Food

Salt Cod Balls | Classic New England Recipe

A simple yet tasty blend of salt cod fish and mashed potato, salt cod balls (or salt cod fritters) are a classic New England dish worth rediscovering.

By Aimee Tucker

Jan 30 2019

Salt Cod Balls | Classic New England Recipe

Salted codfish balls served hot with tartar sauce.

Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
It’s time for a salt cod balls comeback. Read on to learn more about the history of salt cod in New England, and why this simple and frugal salt cod fritters dish is one worth revisiting.
Salt Cod Balls | Classic New England Recipe
Salted codfish balls served hot with tartar sauce.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
As the name implies, salt cod is just Atlantic cod that has been salted and dried. It played an important part in New England’s culinary economy for many years, and is also a popular traditional ingredient in western and southern European countries like Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Cheap and long-lasting, salt cod could be re-hydrated months after drying, making it a critical source of protein in the days before refrigeration and freezing. In fact, it was so popular in Cape Cod it was sometimes referred to as “Cape Cod Turkey.” Although not nearly as popular today (nor as cheap), salt cod is still readily available at most New England supermarkets. Most often, you’ll find smaller pieces for sale in wooden boxes near the deli or seafood counter, but if you can get your hands on a thicker slab, you’ll be rewarded with better texture and flavor. To make salt cod balls, one of the most popular New England salt cod recipes, the fish is soaked for hours until it’s re-hydrated, then mixed with a little mashed potato and egg, shaped into balls (you can make salt cod fish cakes, if you like), and fried. Personally, I like mine with a little more flavor and crunch, so I add some fresh herbs, and breadcrumbs to the outside of the balls before frying. Salt cod balls are also a popular staple in Portuguese cooking, where they’re known as “Pastéis de Bacalhau” or “Baccala.”
Salt Cod Balls | Classic New England Recipe
A box of salt cod is a familiar sight to many Yankees.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
If you can’t get your hands on salt cod, or are pressed for time, you can substitute it with any firm, white fish instead. We won’t tell. Recipes like this one for salt cod balls are also a great way to use up leftover fish of almost any kind.
Salted Codfish Balls
Made with mashed potato and hydrated salt cod, salt cod balls are shaped and breaded before frying.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Salted Codfish Balls
Careful frying, then draining on paper towels.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
After frying, transfer the balls to a plate or cutting board lined with paper towels to absorb the excess grease. They look like perfect little fish and potato munchkin donuts, don’t they?
Salt Cod Balls | Classic New England Recipe
Arrange on paper towels to drain.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
I decided to serve my salt cod balls appetizer-style, in a basket with tartar sauce, but a more traditional way to enjoy codfish balls or cakes was at breakfast, topped with a creamy butter-flour sauce.
Salted Codfish Balls
We like serving our salt cod balls with tartar sauce.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
With a thin, crisp exterior and soft, pillowy cod and potato interior, these salt codfish balls are salty, hot, and filling. A true New England classic.
Salted Codfish Balls
Soft, pillowy potato and fish insides.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
If you want more flavor (and you might — this recipe is very basic) feel free to add more herbs, chopped chives, minced onion, or even a pinch of dry mustard or cayenne to your salt cod balls. Once you’ve got the fish and the potato, the rest is up to you! Are you a fan of salt cod balls? This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated.

GET THE RECIPE: Salt Cod Balls

SEE MORE: Favorite Cod Fillet Recipes10 Favorite Haddock RecipesHow to Make Fish Cakes with Tartar Sauce