Ackee and Saltfish
Chow Down on Jam Down’s National Dish!
Jamaicans and a big plate of Ackee and Saltfish go hand in hand. This is because Ackee and Saltfish is the National Dish of Jamaica and is a beloved breakfast favourite of Jamaicans worldwide.
Jamaicans ‘nuh ramp’ (don’t play around) when it comes to our love for this dish. Some of us have Ackee and Saltfish for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even supper! If you’re a Jamaican by birth, parentage, association, or adoption, you must learn how to prepare this iconic dish.
Below, you’ll find my easy-to-follow recipe, my best cooking tips and step-by-step instructions, to help you cook the most tasty pot of Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish you’ve ever had!
Ackee – Delicious or Dangerous?
Ackee is a tropical fruit that is often in season. The fruit is popular amongst vegans and non-vegans alike because of its smooth buttery flavour. Ackee is healthy and delicious and can be eaten either raw or cooked. However, ackees must be fully ripe before picking and consuming. This is because unripe ackee (ackee that hasn’t opened naturally), is dangerous to eat and can be fatal. In fact, ackee has been listed among the Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods in the world. Surprisingly, however, this risk does not dilute the passion Jamaicans have for their national dish.
How to Cook Saltfish (not too Salty or too Bland)
‘Saltfish’ is a fish preserved by coating it with a substantial amount of salt. The types of fish typically sold as ‘saltfish’, are salted codfish, pollock or any other whitefish.
The main challenge some people face when cooking saltfish, is getting the saltfish to have the right balance of salt. To ensure the saltfish isn’t too salty, you must boil or soak it to remove the excess salt. On the other hand, some people over-boil or over-soak their fish making it bland to eat. So how do you get your saltfish to have the right amount of ‘saltiness’? I recommend soaking or boiling the fish in stages. During the process of boiling or soaking, test a piece of the saltfish near the bone at intervals to determine if the taste suits you.
So, now it’s time to jump right into my Ackee and Saltfish Recipe. Go ahead and follow the recipe step-by-step, and once you’ve tried it, message me and say how it works for you. I hope my tips have made you more confident in regularly cooking this classic Jamaican dish at home.
Ackee and Saltfish goes great with foods like fried dumplings, roasted or fried breadfruit, hard dough bread, boiled ground provision, bammies or Jamaican festivals…or when I think about it – just about everything!
Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish Recipe
- 1 lb saltfish or salted codfish
- 1 can ackee
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small onion chopped
- ¼ medium green bell pepper de-seeded & chopped, optional
- 1 medium tomato diced
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 sprig fresh thyme chopped, (optional)
- 1 stalk green onions chopped
- ¼ tsp scotch bonnet pepper de-seeded & chopped. (*pepper seeds are super hot so removed them prior to cooking!) Add scotch-bonnet to taste.
- 4-6 pimento seeds
- 1 pinch black pepper
- Soaking method: Rinse the saltfish at your kitchen sink by running tap water over it to remove excess salt, then place it to soak in a large bowl filled with hot water. Let saltfish soak overnight for up to 8 hrs. Pour off the salted water and taste a tiny bit of the saltfish to determine if it has the desired amount of salt. If it is still salty, add hot water and let it soak for 15 - 30 minutes.
- Boiling method: Rinse the saltfish thoroughly by running tap water over it to remove the excess salt. Add the saltfish to a large pot of water and let boil (uncovered) for 30 minutes. Pour off salted water and taste a tiny bit of your saltfish. If necessary, return saltfish to the pot with adequate water to cover fish, then boil for another 10 - 15 minutes. Remove fish from the pot and place it in a bowl of cold water.
- For saltfish with bones use the serrated edge of a table knife to gently scrape the skin and scales from the fish and also remove the bones. If you are using boneless saltfish skip ahead to the next step.
- In another bowl, flake your saltfish or tear them into smaller pieces. Discard fish skin and bones.
- In a small bowl, combine your chopped seasonings.
- Drain the canned ackee and set aside.
- In a large, wide skillet, heat cooking oil on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes.
- Sauté chopped seasoning lightly then add flaked saltfish and ackees.
- Sprinkle with black pepper, then with a large spoon, toss all ingredients together to stir fry.
- Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium and let cook for 3 - 5 minutes.
- Uncover and stir the pot and let cook for 1 more minute.
- Turn the burner off, cover the pot and let the ackee and saltfish sit for 2 minutes before serving it warm with your choice of roasted breadfruit, fried dumplings, or boiled ground provisions.
- Bless up and enjoy it!