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Sep 10, 2012 11:53 AM

Bacalao soaking time question

Hey there. I'm going to make a fantastic soup with mixed beans, bacalao, mixed dried chilis roasted, soaked, blended and strained, tomatoes, and homemade veggie broth. The bacalao part was spontaneous as I was looking for something else the store was out of.

So, I saw some packages of bacalao saying to soak for 24 hours, some for 6-8. I spoke to the manager who is Dominican, and he said they don't even soak it at all for soup, just rinse it off. I figured I'd better soak it some, and while doing so, my online searches seem to be unanimous to soak it for 24 hours, even for soup -- even up to 3 days. I did see one Food Network guy saying to boil it for 10 minutes and drain and it's good to go.

Ideally I'd make this soup today, but I don't want to ruin all my other hard done preparation. So considering that I'm making soup in which the fish would be simmered for 1.5 hours, do I still need to soak it for 24 hours first with changes of water? Would it help to boil it or not? I've heard somehting about soaking salty things in milk, but maybe I'm dreaming.

So what do we know about using bacalao in soup? (It's filets, not whole) I would think the salt would just infuse into the unsalted broth, but Laylita's blog says it could cause bitterness. Thanks so much.

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  1. I assume that you are using the Portuguese word for dried cod fish. I'm more familiar with the Italian word 'baccala', and I've heard that Italians often soak the dried cod for more than 24 hours with several changes of water before using it as an ingredient in any dish. Some people even soak it in milk to get rid of the salt.

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    1. Is it the cod in the wooden boxes or is it the really hard kind that is sold by the piece? The wooden box kind is less salty than the hard kind and takes less soaking.

      1. I would suggest cutting off a piece, rinsing it well and then cooking in boiling water. If the result is too salt, then you'll need to go for a longer soaking time...I usually soak mine overnight with water changes for cod cakes.

        1. When you indicated that the shopkeeper was Dominican it makes me think that the Bacalao you purchased was the type popular with the Caribbean Latins which is not Cod but more likely Pollack and is typically wetter and softer but less salty.
          Read the package and if it is indeed the type I indicated it would need to soak less since the salt curing is different from the Canadian or Norwegian cured salt Cod.
          I would soak it at least for a day and change the water a couple times.
          Good Luck.

          1 Reply
          1. Thanks so far. I've been soaking it for 4 hours with 2 changes of water already. The water doesn't seem especxally salty now, but I don't want to rush it. It was sold in a plastic bag and was very salty on the outside, not the wooden box. I might try that test escondido, thanks.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Ianto2000

              OK, so I soaked the fish for maybe 5 hours, changing the water 5 times. I then boiled it in plain water twice while I started sauting the soup veggies and then cooking the soup. The fish was not especially salty after those 2 boilings, in fact I wish I would have boiled it only once. Everything is cooking now and looks great so far. 24 hours soaking seems to be an exaggeration for using bacalao in this manner.

              1. re: Ianto2000

                Yes the boiling will do it in. I only boil salt cod if I'm rushed for time and the preparation requires a smaller morsel like a bunjol or a bacalao con natas.

                1. re: Duppie

                  Yes the boiling made it fall quite apart, though that's OK for the soup. I realized it wasn't nearly enough though and got 2 more packs today, soaking from morning til late dinner time, then in in goes. Realized I won't be cooking it for hours in the soup either, duh. Well again the shopkeeper seemed to think that was OK, lol, so. Couldn't find any hits on bunjol, curious, do you have a link?

                  1. re: Ianto2000

                    So sorry my spelling was off . Google Salt fish buljol, or go to and you will find the recipe.
                    In a nut shell it's a breakfast salad made with salted cod that is very popular in the Islands and one of my favorite ways to get the day started.

                    PS:The one thing missing from Chris's recipe is 1 finely chopped scotch bonnet or habanero pepper.

                    1. re: Duppie

                      I love! Made some very decent red pea soup and ground provision soup (I think he calls it something else.) Can't make decent jerk chicken under a broiler to save my life, darnit. The buljol looks good.

                      1. re: Ianto2000

                        Yes Chris is a good Trini cook out of Canada, check out Felix at Simply Trini Cooking, He's still on the island and has some very traditional recipes.
                        Also peruse the recent Jerk thread on the home cooking board for some hints.

                        Bacalao in the Caribbean was integrated into the cuisine of Indian,English,Lebanese,Chinese,African cultures and is a beloved staple with many excellent dishes represented.