Bacalhau com Natas (Cod with cream) is one of the most classic cod dishes in Portugal. A simple and delicious recipe, perfect for family lunch.

About the Portuguese dish: Cod with Cream (Bacalhau com Natas)

The list of cod dishes in Portugal is huge, but some preparations are classic. Bacalhau com Natas is one of them, stamped in Portuguese houses and taverns around the country. The dish is nothing more than a gratin made with chips of cod, onion and chips of potato covered with bechamel sauce and cream. It is super creamy and yields a lot, great for family lunch.

The authentic way to make Cod with Cream is with dried salted cod. So, although the recipe is simple, planning is necessary to desalt and hydrate the fish. Don’t worry, we’ll explain the step-by-step instructions for making the recipe from scratch. If you want a shortcut, you can buy the cod already desalted.

Essential ingredients for a traditional Cod with Cream

Most Portuguese recipes are simple and do not take many ingredients, this is no different, the main ones are:

  • Desalted cod: use sliced or shredded, it doesn’t have to be the cod loin. You can use dried cod and do the desalting process at home or buy it frozen and already desalted; 
  • Bechamel sauce: the dish takes bechamel sauce enriched with heavy cream; 
  • Heavy Cream (Natas): a common ingredient in Portugal, it varies according to the % of fat and the pasteurization process. For this preparation, it is ideal to use a cream with a fat content greater than 30%. Note: Avoid products with thickeners, they can curdle;
  • Fried potatoes: the traditional recipe is made with potatoes cut into cubes and then fried in oil.

Read more: The most traditional dishes of Portugal

Secrets to making a Delicious Cod with Cream dish

How to desalt the cod

Desalting the cod is simple, but it takes time and planning. The first step is to wash the pieces of cod in running water and soak them, keeping it inside the refrigerator, with cold water and with the skin facing up. Then, just change the water 3-4x a day until it reaches the desired salt point. The time varies with the size of the pieces – for example, the shredded cod takes only 6 hours, whereas a superior cod can take up to 72 hours to desalt. The preparation of cod with cream is done with medium pieces, so 24-36 hours should be enough.

To find out if the salt point is good, simply take a chip and try it. Do not take 100% of the salt, otherwise, the cod may be tasteless.

Take the opportunity to desalt a whole fish and freeze the parts already desalted for up to 6 months. 

The perfect Béchamel

Make a classic béchamel sauce with roux. To do that, use an initial mixture of butter and flour with the same measure, then add cold milk. In order not to lump, stir with a wire whisk until it thickens. If it gets lumpy, don’t worry, beat the sauce in the mixer and you’re done.

Variations for Cod with Cream

  • Enhance the recipe: add chorizo, alheira, mushrooms, boiled eggs, etc.;
  • No frying: cook the potatoes instead of frying them;
  • A touch of lemon: add lemon zest to the bechamel sauce;
  • Without cod: the vegetarian version of the dish can be made with mushrooms instead of fish.

Menu Suggestion:

The Bacalhau com Natas is perfect when served with white rice accompanied by a glass of Portuguese wine. But if you prefer, just with salad is already quite a good meal.

Check out the recipe and learn how to make Cod with Cream

cod with cream in the baking tray

Cod with Cream – Bacalhau com Natas

4.50 from 8 votes
Bacalhau com Natas (Cod with cream) is one of the most classic cod dishes in Portugal. A simple and delicious recipe, perfect for family lunch.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Baking 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 4 people

Adjust servings


  • 600 g desalted cod
  • 5 potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • olive oil
  • vegetable oil - for frying potatoes
  • 2 tbsp parsley - chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 liter milk
  • 200 ml heavy cream
  • grated cheese - to gratin
  • nutmeg - to taste
  • Salt and black pepper - to taste


Cook and shred the cod

  • Place a pot with water to boil, 2 cloves of coarsely crushed garlic and 2 bay leaves.
  • When the water boils, add the cod to the pan.
  • As soon as the water boils again, cover the pan, remove from heat and let it rest for 15 minutes. This process will leave the cod at the right point for the recipe.
  • Remove the cod from the water and wait until it cools down.
  • Remove the skin and bones, shred the cod and set aside.

Prepare the potatoes

  • Peel and cut the potatoes into cubes of approx. 1cm.
  • Fry them in oil until they are soft, do not let them become too golden.

Sauté the cod

  • Cut the onions into julienne: cut in half lengthwise and then slice them into thin half-moon.
  • In a frying pan, sauté the onion in oil until softened. Then add the shredded cod, mix well. Finally, add the potatoes. Cook for approx. 5 min.
  • Add the chopped parsley and set aside.

Prepare the bechamel sauce

  • In a saucepan, add 3 tbsp of butter.
  • When the butter has melted, add 3 tbsp. of white flour. Stir well with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes.
  • Add the cold milk. Over high heat, stir the sauce with a fouet until it boils.
  • Lower the heat, and let the sauce cook and thicken for 10 min. Stir occasionally.
  • Finally, season with salt, nutmeg and black pepper.
  • Remove from heat and add the heavy cream to the pan. Mix well.


  • In a baking dish, add the sauteed cod and on top add the cream sauce.
  • Cover with grated cheese.
  • Let the baking dish rest while preheating the oven to 200ºC.
  • Place it in the oven to bake for 20 min or until golden.
  • Remove from the oven and serve.


Baking Tray
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