Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Don’t Leave Lisbon Without Trying This Dish: Bacalhau À Brás


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Ailene Elizondo



When it comes to traditional Portuguese cuisine, one dish that undoubtedly stands out is Bacalhau à Brás. This delectable and hearty dish has been a staple in Portuguese households for centuries, and it has also gained popularity among locals and tourists alike. If you’re visiting Lisbon, you simply cannot leave without indulging in this iconic dish.


Bacalhau à Brás, often referred to as the “Codfish à Brás,” is a flavorful and satisfying combination of salted codfish, thinly sliced potatoes, onions, eggs, and black olives. It is a perfect example of how simple ingredients can come together to create a mouthwatering dish that will leave you craving for more.


What makes Bacalhau à Brás truly unique is its historical significance. Codfish has been a part of Portuguese culture for centuries, and it is believed that the tradition of salting and drying codfish began during the Age of Discovery. The Portuguese explorers needed a food source that could withstand long voyages, and they found that codfish was the perfect solution. This is how Bacalhau, or salted codfish, came to be a staple in Portuguese cuisine.


The name “à Brás” is thought to be derived from a man named Brás, who supposedly invented this dish. Legend has it that Brás, a humble tavern owner in Bairro Alto, Lisbon, created this recipe as a way to use up leftover ingredients. Little did he know that his creation would become one of the most beloved dishes in Portuguese gastronomy.


Today, Bacalhau à Brás is an integral part of Portuguese culinary culture. It is a dish that not only reflects the history and traditions of the country but also showcases the unique flavors and techniques of Portuguese cooking. Whether you’re a seafood lover or simply looking to explore new culinary delights, Bacalhau à Brás is a must-try dish that will surely leave a lasting impression.


Brief History of Bacalhau à Brás

The origins of Bacalhau à Brás can be traced back to the 18th century in Lisbon, Portugal. As mentioned earlier, it is believed that a man named Brás, who owned a tavern in the bustling neighborhood of Bairro Alto, created this dish as a way to repurpose leftover ingredients. However, the exact details of its invention remain shrouded in mystery.


At its core, Bacalhau à Brás was born out of necessity. As a coastal country heavily dependent on fishing, preserving and consuming salted codfish became a way of life for the Portuguese people. With codfish being readily available and affordable, it became a common ingredient in many traditional Portuguese dishes.


What sets Bacalhau à Brás apart is the unique combination of flavors and textures. It brings together the saltiness of the codfish, the creamy richness of scrambled eggs, and the subtle sweetness of thinly sliced onions. The addition of fried potato sticks adds a delightful crunch to the dish, while black olives provide a burst of briny flavor.


Over the years, Bacalhau à Brás has gained immense popularity and has become a symbol of Portuguese culinary heritage. It is not only enjoyed in homes but is also a staple dish in traditional restaurants across the country. The simplicity of its ingredients and the harmony of its flavors have made it a beloved favorite among locals and visitors alike.


Today, Bacalhau à Brás continues to be a significant part of Portuguese culture. It is often served during festive occasions and family gatherings, and many Portuguese families have their own cherished recipes that have been passed down through generations. The dish has also garnered international recognition, further solidifying its reputation as a true culinary gem of Portugal.


Overall, the history of Bacalhau à Brás is a testament to the resourcefulness and creativity of the Portuguese people when it comes to utilizing local ingredients. Its humble beginnings as a way to repurpose leftovers have transformed it into a beloved national dish that showcases the rich culinary traditions and flavors of Portugal.


Ingredients Required for Bacalhau à Brás

To prepare a delicious serving of Bacalhau à Brás, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 400 grams of salted codfish (bacalhau)
  • 400 grams of potatoes
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • Black olives, pitted
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Parsley, chopped (optional garnish)

The choice of salted codfish is crucial for Bacalhau à Brás, as it contributes to its distinctive flavor. It is recommended to use the highest quality salted codfish available, ensuring that it has been properly desalted before cooking. This can be achieved by soaking the codfish in cold water for 24-48 hours, changing the water periodically.


The potatoes should be firm and starchy, ideally suited for frying. You can use either waxy or floury potatoes, depending on your preference. Some traditional recipes call for thinly slicing the potatoes into matchstick-like pieces, while others use slightly thicker slices. Feel free to adjust the thickness based on your personal taste.


The onions should be thinly sliced to allow for even caramelization and melding with the other flavors. The use of garlic adds a delightful aromatic component to the dish and enhances its overall taste.


High-quality olive oil is an essential ingredient in Portuguese cuisine, and it plays a significant role in Bacalhau à Brás. It adds a rich and distinctively Portuguese flavor to the dish. Be sure to use extra virgin olive oil for the best results.


The eggs are used to bind the ingredients together and create a creamy consistency. They are lightly beaten and added to the dish towards the end of the cooking process.


Black olives, typically pitted, are used for a burst of briny flavor and visual appeal. They provide a pleasant contrast to the other ingredients and add a touch of elegance to the final presentation.


Finally, salt and black pepper are used to season the dish according to individual taste preferences. Freshly chopped parsley can be added as a garnish, giving a refreshing herbal note to the dish.


The combination of these ingredients is what makes Bacalhau à Brás so unique and flavorful. Ensure that you have all the necessary components before embarking on this culinary adventure!


Step-by-Step Instructions to Prepare Bacalhau à Brás

Preparing Bacalhau à Brás may seem intimidating, but with a few simple steps, you’ll have a delightful Portuguese dish on your plate. Follow these instructions to create a delicious serving of Bacalhau à Brás:

  1. Start by desalting the salted codfish. Soak it in cold water for 24-48 hours, changing the water periodically. This will remove the excess salt and rehydrate the fish. Once desalted, drain and set aside.
  2. Boil the potatoes until they are cooked but still firm. Once done, allow them to cool slightly, peel off the skin, and cut into thin slices. You can choose to slice them into matchstick-like pieces or slightly thicker slices, depending on your preference.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced onions and minced garlic, and sauté until they turn translucent and slightly golden, releasing their sweet aroma.
  4. Add the codfish to the skillet and stir-fry for a few minutes until it begins to break into flakes. Ensure that the codfish is well combined with the onions and garlic.
  5. Add the potato slices to the skillet and gently toss to coat them with the flavors of the codfish, onions, and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes, allowing the potatoes to absorb the savory flavors.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and season them with salt and black pepper. Pour the beaten eggs over the mixture in the skillet, and quickly stir to evenly distribute the eggs throughout the dish. The heat of the skillet will cook the eggs, creating a creamy texture.
  7. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring gently, until the eggs are fully cooked and the ingredients are well incorporated. Be careful not to overcook the eggs, as they can become rubbery.
  8. Just before serving, garnish the Bacalhau à Brás with pitted black olives, and if desired, sprinkle freshly chopped parsley for a pop of color and freshness.
  9. Serve the Bacalhau à Brás hot, straight from the skillet, and enjoy the harmonious blend of flavors. It pairs well with a side salad or crusty bread to complete the meal.

By following these easy steps, you’ll be able to savor the authentic taste of Bacalhau à Brás in the comfort of your own home. Get ready to delight your taste buds with this flavorful Portuguese dish!


Variations and Additions to Bacalhau à Brás

While the traditional recipe for Bacalhau à Brás is a culinary masterpiece on its own, there are various ways to put your own twist on this classic Portuguese dish. Here are some variations and additions to consider:

  • Vegetarian Variation: If you’re looking for a vegetarian version of Bacalhau à Brás, you can replace the codfish with tofu or seitan. These alternatives will provide a similar texture and absorb the flavors of the dish.
  • Vegetable Additions: To add more depth and nutrition to the dish, consider incorporating vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, or spinach. Sauté them along with the onions and garlic for a flavorful addition.
  • Spices and Herbs: Experiment with different spices or herbs to enhance the flavors of Bacalhau à Brás. Paprika, thyme, or bay leaves can be added for a touch of smokiness and complexity.
  • Cheese Topping: For an indulgent twist, sprinkle grated cheese such as Parmesan or Gruyère on top of the Bacalhau à Brás during the final cooking stage. Allow it to melt and get slightly golden, adding a savory, gooey goodness.
  • Chorizo or Bacon: Add an extra layer of richness and depth by incorporating chorizo or crispy bacon to the dish. Cook the chorizo or bacon separately and then mix it in with the other ingredients.
  • Additional Seafood: To elevate the seafood experience, you can include other types of seafood alongside the codfish. Shrimp, clams, or mussels can be cooked and mixed in with the dish to create a seafood medley.
  • ToastPoints and Tomato Salad: Serve Bacalhau à Brás with toasted bread points or a refreshing tomato salad on the side. The toast can be used to complement the dish by sopping up the creamy sauce, while the tomato salad provides a vibrant contrast.

Remember, these variations and additions are simply suggestions to inspire your creativity in the kitchen. Feel free to mix and match ingredients based on your preferences and dietary restrictions. Bacalhau à Brás is a versatile dish that can be adapted to suit different tastes and culinary adventures.


Whether you choose to stick to the classic recipe or explore new flavor combinations, Bacalhau à Brás will remain a beloved Portuguese dish that brings joy to all who enjoy it.


Serving Suggestions for Bacalhau à Brás

Bacalhau à Brás is a satisfying and flavorful dish on its own, but there are several ways to elevate the dining experience and complement its rich flavors. Here are some serving suggestions to enhance your Bacalhau à Brás:

  • Crusty Bread: Serve a side of crusty bread to mop up the delicious sauce and savor each bite of Bacalhau à Brás. The bread provides a wonderful contrast to the creamy texture of the dish.
  • Side Salad: Accompany your Bacalhau à Brás with a fresh green salad. A simple mix of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a light vinaigrette will add a refreshing and healthy component to the meal.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, or bell peppers, make a delicious side dish alongside Bacalhau à Brás. The sweet and caramelized flavors of the roasted vegetables complement the savory and creamy codfish.
  • White Wine: Pair Bacalhau à Brás with a crisp and dry Portuguese white wine, such as Vinho Verde or Alvarinho. The acidity and citrus notes of the wine will cut through the richness of the dish, balancing the flavors.
  • Portuguese Red Wine: For those who prefer red wine, a light to medium-bodied Portuguese red, like Douro or Alentejo, can also be a delightful pairing. Its fruit-forward character and smooth tannins will enhance the flavors of Bacalhau à Brás.
  • Garnishes: Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley over the top of the dish for a pop of color and freshness. Additionally, a squeeze of lemon juice can add a tangy brightness to the rich flavors of the codfish.
  • Sharing Style: Bacalhau à Brás can be served family-style, placed in the center of the table for everyone to help themselves. This creates a convivial and festive atmosphere, perfect for gatherings and celebrations.

By incorporating these serving suggestions, you can create a well-rounded meal that highlights the flavors of Bacalhau à Brás. Whether it’s the addition of crusty bread, a side salad, or the perfect wine pairing, these suggestions will enhance your dining experience and leave you fully satisfied.


Remember, Bacalhau à Brás is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed in various ways. Feel free to mix and match these suggestions to suit your personal taste and preferences. The key is to create a harmonious balance between the rich flavors of the dish and the complementary elements you choose to serve alongside it.


Where to Find the Best Bacalhau à Brás in Lisbon

As the birthplace of Bacalhau à Brás, Lisbon offers a plethora of restaurants and eateries where you can find this iconic Portuguese dish. Here are some notable establishments known for serving the best Bacalhau à Brás in the city:

  • A Brasinha: Located in the heart of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto neighborhood, A Brasinha is renowned for its exceptional Bacalhau à Brás. With a warm and inviting ambiance, this traditional restaurant prides itself on using high-quality ingredients and staying true to the authentic recipe.
  • Tasca do Zé dos Cornos: Housed in a charming old tavern in the Mouraria neighborhood, Tasca do Zé dos Cornos is a hidden gem loved by locals and visitors alike. Their Bacalhau à Brás is highly praised for its impeccable flavors and comforting homestyle cooking.
  • Cervejaria Ramiro: Known for its seafood specialties, Cervejaria Ramiro is a popular spot among seafood enthusiasts. While their menu offers a wide range of dishes, their Bacalhau à Brás stands out for its quality and freshness. Pair it with a cold beer for a truly satisfying experience.
  • Restaurante Sacramento do Chiado: Situated in the historic Chiado district, Restaurante Sacramento do Chiado is a beloved establishment known for serving Bacalhau à Brás with a modern twist. Their innovative take on this classic dish elevates it to another level, making it a must-try for adventurous foodies.
  • Taberna da Rua das Flores: Tucked away on a quaint street, Taberna da Rua das Flores is a charming and intimate eatery offering a delightful Bacalhau à Brás experience. Their attentive service, cozy atmosphere, and delicious rendition of the dish make it a favorite among locals and tourists.

These are just a few of the many establishments where you can find exceptional Bacalhau à Brás in Lisbon. It’s worth exploring different neighborhoods and seeking recommendations from locals to discover hidden gems and personal favorites.


While these restaurants are known for their Bacalhau à Brás, don’t forget to explore other dishes on their menus as well. Lisbon is a food lover’s paradise, offering a wide range of traditional Portuguese cuisine and innovative culinary creations.


Whether you choose to visit these specific establishments or explore other restaurants in Lisbon, indulging in a plate of Bacalhau à Brás is an essential part of truly experiencing the culinary delights that the city has to offer.


Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Bacalhau à Brás is more than just a dish; it is a symbol of Portuguese culinary heritage and a must-try when visiting Lisbon. This humble yet flavorful combination of salted codfish, potatoes, eggs, and onions is a true testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of Portuguese cuisine.


As you embark on your journey to taste Bacalhau à Brás, remember to venture beyond the tourist hotspots and explore the hidden gems of Lisbon. The local taverns and traditional eateries often hold the key to the most authentic and mouthwatering culinary experiences.


Additionally, don’t limit yourself to only trying Bacalhau à Brás. Lisbon offers a plethora of other traditional dishes that are just as worthy of your taste buds’ attention. From the hearty cozido à portuguesa to the tantalizing pastéis de nata, allow yourself to indulge in the diverse flavors that Portuguese cuisine has to offer.


Above all, embrace the cultural significance and historical roots of Bacalhau à Brás. This dish represents the resilience and ingenuity of the Portuguese people, and by savoring it, you become a part of that rich heritage.


So, as you explore the vibrant streets of Lisbon, visiting historic landmarks and immersing yourself in the city’s unique atmosphere, don’t forget to immerse yourself in its culinary scene as well. Indulge in a plate of Bacalhau à Brás and let the flavors transport you to the heart of Portugal.


Whether you enjoy it in a cozy neighborhood tavern or a bustling seafood eatery, Bacalhau à Brás promises to delight your taste buds and leave you with a newfound appreciation for Portuguese gastronomy.


So go ahead, embrace the flavors of Bacalhau à Brás and embark on an epicurean adventure through the vibrant streets of Lisbon. Bon appétit!