Today we're going to show you how to make the best Puerto Rican Bacalaitos (Cod Fish Fritters). Don't let the fishiness deter you -- this traditional fritter is a real treat and the perfect party food!
1 lb salted cod
3 c flour
½ c corn starch
1 tbs oregano
¼ c sofrito
2 tsp achiotte oil
¼ c chopped cilantro
¼ c chopped roasted red peppers
1 c cod water
4 c water
2 tsp baking powder
½ c mayo
1 clove garlic minced
1 tbs chopped capers
1 tsp lemon juice
We are going to start by reconstituting the dried cod. To do this, add 12 cups of water to a heavy sauce pan and turn it on to medium heat. The amount of water you use will impact how salty the cod is, just because the more water you use the more it dilutes the salt. I’ve found that 12 cups is about the right amount, but you can adjust it as you see fit.
Once you’ve added the water, add your dried cod and boil it for 1 hour. If at the end of the hour you think the cod is still too salty, you can drain the old water and boil it for another 20 minutes in new water. Once your cod is boiled, use a ladle to reserve a couple cups of the boiling liquid. As I mentioned, we are going to use this liquid to salt our batter and to boost the fish flavor in the final bacalaito. Save at least two cups.
Once you’ve saved some of the water, drain your cod and rinse it with cold water. This will help remove some additional salt and will also bring the temperature down to where you can work with it.
Once your cod is cooled down, transfer it to a clean bowl and begin shredding it. Just use your fingers to break the big pieces of fish into small shreds. These pieces are going to go right into your bacalaito, so keep that in mind as you are determining what size to make your pieces. If you like big chunks of cod in your bacalaito, leave the pieces pretty large. Otherwise, you can shred it smaller.
As you are shredding your cod, be on the lookout for bones. This cod is technically deboned, but you never know if they missed any and that wouldn’t make a tasty bite.
Now, with the cod shredded, let’s make our batter. In a large mixing container, add your cod, the achiotte oil, the sofrito, the cilantro, the roasted red peppers, and the oregano. Then stir the ingredients to combine.
Now add your liquid. First add 1 cup of the water we reserved from the cod. Then add another four cups of regular water and stir to combine. If you know you are going to want your bacalaito more salty, you can substitute some more of the cod water for the regular water. Just keep the total amount of water to five cups.
Now add your corn starch and your flour. Then use a whisk to beat the batter until there are no more lumps. You want to make sure that all of the corn starch and flour is thoroughly integrated.
Once your batter is mixed, it should feel like a thin pancake batter or a really thick soup. It should have a full body and coat the back of a spoon, but still flow easily as you mix it. If you need to thicken your batter, just add another couple tablespoons of flour. If it’s too thick, just add a little more water. Also, taste your batter for salt at this point and adjust if necessary.
Once your batter is the right consistency, the last thing we want to do is add our baking powder and thoroughly mix it in. The baking powder reacts in the batter to create carbon dioxide bubbles which ensure your bacalaitos are light and fluffy. The effect will diminish over time, as the baking powder exhausts its chemical potential, so don’t add it until right before you are ready to fry your bacalaitos.
Now let’s fry our bacalaitos. I like to use a deep frying pan and add about one inch of oil in the bottom of the pan. Turn your stove on to medium high heat and bring the temperature of the oil to about 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, you’ll know the oil is ready when you drop in a little bit of batter and it immediately starts to bubble and float.
Once your oil is hot, use a spoon to gently add batter, about ⅓ a cup at a time, to the hot oil. Because this batter is very wet, there will be a lot of steam escaping from your bacalaitos, leading to lots of bubbles and potential for splashing oil. This is why I like to use a frying pan with high sides so be careful as you are frying these.
Once your bacalaito has solidified, I like to flip it so it starts to cook on the other side as well. Flip your bacalaito every 15-30 seconds until it is golden brown on both sides. When it’s done, pull it out of the fryer and lay it on paper towel to drain.
Between each bacalaito, I like to use a small metal strainer to remove any of the smaller pieces of batter that fell into the oil. If you just leave these in your oil they will eventually burn and give you oil a bad taste. There’s no way to avoid these drops of batter, but at least you can prevent them from messing up the next bacalaitos.
As you fry your bacalaitos, you’ll notice that the way you add them to the oil can make a big difference. If you gently add your batter, it will tend to stick together and form a smaller, but thicker bacalaito. In contrast, if you move your spoon as you are adding the batter you’ll get a bigger, but thinner bacalaito. It’s really a personal preference for how you like your bacalaitos, so just experiment and see what works best for you.
No matter how you like your bacalaitos, the basic pattern is the same. Add your batter to the hot oil, then begin flipping the bacalaito once it is solid enough to flip. Keep flipping it from time to time, until its fully cooked and colden brown. Then remove your bacalaito and strain out any stray chunks of batter. And no shame in trying some of your delicious creations as you fry them. They are always best right out of the fryer.
With our bacalaitos fried, I want to show you how to make a super easy, but extremely delicious sauce to go with your bacalaitos. Just mix together some mayonnaise, some lemon juice, some garlic, and some minced capers and stir it all together to combine.
Now you are ready to dig in!
Check out our instructional video, showing how to make this recipe step-by-step HERE.