 tbsp) crushed garlic
  • 25 grams (2 tbsp) finely grated celery
  • 115-170 grams (2-3 large) eggs (separated into yolks & whites)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 10 grams (4 tbsp) fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 grams (2 tbsp) fresh dill fronds
  • 2,5 grams (1 tbsp) chopped chives
  • 480 – 720 ml (2-3 cups) whole milk
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) white vinegar
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) whole mixed peppercorns
  • 4 slices lemon rind (from ½ a lemon)
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) lemon zest
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) ground pepper 
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) fine sea salt (if necessary)
  • optional : 135 grams (1 cup) dried breadcrumbs
  • 720 ml-1000 ml (3-4 cups) vegetable oil for frying 


  • soak the dried & salted cod in water for 24 hours (change the water after 12 hours), taste a small piece (yes, it’s safe) and if it’s too salty for you, then change the water again and wait another 12 hours then drain (you can use this water later)
  • place the unpeeled whole potatoes in 2 liters regular water (or as I do, 2 liters of the salty cod water) and 2 tbsp white vinegar, bring to a boil (about 10 minutes) and let boil for another 15-20 minutes until tender, remove, let cool slightly but still warm to the touch, then peel off the skins and use a ricer or potato press to crush them
  • place the salt cod pieces (cut in half or quarters) in 2-3 cups milk and 2-3 cups of water (or enough to cover everything), add 2-3 bay leaves and some peppercorns and some lemon rind, bring to a boil (about 10 minutes before it reaches a boil), then turn off the heat immediately when it begins to boil, cover with a lid and let sit for 5-10 minutes
  • remove the fish from the hot milk & water, let it cool down, then remove the skin and bones carefully while flaking the flesh coarsely with your fingers (rinse your hands often because they become too sticky to separate the flesh from the bones and skin) 
  • place the fish flakes in a towel and rub them together (this is the Portuguese way) or simply pulse it several times in a food processor, remove any extra bones you discover
  • grate the onions and celery very finely, crush the garlic and chop up all the herbs and zest some lemon
  • separate the eggs (start with 2 eggs and add 1 later if necessary), reserve the yolks and beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and 2 drops of white vinegar until frothy and stiff
  • combine the crushed potatoes with the flaked fish and herbs and egg yolks (start with 2 egg yolks then see if you need a third one) until smooth (I used a hand-held mixer), at the end, gently fold in the egg whites (from 2-3 eggs) with a spoon
  • do a frying taste-test with 1 or 2 patties/balls before shaping/forming all of the fish cakes/balls and adjust to your taste (mine were fine and didn’t need any extra salt)
  • chill the mixture for at least 60 minutes before shaping/forming into balls of about 2½ tbsp or 35 grams each (you can make them larger if you wish)
  • coat the fish croquettes/cakes/balls with the breadcrumbs (this is optional but much easier for handling and for freezing because they don’t stick together)
  • note : you can freeze the fish croquettes/cakes/balls on a platter and then transfer to freezer bags and thaw them several hours before frying
  • fry the fish croquettes in hot vegetable oil (or a combination with olive oil) in a deep frying pan or deep-fryer at 165°C-170°C for about 7-8 minutes total (I used a kitchen thermometer because if the oil is too hot, they will burn on the outside and not cook enough on the inside and if it’s not hot enough, the fish croquettes/balls will absorb too much oil while cooking) 
  • serve warm with some lemon slices, mayonnaise or tartare sauce or as I did with my combination tzatziki-tartare sauce that I had created for my fish & chips recipe, called “tartziki-tzartare” sauce, (you can see the recipe here).