Mexican Bacalao Navideño

This Bacalao Navideño is the ultimate Mexican Christmas dish. A rich and comforting fish stew packed with bold flavors! Learn how to make it at home with our easy step-by-step recipe.

Bacalao Navideño a la Vizcaína.

About

Bacalao Navideño is a tasty Christmas dish made of dried and salted cod fish, baby potatoes, tomatoes, onions, olives, and capers.

The recipe originated in the Basque region of Spain where it’s called Bacalao a la Vizcaína because is made with a rich sauce made of red choricero peppers known as Vizcaína sauce.

Bacalao a la Vizcaína was brought to Mexico and other Latin American countries when the Catholic religion was introduced and with it the tradition of eating fish during religious festivities like Lent and Christmas Eve.

In Mexico, this dish is called Bacalao Navideño or Bacalao de Navidad because is mainly served for Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The recipe has been adapted to ingredients found locally, like chiles and tomatoes.

Bacalao Navideño in a platter on a holiday table with side dishes around.
Mexican-Style Bacalao a la Vizcaína.

One curious thing is that everyone looks forward to eating it the next day in the recalentado (leftover meal) stuffed in bolillo rolls.

In Mexico we like to make Bacalao a la Vizcaína just like tamales, with the help of 2-3 people in the kitchen, it’s part of a tradition that brings us together as a family on those special occasions.

Ingredients

  • Bacalao fish: This is dried and salted cod fish, you can find it at many local supermarkets in the seafood section packed in salt, dried or fresh. Or you can also look at Asian and Latin American markets where you’ll find it vacuum-packed.
  • Tomatoes: You will need fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce.
  • Onions: You can use white onions or yellow, sliced or diced as you prefer.
  • Potatoes: You can use baby potatoes or substitute with regular potatoes cut into large chunks.
  • Bell red peppers: We are using store-bought roasted bell peppers, but feel free to swap for fresh red bell peppers and roast them yourself.
  • Olives: If you can, use stuffed green olives, otherwise use pitted green olives.
  • Capers: If they are packed in salt, make sure to wash them and remove the excess before adding them to the stew.
  • Almonds: Use blanched almonds, roughly chopped. Do not use unpeeled almonds or they will add an unpleasant bitter taste.
  • Parsley: You will need a good bunch of fresh parsley, or you can sub with dried parsley too.
  • Chilies: You will need chiles güeros en escabeche or you can replace them with Hungarian wax peppers, cascabella peppers, or any hot yellow pepper available to you. Or you can also use pickled jalapeños.
  • Spices: Garlic, oregano, and pepper.
  • Oil: I used extra virgin olive oil for this recipe.
Ingredients for Mexican Bacalao Navideño arranged in a kitchen countertop and with names overlay.

How To Make Mexican Bacalao

To make Bacalao Navideño you need to start the day before you intend to eat it since you’ll need to soak the fish for several hours.

6:00 PM – Rinse bacalao under cold water, place in a bowl, and fill with water until nicely covered. Soak for 1 hour then drain and cover with water again. Repeat this step 3 more times.

Soaking bacalao in a dish.

10:00 PM – Rinse the fish for the last time and then place it in a bowl covered with water. Cover well the bowl with a lid or with cling film and place it in the lower spot in your fridge.

9:00 AM (next day) – Rinse and drain bacalao, then shred it with your hands, making sure you discard the small bones if you find some. Place in the fridge until needed.

Shredded bacalao in a dish.

Place tomatoes in a griddle or comal and roast until their skin is shriveled and lightly blistered.

TIP: You can also use the oven to make this step roasting them at 390°F (200°C).

Roasted tomatoes in a griddle.

Allow tomatoes to cool down then remove the skin and seeds. Dice them and place them in a bowl along with the juices.

Roasted and diced tomatoes in a bowl.

In a large and deep cooking pan heat about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

Add chopped onions and minced garlic, and stir everything for 5 minutes or until translucent.

Sautéing onions and garlic in a pan.

TIP: In order to not brown the onions pay attention that heat is not too high and there’s enough oil to cook the onions evenly.

Mix in the tomato chunks and tomato sauce. Season with pepper and oregano, add a bit of water, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat stirring from time to time.

Preparing the Vizcaína sauce in a pan.

Now, add the bacalao fish along with the baby potatoes, cappers, olives, almonds, chiles güeros, chopped parsley, and roasted bell peppers strips. Pour about 1 1/2 cups of water and mix well.

Bacalao, potatoes, red peppers, olives, and chiles gueros added to the pan with the Vizcaína sauce.

Cover and cook over medium heat for about 40 minutes, mixing occasionally (read notes) Adjust salt to taste and turn off the heat.

Fully cooked Mexican bacalao Navideño in a pan.

Allow the Bacalao Navideño stew to rest for a couple of hours before serving.

Notes

  • This recipe is slightly spicy, if you want to remove the heat, do not add chiles güeros to simmer with the stew, add them later as garnish when serving.
  • Bacalao a la Vizcaína is a long preparation recipe, make sure you plan everything with time. Buying all groceries, soaking the fish, cooking, etc. In Mexico we use to make this dish just like tamales, with the help of 2-3 people in the kitchen, it’s part of a tradition that brings us together as a family.
  • Make sure the stew has always enough liquid to gently simmer the ingredients. If needed, add more water to the pot.
  • I prefer using canned bell peppers over fresh ones because where I live, fresh bell peppers are a bit flavorless in winter. While the canned is usually packed in summer when they reach their peak flavor.
Close-up of Bacalao a la Vizcaína, also known as Bacalao de Navidad.
Bacalao a la Vizcaína Receta

How To Serve

In Mexico, Bacalao Navideño is served on Christmas Eve with some traditional sides like:

How To Store & Reheat

Bacalao Navideño is an amazing make-ahead dish and stores wonderfully in the fridge for up to 4 days. Place leftovers in a glass container with a tight lid which will prevent any smell from coming out.

To reheat and enjoy the leftovers, place them in a pan and heat them up on your stovetop, stirring occasionally.

We highly recommend making tortas de bacalao or pescadillas tacos with the leftovers!

More Mexican Christmas Recipes

Christmas is my favorite day, especially with tasty food at my table to share with my family and friends.

So, here are a few Mexican Christmas recipes I want to share with you to make the best of this holiday:

Watch The Video

Mexican Bacalao Navideño Recipe.

Mexican Bacalao Navideño

author Maricruz
8
Enjoy this Mexican Bacalao Navideño, a flavorful and comforting cod stew perfect to serve for Christmas.
prep 30 minutes
cook 1 hour 10 minutes
Resting time 8 hours
total 9 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2.2 lb salted cod fish (bacalao)
  • 1 lb baby potatoes (read notes)
  • 14 oz fire-roasted peppers (cut into strips)
  • 2 lb tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 large onions (sliced)
  • 1 cup stuffed green olives
  • cup cappers
  • ½ cup blanched almonds (roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • dried oregano
  • 10 chiles güeros (read notes)

Instructions
 

  • The day before, rinse bacalao under cold water, place in a bowl, and fill with water until covered.
  • Soak for 1 hour, then rinse again the fish and place to soak in water. Repeat this step 3 more times.
  • Place the fish in a bowl and cover it with water.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and place it in the fridge to rest overnight.
  • Next day, rinse and drain the bacalao, then shred it with your hands. Place in the fridge until needed.
  • Roast tomatoes on a griddle until their skin is shriveled and lightly blistered (read notes).
  • Allow to cool down and then peel them, remove the seeds, and dice them. Place in a bowl along with the juices.
  • In a large cooking pan heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add onions and garlic, then cook for 5 minutes making sure they don't brown.
  • Stir in the roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce. Season with pepper and oregano and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat stirring from time to time.
  • Mix in the bacalao fish along with potatoes, cappers, olives, almonds, chiles güeros, parsley, and bell peppers.
  • Pour about 1 ½ cups of water and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Adjust salt to taste, mix in oregano, and turn off the heat.
  • Allow the stew to rest for a couple of hours before serving.

Notes

  • You can substitute baby potatoes with regular potatoes cut into large chunks.
  • Make sure the stew has always enough liquid to gently simmer the ingredients. If needed, add more water to the pot.
  • This bacalao Navideño is slightly spicy, if you want to remove the heat, do not add chiles güeros to simmer with the stew, add them later as garnish when serving.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 768kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 84g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 25g | Trans Fat: 0.001g | Cholesterol: 190mg | Sodium: 9758mg | Potassium: 2620mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2268IU | Vitamin C: 50mg | Calcium: 278mg | Iron: 6mg
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