How to Make Caribbean Fried (Sautéed) Salt Fish

Shredded fried salt fish with tomatoes and onions in a small bowl

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
266 Calories
8g Fat
10g Carbs
37g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 266
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 11%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 86mg 29%
Sodium 4134mg 180%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 37g
Vitamin C 30mg 149%
Calcium 131mg 10%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 1085mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

There are many ways in which salt fish is prepared in the Caribbean, but the most popular way is fried. We say it's fried, but what we really mean is that it's sautéed with thyme, lots of onions, garlic, tomatoes, and hot peppers.

Salt fish is usually cod or another fresh, meaty white fish that has been salt-cured and dried until all the moisture is extracted from it, in order to preserve it for longer storage. In that way, it's a handy piece of protein to have around; you'll find it for sale at fishmongers and grocery stores most often in half-pound and 1-pound packages.

Excess salt needs to be removed from the fish. During this process, it will also rehydrate. There are a couple of techniques you can use, from soaking overnight to a quick method that takes one hour. Not all fish are the same, so keep that in mind when desalting salt fish. It should taste flavorful but not overly salty—but once the excess salt has been removed, it should still taste fresh.

Our recipe for salt fish goes well with rice, roti, or ground provisions, aka tubular root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yuca, taro, and/or malanga. Salt fish is most popularly eaten with bakes (a fried dough).

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or canola oil

  • 1 cup sliced onions

  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed

  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed

  • 1 cup diced tomatoes

  • Hot pepper, minced, to taste

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • 8 ounces desalted salt fish, broken into small pieces or shredded

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Caribbean fried salt fish recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats

  2. Add oil to a medium skillet and heat over medium heat.

    Oil in a skillet next to other ingredients in bowls

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  3. Add onions and sauté until translucent.

    Sliced onions being stirred with a wooden spoon in the skillet

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  4. Add thyme and cook for 1 minute.

    Thyme added to onions in the skillet

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  5. Add garlic, tomatoes, hot pepper, and salt to taste. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.

    Tomatoes and condiments being stirred into onions with a wooden spoon

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  6. Add shredded salt fish, tossing to mix, and reduce heat to low and let cook for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing every 2 to 3 minutes.

    Shredded fish stirred into tomato and onion mixture with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats

  7. Fold in green onions 1 minute before the dish is finished. Remove from heat and serve hot or at room temperature.

How to Store Salt Fish

Cooked salt fish will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days in a covered container.

Tips

  • Salt fish is also sometimes referred to as bacalao, bacalhau, baccalà, or dried fish.
  • Although cod is most often used in this preparation, salt fish can also sometimes include pollock, snapper, or shark.