Salt Fish Cakes…

Holy week in the Virgin Islands is a a sacred time of reflection and sacrifice, with a culminating celebration of the Easter feast. Specifically, Good Friday is a day when there is no meat, or chicken consumed out of religious deference. No distilled alcohol is sold publicly on that day by law on the island. The only protein that most families eat on Good Friday is fish.

One of my favorite “Good Friday Foods” is Salt Fish Cakes. Growing up, this was a go-to breakfast food in our home during Holy Week. It is a crispy and usually incredibly spicy-hot meal. Have something cold and sweet to accompany it!

This recipe is merely a guide. It is a temperamental batter that requires some fiddling. Feel free to add a little more water, a little more flour, or any more “little more’s” that you would like! Fry a few to see what the batter is asking for to be more or less crispy to your taste. Also play with the flavorings, experiment! Try a dash of ground chipotle pepper to liven up the flavor. This is a resilient batter, that will reward your curiosity easily!


1 cup salted cod fish
1 cup water
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 egg
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
5 Sweet Peppers – (These are small peppers used on the island for flavoring. A half finely minced bell pepper could be a similar substitute.)
1 small seeded hot pepper (You can also leave in the seeds, if you love more heat!)
A handful of chopped parsley
1/2 stalk of celery
1 medium onion
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 Green Onions
2 stalks of Chives
1-2 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of yellow hot pepper sauce (If you really want to feel the burn!)
Enough vegetable oil for frying
Rinse approximately four to five pieces of salted cod fish fillets in cold water to remove the excess salt. Then soak the fish for about an hour. Drain the water and replace it with fresh water. I change the water about three to four times depending on how salty the cod fish is during this hour or two.
Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil, add the salted fish and simmer in the water for about an hour or until the salt fish can be easily flaked. Remove all visible skin and bones from the fish, flake, and set aside to cool.
In a food processor, finely mince the onion, celery, sweet and hot peppers, garlic, and parsley. Be careful not to over grind these ingredients. They should still be somewhat individually identifiable.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs, then add the flour, water, baking powder. Mix in the salt, black pepper, thyme, chopped scallions, and chives, and all the minced flavors from the food processor.
Heat about a 1/2-1 inch of oil in frying pan.
Drop about  two tablespoonfuls of the fish cake batter into the hot oil. When it is a golden brown color flip it over gently, being careful not to splatter the hot oil.
Drain on a wired rack with paper towels below or on simple paper towels.
Eat hot and enjoy!

22 thoughts on “Salt Fish Cakes…

    1. That’s a great question, Kim! If you ask a hundred people you will probably get a hundred responses about how to soften salt fish. Salted fish is an ancient way of preserving fish, since refrigeration did not exist in the past. The salt pulled out the moisture and created a harsh environment that retarded the growth of bacteria and spoilage. Because it is dehydrated, by nature it is a TOUGH almost leathery piece of meat. The best way to reconstitute it is to me the simplest. Soak it. Soak it. Soak it.

      12-24 hours of soaking and water changing every three to four hours should go a long way in softening and unsalting the fish. It also depends on the type of salt fish you have, some brands/types are less salted and less leathery than others. I found one on the island that is not as leathery as others I have seen and requires very little soaking.

      It really is trial and error, and to your taste. Some recipes I’ve seen even encourage you to do the final soak in a milk bath in the refrigerator. That sounds a bit expensive to me and I haven’t tried that method. Short version? Soak it. Soak it. Soak it! 🙂

  1. I love fish cakes!! During my mom’s wakes (she had one in Georgia and almost week’s worth in St. Croix), the St. Lucian’s made the most incredible fish cakes – well seasoned, crispy on the outside and perfection on the inside.

    1. As a St Lucian I thank you for that compliment. Not uber religious heck not religious at all but I live for that time in April for a batch of salt fish cake.s

  2. LOVE These but never had a recipe. My mom used to make some mean ones. Maybe I will make some soon. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Ah, these were called Accra growing up. My mom made these all the time on Saturday mornings for breakfast with the usual watercress from the yard as a side salad. You never realize how good you used to eat until you grow up and leave home and see what breakfast is like in other parts of the world, specifically America. Must try this recipe with some scotch bonnet pepper for some heat :-D.

  4. Thanks for the recipe. Last year when I went home, St Thomas, my mom showed me how to make this. I haven’t actually made them yet, but the recipes are the same.

  5. tommorrow is good friday and m on that accra loved it wen my mom made these on good friday. Trying it for the first time with my african family hope they love a taste of st.lucias finest.

  6. Hi Good morning my dad used to make them sorry that I never learned . But so willing to do it now. I will try to make them . Maybe you can give me a call and we can talk . my cell number is 340 344-1742 .By the way I live in St . Thomas and I am always over there so maybe we can meet one of these days .Looing to here from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *