jamaican salt cod fritters on plate

Where to Find Salt Cod and How to Desalinate It

Instead of searching your local markets for salt cod, save time by going online to Amazon.com. They have tons of it, and it’s expensive. But because salt cod is usually just one of a number of ingredients in most dishes, cooks will get a good number of servings out of a single pound of salt cod. 

reeling in the years

Desalinating Salt Cod

Before using salt cod in a recipe, it must be desalinated as much as possible and rehydrated to some degree. There are several different methods to accomplish this and all of them are tedious. First, soak it for two days (or overnight) in clean water (replacing the water at least twice) to re-hydrate it and wash out some of the excess salt. If you can’t soak the fish for two days, place the salt cod in a saucepan. Fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water. Repeat with fresh water four more times. Taste to check salt level; if the fish is still too salty, repeat. When the cod is desalinated to your liking, carefully remove the skin and bones.

Mark Kurlansky, writing in Cod, tongue in cheek, advises us: “Hannah Glasse in the 1758 edition of her British book [The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy] wrote that stockfish should be soaked in milk and warm water. Most modern cooks insist on cold water and many believe it best when soaked in a refrigerator, especially during warm weather. Others have been known to turn to another modern invention, the flush toilet.” I do not recommend this solution for obvious sanitary reasons.

Stamp and Go: Jamaican Saltfish Fritters

This is the simplest of all the salt cod fritter recipes. Note the lack of potatoes, which are not commonly used in Jamaican cooking. They are replaced with tomatoes and onions (and sometimes a portion of a Scotch bonnet pepper), which are commonly used in Jamaican cooking. The name echoes the concept of modern fast food—stamp them out in the kitchen and go! Fritters taste better with a sauce served over them–usually one that is tomato-based. In a pinch use a bottled chili sauce or cocktail sauce. Even tartar sauce works.

jamaican salt cod fritters on plate
Photograph by Marc Bruxelle from iStock


  • 8 ounces desalinated salt cod
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • ½ Scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed and minced (or substitute habanero)
  • Canola oil for frying


  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients until they are well-blended.
  2. Add the canola oil to a large skillet to the depth of about ½ inch and heat until hot. Add one tablespoon after another of the salt cod mixture and fry on each side until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. Remove and drain each fritter on paper towels.
  3. Serve hot with your sauce of choice.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Level: Medium-hot