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Preview image a hand holding a codfish fritter wrapped in white wax paper over a terrazzo surface next to a silver pot of fritters on wooden skewers.
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Bacalaitos (Puerto Rican Salted Codfish Fritters)

Crispy salted codfish fritters that are easy to make and even easier to enjoy.
Air-Fryer instructions can be found in the Notes section.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Puerto Rican/Hispanic
Keyword codfish, fritters
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 6 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 6 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 117kcal

Equipment

  • caldero

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (454 grams) salted codfish desalinated, 1 cup of cooking water reserved (see instructions in post) *see notes for directions on using fresh cod*
  • 1/4 cup (13 grams) onion from 1/4 of a medium onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup (37 grams) red bell pepper from 1/4 of a large pepper, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons sofrito
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white rum or white vinegar, optional
  • 1 cup (150 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 grams) cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (1 packet) sazón con culantro y achiote
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup (237 milliliters) cold water plus more as needed
  • oil for frying (about 8 cups)

Instructions

  • In a wide caldero or dutch oven, preheat 8 cups of cooking oil to 360°F (182°C) over medium-high heat.
    Set a cooling rack set over a sheetpan to drain the fried bacalaitos on later.

Prepare the Bacalaito Batter

  • Pull the cooked codfish apart into smaller chunks that are hearty but not more than a bite-sized chunk. 
    In a mixing bowl, fold the onion, red bell pepper, garlic, sofrito, and rum (or vinegar) into the flaked codfish. Set this bowl aside.
  • In a separate, larger bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, sazón, oregano, and black pepper. Stir the ingredients together with a whisk to distribute them evenly.
    Combine the cold water with the reserved cooking water from the bacalao. Add anywhere from 1 1/2-2 cups of this water to the flour mixture, whisking slowly until a batter forms. The more water you add, the thinner the fritters will be once they're fried.*
  • Add the fish to this batter and use a rubber spatula to fold the fish in just until evenly combined. 

Fry the Bacalaitos

  • Use a wide spoon or transfer your batter to a big glass or metal pitcher. These help with dropping the batter into the hot frying oil.
    Once the oil reaches 360°F (182°C), scoop a spoonful** of the batter up with your kitchen spoon. Bring the spoon to the surface of the hot oil and "lay" it into the oil, spreading the batter into a line as you pull away from you to the other side of the pot.
    Try to avoid splashing the batter as you go from bowl to pot.
  • Fry the first "test" bacalaito for 3 minutes, then use a pair of tongs to flip it to the other side.
    Fry it for another 3-4 minutes or until it is a deep golden brown and crisp. Taste this bacalaito. Adjust the seasoning/consistency of the rest of the batter as needed.
  • Once your bacalaito batter is adjusted to suit your preferences, continue frying the batter just like you did before.
    Transfer the fried bacalaitos to the cooling rack. Try to stand them up in between the racks so most of the oil drains from them onto the pan below. You can keep them warm in a 170°F oven, but I find they get soggier faster in enclosed spaces.

Notes

Swaps and Substitutions:

  • If you can't find salted codfish, use salted pollock or hake. 
  • If you can't find any salted fish, use fresh cod, pollock, hake, haddock, or striped bass and boil it for 10 minutes or broil it for 6 minutes on high. 
    Once cooked, flake it with a fork and use as instructed. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the flour with the rest of the spices.
  • Replace the all-purpose flour with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour if you have a gluten allergy.
  • For puffy bacalaitos add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to your flour mixture.
*For thick, funnel cake-like bacalaitos add 1- 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water.
  For super thin, almost chip-like
bacalaitos add 2 cups of the cooking water. 

Make-Ahead Instructions:

  1. Make the batter the day before you plan to fry it and store it in a covered container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
  2. Fry as instructed
  This won't work if you plan to add baking powder to the batter. If you do add baking powder for puffy bacalaitos, you need to fry them shortly after mixing the fish into the batter. If not, your fritters won't be puffy.
You can freeze the batter after you mix it. Just pop it into a freezer-safe storage container and freeze for 2 months. When you're ready to fry them up, thaw them in the fridge before cooking.
**Using a pitcher to pour a line of the batter is much easier for those who are afraid of deep-frying. Make sure to get the pitcher's spout as close to the surface of the oil as possible to avoid popping yourself with the oil. Also, make sure to use a metal or glass pitcher for this. Plastic will melt as soon as it touches the oil. 

Air-Fryer Directions:

You will need an air fryer with a tray.  
Make the batter on the thicker side by adding 1 1/2 cups of the water to it. You want the consistency to be somewhere between pancake batter and heavy cream.
  1. Preheat an air fryer to 400°F on the "Air Fry" setting.
  2. Line the tray with a double-layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Use heavy duty since regular foil is more prone to tear.
  3. Generously grease the foil with non-stick cooking spray. I use an olive oil spray, but any that's flavored well will do. Be sure to spray it liberally to keep the bacalaitos from sticking.
  4. Spoon a puddle of the bacalaito batter onto the tray. I can fit 3 2-inch puddles on mine. 
  5. Slide the tray into the air fryer and fry them on the first side for 5 minutes.
  6. Pull the tray out and carefully lift up the bacalaitos around the edges. Since they're thinner, they're the most cumbersome to lift up. Once the edges are up, flip the bacalaitos over.
  7. Return the tray to the air fryer and fry the bacalaitos for another 5 minutes. 

Troubleshooting Your Bacalaito Batter:

  • Too salty: thin the batter with more water.
  • Too Bland: add a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt to the batter. 
  • Bacalaitos are too thick: add 1 tablespoon of water a little a time until you achieve the desired consistency.
  • Bacalaitos too thin: add a tablespoon of flour until you reach the desired thickness.
  • Too soggy: the oil is too cool, increase the temperature to between 360°-370°F
  • Browning too fast: the oil is too hot. Decrease the temperature. 

Nutrition

Calories: 117kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 77mg | Potassium: 198mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 171IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg