Portuguese Cod in Cream Sauce (Bacalhau de Natas)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This Portuguese cod in cream sauce recipe (Bacalhau de Natas) is one of the more well known Portuguese dishes around the world. It's creamy and baked to perfection.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Portuguese
Serves: 10 to 14 servings
  • 3.8 lbs salted dry cod
  • 6 large russet potatoes (or another good frying potato), washed and peeled.
  • 6 cups vegetable oil.
  • 3 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 onions finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4¼ cup of milk (I use 2%. Skim might be too thin)
  • 4 tbs of flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  1. Soak the salted cod in cold water for 24 hours (I do this in a clean sink). This removes a lot of the salt.
  2. Rinse the cod with cold water under the tap.
  3. Cut the cod into 3 to 4 inch pieces.
  4. In a large pot, cover the cod in water (about 3 inches above the cod)
  5. Turn on the stove to medium high and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until fish is fully cooked. The fish should flake off if you pinch an end.
  7. Pour the cod onto a colander to remove the water and set aside to cool.
  8. Cut potatoes into uniform length and thickness "sticks".
  9. Place them on a layer of paper towels and dry them using additional paper towels. This will prevent splatters when you place the potatoes in the hot oil.
  10. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil to 375 ºF. The temperature should stay consistent for optimal cooking conditions. Use a candy thermometer to ensure you're at the right temperature.
  11. Line a large plate with two layers of paper towels.
  12. Using a large slotted spoon, place about a quarter of the cut/dry fries in the oil carefully to avoid spatters.
  13. Let them fry until they start taking on a slightly golden colour.
  14. Using a large slotted spoon, pick up some of the fries, lift, let drain and transfer onto the paper towel-lined plate.
  15. Keep transferring the fries onto the paper towel, spread out evenly until no fries are left in the pot.
  16. Add more raw fries to the pot and repeat the last 4 steps until all the fries are cooked.
  17. Let the fries cool on paper towels.
  18. In a large deep pot, heat the olive oil on medium high.
  19. Add the onions and bay leaves and sauté until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).
  20. Add the garlic, stir and let cook for another 3 minutes (do not let the garlic burn).
  21. Remove the bay leaves.
  22. Pinch apart pieces of fish into large bite-sized flakes and place the fish in the pot with onion mixture.
  23. Place the cooled fries over the fish.
  24. In another large pot, add the milk, salt and flour.
  25. Set the stove to medium high.
  26. Once the milk starts to get warm, start whisking.
  27. Keep whisking until the milk thickens a bit (look for a liquidy cake batter consistency). About 15 minutes or a little more.
  28. Add the cream and continue to whisk until the same previous consistency is achieved About 4 minutes).
  29. Pour this creamy sauce in the pot, over the fish and fries.
  30. Using a large heavy spoon, mix the fish, potatoes and creamy sauce until everything is evenly mixed and coated.
  31. Pour the mixture into a large pyrex or other oven proof bakeware.
  32. Preheat the oven to 425 ºF
  33. Once the oven has reached 425 ºF, place the bakeware in the oven on the middle rack.
  34. Heat for about 15 minutes or until the top has a reached a light golden colour.
  35. Remove from the oven and and serve hot.
We describe how we fried our potatoes, but you may have another preferred method.Please fry the potatoes using your preferred method i.e. deep-fryer, pan or pot. Aways be extra cautious with the hot oil.

This dish is also fantastic served cold.

This dish is perfect for making the day before you have guests. If this is the case, follow all the directions accept for the last oven step. Once you've added the mixture to the baking cookware, let cool and refrigerate. About half hour before your guests arrive, heat the oven to 300ºF. Place the dish in the oven for 20 minutes. Then raise the oven heat to 425 ºF and let it continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until the top reaches a nice light golden colour.

The recipe shows 1 h 50 minutes. The time will be substantially reduced if you can fry the fries while boiling the fish.
Recipe by Photos & Food at https://www.photosandfood.ca/2015/11/22/portuguese-cod-cream-sauce-bacalhau-de-natas/