When it comes to traditional Spanish cuisine, few dishes can rival the rich flavors and cultural significance of Bacalao al Ajoarriero. This delectable dish, which originated in the Navarra region of Spain, has been enjoyed for centuries and continues to be a beloved staple in Spanish households and restaurants alike. In this article, we will explore the history, ingredients, preparation, and cultural significance of Bacalao al Ajoarriero, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of this culinary gem.

The Origins and History of Bacalao al Ajoarriero

Bacalao al Ajoarriero, also known as Ajoarriero Cod, has its roots deeply embedded in the gastronomic traditions of the Navarra region in northern Spain. The dish is believed to have originated in the 16th century, during the time when cod fishing became a significant industry in the region. The abundance of cod led to the creation of various cod-based dishes, and Bacalao al Ajoarriero emerged as one of the most popular.

The name “Ajoarriero” is derived from the Basque words “ajo” (garlic) and “arriero” (muleteer), reflecting the humble origins of the dish. It was traditionally prepared by muleteers who transported goods across the region, using readily available ingredients such as salted cod, garlic, olive oil, and vegetables.

The Ingredients and Preparation of Bacalao al Ajoarriero

Bacalao al Ajoarriero is a simple yet flavorful dish that showcases the natural taste of salted cod. The key ingredients used in its preparation include:

  • Salted cod: The star of the dish, salted cod is soaked in water to remove excess salt before being used.
  • Garlic: A generous amount of garlic is used to infuse the dish with its distinctive flavor.
  • Olive oil: The use of high-quality olive oil adds richness and depth to the dish.
  • Tomatoes: Ripe tomatoes are often used to provide a tangy and slightly sweet element to the dish.
  • Peppers: Bell peppers or chili peppers are added to enhance the overall flavor profile.
  • Onions: Onions are sautéed to provide a savory base for the dish.
  • Potatoes: Some variations of Bacalao al Ajoarriero include potatoes, which add a hearty element to the dish.
  • Herbs and spices: Depending on personal preferences, herbs such as parsley or thyme, and spices like paprika or cayenne pepper, may be added to enhance the flavors.

The preparation of Bacalao al Ajoarriero involves several steps to ensure the perfect balance of flavors. Here is a typical recipe:

  1. Soak the salted cod in water for at least 24 hours, changing the water several times to remove excess salt.
  2. Once the cod is desalted, remove the skin and bones, and cut it into small pieces.
  3. In a large pan, heat olive oil and sauté the garlic and onions until golden brown.
  4. Add the tomatoes, peppers, and any desired herbs or spices, and cook until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are well combined.
  5. Add the cod pieces to the pan and gently stir to coat them with the sauce.
  6. Cover the pan and let the dish simmer for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  7. Serve the Bacalao al Ajoarriero hot, garnished with fresh parsley and accompanied by crusty bread or roasted potatoes.

The Cultural Significance of Bacalao al Ajoarriero

Bacalao al Ajoarriero holds a special place in Spanish culinary culture, representing the traditions and flavors of the Navarra region. It is often enjoyed during religious holidays, such as Easter, when meat consumption is restricted. The dish’s popularity has spread beyond Navarra, becoming a beloved part of Spanish cuisine as a whole.

Furthermore, Bacalao al Ajoarriero has gained international recognition, with many renowned chefs incorporating it into their menus. Its simplicity and versatility make it a favorite among both home cooks and professionals, who appreciate its robust flavors and rustic charm.


1. Can I use fresh cod instead of salted cod?

While salted cod is the traditional choice for Bacalao al Ajoarriero, you can certainly use fresh cod if salted cod is not readily available. However, keep in mind that the flavor profile of the dish may differ slightly.

2. Are there any vegetarian or vegan variations of Bacalao al Ajoarriero?

Yes, there are vegetarian and vegan adaptations of Bacalao al Ajoarriero that replace the cod with plant-based alternatives such as tofu or tempeh. These variations still capture the essence of the dish while catering to dietary preferences.

3. Can I freeze Bacalao al Ajoarriero?

Yes, Bacalao al Ajoarriero can be frozen for later consumption. However, it is recommended to freeze it without the potatoes, as they may become mushy upon thawing. Simply reheat the dish in a pan or microwave when ready to enjoy.

4. What are some common side dishes to serve with Bacalao al Ajoarriero?

Bacalao al Ajoarriero pairs well with a variety of side dishes, including crusty bread, roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables, or a fresh green salad. These accompaniments complement the flavors of the dish and provide a well-rounded meal.

5. Can I adjust the spiciness of Bacalao al Ajoarriero?

Absolutely! The level of spiciness can be adjusted according to personal preference. If you prefer a milder version, reduce the amount of chili peppers or omit them altogether. Conversely, if you enjoy a spicy kick, feel free to add more chili peppers or a pinch of cayenne pepper.


Bacalao al Ajoarriero is a dish that encapsulates the rich culinary heritage of the Navarra region in Spain. Its humble origins and simple yet flavorful ingredients make it a beloved staple in Spanish households and restaurants. Whether enjoyed during religious holidays or as a regular family meal, Bacal