What is Bolinho de Bacalhau?

June 5, 2024


When it comes to Portuguese cuisine, one of the most beloved and iconic dishes is Bolinho de Bacalhau. This delicious snack, also known as codfish fritters, is a popular choice among locals and tourists alike. In this glossary, we will explore the origins of Bolinho de Bacalhau, its ingredients, preparation methods, and cultural significance.

History of Bolinho de Bacalhau

Bolinho de Bacalhau has a long and rich history that dates back to the 19th century in Portugal. Codfish, or bacalhau in Portuguese, was a staple food source for many Portuguese families due to its abundance in the Atlantic Ocean. To preserve the fish, it was salted and dried, making it a convenient and long-lasting ingredient for cooking.


The main ingredients in Bolinho de Bacalhau include salted codfish, potatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, eggs, and flour. The codfish is soaked in water to remove excess salt before being shredded and mixed with the other ingredients. The mixture is then shaped into small balls and deep-fried until golden brown and crispy.

Preparation Method

To prepare Bolinho de Bacalhau, start by soaking the salted codfish in water for at least 24 hours, changing the water several times to remove the excess salt. Once the codfish is desalted, shred it into small pieces and mix it with boiled and mashed potatoes, chopped onions, garlic, parsley, eggs, and flour. Shape the mixture into small balls and deep-fry them until crispy and golden brown.

Regional Variations

While the traditional Bolinho de Bacalhau recipe remains popular throughout Portugal, there are regional variations that add a unique twist to the dish. In some regions, ingredients like olives, cheese, or spices are added to the mixture for extra flavor. Each variation reflects the local culinary traditions and preferences of the area.

Cultural Significance

Bolinho de Bacalhau holds a special place in Portuguese culture as a symbol of tradition and celebration. It is often served at family gatherings, festivals, and special occasions, bringing people together to enjoy its delicious flavors. The dish is also a favorite among tourists, who seek out authentic Portuguese cuisine during their travels.

Health Benefits

Despite being a fried snack, Bolinho de Bacalhau offers some health benefits due to its nutritious ingredients. Codfish is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins, while potatoes provide energy and essential nutrients. When consumed in moderation, Bolinho de Bacalhau can be a satisfying and wholesome treat.

Popular Accompaniments

Bolinho de Bacalhau is often served with traditional Portuguese condiments like aioli, tartar sauce, or hot sauce. These flavorful accompaniments enhance the taste of the fritters and add a spicy or tangy kick to each bite. Some people also enjoy pairing Bolinho de Bacalhau with a glass of Portuguese wine or beer for a complete dining experience.

Where to Find Bolinho de Bacalhau

While Bolinho de Bacalhau is a staple in Portuguese cuisine, it can also be found in Brazilian and other Latin American restaurants around the world. Many Portuguese bakeries, cafes, and street vendors offer Bolinho de Bacalhau as a snack or appetizer, making it accessible to food lovers everywhere. Whether you’re in Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, or New York City, you can savor the taste of this iconic dish.


In conclusion, Bolinho de Bacalhau is a beloved and iconic dish in Portuguese cuisine that has stood the test of time. Its rich history, flavorful ingredients, and cultural significance make it a must-try for anyone exploring the culinary delights of Portugal. Whether you enjoy it as a snack, appetizer, or main course, Bolinho de Bacalhau is sure to satisfy your taste buds and leave you craving more.

Tatiana Cesso

As a journalist, I've made it my mission to explore and share stories that inspire, inform, and entertain. You may have stumbled upon my work in esteemed publications such as InStyle, Marie Claire, Bazaar, L’Officiel, and Vogue, among others. Having called the U.S. home since 2010, I've lived in Chicago, LA, and currently, Miami. But my heart always beats to the rhythm of Brazil. It's where I was born and raised, and my love for its culture, people, and energy knows no bounds. To share this passion, I've founded Brazilcore, a platform aimed at bridging the gap between Brazil and English speakers worldwide.