bacalao al pil pil
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5 from 1 vote

Basque Cod al Pil Pil

You can make this with any white fish. Obviously cod, haddock, pollock and hake, but also bass, walleye, black seabass, Pacific rockfish, lingcod, etc. I bet it would work with catfish, too. Serve with potatoes, bread or rice and a full-bodied white wine or dry cider. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Spanish
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw


  • 2 pounds cod or other white fish, skin on if possible
  • Salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 to 3 small hot, dried chiles, crushed (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or parsley, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


  • Salt the fish well and set aside for 10 to 20 minutes. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, wide pan that can hold all the pieces of fish. 
  • Saute the garlic slices for a minute or two, until they just start turning golden. Remove them as best you can. It's OK if a few escape you. 
  • Put the fish skin side down in the pan and cook gently over medium-low heat for a minute or two. Turn the fish and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, or until the fish is mostly cooked. Turn the heat off and remove the fish for now. 
  • Start swirling the pan. You want to gently agitate the olive oil and juices from the fish into an emulsion. This should take about 5 minutes and no more than 10 minutes. One way to help this along is to whisk it with a strainer, as you can see in the video. As the emulsion comes together, add back the garlic as well as the crushed chiles, if using. It will eventually look like a salad dressing, and if you keep stirring it while the whole thing cools, it will set up into a mayonnaise-like sauce. It's up to you if you want it this way. 
  • When you are ready, pour the sauce over the fish, sprinkle some dried herbs on there and serve. 


NOTE: While not strictly necessary, the skin of fish contains a lot of collagen, which helps the sauce emulsify more easily than skinless fish.