Crispy fried bacalaitos are a classic Puerto Rican street food made with a flour-based batter loaded with codfish, peppers, cilantro, and spices. These codfish fritters are known for their circular shape and the epic crunch you'll hear when you bite into one. This recipe has instructions for making bacalaitos using fresh cod or salted codfish.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
If you love Puerto Rican cuisine, you must try bacalaitos. These codfish fritters are commonly enjoyed as street food across the island. They're surprisingly easy to make and so satisfyingly crispy.
Once the cod is boiled & fully cooked, the batter comes together in a matter of minutes. From there, it's poured into hot oil and fried until golden brown and crunchy all around.
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Here's the grocery list for this recipe:
- salted codfish (see note for using fresh codfish)
- baking powder
- 2warm water or the broth the cod was boiled in
- sofrito (can also be store bought sofrito)
- sazon (can also be store bought sazon seasoning)
- garlic, grated
- cilantro, minced
- bell pepper, diced
- yellow or white onion, diced
- canola or vegetable oil
See recipe card for quantities.
Step by Step Instructions
Tip: If using fresh cod, you won't need to soak the cod before boiling. Keep reading for detailed instructions.
If your bacalaitos are too thick: Add a splash of water to your batter to thin it out. This will help produce those deliciously crispy edges.
Using Salted Codfish
While using fresh cod isn't traditional, I have tested this recipe using it and enjoyed the flavor just as much. Plus, the recipe comes together quicker as the fish doesn't need to soak before cooking.
If you don't have salted cod accessible to you and plan to use fresh cod, here are my directions:
- Bring 4-6 cups of water to a boil in a stockpot.
- Add the cod to the water and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until fully cooked through (the fish should no longer be opaque and should reach an internal temperature of 145° F / 62.8° C).
- Note that you might want to add a half teaspoon or two of salt to the batter if using fresh cod, as it isn't as salty as saltcod.
What to Eat it With
Picking The Right Fish
If you're anything like me, chances are this is the first time you've heard of salt cod. I've eaten cod plenty of times, but salt cod is a newer ingredient for me. I was able to find a box at my local fish market.
Salt cod is essentially just salted, preserved cod. This process makes it saltier and a bit tougher than the fresh fish.
While many traditional Puerto Rican recipes use salt cod for this recipe, you can use either to make these. Just know that you might need to use salt free sazon if you use salt cod, to prevent things from getting too salty.
I've also had bacalaitos made with shrimp, salmon, and other kinds of fish! I've found that this batter is the perfect vehicle for most kinds of white fish.
There are many variations of this recipe across the island of Puerto Rico. Different families swear by different ingredients, so it's very easy to find new inspiration every time you try them.
Here are some ideas:
- Roasted red peppers - Use roasted red peppers instead of fresh bell peppers for a more smokey flavor profile.
- Salted cod water or broth - Many recipes use the broth that the cod was boiled in or chicken/veggie broth to make the batter instead of water. This can help to amp up the flavor, if desired! The cod water is also a fun low waste idea.
- Culantro - If culantro is accessible to you, feel free to use that instead of (or in addition to) cilantro. And if you're one of those people with the cilantro-tastes-like-soap gene, feel free to skip the herbs entirely, or use a green onion instead.
- Green onion - Speaking of green onion, you can also use these instead of the yellow/white onion if it's all you've got or if you prefer the flavor.
If you like this popular Puerto Rican appetizer, be sure to check out this collection:
- 5 Ingredient Arepas de Coco (Fried Coconut Bread)
- Empanadillas (fried Puerto Rican turnovers)
- Crispy Chicharrones de Pollo (Puerto Rican Fried Chicken)
- Crispy Puerto Rican-Style Tostones
- Croquetas de Jamón (Ham Croquettes)
- Papas Rellenas (Stuffed Potato Croquettes)
- 30 Minute Sorullos (Puerto Rican Corn Fritters)
- Homemade Alcapurrias (Puerto Rican Fritters)
Like most fried things, bacalaitos are best enjoyed fresh.
If you have leftovers they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, but keep in mind that they won't have the same crispy texture when reheated.