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Jamaican Saltfish
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Jamaican Saltfish with Ackee and DumplingsJamaican Saltfish with Ackee and Fried Dumplings

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Of course, by now you know of the Jamaican National dish, Ackee and Saltfish. Maybe, you have even tried it as well. The partially poisonous ackee fruit is prepared in various ways, but what of its counterpart, saltfish?

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What Kind Of Fish Is Jamaican Saltfish?

Jamaican saltfish is made from white, meaty codfish that is salt-cured until all the moisture is removed. This is to preserve for storage for years.

What Ethnic Group Brought Saltfish To Jamaica?

Saltfish was originally brought to Jamaica in the 17th century. It was caught and prepared in the North Atlantic regions and was used as a trading commodity from Nova Scotia, Canada to British Caribbean colonies for molasses, sugar and rum. This non-perishable product was very valuable during a time when there were no freezers or refrigerators to store perishable items.

Why Do Jamaicans Eat Saltfish?

Jamaicans eat saltfish for many reasons. There was a time when saltfish was very affordable and was a quick, easy way for mothers to feed their families on a low budget. It is also used as the second main ingredient in many vegetable dishes, because of its saltiness and flavour, making the dish more palatable for those who hate to consume their greens.

What Does Jamaican Saltfish Taste Like?

Besides its saltiness, saltfish doesn’t have much flavour. Consider it a blank ingredient that will quickly absorb any spices added to it.

Is Jamaican Saltfish Healthy To Eat?

Salted codfish is not the most nutritious product, however, it does contain some amount of protein and amino acids, is a source of vitamins and minerals, has some essential fatty acids. Because of this, it encourages healthier skin and a sharper memory.

How Long Will Salted Fish Last?

There is no standard time limit as to how long saltfish will last. Refrigerated saltfish is suspected to be able to last indefinitely. The key is to keep saltfish stored in a clean dry area, exposure to moisture can cause it to ferment or spoil.

What Does It Mean When Saltfish Turns Pink?

Being that saltfish is a non-perishable item if you notice your saltfish has turned pink, check your storage area as it is mostly like absorbing moisture from another item.

Does Salted Fish Need To Be Refrigerated?

No, saltfish does not need to be refrigerated, but the refrigerator is a safe place to store it. However, if you have already cooked your saltfish, it does require being refrigerated.

Do You Have To Soak Jamaican Saltfish Overnight?

No, saltfish is edible without being soaked overnight. The purpose of soaking saltfish is to rehydrate it and while doing so remove and dilute its high salt content. You can choose to boil your saltfish instead, but remember the flavour of saltfish comes from the salt, so you do not want to boil or soak for too long.

In Jamaica, saltfish is had in many ways besides the internationally known Ackee and Saltfish dish. It is often made into delicious saltfish fritters, roasted and served with roasted yellow yam and commonly used in our one-pot rice dishes. It can also be, stir-fried with peppers and other spices or fried and served with coco bread, fried dumplings or fried breadfruit. 

One of the most common and easiest ways to prepare saltfish is what Jamaicans refer to many times as “Pick Up” saltfish. This is simply stir-frying saltfish in many herbs and seasonings. Here is a simple recipe that you can try.

Jamaican Saltfish Recipe “Pick Up” 


  • ¼ lb saltfish
  • Small onion - cut into thin rings
  • 1 small sweet pepper - cut into strips
  • Scallion - chopped into small pieces
  • A spring of thyme
  • 2 small tomatoes - diced
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper - seed removed and cut into small pieces
  • Pimento seeds
  • Vegetable oil


  1. Step 1: Soak your saltfish for a few hours (at least 2) to remove some of the salt and rehydrate it

  2. Step 2: Remove any extra skin, bones and scales from the fish, then proceed to “picking up” the saltfish. This is simply shredding the saltfish into tiny pieces with your fingers. 

  3. Step 3: In a skillet, add some vegetable oil and allow to heat up a bit before adding all your ingredients minus the saltfish. Sauté the ingredients for a few minutes or until tomatoes have become soft and started to release their juices. 

  4. Step 4: Add your saltfish to the pot and sauté for another 5 minutes so it can absorb all the flavours from the seasonings. 

Serve with any side of your choice, fried dumplings, crackers and roasted breadfruit are highly recommended.

If you have never had saltfish before, you should give this recipe a try. It is a gentle break into saltfish dishes and will give you a true feel of the texture of saltfish and the flavours you can achieve with it.

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References & Sources For Jamaican Saltfish

  1. What Is Salt Fish (Bacalao, Bacalhau, Baccalà) in Caribbean Cuisine?  
  2. Saltfish - Salted Cod Fish - Jamaican Products,
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