Looking for an authentic bacalhau à Brás recipe? This one comes straight from the best Portuguese cook I know. Try it to see why this is the ultimate Portuguese comfort food!
Every culture has its own iconic dishes that crop up on every menu and list of must-try foods. Chances are, at least one of them is hearty, hot, and best served family-style—in other words, comfort food. Portugal is no exception, and bacalhau à Brás is the quintessential example.
What is bacalhau à Brás?
To answer that question, let's start with bacalhau. This is the Portuguese word for salt cod, which has been a staple of the country's cuisine for decades. Although it's not produced locally, it's one of the most iconic foods throughout Portugal, and features heavily in traditional dishes.
See also: Spanish salt cod croquettes recipe
While there are hundreds of ways to prepare bacalhau, one of the most famous—and among my personal favorites—is bacalhau à Brás. It's a rich, creamy concoction that I think of as the Portuguese version of mac and cheese. This has less to do with its ingredients and more to do with the feeling it inspires; eating it feels like receiving a warm hug. It's the kind of thing I would expect my mom to make for me (if she were Portuguese).
So what's actually in it?
In addition to shredded salt cod (rehydrated, of course), bacalhau à Brás is a simple combination of eggs, olives, onion, garlic, and crispy potato sticks. Sound weird? It isn't. These seemingly random ingredients come together to form a perfectly salty, soft, spoonable mixture that's surprisingly addictive. It's hard to stop once you've started, but be careful—this is no light lunch.
How do you make bacalhau à Brás?
Like all the best comfort foods, bacalhau à Brás is fairly easy to make. Basically, you add all the ingredients to a big pot and stir them together. The trickiest part is making sure that the egg cooks to just the right point: not raw, but not overcooked either. Once it's done, top it with sprigs of fresh parsley and olives to add some color to an otherwise monochromatic meal.
Tip: You can try the bacalhau à Brás pictured above on a food tour in Lisbon!
This particular recipe comes from the kitchen of 33 Hostel in Ferrel, Portugal, where I had the pleasure of working this summer. Maura Rolo is the master chef behind it, and she was nice enough to let me in on the secrets of her tried-and-true bacalhau à Brás recipe. Make it yourself to see what real Portuguese home cooking is meant to taste like!
You might also like: Maura's caldo verde recipe
An authentic and easy bacalhau à Brás recipe
Maura's Best Bacalhau à Brás Recipe
- 500 g 18 oz dried salt cod
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 400 g 14 oz crispy potato sticks
- 8 eggs
- 200 g 7 oz black olives
- Olive oil to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley to taste
- Cut the salt cod into large chunks and place in a glass bowl of water, then cover with plastic wrap.
- Place the bowl in the fridge and soak the cod for 24-48 hours. The longer it soaks, the less salty it will be.
- Once it's done soaking, shred the rehydrated cod into small pieces with your hands.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the cod, lower the heat, and simmer until it's cooked through.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Chop the onion and garlic finely and add to the pan.
- Once the onion and garlic are fragrant and golden, add the cod and cook until it absorbs the oil.
- Turn the heat down to low, add the potato sticks and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs lightly.
- Add the eggs to the pan gradually, stirring as you go.
- Continue stirring as the egg cooks, and remove from the heat before it solidifies completely (it should be slightly runny but not totally raw).
- Add salt and pepper to taste—remember, the cod and potato sticks already have a lot of salt!
- Transfer to a clay or ceramic dish and top with olives and parsley to serve.