Bacalhau com natas. Say it with me: ba-ka-lhow koom na-tas. It means cod with cream in Portuguese and it’s one of my favorite dishes ever. It’s creamy, cheesy, comforting and so satisfying. It’s like a hug in a bowl.
I first had bacalhau com natas when I visited Portugal a few years ago. I was blown away by how delicious it was. The cod was flaky and moist, the potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the sauce was rich and velvety. The whole thing was baked until golden and bubbly and topped with some fresh parsley for a pop of color and freshness.
I knew I had to recreate this dish at home as soon as possible. Luckily, it’s not that hard to make. All you need are some simple ingredients that you can find at any grocery store: salted cod (or fresh if you prefer), potatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaf, butter, flour, milk, cream (or half-and-half), nutmeg and cheese (optional but highly recommended).
The process is pretty straightforward too: cook the cod in milk (this helps keep it moist and adds flavor to the sauce), fry the potatoes until golden (you can also use leftover cooked potatoes or frozen hash browns), make a sofrito with onion, garlic and bay leaf (this adds depth and sweetness to the dish), make a béchamel sauce with butter, flour, milk, cream and nutmeg (this is the base of the creamy sauce), layer everything in a baking dish, sprinkle some cheese on top if you like, and bake until bubbly and brown.
That’s it! You have just made an amazing Portuguese dish that will impress your family and friends. Serve it with some crusty bread or a green salad on the side for a complete meal.
In this blog post I’m going to show you step-by-step how to make this yummy bacalhau com natas with lots of tips and tricks along the way. You’ll also learn some fun facts about its history and origin.
- 1.8 lb of shredded and soaked cod
- 1.3 lb of white potato
- 2 medium onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups of béchamel sauce
- 3/4 cup of heavy cream
- Grated cheese to taste
- Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
- Chopped parsley and black olives for garnish
- Cook the cod in milk and reserve the milk.
- Peel and cut the potatoes into cubes and fry them in low heat oil, until they are soft but not golden. Drain the potatoes and season them with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- In a skillet, sauté the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil and add the cod. Cook for a few minutes and stir well.
- In a bowl, mix the béchamel sauce with the heavy cream and some of the cod milk. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
- In a baking dish, spread a layer of potatoes and over it a layer of cod. Cover everything with the cream sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 390ºF for about 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and black olives.
- Use good quality cod from Norway or Iceland. You can use fresh or salted cod, but if you use salted cod, make sure to soak it overnight in water and change the water several times to remove the excess salt.
- Cook the cod gently in milk instead of water. This will keep it moist and add flavor to the sauce. Reserve some of the milk for making the béchamel sauce later.
- Fry the potatoes until golden and crispy. You can use fresh potatoes, leftover cooked potatoes or frozen hash browns. Cut them into small cubes or thin slices for a better texture.
- Make a sofrito with onion, garlic and bay leaf. This will add depth and sweetness to the dish. Sauté them in olive oil until soft and translucent.
- Make a béchamel sauce with butter, flour, milk, cream and nutmeg. This is the base of the creamy sauce that will bind everything together. Use some of the milk that you cooked the cod in for extra flavor. Season it well with salt, pepper and nutmeg for a subtle aroma. You can also add some cheese to make it more cheesy if you like. Use fresh cream instead of canned ones for a better texture and taste.
- Layer everything in a baking dish, sprinkle some cheese on top if you like, and bake until bubbly and brown. You can use any cheese that melts well, such as mozzarella, cheddar or parmesan[1. Bake it in a preheated oven at 390ºF for about 15 to 20 minutes until golden and bubbly.
- Serve it with some crusty bread or a green salad on the side for a complete meal.