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.

a plate of bacalaitos

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.

You will love the light fish flavor paired with the classic flavors of Puerto Rico thanks to sofrito and sazon seasoning.

If you enjoy these cod fritters, also be sure to try my recipe for arepas de coco and tostones.

bowls o spices, herbs, flour, salt cod and more

Ingredients

Here’s the grocery list for this recipe:

  • salted codfish (see note for using fresh codfish)
  • flour
  • 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
  • pepper
  • oregano
  • canola or vegetable oil

See recipe card for quantities.

bacalaito batter in a bowl

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.

a plate of bacalaitos

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

These codfish fritters are typically served with mayoketchup or a squeeze of lemon juice. I also enjoy them with my cilantro lime sauce or mojo de ajo.

a box of salted cod

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.

a plate of bacalaitos

Variations

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.

Equipment

You will need some kind of caldero, sauté pan or stockpot to fry your bacalaitos in. The higher the walls, the less oil splatter goes all over your kitchen!

I also like using a spider strainer tool or metal tongs to flip & remove the fritters from the oil.

If you like this popular Puerto Rican appetizer, be sure to check out this collection:

a plate of bacalaitos

Storing Leftovers

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.

Buen provecho,

Salima written in cursive
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a plate of bacalaitos

Crispy Fried Bacalaitos (Puerto Rican Codfish Fritters)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Salima Benkhalti
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Snack, Main Dish, Appetizer, Side Dish
  • Method: Fried
  • Cuisine: Puerto Rican, Latin, Spanish

Description

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.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 lb salted codfish (see note for using fresh codfish)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 22 1/2 cups warm water or the broth the cod was boiled in
  • 1 tbsp sofrito (can also be store bought sofrito)
  • 2 tsp sazon (can also be store bought sazon seasoning)
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 cups canola or vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Prep your cod. Rinse off the saltcod before adding to a stockpot and covering with water. Soak for 30 minutes, drain and cover with fresh water. (See note for directions on how to make this using fresh cod).
  2. Cook the cod. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain again, reserving a few cups of the water for your batter if desired.
  3. Flake the fish. Let the fish cool before flaking and removing any bones. 
  4. Make the batter base. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, & water until a runny, pancake-like batter is formed.
  5. Add remaining ingredients. Add the sofrito, sazon, garlic, cilantro, bell pepper, onion, pepper, oregano, and flaked codfish. Mix in until everything is evenly distributed. 
  6. Fry. Heat oil over medium high heat (to 350° F / 176.7° C). Ladel pancake sized spoonfuls of the batter into the oil, making sure to not crowd the pan. Fry for a few minutes on each side, flipping to get golden brown all around. Cook until the fritters are crispy all over. 
  7. Drain & enjoy. Transfer the bacalaitos onto a paper towel lined plate and cool before enjoying with mayoketchup!

Notes

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.

If using fresh cod: 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.