Celebration Food: Bacalao a la Vizcaina Estilo Mexicano

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It’s hard to say there is any one food which heavily represents Mexican Christmas tradition. Like everything else in Mexican cuisine, this is heavily dependent on region and class.

Tamales are hugely important, but so are pozole and turkey. In some central and souther areas, Spanish dishes such as paella and bacalao are preferred and eaten on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena), as well as New Year’s Eve.

A small box of dry salted cox opens up a Basque style dish, Bacalao a la VizcaÍna to a spicier Mexican influence.

A few notes on the recipe:

Do not use salt in this recipe. Even with 24 hours of soaking in milk, the bacalao will retain enough salt to season all other ingredients. If it seems wasteful to soak the fish in milk, half can be replaced with cold water.




Bacalao a la Vizcaína Estilo Mexicano

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

  • 1 lb bacalao (dry salted cod), skinless, without spines
  • Milk as needed
  • 4 small waxy potatoes
  • 2-3 red bell peppers
  • 2-4 dry chile colorados or guajillos, cleaned
  • 1 tsp dry Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 dry thyme
  • 14-oz can whole plum tomatoes, unseasoned
  • 1 yellow onion, small diced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 manzanilla olives, with pit or pimento stuffed
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Finely chopped cilantro and parsley, to taste


Rinse the bacalao well with cold water, removing any salt still attached. Soak in milk for 24 hours, changing the liquid twice. Drain the fish, and pat dry, pressing slightly to remove excess liquid. Cut into 3-4″ pieces.

Cover unpeeled potatoes with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer until the skin can be peeled back. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel with the back of a knife and cut into large dice.

Broil red bell peppers until skin begins to turn black. Place in a bowl and cover. Rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and clean, cutting into 1/4″ by 2″ batons. Reserve any juice from the peppers.

Clean the chiles, removing stems and seeds. Cover with cold water, adding a small splash of distilled white vinegar. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to rest until chiles are completely softened, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Keep the chiles submerged.

Puree canned tomatoes, softened chiles, dry oregano and thyme together until completely smooth. Pass through a fine mesh strainer, pushing through with the back of a spoon.

Place a large skillet over medium high heat. Coat well with olive oil. Working in batches, fry the bacalao on both sides until lightly browned. Remove and set aside. Lower heat lightly, add more oil as necessary, and add the diced onion, cooking until soft and transparent. Add minced garlic, cooking until fragrant, stirring regularly. Add the tomato and chile puree and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly.

Return the bacalao to the pan. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, red bell peppers, olives and rinsed capers to the pan. Stir well, and cover. Continue to simmer until the balacao and potatoes flake easily.

Serve garnished with finely chopped cilantro and parsley to taste.

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