Bacalhau: where to eat the best salt cod dishes in Lisbon
Here in Portugal, in cod we trust.
Even though cod is not a fish that was ever found on the Portuguese coastline, which happens to indeed be rich in other species, no one can deny that this is one of the quintessential ingredients of Portuguese gastronomy. The history of how cod became popular in Portugal is rich and intrinsically connected with the Portuguese maritime explorations.
But today we’re in the mood of exploring with our taste buds! Once you know that bacalhau is one of those ingredients that you ought to taste in Lisbon to get acquainted with the local cuisine, the next step would be to narrow down one of the 365 dishes that are said to exist in our country. Don’t get overwhelmed if you don’t know where to start. We are about to introduce you to the best salt cod dishes and where you can try them in Lisbon.
From old-time traditional recipes to contemporary interpretations and even fine-dining recipes, these are some of the must-try salted cod dishes in Lisbon:
Traditional Portuguese cod dishes: appetizers and main meals
Portugal consumes one fifth of the total cod that is fished around the world. Not only do we do so mostly in the form of salt-cured cod, we end up as well preparing the fish using traditional recipes that have been around for a long time. These are some of the most iconic traditional bacalhau dishes from Portugal, which include codfish snacks, appetizers and hearty hot meals:
Pastel de bacalhau
Pastéis (plural for pastel) de bacalhau, known in the northern parts of Portugal as bolinhos de bacalhau, are the most frequent form of salted cod fritters you’ll find a little all over the country. You can see these egg-shaped cakes on the counters of pastelarias, our go-to establishments for coffee and a simple bite, as snacks in taverns, as appetizers in all ranges of restaurants and, even in specialized stores which have their own interpretation of one of the most widely spread cod recipes, like the tourist favorite Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau who have popularized the fritters with a filling of oozing sheep cheese from Serra da Estrela.
These salt cod fritters are made with a batter rich in shredded cod, mashed potato, bound together with eggs, and seasoned with parsley for a touch of freshness. They are commonly eaten hot out of the frying pan when served on a plate with side dishes like tomato rice and salad for the sake of a complete meal, or cold as a snack any time of the day. Eating a savory pastel de bacalhau with a coffee to start your day is not unheard of in Lisbon.
🐟 Taste a traditional pastel de bacalhau at: A Licorista
📍Rua dos Sapateiros 218, 1100-587 Lisbon
🐟 And compare with the most contemporary cheese version introduced in recent years by: Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau
📍Several locations: www.pasteldebacalhau.pt/en/where-to-find-us
Besides pastéis de bacalhau, the repertoire of Portuguese cod fritters includes other specialities like pataniscas. Just like pastéis, these can be eaten during main meals or a snack, but instead of being made with potatoes, the batter for pataniscas is made with flour. These flat cod fritters are then not as creamy but their consistency turns out to be lovely tucked inside a bread roll. Having a patanisca sandwich is a Lisbon form of art that not many tourists are aware of and that sadly seems to be disappearing. Do your bit to preserve this delicious tradition and order a sandes de patanisca and a serving of red wine poured inside a ceramic mug at A Merendinha do Arco.
🐟Chef Marlene Vieira’s pataniscas have been highlighted as the best in Lisbon: Food Corner Marlene Vieira
📍Time Out Market, Av. 24 de Julho, 1200-479 Lisbon
🐟But to keep it traditional, you can also taste them with a fork and knife or inside some bread at: A Merendinha do Arco
📍Rua dos Sapateiros 230, 1100-581 Lisbon
Meia desfeita de bacalhau
A typical Lisbon recipe, more specifically from the neighborhood of Mouraria, meia desfeita de bacalhau is a versatile dish that can be eaten both hot or cold. It brings together a mix of shredded cod, chopped hard boiled eggs, chickpeas, and plenty of sauteed onions and garlic, responsible for bringing the ingredients together. Fresh parsley and a tangy seasoning that besides olive oil also includes vinegar, add freshness to this dish that is sometimes seen as a salad, a petisco, or that can end up being a fairly robust main meal.
🐟Listriglo is regarded as one of the best places to eat meia desfeita de bacalhau in Lisbon!
📍Av. Afonso III 69A, 1900-041 Lisbon
Bacalhau à Brás
Arguably the most iconic salted codfish from Lisbon, the recipe for bacalhau Brás style was developed in the typical neighborhood of Bairro Alto. Brás, which sometimes also appears written as Braz, was supposedly the name of the cook who turned a mix of shredded cod, matchstick fried potatoes, lots of onions and beaten eggs into one of Portugal’s favorite ways of eating cod. Bacalhau à Brás is an easy introduction for those who haven’t had the chance to explore salted cod yet. This cured fish can admittedly represent an overwhelming experience, both flavor and texture wise, due to its intensity on the palate and, often, stringy feel on the mouth. But smoothen out by the starch of fried potatoes, creamy eggs and a finishing touch of chopped fresh parsley on top, bacalhau à Brás is a lovely combination that is usually accepted very positively for first-timers. You will see this dish mentioned in the menu of many Lisbon restaurants, but for an exceptional bacalhau à Brás we recommend visiting Laurentina.
The self-entitled “king of bacalhau” indeed does a great job at cooking this dish, but many other cod dishes too! So if you’re in the mood to sample a good variety of cod and have a company that justifies ordering several dishes, we would definitely recommend paying a visit to Laurentina and the salty kingdom of bacalhau. If you’d like to recreate this dish at home, we share the recipe for bacalhau à Brás with you here!
🐟 Try it at: Laurentina – O Rei do Bacalhau
📍Av. Conde Valbom 71A, 1050-067 Lisbon
Bacalhau à lagareiro
If there is one ingredient that the Portuguese do enjoy more than bacalhau, that is olive oil. But when you mix the salted cod and Portugal’s edible gold, you have one of the most well-established dishes that makes appearances all year long, from regular week-day lunches to celebratory dinners and, in the case of some families, even for Christmas eve supper. Lagareiro refers to the Portuguese word for olive oil maker, so this dish represents the way a lagareiro would normally cook salted cod: roasted and with lots of olive oil to make it moist and luscious. The olive oil is usually infused with plenty of garlic, which is also soaked by the slightly mashed skin-on roasted potatoes served with it, which do a great job at soaking up all the flavors.
🐟 O Poleiro serves delicious bacalhau à lagareiro and they certainly do not skimp on the olive oil!
📍Rua de Entrecampos 30 – A, 1700-158 Lisbon
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá
It was the end of the 19th Century when Chef Gomes de Sá created the dish which bears his name until today. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá consists of a casserole with similarities to bacalhau à Zé do Pipo mentioned next. In this recipe, you’ll find slivers of desalted cod poached in milk, baked in the oven with potatoes, onions, garlic and a generous amount of olive oil. This is a dish that features heavily in Portuguese home cooking, great to feed a family, warm up bellies and hearts.
🐟Feel at home at Solar dos Presuntos, ordering bacalhau à Gomes de Sá
📍Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 150, 1150-269 Lisbon
Bacalhau à Zé do Pipo
When we think of oven-baked layers of goodness in Portugal, we don’t think of dishes such as lasagna. Instead, we fantasize with bacalhau à Zé do Pipo, that is, codfish cooked in Zé do Pipo’s style, its very own creator. Originally from the northern part of Portugal, from the city of Porto, bacalhau à Zé do Pipo is one of those recipes that while being regarded as traditional, is fairly recent in its history, just dating to the 1960s. After winning a nationwide gastronomic contest, the recipe of cod that was super local started being adopted a little all over the country, until it eventually became the staple that it is today. Bacalhau à Zé do Pipo brings together cod shreds previously poached in milk for a smooth effect, mashed potatoes, onions and a top layer of mayonnaise, which creates a crust once taken to gratin in the oven. Portuguese comfort food at its best!
🐟To eat a straightforward traditional bacalhau à Zé do Pipo, visit: João do Grão
📍Rua dos Correeiros 222, 1100-422 Lisbon
🐟For a reinvented bacalhau à Zé do Pipo (as pictured above), by Chef Mateus Freire, Faz Frio is the place to go!
📍Rua Dom Pedro V 96, 1250-092 Lisbon
Bacalhau com grão
Last but not least, we ought to highlight one of Lisbon’s cod institutions, Zé da Mouraria, and its iconic dish of cod with chickpeas. While cod with chickpeas, known in Portuguese as bacalhau com grão is a common salted cod dish at home and in many restaurants, the one that Zé da Mouraria serves at its two locations in Mouraria and Campo Mártires da Pátria, is unparalleled: Not only the fish in itself is of exceptional quality and great flavor, and portions are something to write home about… or even take home! Because, unless you come with company, you certainly won’t be able to finish a portion by yourself. Zé da Mouraria is a tribute to traditional Portuguese food, not only being faithful to the flavors of the sea, olive oil and garlic, but also to the principle we are typically taught that says a guest to your home (or restaurant) should never ever leave feeling empty (read this as he/she should leave bursting). Portions aside, visiting Zé da Mouraria to share a dish of grilled cod with simple but nicely seasoned potatoes and chickpeas is certainly an experience worth living when you are in Lisbon.
🐟Feast at: Zé da Mouraria
📍Zé da Mouraria: Rua João do Outeiro 24, 1100-292 Lisbon
📍Zé da Mouraria II: Rua Gomes Freire 60 62, 1150-175 Lisbon
Salted cod in contemporary and fine-dining Portuguese cuisine
Even though oven-baked cod recipes such as bacalhau com natas or bacalhau espiritual are seen as representative of the Portuguese kitchen, the truth is that these are more contemporary than casseroles or simple grilled dishes, as cream is not an ingredient that was commonly used in Portugal during the old days. The introduction of dairy, for example, allows us to identify that a recipe is more modern. Besides these more recent yet well-established recipes which we can refer to as typical, salted bacalhau has made its way to all variants of Portuguese cuisine. That is one of the beautiful things about this ingredient: once considered to be food of the lower classes or those residing away from the Portuguese coastline, bacalhau is now well-loved by all sorts of people and prepared in such a wide variety of gastronomic contexts. It’s featured in simple fritters in tascas, in homely recipes from old and newer times, as well as in fine-dining dishes developed by some of Portugal’s most prominent chefs.
Bacalhau com natas
Literally translating as cod with cream, bacalhau com natas can be, even more than bacalhau à Brás, a mouth-watering initiation of salted cod in Portugal. This easy to love recipe features shredded cod cooked au gratin in the oven with fried potatoes and onions, all brought together by the velvety powers of cream. The origin of bacalhau com natas dates back to the 1930s, when a chef named João Ribeiro developed a similar dish. Today, you’ll find different approaches to bacalhau com natas, sometimes even featuring a top layer of cheese that melts when you bake the dish in the oven, thus making it even more appealing for those who may not be particularly into the pronounced taste of bacalhau… or who may not know yet how much they’ll end up loving it after all!
If you like bacalhau com natas, keep an eye out for bacalhau espiritual. Instead of potatoes, the starch of this supposedly spiritual recipe is brought together by pulled apart day-old bread that is soaked in milk to make it soft, thus not needing the added cream. Vegetables such as shredded carrots and, sometimes, even spinach, can make an appearance in bacalhau espiritual, which is a dish that is rarely a part of Lisbon restaurant’s permanent menus, but that is often featured as a recommendation in establishments that focus on daily specials.
🐟 Sample bacalhau com natas at: Salsa e Coentros
📍Rua Cel. Marques Leitão 12, 1700-337 Lisbon
You wouldn’t think the word nuggets and high cooking would go in the same sentence, but when Chef José Avillez is also mentioned, it all somehow starts making sense. Avillez is considered one of Portugal’s greatest contemporary chefs, so we trust he can turn something as vapid as nuggets into a truly scrumptious bite. Cantinho do Avillez, one of Chef Avillez’s many restaurants, serves contemporary Portuguese cuisine, influenced by the chef’s very own international travels. These salted cod nuggets, served with garlic and chives mayonnaise, are a beautifully simple way to present Portugal’s favorite fish in a shape that many international diners are likely to find appealing. For locals, the name might be a turn off, but those who go beyond stereotypes and do end up ordering Cantinho do Avillez’s bacalhau nuggets, tend to be positively surprised by yet another cod fritter, that hits the spot but has little to do with our usual cod cakes.
🐟There’s only one place where to eat these salted cod nuggets: Cantinho do Avillez
📍But there are many locations:
Calçada de bacalhau
When you book yourself for dinner at two-Michelin-starred ALMA in Lisbon, you’ll be able to taste Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa interpretation of the classic bacalhau à Brás. Being at the forefront of contemporary and elevated Portuguese cuisine, together with peers such as Chef Avillez highlighted above, you would naturally expect great creativity to be put into each plate. Calçada de bacalhau is a stellar dish where the visual impact serves as a trailer for a delightful experience on the palate. Calçada de bacalhau aims at representing the typical Portuguese cobblestone paths, here meant to be explored as you take bites of cod and squid ink between your lips. This picturesque path leads the way to the creamiest version of bacalhau à Brás you will probably ever taste, made with more yolks than full eggs. A quintessential Portuguese dish here reinvented in an artistic way, which goes beyond an elegant presentation and actually does end up having full impact flavor and textures wise.
🐟Pamper your taste buds at: ALMA
📍Rua Anchieta 15, 1200-224 Lisbon
Good cod restaurants in Lisbon
Apart from the dishes and restaurants suggested here, there are many other traditional and signature bacalhau dishes to be tasted all over Lisbon. If you’re not looking to eat a specific dish, or you’d like to explore beyond the recommendations above, these are some more restaurants in Lisbon worth visiting for the sake of tasting bacalhau recipes:
A Casa do Bacalhau
📍Rua do Grilo 54, 1900-706 Lisbon
Clube do Bacalhau
📍Tv. Cotovelo 12, 1200-182 Lisbon
📍Rua Pimenta 45, 1900-254 Lisbon
Solar do Bacalhau
📍Rua do Jardim do Regedor 30, 1150-193 Lisbon
Best stores to buy salted cod in Lisbon
Bacalhau can be found virtually anywhere in the country. The unmistakable scent you’ll notice in the air when you enter a regular Portuguese supermarket will announce the section dedicated to salt-cured cod. But if you’re open to the idea of purchasing some high-quality bacalhau to take home for your very own cooking experiences, we recommend going to a shop where the staff can guide you, explain the particularities of the different ranges on sale, and even be able to pack your fish pieces with vacuum-seal so that your entire luggage doesn’t end up smelling like pungent bacalhau.
These are some of the best stores in Lisbon to purchase salted cod:
📍Rua Dom Antão De Almada 1 C/D, 1100-197 Lisbon
Pérola do Arsenal
📍Rua do Arsenal 94, 1100-040 Lisbon
Rei do Bacalhau
(not to be mistaken with Laurentina – O Rei do Bacalhau, the restaurant mentioned above)
📍Rua do Arsenal 56, 1100-040 Lisbon
We’d love to know what you think about Portuguese salted cod recipes. Have you ever tasted one of these dishes or visited the restaurants we recommend above? Let us know how you liked them! We’re always happy to hear from you via Instagram or Facebook – Please tag us @tasteoflisboa or #tasteoflisboa
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