Learn how to make ackee and saltfish at home. Boiled salt cod and ackee, cooked with onions, garlic, thyme, scotch bonnet peppers, tomatoes, and peppers and seasoned with jerk seasoning
Ackee and Saltfish Recipe
We show you how to make this Jamaican ackee and saltfish recipe; use the video to see how easy this Caribbean dish is.
Continue reading for more about this famous Jamaican recipe.
Introduced during colonial times to the Jamaican breakfast table by enslaved West African's who combined their ackee fruit with the local salt fish.
The perfect mix of African and Jamaican foods now famously known as Ackee and Saltfish.
What is Saltfish?
Saltfish is a white fish; usually cod, haddock or pollock, dried and salted to preserve it. You may hear it called salt fish, salt cod or dry salted codfish.
The drying and salting method preserves the fish for over a year without refrigerating, which is one of the reasons it became a popular staple worldwide in the 17th century.
It is harder to find in the UK nowadays; you will usually find it in the Caribbean or world food section down the grocery aisle. We buy ours in a large Tesco store; the brand is Cawoods, skinless and boneless saltfish.
How to prepare Saltfish
There are two methods to prepare saltfish. Be sure to follow one of the below methods before cooking the ackee and saltfish dish.
1-3 days before making this recipe, rinse the saltfish in fresh water to remove excess salt, soak the saltfish in cold water.
Drain and top up with fresh water before going to bed. Drain and repeat with fresh water in the morning.
Then when ready to cook, drain and place the saltfish in a saucepan with cold water, bring to the boil over high heat, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Quick boil method
The quick way to desalt saltfish is to rinse excess salt off saltfish in freshwater, then place in a large saucepan of cold water and bring it to a boil.
Drain the water and repeat the boiling from cold water again. Twice usually is enough; it depends on the saltfish you have purchased and your taste.
Taste and repeat once more if necessary.
Break the salt fish into your desired size chunks. We use two forks to make smaller flakes to add to the ackee and saltfish recipe.
Substitute for saltfish
If you struggle to find saltfish, you can use fresh cod, haddock or pollock instead. Salt it yourself at least an hour before cooking the ackee and saltfish recipe.
Lay the white fish fillet on a plate covered generously with rock salt (coarse or kosher salt). Leave to allow the fish to absorb the salt flavour and lose some liquid.
Before cooking, remove excess salt by rinsing it under cold water. Place in a saucepan with cold water, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer—Cook the fresh salted fish for 10 minutes.
Dunn's River Jerk seasoning is available in most supermarkets, with Jamaican spices and herbs needed to give ackee and saltfish authentic flavour.
You could try Jamaican all-purpose seasoning instead.
Jamaican cooking often uses coconut oil, olive oil, vegetable oil or sunflower oil.
Use fresh vegetables in this recipe: onions, garlic, spring onions (scallions), sweet peppers, spicy pepper and fresh tomato.
In the UK, we call them peppers. They are known as sweet peppers in Jamaica. Or bell peppers in the US.
When we made this for the blog, we could only get orange or yellow peppers at our local store. You can use a sweet red pepper, or for a more robust, slightly bitter flavour, use green pepper. Or a mixture, a great way to add more colour to the ackee and saltfish dish.
Scotch Bonnet Peppers
Scotch bonnet pepper is commonly used in Jamaican recipes, referred to as the Caribbean red pepper.
They are about 1 to 1 ½ inches and shaped like a bonnet colours range from green, yellow, orange or red. They are very hot and sweet with a Scoville rating of 100,000-350,000.
Adjust the amount of scotch bonnet used to your desired taste. We used ½, which was comfortable heat.
Substitute for scotch bonnet
We are lucky to have a fantastic greengrocer local who ordered these scotch bonnets especially for us.
If you can't get hold of scotch bonnets, you can use an equal amount of habanero pepper; they still have a fruitiness and a similar heat to scotch bonnet peppers, but a slightly more bitter taste.
Can't find either chilli peppers? The easiest to find in the UK is jalapeno or serrano peppers; they won't add the fruitiness but will still give some spice. You may need to add more than one!
Add some fresh thyme leaves in with the saltfish for extra flavour. Season with black pepper only, as the fish adds saltiness.
What is Ackee?
Ackee is a Jamaican fruit rich in nutrition, especially protein and vitamin C. Fresh ackee is a pear-shaped fruit with 2-4 openings that will fully open when ripe and ready to pick.
The edible part is the arils attached to the seeds. If the Ackee fruit is under-ripe, the ackee will be poisonous, which worries and fears people!
There is no need to worry; it is easier to find canned ackee stored in brine. Ackee is picked and cooked before getting canned. Meaning it is ready to add to the dish.
Canned ackee loses some nutrients during the canning process, but it is still good for you.
Ensure to drain all the salty brine from the ackee can; you may want to rinse it too.
Canned ackee is already cooked, so it only needs to be warmed up.
Add the ackee to the dish at the end and try not to stir too much to prevent it from becoming mushy.
📖 Step by Step Recipe
Ackee and Saltfish - Jamaican
Prepare Saltfish ahead - see blog post
- 200 g Saltfish salt cod
- Fresh Water
Ackee and Saltfish Recipe
- 1 tablespoon Coconut / Vegetable / Sunflower Oil
- 1 small Onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic finely chopped
- 2 Spring Onions
- 3 sprigs Thyme leaves only
- ½ Scotch Bonnet Pepper Add more if you like it hot
- 1 Orange Pepper Red or Green can be used
- 1 large Tomato diced
- 2 teaspoon Jerk Seasoning or All purpose seasoning
- 540 grams Canned Ackee (340 grams drained)
- Black Pepper to taste
- 1 Lime To Serve
How to remove salt from saltfish -
Quick method - see blog post for overnight method.
- Add cold water and saltfish into a pan, bring to a boil.200 g Saltfish, Fresh Water
- Remove water and repeat again with fresh water.Fresh Water
- Shred the fish into smaller pieces using two forks.
Ackee and Saltfish
- In a large pan, over medium heat, fry onions in oil for 4 minutes.1 tablespoon Coconut / Vegetable / Sunflower Oil, 1 small Onion
- Add garlic and scotch bonnet pepper with jerk seasoning for 2 minutes2 cloves Garlic, ½ Scotch Bonnet Pepper, 2 teaspoon Jerk Seasoning or All purpose seasoning
- Add orange pepper, tomato and the spring onions, stir through for 2 minutes.2 Spring Onions, 1 Orange Pepper, 1 large Tomato
- Add the boiled saltfish, thyme leaves stir through.3 sprigs Thyme
- Finally add the ackee, stir less often and very gently from now on to stop the ackee breaking up too much.540 grams Canned Ackee
- Serve with rice and peas and topped with extra spring onions, season to taste with black pepper. Add a wedge of lime to serve.Black Pepper, 1 Lime
Updated 21/04/2023 to include links to other Jamaican recipes and more serving suggestions
Carribean Recipe Ideas
Ackee and saltfish is a Jamaican recipe we have enjoyed on our travels recreated in the UK. This dish is so good, and it brings the taste of the Caribbean home along with our Jamaican rice recipe and plantain.
We have also made a delicious Jamaican beef patty recipe you must try, as seen below.
What do you serve with ackee and saltfish? Let us know below in the comments.