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Bacalao Navideño is SO good. It’s also known as Christmas Salted Cod or Bacalao a la Vizcaína. You’ll fall in love at first bite.
No one ever thinks I’m Mexican with a last name like Unzueta. My family has origins in the Basque Country of Northern Spain.
This is a recipe I inherited from my grandmother. It’s a blend of New World and Old World.
That deep, RICH tomato sauce with olives and chiles gueros… Mmm! Serve with bread and enjoy!
How to Make It
- Soak the salted cod overnight.
- Drain and cover with water.
- Soak overnight for a 2nd night.
- Drain the water.
Table of Contents
What type of fish is bacalao?
Bacalao is codfish. This is salted dried codfish. Salted cod requires overnight soaking and rinsing in water before using. For a quicker version of this dish, use fresh cod.
When you drain the cod on the 2nd day, taste the water. Is it still salty? If so, soak for the 3rd night.
Caution: Soak in the fridge, or your fish will go bad.
- Shred the fish into tiny pieces.
- Place in the fridge while the sauce is cooking.
Yes, you can use two forks to shred, but it’s easier to do this by hand.
Notice how there is no salt added to this recipe. That’s because the fish and the olives will provide enough salt to this dish.
More Mexican Recipes with a Spanish Influence:
Pescado a la Veracruzana
Camarones a la Veracruzana
Rosca de Reyes
- Heat the olive oil.
- Add the onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and roasted red peppers.
Some people will use fresh tomatoes. That’s fine too. Whatever you have on hand.
If using fresh tomatoes, be sure to dice them into small pieces. Plus, you’ll need to add ½ cup water.
- Add the shredded cod, vinegar, parsely, almonds, and olives.
- Stir to combine and cook.
White distilled vinegar is used in this recipe. You can swap out for lime juice, and if so, add at the end.
Word to the Wise: Make sure the olives are pitted, or you will spend the entire dinner removing the pits. No bueno.
Here, we are using sliced manzanilla olives that are stuffed with pimentos.
- Add the cooked potatoes and chiles gueros.
- Mix with a spatula to combine and cook 5 minutes.
Pro Tip:The sauce should be thick. If it’s still soupy, let it cook an additional 5 minutes uncovered.
Chile gueros are not spicy. Mild in heat but add plenty of flavor. To add more heat, use pickled jalapenos instead.
The combination of the chiles and the olives is what makes this dish a perfect blend of New and Old World.
Also, salted cod is a very popular ingredient in Northern Spain.
What to Serve with It
The aromas of Bacalao Navideño cooking are simply exquisite. Perfect for Christmas Eve dinner or a special occasion. A dish to savor and enjoy!
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- 1 lb dried salted cod
- water (for soaking)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 white onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 roasted red bell peppers peeled and diced
- 1 lb small potatoes peeled and diced in 1-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
- ¼ cup parsley chopped
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds
- ¼ cup manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos sliced
- 8-10 chiles güeros whole
- bread (optional - for serving)
- 48 hours before, place the salted cod in a bowl.
- Cover with water and place in the fridge.
- The next day, drain and rinse the fish.
- Cover with water again.
- Place in the fridge overnight.
- Drain and rinse the fish.
- Make sure the fish water is not salty.
- If so, you might need to do one more overnight soak.
- Shred the fish.
- Keep in the fridge until ready to use.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot.
- Add the onion and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and roasted red bell peppers.
- Cover slightly, leaving a small opening.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
- The mixture will have thickened, and the color will be dark.
- Meanwhile, boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender.
- Drain the water and set aside until ready to use.
- Add the shredded cod into the pot with the tomato mixture.
- Add the vinegar, parsley, almonds, and olives.
- Stir to combine.
- Place the lid on the pot, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
- Stir occasionally. Be sure to gently scrape the bottom.
- The sauce will be thick, chunky, and delicious.
- Lower the heat and add the potatoes and chiles gueros.
- Cook for 5 more minutes.
- The sauce is not soupy. It should be thick. If it’s too soupy, cook it for another 5 minutes.
- Serve with more chile gueros (to decorate), toasted bread, and or rice.
Maggie Unzueta is the writer/blogger, photographer, recipe developer, videographer, and creator of In Mama Maggie's Kitchen. She has been developing easy and authentic Mexican food, Mexican-inspired recipes, and traveling tips since 2010. From family recipes to her extensive travels throughout Mexico, she brings traditional Mexican flavors from South of the Border and into your kitchen. Maggie has been featured in notable culinary websites and other media outlets. For more details, check out her About page.