Indulge in the national dish of Jamaica with this delectable Saltfish and Ackee recipe. Packed with a blend of robust flavors and soft textures, it’s a Caribbean favorite. Whether it’s your first time trying this exotic dish or you’re a seasoned fan, this recipe will transport you straight to the vibrant heart of Jamaican cuisine.
Why you’ll love this Jamaican delicacy:
At the crossroads of savory saltfish and buttery ackee, this dish embodies a harmony of flavors. Beyond its delicious taste, you’ll love:
- Unique Texture Combination: The buttery ackee pairs perfectly with the flaky saltfish.
- Versatile Pairing: It can be paired with various side dishes like rice and peas or fried plantains.
- Robust Seasoning: The spices, especially the Scotch bonnet pepper, add a delightful kick to the dish.
- Health Benefits: Both ackee and saltfish are packed with essential nutrients.
- Ease of Preparation: It’s simple to make, yet offers a complex flavor profile.
- Dining Adventure: It offers a unique culinary experience for those unfamiliar with Caribbean cuisine.
Ingredients To Make Saltfish and Ackee
Salted Cod: The star protein of the dish. Its salty flavor contrasts beautifully with the creamy ackee. Fresh cod (though you’ll need to adjust the salt) or another white fish; for vegetarians, firm tofu or mushrooms.
Vegetable Oil: Used to sauté the ingredients, aiding in the infusion of flavors. Canola oil, coconut oil, or even butter is an acceptable substitution.
Yellow Onion: Adds a base flavor to the dish. White onion, red onion, or shallots would also work.
Bell Pepper: Provides color, texture, and a sweet contrast. Use any color bell pepper or sweet pepper varieties.
Scotch Bonnet Pepper: Brings authentic Jamaican heat and flavor to the dish. Swap out for habanero peppers (very similar heat level) or jalapeños for a milder option.
Garlic Cloves: Enhances the overall flavor profile with its pungent depth. Garlic powder or minced garlic from a jar.
Dried Thyme Leaves: A staple herb in Caribbean cuisine, offering an aromatic touch. For fresh thyme use twice as much or use oregano.
Smoked Paprika: Adds smokiness and a hint of spiciness to the dish. Regular paprika with a dash of liquid smoke or chipotle powder are great options as well.
Tomato: Brings freshness, acidity, and balances out the dish. You can also use canned tomatoes or cherry tomatoes.
Scallions: Imparts a mild onion flavor and is used for garnishing. Other options would be to use chives or finely sliced leeks.
Ackee: Central to the dish, its creamy texture complements the saltiness of the cod. It’s hard to replace ackee due to its unique texture, but some use scrambled eggs or young jackfruit as alternatives.
Kosher Salt: Enhances and balances flavors in the dish.
Black Pepper: Adds a slight kick and enhances the overall flavor profile. Use white pepper or freshly ground peppercorns for a more intense flavor.
How To Make Saltfish and Ackee
To prepare cod, rinse cod under cold water, removing visible salt. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for one hour, changing the water every 15 minutes. Discard the soaking water and place the cod in a small saucepan. Cover with fresh water and a lid and bring to a boil. Discard boiling water, cover with fresh water, and bring to a boil once more.
Fish should flake easily. Break the fish up into small pieces with two forks. Set aside.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, scallion whites and light greens, bell pepper, Scotch bonnet pepper and cook until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and paprika and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Add cod and cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until all vegetables are tender, about 2 minutes.
Add ackee and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes, careful not to overmix and turn ackee mushy. Turn off the heat and stir in the dark greens of scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with rice and peas or plantains.
Tips for making the best Ackee and Saltfish
For the best experience when creating this dish, follow these top tips:
Desalting the Saltfish: Ensure the saltfish is adequately soaked and boiled to remove excess salt. Taste it before adding to the dish to make sure it’s not overly salty.
Freshness Matters: Use fresh ackee when possible. If using canned ackee, ensure it’s from a reputable brand to guarantee quality.
Heat Caution: Scotch bonnet peppers are very spicy. While they impart authentic flavor, you might want to adjust the quantity based on your heat tolerance. And always remember to wash your hands after handling them!
Ackee Handling: Ackee can turn mushy if over-stirred. Gently fold it into the dish to maintain its soft, distinct pieces.
What to serve with Ackee and Saltfish
Ackee and Saltfish is a versatile dish that can be paired with various sides to complete the meal. When thinking about what to serve with it, consider traditional Jamaican accompaniments as well as other options that can complement the dish’s flavors. Here are some popular choices:
- Rice and Peas: Perhaps the most traditional accompaniment, this dish made from rice and either pigeon peas or kidney beans is seasoned with coconut milk, thyme, and other spices.
- Fried Dumplings (Johnny Cakes): These are soft inside and slightly crispy outside, making them a perfect match for Ackee and Saltfish.
- Bammy: A traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread, bammy can be fried or grilled and pairs well with the dish.
- Boiled Green Bananas: Often used as a staple in Jamaican meals, boiled green bananas offer a neutral, starchy accompaniment.
- Fried Plantains: Sweet and caramelized, fried ripe plantains provide a delightful contrast to the savory notes of the Ackee and Saltfish.
- Steamed Vegetables: A mix of cabbage, carrots, and bell peppers lightly seasoned and steamed is a healthy addition.
- Yam: Boiled yam is another common starchy side in Jamaican cuisine.
- Callaloo: A leafy green vegetable often similar to spinach, it can be steamed with seasonings and serves as a nutritious side.
How to store & reheat Saltfish and Ackee
Before storing, allow the saltfish and ackee to come to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
How long will saltfish and ackee last in the fridge? Leftover saltfish and ackee is best if eaten within 3-4 days.
Can I freeze ackee and saltfish? While freezing is possible, it’s important to note that the texture of ackee might change once thawed and reheated. If you still wish to freeze it, ensure it’s in a well-sealed in a freezer safe airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag. It can be stored frozen for up to 1-2 months for best quality.
- Microwave: In a microwave-safe dish reheat on medium power, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating.
- Stovetop: Use a skillet or pan on medium-low heat. Add a small amount of oil or water to prevent drying, and stir occasionally until heated through.
Frequently asked question
What is Ackee?
Ackee is a fruit from Jamaica that looks like scrambled eggs when cooked. Only the yellow part is safe to eat, and the rest can be harmful. It’s often cooked with fish and tastes creamy and nutty.
What is Saltfish?
Saltfish is fish that’s been dried and covered in salt to keep it from going bad. Before cooking it, people soak it in water to rinse the salt off. It’s like fish jerky and is often used in tasty dishes like stews and casseroles.
More Jamaican Recipes To Enjoy!
- Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken Recipe
- Jamaican Corned Beef and Cabbage
- Jamaican Oxtail Recipe
- Jamaican Patties
Saltfish and Ackee
- 8 oz salted cod boned and skinned
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup yellow onion diced small
- 1/2 cup bell pepper diced small
- 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper stemmed, seeded and minced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves or 1 tbsp fresh
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup tomatao diced small
- 2 scallions minced and divided
- 19 oz ackee can drained
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- To prepare cod, rinse cod under cold water, removing visible salt. Place in bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for one hour, changing the water every 15 minutes. Discard soaking water and place cod in a small saucepan. Cover with fresh water and a lid and bring to a boil. Discard boiling water, cover with fresh water and bring to a boil once more. Fish should flake easily. Break fish up into small pieces with two forks. Set aside.
- To a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, scallion whites and light greens, bell pepper, Scotch bonnet pepper and cook until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and paprika and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add cod and cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until all vegetables are tender, about 2 minutes.
- Add ackee and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes, careful not to overmix and turn ackee mushy. Turn off heat and stir in dark greens of scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with rice and peas or plantains.