Bacalao a la Vizcaína is a traditional Spanish cod dish in a super flavorful pepper and onion sauce.
It is believed that this dish originated because of a mistake made by two businessmen in Vizcaya. They were experts in the fur trade but ended up importing cod. Instead of ordering 100 cod, they received more than a million.
During the Carlist Wars, salted cod became a staple in Bilbao and the rest of the Basque Country, including Vizcaya, where this dish originated.
Which region of Spain is it typical? When is it typical to have it?
Cod is a popular fish in Northern Spain, and you will find a wide variety of dishes that use cod. Bacalao a la Vizcaina is one of the most traditional recipes in the Basque country, but you can also eat this dish in many other parts of Spain.
Simple but delicious, this recipe is perfect for any occasion. However, bacalao a la vizcaina is specially prepared during Easter alongside other dishes like potaje de vigilia or torrijas.
As with other typical dishes, bacalao a la vizcaina has different variations, and each family or cook likes adding their twist. But there are two basic concepts that everyone follows: to get the highest quality cod and to use pimientos choriceros.
What are pimientos choriceros? How can I substitute them?
Pimientos choriceros is a variety of red pepper which is dried. Once dried, the flesh is used for cooking. You will typically use pimientos choriceros in sauces and stews.
A great alternative to pimientos choriceros is ñoras peppers, red, and round peppers, which are also dried in the sun. These peppers are sweet, have a distinctive aroma, and aren’t spicy like other peppers.
If you are outside Spain, it can be tricky to get these peppers. You can sometimes order them online, but if that isn’t an option for you, the best way to recreate pimientos choriceros is by roasting a small red pepper and adding sweet paprika and ⅓ tablespoon of smoked paprika.
Where to find bacalao? Is it possible to make Bacalao a la Vizcaína with fresh or salted cod?
You can buy fresh cod from your local supermarket or fishmonger. It is also possible to make Bacalao a la Vizcaína with salted cod. However, we recommend using fresh cod because it is more convenient and does not alter the incredible flavors of this dish.
If you want to use salted cod for this recipe, put it in a bowl with water for at least 48 hours. During these 48 hours, you must change the water every 12 hours.
Is bacalao a la vizcaina gluten-free?
It is easy to make this cod recipe gluten-free. However, if you aren’t using homemade fish stock, you will need to check if the fish broth is gluten-free.
If you are ordering in a restaurant, we recommend asking the waiter to ensure it doesn’t contain gluten.
Are you ready to prepare this delicious Basque recipe? Let’s dive in:
Ingredients Needed to Make the Dish
¼ cup olive oil
3-4 cod loin steaks (around 600 gr.)
6 dried choricero peppers
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red onion, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
½ cup fish broth
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley
How to make Bacalao a la Vizcaína
1 — Pat the cod steaks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
2 — Soak the choricero peppers in boiling water and let them rest for about 10 minutes.
3 — Remove the peppers from the boiling water and use a spoon to remove the flesh. Reserve.
4 — Heat a non-stick casserole to medium and add the olive oil.
5 — Add the garlic cloves and let them cook for a couple of minutes, just until golden brown. Remove and reserve.
6 — Place the cod loins, skin side down, in the oil and let them cook for about 10 minutes. Reserve.
7 — In the same skillet, add a bit more oil if needed and add the onions. Let them cook until they are soft and start to brown, around 7 minutes.
8 — Add the choricero peppers, flesh, and fish broth. Season with salt and pepper. Let them cook for a few more minutes, just until the flavors blend.
9 — Transfer the mixture to a blender – or use an immersion blender – and process the sauce until creamy.
10 — Return the sauce to the skillet, let it get warm, and add the cod back. Let it cook for 7 more minutes.
11 — Top with garlic cloves, olive oil, and fresh parsley.
Recipe Notes and Tips
You can use store-bought choricero peppers flesh to make it easier.
How can I store bacalao a la vizcaina?
You can store bacalao a la vizcaina in a glass container in the fridge if you are going to eat it within two days.
Also, if you wonder if you can freeze the vizcaina sauce, you can. Once the sauce is ready, put it in small containers and use it whenever needed. You can use it with other meat and fish recipes.
What’s the best way to serve bacalao a la vizcaina?
The best way to serve this Basque cod recipe is hot, although depending on the time of the year, you can also enjoy it cold. Also, if you want to present this dish as Basque people do, serve it in a terracotta dish.
To assemble this dish, put the sauce at the bottom and add the cod (the skin should be facing up).
What side dishes go with bacalao a la vizcaina?
You can accompany bacalao a la vizcaina with white rice, roasted potatoes, or patatas a lo pobre (Poor’s Man Potatoes).
Bacalao a la Vizcaína Recipe
- Kitchen towels
- Non-stick casserole dish
- Spoons and knives
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3-4 cod loin steaks (around 600 gr.)
- 6 dried choricero peppers
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 white onion chopped
- 1/2 cup fish broth
- Sea salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- You can use store-bought choricero peppers flesh to make it easier.
- Pat the cod steaks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
- Soak the choricero peppers in boiling water and let them rest for about 10minutes.
- Remove the peppers from the boiling water and use a spoon to remove theflesh. Reserve.
- Heat a non-stick casserole to medium and add the olive oil.
- Add the garlic cloves and let them cook for a couple of minutes, just untilgolden brown. Remove and reserve.
- Place the cod loins, skin side down, in the oil and let them cook for about 10minutes. Reserve.
- In the same skillet, add a bit more oil if needed and add the onions. Let themcook until they are soft and start to brown, around 7 minutes.
- Add the choricero peppers flesh and fish broth. Season with salt and pepper.Let them cook for a few more minutes, just until flavors blend.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender – or use an immersion blender – and processthe sauce until creamy.
- Return the sauce to the skillet, let it get warm and add the cod back. Let it cookfor 7 more minutes.
- Top with the garlic cloves, olive oil and fresh parsley.